The Toronto Blue Jays signed third-rounder Jake Marisnick
for $1 million in 2009, more than three times Major League Baseball's recommended rate. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound athletic center fielder for the Lansing Lugnuts, Marisnick is making that investment look sound.
This season, the 20-year-old right-handed hitter is batting .320 with 12 homers, 71 RBIs and 32 stolen bases in 100 games. A native of Riverside, Calif., Marisnick has made a huge leap in his game over last year, when he hit .220 in 34 games for Lansing after a stint in the Gulf Coast League.
"When I came into it last year, I had all the same tools," Marisnick said. "I wanted to hit everything and got myself into trouble. This year, I'm more relaxed. When I have a game where I'm too jumpy or trying to do too much, I just relax and look for a good pitch to hit."
Marisnick's mother gets an assist for his success in baseball. Jennifer Marisnick is senior director of marketing for Reynolds Sports Managament, and her contacts with Major Leaguers provided Jake with a tremendous resource.
"The way I grew up -- being around the game so much -- has helped me have a mature approach," Marisnick said. "I had a chance to grow up around guys like Torii Hunter, the Upton brothers. I had a great opportunity to watch those guys and learn a lot from them.
"Torii Hunter has been the biggest role model for me," Marisnick said. "I've been able to learn by watching how he goes about his business and how he treats other people. Being able to talk to Torii and some of the other guys, like LaTroy Hawkins, was pretty cool. That's a big part of where I'm at right now."
Marisnick said that gaining insights from Major Leaguers as a youth helps as he strives for the Majors.
"My relationships with those players have really helped in the mental game," Marisnick said. "I remember having a talk with Torii one time. I was 0-for-3 in a high school game, and he said, 'It's going to happen many times. The quicker you learn to get over it, the better off you're going to be.' It's helped me a lot this year."
When Toronto was unable to sign its first three selections in 2009, the Blue Jays made Marisnick a priority. With a first-round signing bonus, Marisnick developed first-round expectations.
"I think at times, I feel like I have to do too much or I have to prove something," Marisnick. "In reality, I need to go out and play my game and have fun. At times I feel like I put too much pressure on myself, but that's part of the learning process."
Lansing manager Mike Redmond said Marisnick has a maturity beyond most 20-year-olds.
"Jake's a five-tool player, and he's pretty polished," Redmond said. "He's got a good idea of what he wants to do. He's a leader on this team, and that's a great quality to have. He makes the other guys on the team better. Those are the guys who have a chance to play in the big leagues for a long time. There's a lot that can happen between now and then, but I love what I've seen so far. He's worked hard and bettered himself.
"For a 20-year-old, he's very mature," Redmond added. "Mentally he understands what pitchers are trying to do to him. He can sit on a breaking ball and have a good pass and then get a big hit. He's aggressive on the bases, and that part of the game at this stage, he's advanced. He understands when he's going to go. He's aggressive, yet he's smart about it. He hasn't been thrown out on a pitch-out all season."
Happy homecoming: Bowling Green's Kevin Kiermaier made his return to his native Fort Wayne memorable. Kiermaier, who entered the game with two homers this season, belted a solo homer in the Hot Rods' 7-1 victory against the TinCaps. Kiermaier helped Fort Wayne's Bishop Luers High School win a state title in 2008.
Record-setter: South Bend's Yazy Arbelo slugged his 26th home run of the season Monday, snapping the franchise record set by Billy Martin in 2000.
Chief tormentor: Kane County's Greg Billo retired the first 17 Peoria batters he faced last Wednesday on his way to a 6-0 victory. Ben Klafczynski broke up the no-hit bid with two outs in the sixth. Since suffering a 4-1 loss to Peoria in May, Billo has thrown 15 straight scoreless innings against the Chiefs.