The St. Louis Cardinals have a new manager, and it’s a familiar face. Oliver Marmol, who most recently served as the bench coach for recently-fired manager Mike Shildt, on Monday was named the next manager of the Cardinals.
At 35 years old, he’s now the youngest manager in the major leagues.
“Not many people get to manage, and definitely not for an organization like this,” Marmol said during an introductory press conference on Monday. “It’s one thing to manage. It’s another thing to manage for one of the most historical organizations, not only in all of baseball, but all of sports. I’m truly looking forward to the accountability that comes with that and the responsibility — the leading of this staff and the players to another championship.”
His journey with the Cardinals started all the way back in 2007, and it was a decision to put his faith and trust in God that led him there.
A star infielder at the College of Charleston, Marmol was getting a lot of buzz as a prospect for the 2007 MLB Draft, and his agent strongly encouraged him to play in the Cape Cod League to improve his draft stock. Meanwhile, a guy who was discipling him asked him to pray about attending the Summer Beach Project, an eight-week outreach and discipleship retreat for college-aged students, instead of playing in the Cape Cod League.
At first, Marmol scoffed at it, telling his mentor that he’d pray about it, all the while knowing he was definitely playing in the Cape Cod League that summer. A week later when his mentor came back to him, he told him he never did pray about it because he was sure what he was doing — playing in the Cape Cod League. So he was challenged once more: Take the night to pray about it, and if it’s a no, it’s a no. But at least genuinely pray about it.
“I remember walking to campus and I started praying about it, and just started tearing up,” he said while on the “Table Forty Podcast” earlier this year.
He said he heard God asking if he was going to trust Him or take things into his own hands.
“I called my agent and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m not going to the Cape, I’m going to this Christian retreat,’ and he let me have it,” Marmol said.
Marmol was told he could pretty much kiss his chances of being drafted in the first 10 rounds goodbye.
Yet, the Cardinals drafted him in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. He has since spent his entire professional baseball career, both as a player and a coach, in the Cardinals organization.
“This is one of those opportunities where I’m going to trust God,” Marmol recalled. “I’m going to go to this Christian retreat, and then I’ll see what happens. It worked out where I went in the first 10 rounds and never had to play in the Cape. I went to a good organization. It worked out really well, but it was one of the first times where I had to really be like, ‘I’m going to not take this into my own hands and I’m going to trust God with this.’”
Marmol played for a few seasons but never progressed like he or the organization had hoped, so he was released in 2010. At that time, he planted the seed that he’d like to coach if the opportunity ever came up.
Three days later, he got an offer to coach for the Cardinals’ Class-A Short Season team and he took it. He became a minor-league manager not long after when he was just in his early 20s, and he kept working his way up to eventually joining the big-league staff as the first-base coach under Mike Matheny, then as bench coach for Shildt.
Now, he’s the Cardinals’ manager.
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak on Monday said the entire organization is excited for Marmol taking over as manager.
“Oli understands what we’ve been trying to do, what we need to do, and what we want to do in the future,” Mozeliak said. “Oli has a long history of being a part of the Cardinals organization … He’s learned from so many talented baseball people. He has excellent relationships throughout our entire organization.”
As for Marmol’s relationship with God, it was his brother Ronnie’s decision to attend a Christian conference years ago that eventually led Marmol to accept Christ. They were both living at home in Orlando, where the conference happened to be, and Ronnie would come home after each night of the conference and share with Oliver what he learned that day. Oli couldn’t help but notice the change in his brother, who for years struggled with drugs and other things.
“I remember just sitting up at night and listening to him talk to me,” Marmol said, “and it started to make sense as far as like, ‘Man, there’s something I’ve been searching for and never really knew what it was.’”
Later that night, Oliver’s oldest brother, Will, came home late, drunk.
“It was this clear distinction in the moment of like, ‘Here’s one brother talking about discipleship and Christ and just the joy that you find in this,’ and then here’s my other brother who’s laid out from a crazy night out of who knows what,” Marmol said. “It was just very, like, I’m choosing this — I’m choosing Christ over this.”
Both brothers later became pastors.
“That, for me, was when I prayed to receive Christ and started attending a Bible study at the high school I was at,” Oliver said.
He met his wife, Amber, at that same Bible study.
Marmol said his faith remains at the center of all he does, and now more than a decade later, he’s just as content with his decision not to play and instead get into coaching.
“I always knew I wanted to have influence over a group of guys, and the best opportunity to do that would be being on a staff or just being a coach,” he said on the podcast. “I’ve always been passionate about coaching. I enjoyed playing, but I’m probably more passionate about coaching than I was playing.”