Twin brothers Julio, from left, and David Marcano have made an impact for the Amarillo Sod Squad in the Texas Collegiate League. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
David and Julio Marcano easily standout among the 31 players making up the 2020 Amarillo Sod Squad.
After all, identical twins seem to be show stealers wherever they go.
“I still can’t tell them apart,” said Sod Squad manager Brett Wellman. “When they hit I can a little because they have slightly different batting stances. In the dugout I don’t know at all.”
David and Julio born five minutes apart – David proud to be the “older brother” – in Argentina on August 7, 1999 would open eyes among their teammates, coaches and Sod Squad fans even if the only way to tell the 5-11, 185-pound Marcano’s apart in this young Texas Collegiate League season is by their jersey number (Julio No. 31, David No. 15).
Like how many Division I college baseball players growing up in Katy, Tx., do you know who play for New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, N.J.?
Like how many Division I college baseball players do you know lit up the college-entrance test ACT to the tune of a 34 and 33 (out of 36)? Afterall 1.140 percent of all the millions who have taken the ACT scored a 34 or better.
And, for good measure, how many Division I college baseball players know the importance of making a first impression like the Marcano’s? Each tripled in their first at bat at Hodgetown to the delight of the fans in attendance.
“Obviously that wasn’t planned,” said David who tripled before Julio’s at bat. “As soon as I hit it I was pretty sure my brother had his sights set on hitting one.”
“I hadn’t hit a triple all year,” Julio said. “That was a lot of fun.”
While they heard from their parents, friends and NJIT teammates after the “triples game”, no way is this the last Amarillo fans will hear from the Marcano’s because of their baseball skill, motivation, respectful nature and smarts.
David Marcano gets set to make a play during a Texas Collegiate League game at Hodgetown last week. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
David is a talented infielder — mainly the left side at third base and shortstop — who hit .314 in 2019 as a junior for NJIT, which plays out of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Julio is gifted versatile infield/outfielder who led NJIT in home runs with eight in 2019 and made a name for himself in the legendary Cape Cod League last summer playing for the Orleans Firebirds in Massachusetts.
Both, obviously, saw their 2020 college seasons at NJIT abruptly halted by COVID-19 in March. Being in the original hotspot of New Jersey/New York, the decision to head back home to Katy was a no-brainer.
But playing baseball together for a summer in Amarillo wasn’t on the agenda until the Texas Collegiate League decided to play a 30-game schedule mainly in July.
“I’d been to West Texas and Lubbock,” Julio said. “But never to Amarillo.”
“I’d never been to Amarillo,” David said. “Driving here there was some wide open places and I enjoyed seeing the wind farms.”
Except for last summer when Julio played in the Cape Cod League and David played for the Upper Valley Nighthawks in Vermont, the pair have always played on the same baseball team together.
“Last summer was the longest time we have ever spent apart,” Julio said.
“That was good for us,” David said. “I mean in a couple of years it will be that way.”
The Marcano’s have baseball in their blood, literally having been born in Argentina where the sport is a religion and native MLB stars like Andres Galarraga and Jose Altuve are heroes.
“We started playing 4-years-old,” David said. “We tried other sports and we really weren’t any good. So we stuck with baseball. Being Venezuelans my parents are big into baseball.”
Added Julio: “From early age we knew we wanted to be good at baseball and might be if we worked hard. Because we haven’t always been that big, especially in high school, we just weren’t as tall or as strong as other people. With the competition in Texas we learned to compete.”
The twins, each quick with a smile and each easy chat with, saw their baseball prowess grow as standouts for Katy High School, a perennial Texas high school football power and hotbed for baseball in the Houston area.
Their senior year an invite to the Hunter Pence Baseball Academy furthered their baseball IQ, an experience both enjoyed.
Deciding on a college was whole another ballgame, cliché intended. Because real life IQ is off the charts for the Marcano’s.
“My dad is a mechanical engineer and he instilled it in us at a small age,” David said.
“We love the academics,” Julio added.
So when the ACT mentioned above rolled around for the two to take “it was definitely a completion between us,” the two echoed.
Julio Marcano knocks a single through the right side of the infield during a Texas Collegiate League contest at Hodgetown last week. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
Julio secured the 34 out of 36, while David was the slouch at 33. That 33 ranks him in the top 1.5 percent of the U.S.
Both wanted to play college baseball while challenging themselves in the academic arena. The Ivy League thing didn’t work out because of cost issues, but in hindsight, both say it’s been a blessing the pair landed at NJIT.
Not that going to college together was a 100 percent guarantee.
“My mom said us straight,” David said. “If we went to school in Texas we could go to separate schools. If we went out of state we go to the same school.”
With David working the phones and internet, soon the Marcano’s were gifted with a substantial offer for a scholarship and NJIT in far off Newark, and the chance to play baseball.
The fit? Like an old baseball glove an infielder refuses to give up on for a new glove.
Newark is 1,617 miles from Katy. Newark is 29 minutes from New York City.
“This was a huge change for us,” David said. “In Houston everything is spread out it’s 20 minutes to get anywhere. Everything is so close in New York City.”
As Julio said: “We lost the barbecue but we gained the Italian food.”
They also quickly gained close academia and teammate friends, earning starting roles on the baseball team as well as enhancing their second passion – both seek degrees in mechanical engineering.
“We love building things,” David said. “ I’m into robotics and building robots NJIT has been a miracle for us.”
Julio agrees and said engineers and baseball fit together more than one would think.
“NJIT has been the best fit for us,” Julio said. “It’s a small school and everybody knows everyone.
“Baseball is a mental game. It’s a lot like engineering in that makes you become a problem solver. In baseball you are trying to solve problems like pitches and stuff like that. So you take the same mentality into the game.”
Now, being from Texas the Marcano’s have felt what the East Coast is famous for and that’s opinions.
David and Julio are huge Houston Astros fans with the diminutive Altuve their guy. When Trashcan Gate hit the Astros they heard about it.
“Being 20 minutes from New York City and all our friends are Yankees or Phillies fans,” David said. “They don’t let us forget about that.”
What David and Julio won’t ever forget is the chance to play for Amarillo this summer. With minor league baseball and most college wood-bat leagues shutdown, the pair thought baseball was out for the summer of 2020.
“We didn’t think we would be playing summer ball and now here we are playing one of the best AA ballparks in the U.S.,” David said.
“One of the goals is always to get better.” Julio said. “But in this case we are just grateful for this opportunity and just enjoying the summer.”
Although the season has really just begun, Sod Squad manager Wellman likes what he see in the Marcano’s.
“So far when they come to the plate I feel comfortable they are going to get it done,” Wellman said. “They are aggressive and try to damage.”
When told of the remarkable ACT scores of Julio and David, Wellman wasn’t surprised.
“They seem smart,” Wellman said. “They are kind of quiet. That’s a sign of intelligence. They are pretty smart on the baseball field so if that translates to anything they are pretty smart kids.”
They also are young men easy to root for, already fan favorites, and aren’t beyond having a little fun being identical twins.
Like at NJIT sitting in a class for each and the professor having no clue it’s the wrong Marcano present.
“We have played a few pranks,” David said with a smile. Then Julio smiling as well when the two talk about the pranks.
“And our teammates have no shot at telling us apart,” David said.
But Amarillo Sod Squad fans do have a chance.
It’s David Marcano wearing No. 15.
It’s Julio Marcano wearing No. 31.
Or is it?