December 20, 2007
In many ways left-handed pitcher Mark Rosen is the poster boy for the South Shore Baseball Club. An SSBC member since he was nine years old, 14 years later the Randolph native is now on the cusp of becoming the first legitimate SSBC product to play in Major League Baseball.
“Chicago Cubs pitcher Richie Hill came to SSBC when he was older,” SSBC president/director Frank Niles, Jr., explained, “but Mark is a full SSBC product who developed right in front of our eyes. He is a classic SSBC member who started here very young, participated in just about all of our programs and clinics, including five years for the Seadogs, and he also was an instructor. He’s done everything here and still works out with us when he’s in town.
“It’s all about passion and Mark has always had that. He’s always been a joyful baseball player, and that’s a beautiful thing. Mark’s never lost that passion. It’s about talent but joy, too, and Mark Rosen has a lot of both.”
Rosen was like a prodigy, pitching varsity for Randolph High as a seventh grader, transferring to Xaverian Brothers and throwing there as a freshman, before heading to the Salisbury School, where as a senior he was selected as “Gatorade’s Connecticut High School Baseball Player of the Year.”
“I’ve always told people I would have loved to be a hockey player,” Rosen said, “but it wasn’t in my future. I loved the contact. I also played football at Salisbury but only because I had to. I’ve really learned to love baseball, especially at a higher level when it’s like a chess match; competition, you against the batter, and only one guy wins.
“It’s all about getting to the big leagues and that’s my goal this year. As much as I’d like to finish my career with the team that drafted me, Arizona Diamondbacks, or someday play at home for the Boston Red Sox, professional baseball is a business and I understand that. I just want an opportunity to show what I can do in baseball at the highest level.”
Rosen has been an SSBC regular since 1993. Mark was always advanced, playing-wise, and at 15 he was a member of the Seadogs’ 16-and-under team that finished third in National AAU Championships. “What a great experience that was playing in Jacobs Field (in Cleveland),” Mark remembered. “Over the years a lot of us remained friends – Mike Conroy, Ryan Morgan, Drew Locke, Jason Delaney and others — and we still keep in touch and hang out together when we can. Some are still in baseball, others aren’t anymore.
“SSBC really helped me a lot. I received phenomenal instruction. Steve Almonte was my first pitching coach. Vinny Hillyer was unbelievable. He taught me how to pitch. At some point it’s not just about throwing, you need to learn how to pitch, and he taught me that. Rick Del Vecchio had contacts at the highest levels that really helped me out. Frank Niles was always there for me and I’ve learned so much from him. They teach kids how to play the sport the right way but made it fun, too. It has to be fun, especially at summer camp when it’s 95 degrees and you’re spending time at sliding practice. You can’t be a robot and play baseball.”
Rosen went on to be the Most Valuable Player at the 2000 COPABE under 16 Pan-American Championships, throwing three innings of shut-out relief for Team USA in its 2-1 gold-medal winning game against Cuba.
Arizona selected Mark in the fifth round of the 2002 amateur draft. Last season, he pitched for the Class AA affiliate in Mobile (Alabama), posting a 4-4 record in relief with seven saves and a 3.12 earned run average. A fireballer who tops out at 94 miles an hour, Rosen fanned 78 in 66.1 innings.
A dominant starting pitcher as a youngster, Rosen has developed into his role as a late-game, lefty relief specialist. “I closed on the USA National team and I knew then that I was going to be a reliever in the long run,” he remarked. “It’s great. I pitch less innings but in more games. I just have to concentrate on getting three or four batters out. I hit 94 (miles per hour) with my fastball, but my comfort zone is between 88-92, and I pretty much live off of my slider. All you need is two good pitches as a reliever. I enjoy being the left-handed reliever at the end of games.
“I finished last season at Double A in Mobile and expect to start the next season at Triple AAA in Tuscon, where you’re only one phone call away from the majors. I played in the Arizona Fall League, which is one step from being ready for the big leagues, and I hope to be on the 40-man roster for spring training with the Diamondbacks.
“The Diamondbacks come to Fenway Park – June 24-27 – to play the Red Sox and it would be a dream come true for me to be playing in the big leagues then.”
The saying at SSBC is “Follow Your Dream” and that’s exactly what Mark Rosen is doing, all the way to the major leagues.