Nine questions with pitcher Marc Church
In celebration of Black History Month, broadcaster Zach Bigley sat down with 2022 RoughRiders reliever Marc Church for a conversation about his career and the impact he has had on his community in Atlanta, Georgia. In keeping with Minor League Baseball’s “The Nine” initiative, Church answered nine wide-ranging questions about
In celebration of Black History Month, broadcaster Zach Bigley sat down with 2022 RoughRiders reliever Marc Church for a conversation about his career and the impact he has had on his community in Atlanta, Georgia.
In keeping with Minor League Baseball’s “The Nine” initiative, Church answered nine wide-ranging questions about baseball, his time growing up and his work in the community.
Zach: Growing up in Atlanta, what was your relationship with baseball?
Marc: I grew up watching my older brother play. I think I started playing at the age of four. Honestly, my goal was just to be better than him. He went D1 in baseball and so my only goal in baseball was to play D1.
I grew up playing with an all-Black team from the age of seven to about 16. Everyone ended up going to college to play or getting drafted off that team. It was really a big blessing to play baseball where I did in Atlanta.
What was it like playing with your primarily Black travel baseball team?
It was really fun. We’re the only all-Black real travel team. Most Black teams play rec, but we were playing on the biggest stage, going out of town and having fun. We never really wanted to stop playing with each other and we’re still really tight to this day. We still text in group chats and all that type of stuff.
One of those guys, Michael Harris II, just won NL Rookie of the Year with the Braves. What was that like to see his success this season?
That was crazy. We all knew he was that good, but I don’t think we knew he was going to go up to the big leagues and win Rookie of the Year. So, seeing that kind of all gave us confidence and we’re asking him questions on how it feels to be in the bigs and we’re all interested. Seeing that was crazy, but we’re all happy and rooting for him.
Did he have an answer as to what it was like playing in the bigs that surprised you?
He honestly has a pretty cool demeanor. He was saying it’s really just baseball at the end of the day. You go out there and it’s the same game, just one more day.
What were some of your favorite memories growing up with baseball?
Traveling on the road. We used to always have a big bus growing up and we used to have all types of music and just fun. I remember when we were about nine, we went to [a tournament of] the best 32 teams in the USA in Florida. It was at the Disney park and they had a PlayStation Pavilion there and it was just cool. We were playing against the best 32 teams in the nation and, like I said, we’re the only all-Black team in there, so it was really cool.
Who were some of your role models that you looked up to in baseball and in life?
One of my favorite players growing up was Howie Kendrick because I was a second baseman on my team from ages nine to 14, so Howie Kendrick is who I looked up to, but when I got to about eighth and ninth grade, I started to see Tim Anderson and I really liked his style of play.
For pitching, Kenley Jansen. I like the way he goes about it. I like the way he pitches and I like the attitude on the mound.
How do you see yourself as a role model to the Black community at this point in your career?
Honestly, I never thought I would make it this far in baseball, so we threw a bunch of camps and we had a great turnout in Atlanta. Our Atlanta group in terms of pro baseball players is really close-knit. So, we threw a really big camp this winter and just to see 70 Black kids who all are aspiring to be pro baseball players really just gives you motivation to be the best baseball player you can be because you got so many guys just in your hometown looking up to you.
I didn’t know how big of an influence I could be or how big of an influence I am now, but seeing how many Black kids are still in Atlanta, still trying to get to college or still trying to get where I was trying to go, really gives me motivation to make it even further.
To you, what is the importance of shining a light on Black players in baseball?
It’s very important. I think it’s less than seven percent [of Black players] in the game today, so I feel like we have to grow the game. In our communities, we lose a lot of athletes to basketball and football; those are pretty much the most popular sports in our community. But if we just get more Black players playing and they see how fun the game could be, then I feel like it will grow.
What did it mean to you to play as the Dallas Black Giants in 2022 with the RoughRiders?
Honestly, it was so cool. I didn’t really know who the Dallas Black Giants were until then, but not a lot of Minor League teams are shining a light on Black baseball. Usually, they have a Latin night every week, but to have that uniform – when I put that on, it really meant something special to me.
Outside of baseball, how important is it to have an impact on your community?
That’s probably the most important. That’s probably what gives me motivation every day. Just because there are a lot of people looking up to me and a lot of people who want to be in my shoes. So, honestly, I want to be just the best version of myself to show them that it can be done. I wasn’t really a big prospect coming out of high school. I really didn’t have a lot of offers, so I know a lot of people would relate to my story. I just want to give them hope that it can be done.
What is something you would say to young athletes who want to get into baseball?
It’s way more fun than you think it is. Baseball is looked at as a boring and slow sport, but really when you play it, it’s nothing like that. You really fall for a passion for it. I’ll say just play it. Just start somewhere.