By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Duke and Stanford are two of the finest colleges in the country. When it comes to academics and athletics, few colleges are rated higher.
Curve pitcher James Marvel was an outstanding student and baseball player at Campolindo High School near San Francisco and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. However, he received numerous college opportunities and turned down the pro contract.
“It came down to Duke and Stanford and I chose to go across country,” Marvel said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “Stanford was about an hour from my house and I always wanted to go there, so it was a hard time in the decision-making process.
“Something just felt right about Duke,” Marvel said. “It felt good on campus and I thought I could thrive in the ACC, which I think is the best college baseball in the country. Plus, I’d get a good education and that’s something my parents had always preached to me.”
So Marvel went 3,000 miles across country to forge his own path and experience something new.
As a freshman, Marvel went 4-2 with a 3.73 ERA in eight starts. He made four starts as a sophomore and posted a 2-2 record with a 1.78 ERA, but missed the rest of his sophomore season and all of his junior season with an elbow injury.
Even though Marvel had not pitched since early in his sophomore year, the Pirates drafted Marvel in the 36th round after his junior season.
“I dealt with a lot of injuries in college,” Marvel offered. “I was fortunate to be drafted by the Pirates after not playing that much. I was very lucky they had that trust in me and I’m proud and excited to be part of the organization. They’ve given me a great opportunity.”
A 6-2, 205-pound right-hander, Marvel began his pro career with short-season West Virginia in 2016, posting a 5-6 record and 4.43 ERA in 13 starts for the Black Bears. He spent most of 2017 with low-A West Virginia, going 6-8 (3.99 ERA) in 20 starts. He was promoted to Bradenton (advanced A) in August and went 1-0 in four starts.
Marvel started 2018 in Bradenton and posted a 9-6 record (3.68 ERA) in 21 starts before being promoted to Altoona (AA) in August. He compiled a 3-1 record with the Curve and pitched in the third game of the Eastern League’s Western Division playoffs. He gave up five early runs in that game but the Curve rallied to win.
Marvel began 2019 as one of the key starters in the Curve rotation.
“I felt good at the beginning of the year,” he said, “but then I had a couple of disappointing outings. That’s kind of how baseball goes sometimes – a lot of ups and downs.
“It’s just about coming to the field everyday and getting your work in … not changing anything too much in terms of my routine,” he said. “This game can humble you and it’s how you respond.”
A history and English major, Marvel already has his degree, but he’s not thinking about joining the work force yet.
“I’m a baseball player now and I’m putting everything into becoming a big league player for the Pirates,” he said. “I’ll go down that (work) road later. My only goal and dream now is baseball.”
The Marvels comes from a sports family. James’s dad, John, worked for ESPN awhile and now is an executive producer for NFL Network. His mother, Julie, was an outstanding amateur golfer and later turned pro. She was a director of communications for the LPGA and also for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.