April 13, 2024

With every pitch, Duncan Marsten looks like a kid at an ice cream store waiting to pick his favorite flavor. You see the excitement on his face. You feel his adrenaline rush as a 95-mph fastball reaches the catcher’s mitt. His roar from the mound after a strikeout will make you smile. This is a teenager having the most fun he can have and no one is going to stop him.

“I live and die with this sport,” the Harvard-Westlake High ace right-hander said. “It’s my drive and passion with every pitch and every swing.”

Even when an umpire went to the mound to ask him to settle down, it didn’t disrupt him. You have to understand his story and why he no longer takes any baseball moment for granted.

“He glows, he beams. He loves it,” Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert said.

It was the fall of 2021 when Marsten arrived with Bryce Rainer as a freshman phenom with soaring expectations and a commitment to Stanford. He didn’t make it to the mound for Harvard-Westlake until last season, after suffering a back injury, then having Tommy John surgery.

Being unable to play the game he loved for more than two years left him examining his life and analyzing his future. There were no guarantees he’d regain what he sought — the ability to pitch with the best. He formed a new plan, a new outlook.

Duncan Marsten of Harvard-Westlake is always having fun after missing two years because of injuries.

Duncan Marsten of Harvard-Westlake is always having fun after missing two years because of injuries.

(Nick Koza)

“I would say it was trying to find myself besides baseball, which was the journey for me,” he said. “I hadn’t played baseball in two or three years. That’s how I identified my whole life. How do I go on? The journey is that and I still haven’t found out who I am. I’m figuring out how to find my stability and mental peace while not having the thing you love most .”

He’s 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds with Tyler Glasnow-like golden hair sticking out from his hat. There are few pitchers who are smarter or have better fundamentals in their delivery. All that extra time off the field made him a teenage Young Sheldon looking at every part of pitching to come back better.

“I wouldn’t say I changed personality wise,” he said. “I’ve always been super motivated. Those two injuries sparked the flame. And made it grow into something that could be really dangerous. There was a lot of doubt. I was diving into the world of pitching science, seeing how I can get myself better without being able to play. That was the introduction of pitching mechanics and how I can make myself better, whether it was watching videos, comparing myself to other players every single day.”

The reality that Tommy John surgery is not the magical wand to greatness also was a lesson learned. The surgery provides an opportunity depending on how hard the patient works toward recovery.

“What I learned is that the stigma around TJ once you get it, you come back throwing harder, and that’s really not the case,” he said. “It’s all the work you are given and information provided and if you buy into it and get to work on all the things they tell you to do, then there’s nothing stopping you from getting better. It’s all about how much do you want it at the end of the day.”

Marsten is healthy and has earned consideration to be a first-round draft pick this summer. He’s now committed to Wake Forest and is ready to do his part to make the Wolverines a Southern Section Division 1 title contender. He’s even hitting for the first time in high school and delivering big hits. Over 12 innings on the mound, he has 22 strikeouts and two walks while giving up seven hits.

It’s easy to sense his joy. There was no warning when he was sent to the sideline. Now he understands life’s unpredictable circumstances.

“I never take it for granted because I know how easily it can be taken away,” he said.

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