Marc Magliaro had plenty of opportunities to quit.
He went undrafted in 2013 out of NCAA Division III Rowan University. None of the 30 Major League Baseball teams scooped him up after the draft. And Tommy John surgery forced him to miss all of 2015.
But the 26-year-old pitcher still remains in uniform, the first one out the dugout Wednesday for the Boise Hawks’ media day ahead of the 2016 season. Players five, six, seven years his junior lined up for their headshots before Opening Day — some for the first time, all with a shorter route to the pros behind them.
“I just know I can pitch at a high level. I know I could do it, so I didn’t want to give up,” the 5-11, 175-pound Magliaro said. “That was the main reason. I’ve been fortunate enough to get an opportunity from the Rockies, and I’m not going to pass it up.”
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That opportunity came from far outside professional baseball’s traditional path.
As a senior shortstop at Rowan, Magliaro spoke with a few scouts and expected to go in the 2013 draft. When he didn’t, he kept in contact until one scout asked the strong-armed righthander if he could pitch.
The New Jersey native threw 8 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run as a senior at Rowan. But all of those came as a replacement for Rowan’s injured closer.
“That was really the only reason why,” he said. “I wasn’t, like, a pitcher.”
He worked out in front of scouts from three teams that winter, unsure how to prepare as a pitcher for professional eyes. They put him through a full workout, having him hit and run a 60-yard dash before heading to the mound.
One tryout turned into another, and then another before the Rockies bit and signed him on Jan. 23, six months after the draft.
Magliaro excelled in his first season, posting a 3.90 ERA and striking out 24 in 30 innings as a reliever for the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Rockies’ previous affiliate in the Northwest League. That performance earned him a promotion to the Low-A Asheville Tourists in 2014. But an oblique injury in his third appearance sent him to the disabled list, and he closed the year at rookie-level Grand Junction with an 8.26 ERA.
The next spring training, he felt the dreaded pop in his elbow and doctors confirmed he’d need Tommy John surgery. He went under the knife June 16, exactly year ago, and sat out the entire 2015 season.
He’s thrown twice this year in simulated games in extended spring training and once in Boise this week. Magliaro said he’s comfortable and healthy, but even he’s not sure what his arm is capable of against live hitters.
“That’s the most important thing for him, being healthy,” Boise first-year manager Andy Gonzalez said. “That’s why he’s here, so he can show he’s healthy and pitch. Then who knows what happens after that?”
As a 26-year-old undrafted free agent in short-season ball — and as a pitcher with an ERA above eight who’d never pitched seriously until three years ago — Magliaro knows opportunities are running short.
But after all the work he’s put in to get back to Boise for his fourth professional season, he’s not about to quit now. He said his only goals this year are to stay healthy, compete and have fun.
“I’m not thinking too much about it,” he said. “I’m sort of taking it day by day. I’m really not even thinking about what’s going to happen next week or even tomorrow. I’m just worried about right now.
“I think once you start thinking too far ahead, you try to do stuff that you can’t control. I’m just worried about what I can do right now and see what that brings me.”
Hawks receive high-profile reinforcements
The Colorado Rockies added three of their top four picks from last week’s MLB Draft to Boise’s Opening Day roster late Wednesday.
Georgia right-handed pitcher Robert Tyler (38th overall pick), Vanderbilt left-handed pitcher Ben Bowden (second round) and Long Beach State shortstop Garrett Hampson (third round) will all join the Hawks in Eugene before Friday’s season opener.
The highest Rockies pick to play in Boise last year was pitcher David Hill (fourth round).