All coaches, no matter what sport or age level, want their players to succeed.
That success isn’t necessarily defined simply by athletic ability, however, and can stem to accomplishments achieved long after what is done while in uniform.
Sometimes, coaches are lucky enough to watch their players exceed their expectations and extend playing careers to the amateur playing level, and beyond.
Tunkhannock grad Scott Marabell has been on both sides of that coin.
He excelled as a ballplayer, making it as far as Double A ball in the Los Angeles Dodger organization, and as a high school coach, earning state-runner up honors twice.
Several of his players have gone on to play in the minor leagues, with a handful making it as far as the Majors.
But one player in particular has gotten the farthest of them all, and is currently living out his dream of playing in baseball’s Fall Classic.
That player is Billy Butler, the designated hitter/ first baseman of the Kansas City Royals, who selected Butler as the 14th overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft right out of Samuel W. Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Florida, where Marabell was his head coach.
The Royals are up against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series this week.
The ‘Boys in Blue’ have brought Kansas City back to its heyday of championship baseball in the mid ‘80s.
Fans and players alike were ecstatic when the Royals made it back to the Fall Classic last week, calling or texting everyone and anyone willing to share in their joy.
That joy wasn’t lost on Butler, who made a call to his former varsity high school coach to celebrate.
“He was just so excited, he said it was the most pumped he’s ever been in his life,” Marabell said. “The fans in Kansas City and the atmosphere have been one of the most memorable things. It’s his dream and it’s all happening.”
There’s a lot that’s happened since Marabell’s Tunkhannock playing days to trading phone calls with Major League talent.
While Marabell excelled in the diamond, his main sport was wrestling. He earned more than 100 wins on the mat as a Tiger.
He graduated from Tunkhannock in 1982 and went on to play at Keystone Junior College, then a two-year school.
During his tenure, Marabell posted a .423 batting average and was named to the Region 19 All-Conference squad, which led to his induction into the Keystone Hall of Fame in 2012.
He then transferred to Jacksonville University in Florida, where he earned two First Team All-Conference honors while hitting .363.
Marabell finished his career with 24 home runs, 28 doubles, nine triples and 119 RBIs in 132 games.
“It was like Keystone Junior College in Jacksonville,” Marabell laughed. “We built a repertoire with the coaching staff and had a lot of players go down there.”
From Jacksonville, Marabell signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, spending four and a half years in the minor leagues and getting invited to the Big League Camp in 1989.
During his career, Marabell was part of three championships, including Sarasota in 1987, Vero Beach in 1989 and Bakersfield in 1990.
He also roomed with Dodgers and Mets great Mike Piazza, and played alongside several other eventual Major League talents.
After finishing his playing career in 1991 as a member of the Double A San Antonio Missions, Marabell went on to teach, first in math and science before finding a position he went to school for - Physical Education.
He then began coaching baseball at Wolfson, where he would lead the team to the state tournament seven times in 10 seasons, including state runner-up finishes in 1998 and 2004.
“I really wanted to be involved in the game because I loved the sport and loved the competitiveness,” Marabell said.” “It’s rewarding when players see it’s a grind and that everything doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s great camaraderie and when you have kids aspire to take it to the next level and see them succeed, it’s rewarding to see that happen.”
Enter Billy Butler, one of the best hitters in school history and one of the reasons the Wolfpack made it to the ‘04 state final.
One of the other reasons was Eric Hurley, a hard-throwing right hander who was also selected in the first round of the ‘04 draft by the Texas Rangers.
Butler was a three-year starter at Wolfson, leading the team in home runs his sophomore and junior seasons before ending his senior season with a .597 batting average (he was batting .600 heading into what would be his final game.)
“He was just a phenomenal hitter,” Marabell said. “Everything we taught him, he picked up - he was just born to be a hitter. Everything I learned while with the Dodgers was used to build him to follow in those footsteps, like staying with the ball. He had a great approach and was one of the big-time hitters. We had a pitcher throwing 97 and one of the best hitters in the country.”
To backup Butler’s lore, Marabell shared a story from a game at the Frank Viola tournament in Orlando, Florida.
Down three runs, Butler stepped up in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded and a chance to win his team the game.
“He had a huge number of walks senior year - I think he only had around 50 or 60 official at-bats,” Marabell said. “We were playing a really good team from Tennessee and the coach said to me that he should really walk Billy here. I told him he shouldn’t walk in a run.”
As it turned out, Butler blasted a grand slam, giving the Wildcats the 12-11 victory.
“I’m a grinder, and I thought we needed to have kids who were willing to work hard, be good teammates and really work together,” Marabell said. “We worked hard in the weight room and played summer and fall ball. The kids believed, the parents believed and everyone bought in. When things like that happen you can have a good program, and we developed a lot of good players there.”
STILL IN THE GAME
Marabell, now 50, stopped coaching full-time in 2008 to watch his two sons, Connor and Blake, play baseball.
Connor currently plays for his father’s alma-mater at Jacksonville, while Blake is a junior at Bartram Trail High School.
His wife, Jocelyn, is also a teacher in St. John’s County,
Marabell is a member of the Eastern Baseball Alliance, and also runs the Scott Marabell Hitting Camp while volunteering as AAU coach and teaching golf in the fall.
His scout teams consist of some of the best players in the state, which Marabell showcases as a means to get his players to move on to play in junior college or at four-year institutions.
And though his Dodgers won’t be playing in the Fall Classic, nor will his favorite childhood team - the New York Yankees - it’s safe to say that Marabell is dead set on the team, and player, he’ll be rooting for, just like he did 10 years ago.