MORRISBURG – It took a coaching job in Fairbanks, Alaska last year to re-dedicate Austin Marcellus to his dream, a professional baseball career. The 24-year old South Dundas resident signed last week with the Ottawa Champions baseball club of the Can/Am League.
“I don’t know if I can put it into words how I feel,” Marcellus told The Leader. “Coming back and playing in Ottawa was one of my goals in pursuing pro ball. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
Marcellus, a graduate of Seaway District High School, has a long history in the region playing minor ball with the Upper Canada Heat and later the Brockville Bunnies.
After graduating high school, he earned a full scholarship at Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he played second base for the Lackawanna Falcons.
Marcellus then played for Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, on a partial scholarship.
In the summer, he played baseball for the Capital City Reds in Ottawa.
“I had a really good junior year but struggled in my senior year,” Marcellus said. “I broke my hand in the last two weeks of college ball.”
He intended to return home after graduating from Limestone and play for the Reds. Marcellus said the coach there had connections and he ended up with a job coaching baseball in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“A week into it,” he said, he found that “it was hard to do. Here I am telling these kids to follow their dreams, and I’m not.”
He returned home in the fall and started to pursue his professional baseball career.
Marcellus was picked up by the California City Whiptails in the Pecos League for the 2017 season. He is the first Capital City Reds player signed to a professional contract.
The 2017 season went well for Marcellus. He had a .353 batting average, with four home runs and 38 RBI’s over the 61-game season.
The Whiptails failed to make the league’s post-season, which saw Marcellus land his next opportunity. He signed on to the Tucson Saguaros in the same league, which did make the play-offs.
“I signed with Tuscon, but they didn’t make it far in the play-offs.
The Pecos League is known for its condensed season. Between the Whiptails and the Saguaros, Marcellus played 63 games in 64 days.
“That was something else,” he said.
From that opportunity, another came calling. Marcellus explained that the Ottawa Champions traded for his rights.
“The commissioner called the league and asked how quickly can you get here,” he said.
The left-handed batter took the field for the Champions August 8th against the New Jersey Jackals at RCGT Park in Ottawa.
“I can’t describe it,” Marcellus said. “It was surreal. It was really cool to take in, seeing 2000 people watching you in your home town.”
Marcellus went one-for-four in the game with a hit to second base, earning one RBI. Ottawa went on to beat New Jersey 5-1 in the game, but dropped the next two games. Marcellus has had two starts for the team. Ottawa sits in fifth place in the Can/Am league and is defending league champion.
He identifies with Major League Baseball players José Altuve from the Houston Astros and Dustin Pedroia from the Boston Red Sox, both for their story of how they got to the big leagues and their playing style. Both players are second basemen with their respective teams.
Playing in the Major League is the ultimate goal for Marcellus.
“Anyone who plays and says they don’t want to play at the top of their game are either lying or playing for the wrong reason,” he said.
“Playing in Ottawa when I started training this year, that was the highest goal I had set for myself this season,” Marcellus said.
“I’d love to play a full season there, and hopefully win a championship. And then go from there.”
Ottawa sits four points behind the Sussex County Miners (Augusta, New Jersey) for the fourth and final play off spot. The team began a six game road trip August 15th, taking on the Miners for three crucial games. After that, the team moves on to take on the Québec Capitales, one of two teams tied for first place in the league.