Special: Pitcher follows family to TCU

Like most TCU rosters, the baseball team’s features the usual crop of kids from Texas and one from Oklahoma. And then there’s Eric Marshall. In coming to TCU, Marshall, a freshman right-handed pitcher from Barrington, Ill., followed a long lineage down the path to Fort Worth.

His grandfather played football for TCU in the 1940s. His father went to TCU. His mother, uncle, aunt – all Horned Frogs.

But for Marshall, the decision to come to TCU wasn’t just about following family tradition – it was about more practical reasons: the chance to play for a winning program and get a great education, he said.

“I care about academics a lot, just as much as baseball,” Marshall said. “(And) when a top-20 team offers you a scholarship … “

Marshall, a 37th round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, said he chose TCU over professional baseball and scholarship offers from Big Ten schools.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 178-pound Marshall said choosing TCU over minor league baseball was easy.

“I’ve got kind of a smaller body compared to a lot of other people,” Marshall said. “I mean, I don’t even shave. I’ve got a lot of developing to do still. It just wasn’t the right time.”

Marshall’s uncle, Guy Marshall, who graduated from TCU in 1977 and lives in Fort Worth, said he’s happy his nephew spurned a strong offer and heavy recruitment from Penn State for TCU.

“Eric was the No. 1 recruit at Penn State,” he said. “You’d think they were recruiting a football player in Texas.”

Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said the program got lucky because it had the opportunity to sign Marshall after some of TCU’s pitching recruits decided to forego college for professional baseball.

“The June period is really, really important because it’s usually when schools are scrambling after the draft,” Schlossnagle said, “and there are always some players who’ve been overlooked or guys who haven’t made a decision yet.”

He said Marshall has performed well since he’s been here. Marshall pitched 6 scoreless innings in October’s Purple and White World Series, a set of five intra-squad scrimmages, allowing three hits and tallying four strike outs for the victorious White side.

Schlossnagle said Marshall will probably start the season in the bullpen in long-to-middle relief. Marshall may join the starting rotation this year, Schlossnagle said, but will more than likely make that jump next season.

“He has really, really good command of his fastball, and he has an outstanding breaking ball he can throw for strikes,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s very polished for a kid from the North who hasn’t had a chance to pitch as much as maybe some of the kids from here in Texas.”

Schlossnagle said Marshall needs to become more consistent with his velocity and stronger but will be very important to the team in the coming years.

In high school, Marshall finished with a 22-1 record and a .99 ERA and led Barrington High School to a third-place finish in Illinois.

Marshall’s father, Peter Marshall, graduated from TCU in 1978. He said what separates his son from other players is his extraordinary competitiveness and the winning approach he brings to everything he does.

“Any time Eric has been involved with something, the teams he’s been with seem to have done really well,” the elder Marshall said. “I think he has the tendency to bring out the best in other players.”

He and his wife Carol, class of 1979, pointed to a supersectional game that led to a state finals berth last year in which their son pitched a no-hit shutout and drove a 450-foot home run ball over the center-field fence as the shining moment in their son’s baseball past.

“He never cracks. He loves pressure,” Carol Marshall said. “When the pressure’s on, this kid just takes off.”

Hunt Woodruff, Marshall’s roommate and a freshman catcher on the baseball team, said there is one area Marshall still really needs work on.

“He’s got to get his accent,” Woodruff said. “He’s got a northern accent that drives everybody nuts.