Connor Lloyd congratulates Jackson Gooch after he scores the Cowboys first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:28 PMMcNeese State doesn’t enter the Southland Conference tournament as one of the favorites. But the Cowboys are confident they will inflict more postseason damage than in recent years thanks to the destructive powers of “The ‘Eh’ Team.”
Canadian sluggers Jackson Gooch and Chayse Marion have been the heart of a batting order that has produced 55 more runs than it did a year ago.
Marion leads the team with a .329 batting average and .417 on-base percentage. Gooch is second on the team in hitting (.315) and OBP (.412). Both are tied for the team lead with 38 RBIs. Both were named first-team all-conference.
“We’re really happy for those guys,” said McNeese coach Justin Hill. “They certainly deserved it.”
Though the object of baseball is to get home, Gooch and Marion could only find success in the sport by leaving home.
Both grew up in Western Canada — Gooch in Delta, British Columbia, and Marion in Red Deer, Alberta. Needless to say, most of their classmates were more focused on using hockey sticks than baseball bats.
“Hockey’s definitely the No. 1 sport,” Marion said. “Baseball’s not very popular in Alberta.”
The primary sports question in Marion’s hometown, which is halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, is “Flames or Oilers?” (Marion’s answer is Oilers, for the record).
But something about the game appealed to him growing up despite there not being much popularity amongst his peers. He does deny that a desire to protect a fully-toothed smile turned him to baseball.
“I don’t know what the draw was,” Marion said. “I love it as a sport. It’s definitely different than most sports. It’s a mental game. It’s not too physically demanding. I just love playing it. And hopefully it’s not over yet.”
Finding a good game in the Great White North is tough. But it’s got nothing compared to landing on the radar of college and pro scouts.
“It’s kind of a tough process,” Gooch said. “Luckily there’s guys to help you out. But it’s definitely harder to go out of your way to find a place to play and get colleges and universities to notice you. To get your name out there you have to work harder than the guys who grew up right next to the college.”
Gooch and Marion both made their first steps at junior colleges in Colorado before signing at McNeese.
While both made an impact on the Cowboys as transfers last season, things have really come together this year.
“Both guys are going to have an opportunity to play after this and continue their careers after we finish up here,” Hill said. “Any time you’re on a winning team, you’re seen deeper in the season. You’re driving in runs and it helps your numbers. It certainly doesn’t hurt.”
Being away from home isn’t always easy.
“You only get to see your family twice a year,” Marion said. “That’s tough.”
Both players left their families behind, and in Gooch’s case, a craving for the Canadian dietary staple of Tim Horton’s donuts and coffee is occasionally difficult to combat. But their teammates have made leaving Canada for McNeese a worthwhile venture.
“We’ve got a little family of our own down here,” Hill said. “They’ll miss our guys. That’s for sure.”
“It’s a pretty good group of guys down here,” Gooch said. “The whole culture itself is pretty cool. It’s a bit shocking at first. But once you get used to it and settled in, the people are wonderful down here. It’s a pretty good atmosphere for baseball in college.”