PHILADELPHIA -- To those who didn't know him, John Marzano could come off as if he owned the world, strutting around Temple University's bucolic Ambler campus in his student-athlete days with a bit of a swagger. He was even "Johnny Marz" back then, but he cut a large figure on the tiny campus, someone on the brink of being a high Major League Draft pick, one of the best catchers in the nation. For those a little closer to Marzano, he was a goofy, engaging, life-of-the-party guy who treated everyone he came in contact with as if he knew them all of his life. That was typical John. It's what made Marzano so unique, and why many in the Philadelphia area, from those whom he played with and played for, to those in the media he talked baseball with, are mourning his sudden death Saturday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 45, with heavy hearts. He is survived by his wife Terri, daughters Dominique and Danielle, and two grandchildren.
Two years ago, at a Phillies function in the Granite Run Mall, in Media, Pa., an elderly woman in her late 70s was being pushed in a wheelchair. She was on a mission. She didn't want to meet Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley or Ryan Howard. She wanted to meet John Marzano. She liked the way he came across on TV and his insights on the Phillies, when Marzano was working for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia. Marzano came out of the players-only area, from behind the barricades, and spent a good 20, 25 minutes with the woman, signing everything she wanted. A few weeks later, when Marzano received a thank you note from the woman's son, his eyes began welling up after reading it. That was typical John, as he was during the many, many times he'd talk about his baseball academy, often going out of his way to make sure that children from the Philadelphia area, especially those less fortunate, were able to spend a few days there, free of charge. "It's not about money, it's about giving back," Marzano once said about running his namesake baseball academy. "I can't tell how many people helped me get to the Majors, because they were people that gave back. It's something I have to do. Too many times I saw guys make it big, and just turn their backs on who helped get them there. That's not going to be me." It wasn't. It's why Marzano's death so deeply affected the group of close-knit friends and coaches he leaves behind.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.