Stitched on the thumb of Terance Marin’s red Rawlings baseball glove is the word “terremoto.”
The Spanish term means earthquake or disaster. But to the Charlotte Knights right-handed pitcher, it has a more significant connotation.
“It’s what my grandmother calls me because she can’t say my name in English,” Marin said. “Growing up, I was always running around and I was always doing something. I was always giving her a hard time, running around, being a kid, making a mess and causing trouble.”
Much like an earthquake or disaster, Marin’s past two seasons veered toward the unpredictable. Stops in the independent and Mexican leagues tested him as he strayed from the Chicago White Sox organization. But now, as a member of the Knights, he’s one step away from Chicago.
Born in Modesto, Calif., Marin, 25, grew up in Newman. His mother, Martha Crowley, exposed him to sports from birth, taking him to all of her slow-pitch softball games.
“The first time he grabbed a bat he was 1 year old,” Crowley said. “We were in the backyard, and he was swinging the crap out of the baseball bat and hitting the ball. We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at that kid go.’”
He picked up basketball as well and dreamed of leaving the small California town. A Division II basketball scholarship offered him the chance, but when he learned he couldn’t play both sports, he elected to attend Modesto Junior College.
He went undrafted in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and was preparing to attend California Baptist when he received a phone call from the White Sox, asking him to pitch for them in rookie ball.
“I talked it over with my parents, and they wanted me to go to school,” Marin said. “But then again, if I went to school, what if I got hurt and didn’t ever get the chance to play professional baseball? We just kind of looked at it like, ‘Foot is in the door, either you open it or it gets closed.’”
Marin signed with Chicago as an undrafted free agent and spent his first three seasons in the organization as a reliever. But in 2013, he began his rocky transition into a starting role.
He went 5-5 with a 4.76 ERA in his first season as a starter for High A Winston-Salem. He hoped his performance earned him a promotion, but he disappointingly returned to Winston-Salem for a third-straight year.
Two bad outings into the 2014 season, Marin’s phone rang again. The White Sox were on the other line. But this time the news wasn’t as welcoming.
After allowing 10 runs in only one inning of work through two starts, Chicago released Marin.
“He called me and just the stutter in his voice was horrid. It was awful,” Crowley said. “He was really upset. He told me, ‘Mom, I never wanted to hear that. I saw a lot of teammates go through that, and I never wanted to go through that. It was the most devastating feeling I’ve ever felt.”
Marin’s future baseball career, while unclear, wasn’t over.
Max Peterson, a former teammate of Marin’s in Winston-Salem, invited him to play for the unaffiliated Evansville Otters of the independent Frontier League. Marin used the opportunity to develop his cutter and regain his confidence.
But he missed being a part of a Major League Baseball organization.
“You kind of look back and you’re like, ‘Dang, I miss that. I need to get back into that,’” Marin said. “You just want to work harder, keep that chip on your shoulder, build it up and be like, ‘OK, I can get back to there. Let’s see what happens with that.’”
His hard work finally paid off. After going 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA for the Otters, the White Sox purchased Marin’s contract in June, just two months after his release.
In his return to the organization, he went 4-3 with a 3.76 ERA in 12 starts for Winston-Salem and earned an August promotion to Class AA Birmingham.
But before arriving in Charlotte, Marin’s journey took him on another unforeseen detour. At the end of spring training, Chicago approached him with a proposition: return to Winston-Salem or join the Mexican League. He chose to go to Mexico.
The White Sox loaned him to the Toros de Tijuana, meaning he remained under Chicago’s control. Along with adjusting to a different culture, Marin faced his trials on the pitcher’s mound.
His 2-5 record and 4.94 ERA in 10 games made him reconsider his decision, and he pondered a return to independent baseball and the United States.
“It was hard at times. I’d think about it and be like, ‘Is this what you really want to do?’” he said. “The more you’d think about it, the worst it got.”
But knowing he was still a member of the White Sox organization, he persevered. Finally, at the beginning of June, he received a text from Curt Hasler, Chicago’s head pitching coordinator.
“He said, ‘Hey, I think we have a spot open for you so stay by your phone,’” Marin said. “I’m thinking it’s probably High A or Double A. I didn’t think anything much of it. Unfortunately (Chris) Beck got hurt, and they said, ‘Hey, we need you to start in Charlotte on Monday.’
“My confidence boosted way up and I think that made me feel so much better not only as a person but also as a pitcher.”
After being placed on the Knights’ active roster on June 5, Marin’s newfound confidence was on display, as he pitched 31 scoreless innings before allowing four runs on July 5 against the Gwinnett Braves.
He has posted a 3-0 record with a 1.61 ERA in eight games (six starts) for Charlotte, and is closer than he’s ever been to achieving his dream of making it to the major leagues. But he still has a chip on his shoulder.
Marin says he stands at 5-foot-11 barefoot and weighs about 150 pounds, making him one of the smallest players in the Chicago organization. His size has always made him feel like he’s needed to prove himself, and even after all he’s been through, he still plans to do just that.
“For them to hold on for me for as long as they have and to believe in me as much as they have, I want to do my best for them for all of the stuff they’ve kept me for and believing in me,” he said. “Every time I pitch I want to impress them and make them think, ‘This guy is the real deal. He can pitch, and we need to keep him around a little longer.’”