ASHEBORO — Tanner Marsh was in middle school and like on most summer nights, he was sitting at the picnic table at McCrary Park watching his older brothers play American Legion baseball for Randolph County Post 45.
On this one particular night, he said he turned to his mother and told her he was going to be the youngest of the four brothers to start for Post 45.
With older brothers Tristan, Trevor and Tatum all integral pieces in the success of Post 45 over the past decade, it was a bold statement. And one that materialized.
“I told them that and I did it, but I don’t want to compete with anyone like I compete with my brothers,” Tanner said after a recent Post 45 game in which he had three hits, including a two-run homer, and two runs scored in leading his team to a 7-2 win over Chatham County. ”I know what my brothers did for this team and I want to keep it in the blood.”
The Marsh brothers, along with cousins Bryce and Blake Marsh, have been donning Post 45 jerseys for a long time and each has helped build the program into one of the top organizations in the Southeast. Tanner is the youngest and said he’s benefitted from having three older brothers play Post 45 baseball.
“At certain points it was rough, especially since I am the youngest,” Marsh said. “They really took it hard on me. At the end of the day, they taught me everything I know. They are always willing to help me with my game.
“Learning from all three of them, that’s the best thing that could have happened. Tristan has strengths, Trevor has strengths and Tatum has strengths and they all taught me their strengths, and whenever I really put it together, they are a big part of the player I am today.”
What a player he’s been. Entering play over this past weekend, Marsh, a four-year player for Post 45, was hitting a robust .484 (30-for-62) from the leadoff spot with 10 doubles, one triple, four home runs, an unbelievable 31 runs scored — an average of better than two runs per game — and 22 RBIs. He has walked eight times and struck out only twice.
“He sets a great example,” said veteran Post 45 coach Ronnie Pugh, who has coached all four Marsh brothers. “He works hard. People think they just go out and do this stuff. He makes it look easy. He’s a leader and we are tickled to death to have been able to watch him for four years.”
Marsh certainly has done everything a leadoff hitter can do as he has sparked an offense that has averaged better than eight runs per game. Through the first 17 games of the season, Post 45 was 15-2, including a 13-game winning streak.
“For me, baseball has always been a mind game,” Marsh said. “Whenever I get two strikes on me, I know I have to shorten up, especially with runners on base and don't strike out because that won't advance runners.
“The mindset you have to have whenever you are up is no one is better than you. No one is going to get you out and put the ball in play. It’s been working out so far.”
As expected, growing up with four brothers as talented as they are, there was going to be a lot of competition. And there was.
“We all try to say we’re the better one,” Tanner said. “Whenever we were outside playing together, it was always a competition, always who was better. We always played everything like a real game. It was never let’s just roll out here and kick it. It was always for real. It was always competitive.”
It’s paid off quite well for the brothers. All graduated from Asheboro High School and have gone on to play collegiately.
Tristan started his collegiate career at Coastal Carolina before going to Brunswick Community College.
Trevor just completed an impressive season at UNC Wilmington, where he started every game and hit .317 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs.
Tatum had two solid seasons at Brunswick, hitting .335 with 48 runs scored this past campaign. He is currently exploring options for the fall.
“As good as my brothers were and as good as they are right now, it was never pressure, it was always motivation,” Tanner said. “I know if my brothers were out here doing this, I just can't roll out the ball and play the game. I have to be competitive and be motivated, follow in their footsteps.”
Tanner will follow in all his brothers’ footsteps at the next level, too, heading to Liberty University in the fall. Marsh said he looked at a number of colleges.
“Wilmington was one of the main ones, but my brother already went down there and I don’t want to play in someone’s shadow,” he said. “I don’t want to be known as Trevor’s little brother. I want to be known as myself. I felt if I went to Wilmington, that’s how it would have been and I want to choose my own path.”
His path included an incredible career at Post 45.
“My first year, whenever I started 45, I was one of the youngest kids,” Marsh said. “Everyone was telling me what to do. Now that I've been here almost the longest of anyone on the team, it’s my role to get everyone on the same page and make it a baseball team that can play with each other, be friendly and make sure we are playing the best baseball we can play.”
There are times when Marsh said he needs advice. His brothers are only a phone call away.
“At least three phone calls every day,” Tanner said. “Me and Trevor talk about it the most. I grew up in a baseball family and it’s always baseball in the house, always baseball.”
With plenty of success.