Steve Cishek

Miami Marlins closer Steve Cishek humble and thankful for opportunity

 

Coming from a hockey hotbed in the Northeast, Steve Cishek relies on faith and a diving sinker to give the Marlins a reliable closer.

Special to The Miami Herald

Don’t take a second to think about what the Marlins might look like today if Steve Cishek’s dad had allowed him to have a hockey stick all those years ago in Falmouth, Mass.

“He knew if I liked it too much, it would be too expensive,” he said.

He goes on to describe the baseball offerings of the small East Coast hockey town, nestled some 70 miles from Boston. There’s a competitive Little League team, and The Commodores, a prominent Cape League team.

Cishek said Falmouth high school players dream of playing for Sandwich Post 188, the town’s American Legion team. When he played for Post 188, it made it to the playoffs twice.

“I take that back. It is a big baseball town,” Cishek said.

Now at 26, the Marlins’ colors are hanging up behind him in his major-league locker. Making it to the regionals with Post 188 is a memory, but up until this season when he purchased a home with his wife in Jupiter, he always has gone back to where he started when he’s done working.

In Falmouth, everyone is still in the same houses — his parents, grandmother and cousins. He met his wife, Marissa, at Falmouth High School. Her parents haven’t moved either.

“When I go home, I’m not, like, recognized when I go to Walmart,” he said.

In Miami, it’s a different story. The sidearm delivery by the 6-6 right-hander in the final moments of a ballgame stands out, as does his 2.69 ERA in 2012.

Cishek quietly went about his business in the bullpen last season as everything imploded around him.

He watched as one of baseball’s best closers, Heath Bell, fell apart.

“I felt for him because I can’t imagine — he’s been doing an unbelievable job for years now and to have a young guy step in ...” Cishek said. “I feel like every person at some point in their career is going to have that happen, no matter what position you’re in.”

He knew that stepping into the three-time All-Star’s role as closer by the beginning of May was a big promotion. Bell had blown four save opportunities in seven chances.

Cishek wasn’t recruited to play college ball. He happily accepted a list of Division II and III schools to look over from a coach and friend at Princeton.

When he visited a small Baptist college in Jefferson City, Tenn., in 2005, he knew he’d found his fit. His grandmother paid for his tuition at Carson-Newman College.

“I wasn’t a Christian when I went to school,” Cishek said. “At first, my dad was like, ‘There’s a mandatory chapel. You have to go to 10 every semester. Is that going to be all right with you?’ ”

Cishek didn’t worry about it. He felt like this was a place that could be home for him.

Little did Cishek know that making friends at school would change him. He ended up going to the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. He remembers the day — April 21, 2006 — that he made a decision to follow a new way of life.

In some ways, that decision is why he is so good at his job. He carries scripture in his back pocket when he pitches, because it’s God who has allowed him to be out there, he said.

Cishek knows that it’s easy to develop a big-league ego, but from all of the watching and learning, with the scripture burning in his back pocket, he’s as grounded as they come. He even apologizes for giving “boring answers” in the Marlins clubhouse.

Now a third-year major-leaguer and about to open the 2013 season as the closer, he appreciates his opportunity. Nothing will change. He will still take it one game and one sinker at a time.

Read more Miami Marlins stories from the Miami Herald

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