Rob Marcello Jr. sat with his three brothers in the upper deck of Pro Player Stadium, watching the Florida Marlins play the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
He cheered for his beloved Marlins that night, as he did at so many spring training games in Jupiter. He sat there saying, “This is what I want to do.”
On June 8, Marcello came one step closer to his goal. The former Royal Palm Beach High School standout and Appalachian State left-handed pitcher was chosen in the 17th round (511th overall) of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It’s something that when you’re a baseball player you work, strive, to be drafted and get that shot to be in the Big Leagues,” Marcello said last week from Williamsport, Pa. “Getting that call, I was like, ‘All right, this is my opportunity.’ I have that opportunity now, and I have to take advantage of it.”
Marcello said he expected to be chosen between rounds 10 and 15, with a gut feeling it could be the Toronto Blue Jays. The Phillies were a “sleeper team,” and he wasn’t in contact with them the entire year. But on the second day of the draft, the Phillies called and said they were thinking of taking him in the top 10 rounds. They didn’t.
So he waited at his home in Roswell, Ga., where his family now lives, with his mother and girlfriend. On Day 2 of the draft, he sat watching, pick by pick. Still nothing.
On Day 3 he went for a run in a local park. He arrived home around noon as the draft resumed. Marcello received a text message from Appalachian State head coach Billy Jones, who said he had been in contact with a few scouts. They expected him to go within the next five rounds.
“I ended up getting a text from my shortstop at Appalachian State, Luke Calloway, saying congrats,” he recalled. “And I was like, ‘What? What happened?’ And then, of course my phone, I see the text messages come flying in.”
That’s when Marcello took to the Internet and saw his name pop up. “Just a few minutes after that, Paul Murphy, the scout for the Phillies, gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, you’ve been drafted by the Phillies,’” he said.
So, Rob Marcello Jr. is a Marlins fan no more. He and his brothers are now “die-hard Phillies fans,” he said.
“The biggest weight off my shoulders,” he said, admitting to crying some tears of joy. “Just proving to people I could do it. I had a lot of people tell me I never could get drafted.”
Immediately, he flew to Clearwater for a mini-camp at the Phillies spring training complex. He is now in Williamsport, Pa., where he will play short-season Single-A ball for the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Although his family has relocated to Georgia, Marcello remembers his roots at Royal Palm Beach High School. He remembers being on the varsity team as a freshman and getting a late-season start against local powerhouse Palm Beach Gardens. He pitched well in five or so innings, but the team lost.
Joe Dye, now a pitcher at Stetson University, was a teammate at RPBHS.
“Playing with Rob was always a lot of fun. He always brought a lot of energy to games and practice,” Dye said. “As a teammate, you couldn’t ask for better. He always put the team first and did his absolute best to help the team achieve its goals. I don’t think I know another person who wanted to play pro ball and deserved to play as much as he did. Baseball was truly his main focus, and he worked non-stop.”
Being drafted turned a dream into reality.
Friend Ali Lowe first saw Marcello pitch in his junior season at RPBHS.
“He was more than pretty good,” Lowe said. “He had a great mix of pitches and was very disciplined with hitting his spots. He worked hard on and off the field to better his game.”
The repertoire of pitches he threw as a Wildcat has grown into a full arsenal of pitches.
Marcello throws mostly fastballs and sliders, but also throws in a change-up, cutter and two-seam fastball. It’ll be these tools that make him progress through the minors.
But no matter where he goes, he’ll be representing his former high school and hometown.
“I mean, there are such big names that have come out of Royal Palm,” Marcello said. “I’m just trying to be that next Royal Palm Beach alum to be in the Major Leagues.”
ABOVE: Former Royal Palm Beach High School pitcher Rob Marcello Jr. was drafted this month by the Philadelphia Phillies organization. PHOTO COURTESY ROB MARCELLO JR.