The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


July 4, 2013

Catching On: Former infielders making transition with LumberKings

CLINTON — CLINTON – There was just something about them. Tyler Marlette was a short, stocky, college-bound third baseman; Marcus Littlewood was a shortstop on the tall side who made all the plays you should in the middle infield.

Something somewhere along the line said to the Seattle Mariners scouts, “These two kids ought to be catchers.” And so, here they are manning the Clinton LumberKings’ backstop.

“I had never caught before, not even in Little League. I’d never even thought about catching,” Littlewood, 21, from Saint George, Utah, said.

“I caught maybe six games my senior year of high school,” said Marlette, 20, from Oviedo, Fla. “A couple scouts went up to my coach and were like, ‘A lot of us want to see him behind the plate.’

“That’s when I got the clue that if I wanted to be drafted, it wouldn’t be at third base.”

Littlewood’s future also appeared brighter if he made the change.

“They said it’d be a good opportunity for me, so I thought I’d try it out,” he said. “From there it just took off.”

Both players have essentially grown into their roles together. Marlette and Littlewood met two years ago at a rookie training camp.

“I thought he was mean,” Marlette said, jokingly. “I tried to approach him because I knew he was newer. We were with a bunch of older guys and he was the only other high-school-aged catcher.”

Marlette’s first impression was that Littlewood was too standoffish.

“I’m just not very approachable,” Littlewood said, laughing.

Now with the LumberKings, both players room together on every road trip and spend hours together on the practice field. The player who doesn’t get the night’s start watches from the bench and gives his counterpart an observational scouting report. In the midst of a three- or four-game series, the previous night’s starter will suggest batter tendencies for the opponent’s lineup.

Compared with other players on the team, the Clinton catchers are babies at their position. Both are in their second full year at the spot. Unlike a teammate pitcher who can tap into years of situational experience, both players are honing in on the basics of professional catching.

The learning curve wasn’t as steep as either player imagined.

“There wasn’t one big hurdle. It’s a tough position to play,” Littlewood said. “I gained a lot of respect for catchers as I was transitioning. It’s hard to slow the game down at first. That just comes through experience. I think I’m learning to slow it down more.

“It’s all similar to the infield.”

Yet, the LumberKings have high expectations for Littlewood and Marlette, holding both players to higher attitude standards than the rest of the dugout. Manager Eddie Menchaca said the staff constantly gameplans with both catchers. He was actually on staff before Littlewood made the conversion.

“These are the guys that are pretty much dictating the game,” Menchaca said. “They control that. They control the speed, the tempo. When a (pitcher’s) struggling, the catcher calms him down. There’s a lot of things that go through the catcher.

“It is a process because they’re used to wearing a different glove. It’s not easy to convert from infield to catcher because the infield’s in front of you.”

Although both players could reasonably be labeled “projects,” the experiment has yielded major benefits for Clinton. Marlette leads the team in batting average, slugging, has six home runs in 152 at-bats. He was also named a 2013 Midwest League All-Star. In 29 games, Littlewood has a .250 average and 14 runs. Through 80 games, there’s only one error between them.

The players credit the work of Mariners roaming catcher coach John Stearns (a former major league catcher whom Marlette called his “idol” at the position); Stearns was named interim manager of Seattle’s Triple-A club, the Tacoma Rainiers in early May.

“He’s very enthusiastic and positive,” Littlewood said. “Baseball is full of failure, so you need someone to sort of trick you into thinking you’re good.”

And, unlike with the other positions, both players said they want the best for each other even while competing for one spot.

“He’s probably one of my closest friends here,” Marlette said.

“You don’t see that very often,” Littlewood said.

Text Only
  • 7-25-14 1B-Photo, Clinton track Clinton king of Brady DAVENPORT — It might not have been the blue oval, but Clinton track can place its mark at the top of the hill.The quartet of Barrion Collins, Marquis Robinson, Quavon Jones and Deshond Robinson won the high school boys division of the Battle Up Brady

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jones leaves UNO program

    Jalen Jones is done with basketball — for now, anyway.
    The 6-foot-5 Clinton High grad who had committed to play for Nebraska-Omaha, has left the program, and according to his Facebook page, has enrolled at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
    The enrollment office at the community college confirmed that Jones was registered for classes this fall at Kirkwood. Kirkwood coach Bryan Petersen, a Clinton High graduate, declined to comment and gave no indication that Jones would play basketball for the Eagles this winter.
    "College basketball isn't for everybody," Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. "A little time away might do him some good."
    Jones came home to Clinton after spending just a few days with the Mavericks, and enrolled to Kirkwood shortly thereafter.
    Jones, the Herald's Player of the Year, averaged 19 points a game for the River Kings in his senior season and finished with the second-most rebounds with 160.
    He shot 41 percent on the floor and 28 percent from 3-point territory. He committed to Omaha before last season started in October.

    July 26, 2014

  • Hawkeyes to offer student tickets to public

    Iowa athletic director Gary Barta says the Hawkeyes will make any unsold student football tickets available to the general public as well on Aug. 1.

    July 25, 2014

  • PHOTOS: Clinton Junior Baseball 2014 Tournament Winners

    Clinton Junior Baseball 2014 Tournament Winners - Majors, Minors, Pee Wee

    July 25, 2014

  • Testimony ends in trial LOS ANGELES (AP) — Testimony ended Wednesday in the trial to determine whether Donald Sterling’s estranged wife can sell the Los Angeles Clippers in a proposed $2 billion deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.Shelly Sterling, who had testified

    July 25, 2014

  • Whitecaps take away Clinton offense CLINTON — The Clinton LumberKings (13-19, 43-57) mustered only five hits as the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps (20-12, 61-41) shut down the hometown club at Ashford University Field.Whitecaps’ starter Jonathon Crawford (6-2) allowed only four men t

    July 25, 2014

  • 7-25-14 1B-Photo, Cubs San Diego sinks Cubs, 13-3 CHICAGO — Tyson Ross kept mowing down Chicago Cubs hitters, long enough for San Diego’s suddenly potent offense to carry the Padres to victory for the second straight night.Ross struck out a career-high 11, and the light-hitting Padres broke out for

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Trestman ready for round 2 BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — This time last year, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman was still something of a curiosity.He was a guy leading an NFL team for the first time as training camp started, plucked from Canada after spending several years out of the le

    July 25, 2014

  • Sox jump on Minnesota MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An impressive start from Hector Noesi was just a couple of pitches away from being something really special.Noesi allowed three hits over 7 2-3 innings, and Adam Eaton had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Chicago White Sox to a

    July 25, 2014

  • 7-24-14 1B-Photo, Choice 2 Cinderella run ends DUBUQUE — The playoff run was fun while it lasted. Dubuque Hempstead, the No. 1-ranked baseball team in Class 4A entering Wednesday, ended Clinton’s chances at back-to-back appearances in the state tournament in Des Moines. The Mustangs knocked out t

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

High School Sports