ST. PETERSBURG — Orlando, Fla., is known more for its theme parks than its MLB ties, but it served as a perfect place and a U.S. reboot for Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol and his tight-knit family.
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed the family home in 1992, they returned to their native Dominican Republic. Two years later, the Marmols picked Orlando as the spot where they would chase the American dream a second time. Father, William, and mother, Kuky, wanted their four sons — Will, Ronny, Erick and Oliver — to get an education while playing baseball, and in America — Orlando, specifically.
Little did they know at the time, but the baby of the family — “Oli” –would be the best at pairing those passions. Not that they were that surprised considering Oli was the most composed, serious minded and laser-focused member of the family despite being the youngest son. Success at a big-time level wasn’t just a possibility for him; instead, the family always knew that Oli’s purposeful drive and intentional actions put him on a collision course for greatness.
“This is the standard he set since he was a kid. He operated at a maturity level we didn’t always understand, but we were fans of it,” said Will, Oliver’s older brother by nine years and now a pastor at Genesis Church Orlando. “We were always like, ‘We’re older and we’re supposed to take care of you!’ But Oli never needed that. He laid the groundwork of how he was going to be. The three older brothers, we were his cheerleaders and we had front row seats and popcorn to his movie, and we wanted to see what he would do. He’s never gone away from that demeanor.”
Fast-forward to today, and even though Marmol is MLB’s youngest manager at 35, he is comfortable in his own skin and competent in leading men older than him — namely superstars Albert Pujols (42), Adam Wainwright (40) and Yadier Molina (39) — to new heights. Marmol has the Cardinals sitting at a season-best nine games over .500, tied in the loss column with the Brewers atop the NL Central and winners of 12 of 17 games.
Many Cardinals have been quick to credit the club’s success to Marmol’s ability to push the right buttons — whether it’s been handling of the team’s veteran core, his trust in the franchise’s nine players who have made MLB debuts or his very blunt honesty.
“Much of his success is because of how he was raised and knowing not to ever take anything for granted,” said Pujols. “Oli’s parents sacrificed a lot to give him the opportunities he’s had. He’s an example and a testimony for somebody who doesn’t think they can get to a certain level; Oli’s somebody who’s doing it.”
‘My heroes and role models were always older’
With the Cardinals opening a three-game set vs. the Rays on Tuesday, a group of 35-or-so family and friends will be at Tropicana Field to support Marmol.
Marmol learned the value of hard work, discipline and adaptability from a father and mother who worked to provide for him and his brothers. As a 140-pound sophomore at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High School, Marmol once homered — or “ambushed,” as he put it — Zack Greinke. His home base in Orlando expanded his horizons and taught him how to deal with people from different cultures.
“Orlando was so important to me because that’s where I met my wife [Amber], and we started dating my junior year of high school,” Marmol said. “I loved so much about being there, but the school I went to had so much diversity and it was great. There were so many kids from different places, and that was unbelievable to me. I was exposed to so many different cultures, backgrounds and viewpoints and it was good for me.”
What also helped Marmol was seeing parents and family members serve as role models and people who made sacrifices so he could succeed. A reason he’s always been comfortable around people older than him, Marmol said, was because his inner circle was always elders who doubled as mentors. At the forefront was his father, William.
“My parents always had the mindset that they would do everything possible to allow my brothers to have success,” Marmol said. “My dad had a company in the D.R., and we were very comfortable. It’s where they’re from and where they’re comfortable. But my parents really wanted us to get an education. They picked everything up and moved us to Florida so my brother could go to College of Charleston and play baseball.
“That came at the expense of my dad having to learn the language, work trade jobs and do anything he could to make a living — which was totally different than what he was doing in the D.R.,” Marmol added. “My dad knew it would be a grind — both on the language and work sides — but to them it was 100% worth allowing us to have success.”
‘If he told you he didn’t [cry], he definitely cried’
A light-hitting infielder, Marmol and others in the Cardinals’ organization quickly saw that his future in baseball would be in leading others instead of playing. By 2011, he was a Gulf Coast League hitting coach and a manager a season later. He progressed quickly through the system and after five years Marmol made it to the MLB level with the Cardinals.
When the organization moved on from Mike Shildt last October, Marmol wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice to be the team’s next manager, but president of baseball operations John Mozeliak hired Marmol.
Rumors of Marmol’s hiring by the Cardinals began to circulate throughout the church congregation in Orlando, but the family didn’t consider the promotion official until they heard from Oli, who put in a group FaceTime call on Oct. 25, 2021.
“He asked if I was in a place where I could talk and I told him I was driving, and he said, ‘Pull over!'” Will recalled. “He FaceTimed my parents and us brothers and we cried together. He said he wasn’t going to cry and, if he told you he didn’t, he definitely cried. Oh my gosh, did he cry! He embraced the moment with humility, but also shared it. That was such a win for us as a family. We had always said that if one of us wins, we all win.”
The true joy of being a big league manager, Marmol said, is representing a family that came to Orlando while chasing the American dream. He carries the torch for others who sacrificed so he could succeed.
“They love [him managing], and I love it for the family,” Marmol said. “We experience it together. Being with the Cardinals and sitting in this seat is amazing. It’s special and it’s a win for my wife Amber and myself, but my whole family gets to experience this journey and where it has led us.”
This content was originally published here.