Meet the Fish: Brandon Marklund

By Bill Potrecz, BPSN

Brandon Marklund is a poster boy for perseverance.

The 28-year-old Vancouver native comes to the Welland Jackfish after a number of stops and starts in his pitching career, including being overlooked in the Major League Baseball draft and two Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgeries.

“I always considered myself a late bloomer figuring things out in college,” Marklund said. “I wanted to prove to myself I could play at a higher competition so always had that drive to keep playing and see how far I could make it.”

Marklund attended Bryan College in Tennessee. After going undrafted, he hooked on with the Auckland Tuatara of the Australian Baseball League where he excelled enough to sign a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals after impressing them in a tryout. He also had a tryout with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In 2019, Marklund made his debut in the Royals organization with the Lexington Legends of the Atlantic League, compiling a 4-0 record and 0.46 earned run average with 44 strikeouts and six saves. 

“It was unreal. One of my biggest goals was to get to affiliated ball with a professional organization. Kansas City took care of me very well and helped me become the pitcher I am,” he said.

After the season, he played for the Canadian national baseball team before things took a turn a quick downward turn.

Marklund did not play in 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season because of the COVID-19 pandemic and underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2021. He missed the entire 2021 season as well as all of the 2022 campaign after a second Tommy John surgery and was released by the Royals.

Marklund said the second injury came on the cusp of being cleared to play after rehabbing the first surgery.

“I was throwing live BPs (batting practice), a couple of weeks out from being cleared and didn’t feel great, control wasn’t there,” he recalled. 

The soreness lingered and it was soon discovered Marklund needed to go under the knife once again. 

At that point, Marklund admitted he began to wonder if he should give up the dream. 

“That’s always in the back of your mind, especially when I had the second one,” he said. “I was thinking if this was all worth it and if I should be doing something else but I knew at the end of the day, not only the effort I put into my rehab, but the effort that our physiotherapist put into me and the support from teammates and family and friends, I owed it to myself and to them to try and continue to pursue a career.”

But Marklund didn’t feel sorry for himself, keeping the big picture in sight at all times.

“I don’t like to play it up too much because there are a lot worse surgeries — life threatening — but relatively it was a pretty simple rehab,” he said. “From a baseball standpoint, it can be frustrating because one day you can feel really good and other days you feel terrible and worry you re-injured it, which I did. Some guys go through rehab where they feel perfect the entire time where others they have more bumps and bruises along the way.

“It’s gotten back to that square one of wanting to prove to myself I could still compete.”

Marklund made it back on the mound last season for 12 games with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association of Professional Baseball. He began this season with the Quebec Capitales of the Frontier League where he made six appearances out of the bullpen before coming to Welland where the Jackfish are in the process of converting him to a starter.

“He’s been a reliever in Kansas City and then in the Frontier League so my thoughts are to bring him in like we did with (James) Bradwell last year, make him marketable as a starter,” Jackfish manager Brian Essery said.

Marklund tossed a scoreless inning in his Jackfish debut, then went five strong innings last week in Guelph.

“Really like his stuff and it plays so I’m confident with him on the mound as a starter we’re going to be able to move him back up,” Essery said. “Just has to focus on attacking hitters. Has a really good fastball that has some run on it. Get ahead of hitters with that pitch and then start worrying about his off speed stuff.”

Marklund was on board with the idea.

“Now that I’m back in the starting role, I have to be cognizant of the fact I’m looking to go five, six, maybe even seven innings,” he said. “You’re still giving it all you have but still understanding your job’s not done after one or two. Just keeping the mindset of being just as tough as if I was relieving for one or two innings, but also go as long as I can.”

Marklund still feels he has something to prove.

“I wanted, first and foremost, to prove I am healthy again and reignite the fire I had with Kansas City,” he said. “I’m really happy and excited for this opportunity with the Jackfish. It allows me to face more hitters and have a little less pressure on myself. Learn to love the game and have some fun and with less games train a little more during the week.

“I know the ability is still in me, it’s just getting used to being in game mode again and I think with the steps I’ve taken I definitely feel things are getting a lot more comfortable on the mound again.”

Marklund is seriously considering a career in coaching when he playing days come to an end.

“I’m coaching a team with my dad (Tri-City Thunder U18 program in British Columbia) and maybe coaching is in my future. It’s been super rewarding. I’m having just as much fun, if not more fun, coaching and helping than I am playing.”