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Jesuit star gives credit to Lutz legend

Published Jun. 9, 1996|Updated Sep. 16, 2005

Call it the Lutz legacy.

Minutes after Sam Marsonek was selected in the first round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft last week, a former major leaguer walked into his house offering congratulations.

Lance McCullers, part of the long line of stars to come out of Hillsborough County, knocked on the door of the Marsonek home just minutes after the Texas Rangers called to say they were making Marsonek the 24th pick of the first round.

"I think it's great," said McCullers, who grew up in Lutz and pitched for several major league teams. "He certainly deserves it."

The promising career of Marsonek, who became one of the state's best pitchers while playing at Jesuit High School, got a shot in the arm from the Rangers. Marsonek said McCullers was one of the first to give him a boost.

As a 6-year-old, Marsonek began his career at the Little League field in Lutz that bears McCullers' name. The relationship went beyond that, however, when McCullers began offering tips when he returned home from the majors.

Through the years, the two worked out together on occasion.

"We starting throwing together, running drills," Marsonek said. "When I was about 15, we started long tossing together. He's helped me out a lot."

After leading Tampa Catholic to the 1982 state championship, McCullers was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 1982 draft. He eventually reached the majors as a reliever in 1985 and pitched until a blood clot in his right shoulder curtailed his career.

Now Marsonek, 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, is hoping he can follow in the footsteps of McCullers and reach the majors. Marsonek just isn't sure which route he will take in trying to achieve his dreams.

He could attend the University of Florida _ Gators coach Andy Lopez signed Marsonek to a scholarship earlier this year _ or he could join the Rangers organization and begin his quest in the minor leagues. Even though he was preparing his team to play a game in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Lopez called Marsonek minutes after Rangers scout Mike Cadahia telephoned with the draft news.

It's a difficult decision, with the Rangers dangling the lure of a signing bonus. Mid- to late-first-round picks are typically offered between $400,000 and $600,000, sometimes more. Rangers officials have visited the Marsonek home twice, including Thursday night.

Dan Marsonek, Sam's father, is handling negotiations for his son.

"We're just taking it one step at a time," Dan Marsonek said. "It's a slow process."

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