Marquis brings a career of winning to Nats Park tonight

340xJason Marquis, the Nationals biggest free-agent splash in 2010, is set to take the mound tonight in his first-ever start for the club. Marquis, 31, signed a two-year $15 million contract this winter giving the Nationals the veteran starter and workhorse that they’ve been missing the last several years. Aside from his strong sinker, Marquis brings an excellent bat, a good glove, and a tradition of winning to Nationals Park.

While his career numbers may seem average, posting a 4.48 ERA and 4.82 FIP over 10 major league seasons, Marquis journey to the Majors was quite accomplished.

It all started for Jason in Staten Island, New York, where he was born and raised in a conservative Jewish household. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Marquis’ parents were living the American dream in New York, his dad owning a check cashing business in Brooklyn, and his mom working for the New York City Board of Education.  At the age of 12 Marquis took his South Shore Little League team to the Little League World Series. On his 13th birthday Marquis pitched against team Ohio striking out 11 with no walks and only three hits. Due to tournament rules, Marquis was not eligible to pitch in the US Final vs. California, and his club lost with the righty playing at his second position, shortstop.

The South Shore team beat out team Canada for third place in the World, as Marquis tossed a no-hitter against the neighbors to the north. To this day he is one of the few players in major league history to play in both the Little League World Series and a Major League World Series.

Several years later Marquis was still perusing his baseball career as a freshman at Tottenville High School in New York City. Only five foot two at the age of 15, many discounted him as a serious contributor to the team, and discarded his future. But a major growth spurt brought him to 6′ 1″ as a junior, and hard work had him throwing a 93 MPH fastball and a plus-plus curveball. The result? Marquis led the Pirates to two consecutive New York City Titles. The first coming his junior year in Shea Stadium capping off a season where he went 11-0 with 86 strikeouts in 61 innings, and the second victory coming in Yankee Stadium capping off a season in which he was 14-1 with 150 strikeouts in 79 innings and a 0.40 ERA.  The New York Daily News awarded him Player of the Year honors and he was named first team High School All-American.

Marquis was drafted out of high school in the first round by the then World Champion Atlanta Braves, signing a $600,000 signing bonus and turning down a full-ride to Miami University.

After some initial struggles in the minors, Marquis broke into the majors at age 21, replacing the Braves much-maligned closer, John Rocker. The righty has been in the majors since, helping his ball club win games year-after-year. His glove at the pitcher position has long been considered one of the best in the game, and his quick feet have allowed some managers to use him as a pinch runner in late game situations where the bench is thin. At the plate he boasts a solid .202/.223/.295 line, strong numbers for a pitcher, and has hit five homers, including a grand slam, in his career.

While the Nationals are hoping Marquis will be the All-Star starter he was last year, there is no question that his strong history of winning will bring positive energy to a club that has known nothing but losing for the last several seasons.