Imagine this: You’re a 7-year-old playing your first Little League game at the Single-A level. You’re enthralled by every ping of the bat, blade of grass glistening in the sunlight, colorful butterfly buzzing around you and the barbecue scent that wafts from beyond the dugout.
But then, in a moment of confusion, your coach yells at you for being out of position – as most 7-year-olds are – and then screams, “get down and give me 30 push-ups” as the game is playing out. Would you: A, want to continue playing; B, quit and never give baseball the chance it deserves; or C, not have a choice because your mother won’t let you quit?
Just ask Sonoma State University club baseball player, Gaberiel Marchand, and he’ll tell you the third option was the only one he had.
“My mom wouldn’t let me quit,” Marchand said. “I loved baseball, but if not for her persistence and prodding I might very well be playing soccer right now and not baseball.”
Although soccer was on his radar early on, he said it was never in the cards because it was just too boring.
“When I played soccer, I was pretty good, but the sport never quite hooked onto me like baseball did,” he said. “Baseball is more the sport that energizes me and provides me with the rush of adrenaline that I need.”
As a young kid growing up in San Mateo, he loved playing wiffle ball with his friends in the backyard, often emulating the mechanics of his two favorite Major League players Albert Pujols and Omar Vizquel.
While he attributes Pujols and Vizquel with holding his intrigue in baseball early on, he credits his dad as the real reason he still cherishes the game.
“From when I was young,” Marchand said, “my dad would take me out to the field and work with me on whatever it was that I needed to work on. Whether that be ground balls, fly balls or just hitting, he always took the time to make me better. Baseball has always been my passion and I really owe it to him for instilling that love for the game in me.”
Living in the vicinity of his dad and older brother, Marchand took to sports from an early age.
He recalled that both of them are responsible for his love for not only baseball, but a wide array of sports ranging from soccer, to basketball, to football and even hockey.
“Growing up, my dad and brother watched a ton of sports, not just baseball. My older brother was a three-sport athlete and I would watch him play whenever I had a chance,” Marchand said. “To this day, those two are responsible for my love for sports and I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
While his affinity for sports has done more good than harm, it’s without question that the injuries amassed while playing have left him challenged physically and mentally on and off the diamond.
“Injuries are definitely a challenge,” he said. “In high school, I pulled my hamstring seven or eight times and had elbow tendinitis, which always stuck with me. There have been times when I’ve thought, ‘maybe I can’t play anymore,’ but I’ve always got back up and persevered through them.”
Perseverance is often a trait that drives athletes to greatness, but in Marchand’s case, it pushed him through one of the more traumatic incidences of his life, and this time, it was far worse than a pulled hamstring on the outskirts of the infield.
“Prior to coming to Sonoma State,” he said, “I got in a bad car accident while driving my mom’s Mazda Millenia. I was cut off by a Toyota minivan that smashed her car to bits. Now every time I pass that section [of road] I feel a rush of adrenaline and try to remain as calm as I can,” he said. “Without question, that accident has scarred me physically and emotionally, but I’ve always just felt that I needed to push past it in order to feel okay and get back to what I love most; baseball.”
As injuries have passed and the memory of that horrific accident has slowly crept away from the forefront of his mind, Marchand has emerged as one of Sonoma State’s leaders between the lines and doesn’t plan on hanging up his spikes any time soon.
“I love the game and wouldn’t leave it for anything,” Marchand said. “It’s a great escape, and what’s better than a sport where you can fail seven out of 10 times and still be considered successful? Nothing.”