Alumni Brandon Marklund: A Unique Journey from Bryan College to the Kansas City Royals

9 months ago Triangle 0

Written Nathan Kernell, staff writer

Brandon Marklund, a 2018 Bryan college graduate, has turned his unique baseball resume into a contract with the Kansas City Royals. The unique path that led him to the Kansas City Royals differs greatly from most of his fellow teammates. His journey includes a summer playing in New Zealand for the Aukland Tuatara and a roster spot on team Canada. Although his journey has been distinctive, anyone fortunate enough to witness Marklund’s talent and hard work would agree that the 6’2” relief-pitcher is more than deserving of the opportunity. Marklund, now enjoying a professional baseball career in one of baseball’s most talented farm systems, wasted no time in crediting Bryan College with helping shape his career and preparing him for certain aspects of playing professionally.

What initially drew Marklund to Bryan, a small-town college over 40 hours from his home in Vancouver, proved to be something that was a defining feature of much of his collegiate playing career: a family-like atmosphere that made him feel at home. In a place so far removed from his home in Western Canada, both in terms of distance and cultural-difference, Marklund mentions the term “family” as a great way to describe Bryan’s team atmosphere throughout his tenure. “You know, they used the word ‘family’ a lot and Coach Mac and Jordan care a lot about their players … they made sure I was well taken care of, along with some of the LA guys too, who don’t always get to go home.” In specific reference to Marklund’s desire to play professionally, he felt Bryan was the perfect atmosphere to develop and achieve his two primary goals of earning his degree and becoming the best player he could. “I thought, since it was a smaller school, I could kind of focus on baseball a little bit more. I thought it was a good place where I could train, get better, and not have pressure right away. … It allowed me to, you know, kind of have some room to grow and kind of develop and start that journey of understanding who I am as a pitcher.”

Marklund first gained attention from professional clubs during his junior season in which pitched 65 innings across 18 appearances, earning himself a 5.54 ERA [Earned Run Average]. Marklund describes that it was a pro-day at Tusculum College that helped show scouts his capabilities. “We went to a scout day up at Tusculum, and I think in my bullpen I sat 93-94 [mph], which for me at the time was a record-high. I got some interest from that and they sent a few pre-draft questionnaires to the coaches.”

During his senior season, Marklund was solidified as the team’s closer. In 56.2 innings across 24 appearances, Marklund boasted an impressive 2.38 ERA with 8 saves and a 6-1 record. Not overly confident that he would be taken in MLB draft, he knew playing overseas was his best option to ultimately sign a pro baseball contract. In what Marklund considers a pivotal point in his baseball career, he signed to play with the Aukland Tuatara Australian Baseball League in Aukland, New Zealand. Marklund was able to settle in as a reliable bullpen arm for the Tuatara and earned stat line that grabbed the attention of Major League scouts. His 2.29 ERA with 15 k’s in 19.2 innings, coupled with a fastball velocity that had jumped into the mid and upper 90s helped earn him tryouts with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Kansas City Royals.

A tryout with the Royals turned into the contract that Marklund had worked so desperately to achieve. Judging by his first year stats, Marklund was not willing to squander any opportunity. After his first season, he broke into the Royals’ Top-50 prospects list and was a possible late-inning bullpen solution for their big-league team in the future. His freshman campaign was spent in Single A in the South Atlantic League where he pitched 39.1 innings, giving up only 2 earned runs and striking out over 10 per 9 innings. Unfortunately, Marklund is currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery, a surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in a pitcher’s throwing arm. Although the recovery time is lengthy, about a year, full-recoveries are very common. Marklund is likely to have the same velocity and ability when he returns. In talking with Marklund about his current position within Minor League Baseball, what was particularly evident was his positive outlook and gratefulness for what he’s accomplished. “[In low A, the rookie league of minor baseball], we’re going to places where there’s not really any fans, there’s not much of a clubhouse, the pregame spread isn’t really good, but for me, I didn’t have a pregame spread at Bryan. We didn’t have a locker room. We didn’t have hundreds of fans and thousands of fans. We had what we had.” Marklund describes some of the difficulties that players from larger schools sometimes experience because of the downgrade in atmosphere and benefits. “With Bryan and a lot of smaller schools, we make due with what we have and we compete. Whether you’re in college on scholarship or in pro-ball you’re getting paid in some capacity and you have to perform. You take what you’re given and know you’re lucky to be here and to even have this opportunity.”