Baseball: Grayslake Central's Marisca excels at -- and behind -- the plate
A lot more goes into the catching position on a baseball team than meets the untrained eye.
While Grayslake Central senior catcher Charlie Marisca put up some impressive offensive numbers and equally gaudy totals on the throwing out basestealers front, his worth to the Northern Lake County Conference and Class 3A regional champion Rams this season runs much deeper.
Roll the whole ball of wax together and Marisca is the 2022 Daily Herald baseball All-Area Captain for Lake County.
"What makes Charlie a good catcher is that he is a leader on the field," said Rams junior pitcher Will Schufreider, who had himself a heck of a season on the mound and was also considered for the captain award after going 9-1 with an 0.85 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 46 innings of work.
"As a pitcher, Charlie steals so many strikes for me and it makes me so happy because then I can get another strike on the batter."
Marisca, headed to Parkland College next season, threw out 17 baserunners this season for Central -- 80 percent of steal attempts were snuffed out by his right arm.
"We won 30 games and are NLCC champions and he is a big reason why," Central coach Troy Whalen said. "Charlie is a year-round baseball player and focuses much of his time in the off-season to getting stronger and perfecting his swing. He loves playing the game and it has been his sport from age five on. He caught nearly 200 innings for us this year and pulled him every chance I got to get him some rest, but he never wanted to come out of the game. You appreciate kids like that."
Marisca, the NLCC player of the year and a presumptive member of the Class 3A all-state team, hit .435 with 48 total hits and 33 RBI. He finished with 7 home runs, 16 doubles and had an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.308 in 113 at-bats.
"I thought I got better at hitting extra-base hits," noted Marisca, a two-time all-NLCC selection. "Junior year I only had 2 home runs and this year I had seven. I got stronger and more physical than last year. I did a lot of lifting in the offseason and worked hard. It's important, especially going to the next level next year. Physicality plays a big role and one of my goals was to get stronger."
Behind the plate, Marisca attributes his improvement to a better awareness of his surroundings.
"I thought mentally I got better," he said. "I improved with my ability knowing what is going on and becoming more mature than I was my junior year. I feel like my throws got better too with my ability to throw the ball around and with my arm strength."
When it comes to gunning down would-be base stealers, Marisca said it boils down to one key factor.
"It's trust in my arm," he said. "And making sure my feet are right. The rest is trust in the arm and my middles to make the play after the ball is out of my hand."
Marisca said there is too much to like about the catching position to single out just one superlative that keeps him coming back for more. He said he was a beneficiary of the default local youth baseball team mechanism -- tell the kid with the strongest arm on the team to step to it and throw the gear on.
And Marisca, who started off playing baseball in the Grayslake Youth Baseball Association and now plays for the Top Tier travel organization, ran with it.
"You are involved in every play. There are no plays off," he explained. "Throwing guys out is probably the best part and working with the pitchers and communicating between them. Catching those guys the last two years, I got close and connected well with them."
Marisca stresses catching is more than throwing down a pitch sign. "I have to know which play to put on in any given situations and let my teammates know and communicate where to throw the ball on cuts, things like that," he said.
Marisca was put on the spot: Hit a home run or gun a runner at second on a stolen attempt.
"Hitting a home run, mostly due to the fact homers are harder to come by," he said. "There is no better feeling in life than hitting a home run, in my opinion."
Looking back, Marisca said his run on the Grayslake Central varsity was made sweeter by the teammates he played with.
"My biggest memory will be going out with this senior group," he said. "I grew up with these kids when I was 7, 8 and 9. We all played GYBA house league. We made a lot of memories the last two years with these juniors who returned this year and now with the incoming seniors. I will miss playing with everybody, but especially the seniors who came up with me."
For Marisca, who was a 7-semester honor roll student at Central, and felt he did just "OK" in the classroom (grade-point average encroaching on 4.0), the game continues at the next level at Parkland.
"I can't wait," said Marisca, an avid workout enthusiast, who can jack up 270 pounds on the bench press (he weighs 190) and can do 455 pounds on the straight-bar deadlift. "I am excited that it's another year to keep playing baseball and that I have the opportunity to keep playing the sport for as long as I can. I have a good connection with the Parkland coach and I like what the school has to offer with the campus and with athletics. It's the right fit for me. The program has had a history of success over the years."
For Schufreider, the NLCC pitcher of the year and another presumptive Class 3A all-state selection who Marisca calls a "bulldog" and a "beast" on the mound, he'll remember his battery mate for the way he conducted business on and off the field.
"Charlie is very humble and doesn't try to put himself above the team," he said.
Whalen said Parkland is getting the real deal behind the plate and in the batter's box.
"He has a great deal of upside as not only a power-hitting left-handed hitter, but somebody who has shown the ability to hit for power to the opposite field. His catching has come a long way and will continue to get better at the next level."