He grew up in a small town northeast of Kansas City, in a place crazy about sports, known as Excelsior Springs. So it’d be easy to call Shaun Marcum a dreamer.
“I remember when I was 10 or 11 years old and myself and a few others from Excelsior that were on my travel team got interviewed by the paper,” Marcum said. “We said we were going to win a state title (in high school). We fell short, but the memories are still something we talk about with our kids. It pushed me to work even harder.”
Marcum never let his foot off the “hard work” pedal, emerged as a talent at Missouri State and then a long-time big-leaguer. That’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted him with the Class of 2023.
Marcum became one of the best pitchers ever to come out of Missouri. At Missouri State, he was a two-year closer and starting shortstop. In 2002, he helped the team finish as the runner-up in the NCAA Regional at the University of Nebraska and, a year later, Marcum helped the Bears reach the College World Series.
He then was a third-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003 and spent 12 seasons in professional baseball (2003-2015), including nine years in the big leagues. He started 167 big-league games, made 28 relief appearances and logged more than 1,000 innings.
He also pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets and Cleveland Indians. In Milwaukee, he helped the 2011 Brewers win the NL Central and come within two wins of reaching the World Series. From 2007-2012, he compiled the seventh-highest win percentage (.628) of all major-league pitchers with over 800 innings pitched.
For Marcum, two places in the Show-Me State will always be near and dear to his heart: Excelsior Springs and Missouri State.
In Excelsior Springs, his older brother was on the 1996 state championship football team, and Marcum later helped the 1999 baseball team reach the Final Four. He played travel baseball and played in the CABA World Series and AAU World Series, winning the CABA at age 11. In the CABA two years later, his 13U team dealt a California team its first loss in three years.
“I thought I had a chance (to play in college) when I was going into seventh and eighth grade,” Marcum said. “I knew a lot of the kids that were a little older than I was and knew we had a chance to be good. Plus our team was really good. We would play up an age group, sometimes two years up, and still won.”
Marcum initially went to the University of Missouri, but transferred to Missouri State.
“It was the best decision of my life,” Marcum said.
There, coach Keith Guttin (MSHOF 2015) and pitching coach Paul Evans (MSHOF 2022) put him in position to have success – Guttin and hitting coach Brent Thomas in his hitting, Evans in his pitching by working on his offspeed pitches and trusting his slider.
The 2002 and 2003 seasons still come to mind every so often.
“I would go to Omaha when I had a break from playing and watch (the College World Series),” Marcum said. “It was even more fun to win at Nebraska in 2003 since they eliminated us there the year before. The 2002 regional showed us we could compete with those guys.”
It was in the summer of 2002 when he became a prospect in the eyes of scouts in the prestigious Cape Cod League. A year later, the Blue Jays selected Marcum in the third round of the MLB Draft.
“I didn’t think I’d be a third-rounder. I was just looking forward to the opportunity,” Marcum said.
Marcum made a successful jump to the pros, ultimately focusing on pitching.
Looking back, he thanks all who helped along the way, especially his parents, brother and sister, as well as coaches and teammates.
These days, as he works with Excelsior Springs and Washburn University pitchers, he thinks back and knows how special it all was.
“To be able to play in the College World Series for some of the best coaches in the country, with great teammates, to playing at the highest level against the best in the world was something I dreamed about from the time I started playing baseball and something I will never forget,” Marcum said. “I hope I can help others accomplish (their dreams) now that I’m on the coaching side.”