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Unsung Hero: The Final Chapter

Exciting highs of success and terrible-abysmal ordeals took turns defining Evan Marshall’s career. Next season, he will write the final chapter of his baseball career.

Evan Marshall, June of 2021.
Evan Marshall, June of 2021.
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Exciting highs of success and terrible-abysmal ordeals took turns defining Evan Marshall’s career. Heroes often have lives that cross the threshold of ordinary, followed by ordeals and successes. And like nearly every worthy hero, by his side was his spouse. Let’s look at two seasons and two events that tell his tale.

Success happened in a disappointing season. 2014 was a disappointing season for the Diamondbacks, but not for Evan Marshall. The AZ Snake Pit voted him their unsung hero for the season. A few comments follow:

“He was the best of four rookie relief pitchers that the Diamondbacks used in 2014.” — Makakilo

“Had a higher BABIP than Brandon McCarthy so, while Marshall put more runners on than you’d like to see from a setup fixture, there’s nothing phony about the sub 3 ERA.” —Diamondhacks

“Marshall allowed an earned run in only eleven of his 57 outings in 2014, and by the All-Star break had firmly established himself in the roll of seventh inning/set-up man. By the end of the season, he had made a case for himself as one of the better set-up men in the National League.” — James Attwood

“He’s bright. He’s young. He’s extremely competitive. He learned to get out hitters at the MLB level in 2014. We are really lucky to have him continue to develop over the next 3 years. He could be a lock down closer at the MLB level if he gets more coaching.” — ford.williams.10

An injury happened unexpectedly. Despite his success, in May of 2015, he was optioned to Reno. In August a line drive hit him in the head, not in a harmless way. He had fractures and the worst part was a broken blood vessel. An operation relieved the pressure in his head and saved his life.

His wife Allison strongly supported him despite her worry that he would have amnesia and memory loss.

“If he didn’t know who I was, by God, I was going to make him fall back in love with me. I was bound and determined. I was not going to do life without this man.” — Allison Marshall

He woke up better than expected, albeit months of rehab were in his future. While he avoided the grim reaper taking him before his time, the bad news was he had to face his fears if he was to continue his career. When he finally made a return appearance in the minors, he felt uplifted.

“…how happy I was just to get out there — what a relief. If I’m ever down on myself or feeling bad, I can go back to that mindset and it rejuvenates me, even if I got crushed on the field that day, at least I was there.” — Evan Marshall

A mountain peak of success happened with adjustments and perseverance. He continued his career, albeit it took years of perseverance.

Although his fastball had well above average velocity, it was never his most frequently used pitch. His overall success depended on his secondary pitches.

“Evan Marshall has become one of those weird pitchers who used something other than a fastball a majority of the time. From 2014-18, Marshall used his sinker more than any other pitch, and by a good margin, too. Until this season [2019], that is.” — Darren Black, SB Nation

His pitching was amazing in 2019 and 2020, likely due to his improved changeup and curve combined with a change in his mix of pitches.

  • In 2018, his changeup became his best pitch (wOBA of .178 and xwOBA of .124). From 2019 onward, it was his most frequent pitch.
  • In 2019, his curve greatly improved (wOBA of .286 and xwOBA of .236). From 2020 onward, it became his second most frequent pitch.

His perseverance was beyond praiseworthy because in August of 2018, his four month old son Ryan was in the hospital because of a serious medical problem with an unknown cause.

The good news was that by May of 2019, Ryan was at the ballpark looking full of health!

“This kid [Ryan] is our world. He’s our morning and night. Before this he was a healthy, happy, beautiful baby boy. He still is.” — Allison Marshall

An injury happened that interrupted success. In July of 2021, Evan Marshall’s elbow was injured. Rehab did not fix the problem.

In November of 2021, he had Tommy John surgery.

After Tommy John surgery for pitchers above age 30 (Marshall was 31), about 76% of pitchers successfully return. I peg Evan Marshall’s chances a lot higher.

After the usual year of rehab for Tommy John surgery, he will write the final chapter of his baseball career. Will he end his story with, “Good things happen when perseverance overcomes injury.” Or will he end it with, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

In either case, it will be the final chapter of an epic story worth living. No longer the unsung hero, a figurative minstrel is singing his praises.