Feb. 17, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
The Mooney brothers have all had success in chasing their baseball dreams. As the third in the line of brothers to play in the Southeastern Conference, South Carolina junior shortstop Marcus Mooney is ready to create his own legacy.
"I look up to them, and they're my role models," Mooney said. "I practiced with them all of my life, so just being able to do what they did is pretty cool."
All three started their careers at Palm Beach State Community College in their home state of Florida before moving on to the SEC. Michael, the oldest, hit .306 in his one year at Florida in 2009 and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Baltimore Orioles. The middle brother, Peter, hit .280 in his lone season as the Gamecocks' shortstop and helped South Carolina win its second national championship in 2011 before being drafted in the 21st round by the Toronto Blue Jays. Marcus hit .274 with 22 RBI in his first season with the Gamecocks last year, and he's glad he has a chance to spend more time playing for the Garnet and Black.
"They only got to enjoy the SEC lifestyle for one year," Mooney said. "I wanted to go down a different road and be a part of it much longer than that. When I went to Palm Beach, I told them there was a possibility I would only stay for one year and the coach was fine with that, so that's what I did."
Marcus had his choice of several schools during his recruitment, but having helped Peter move in to the South Carolina campus back in fall of 2010, he was able to see first-hand all that the school had to offer.
"I took a tour of the campus and the facilities, and I loved it," Mooney recalled. "I knew that's where I wanted to go. I came to a couple of games during the season, and seeing these crowds that they get here, it made me really want to come here to play."
"Everyone expects you to be just as good as them. I want to be better than them. They got to go first, so I know what I have to do to be better."
Although Michael was a "Gator," both of his older brothers actually helped sell Marcus on the benefits of coming to play for the Gamecocks. South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook had advised Marcus to go to junior college first to help prepare him for the SEC, so he followed his brothers' path and went to Palm Beach State Community College where he could play every day as a freshman.
"It got me stronger and allowed me to see better arms than I did in high school," Mooney said. "In junior college, you would see a couple of good pitchers every weekend. That got me better prepared to come here where you will see good pitchers every game."
Unlike his two brothers, who played two years of junior college baseball, Marcus was ready following his freshman season after batting .327 with 30 RBI and made the jump to South Carolina where Coach Holbrook kept his word and had a spot for him. It also didn't hurt that Peter earned a national championship ring, which he enjoys showing off to Marcus any chance he gets.
"He wears his ring and puts it in my face any day that I'm home," Mooney said. "I have a junior college state championship ring, and whenever I pull it out, he pulls out his ring, which is much bigger."
Marcus acknowledges that the toughest part about being the youngest of three baseball brothers is simply trying to follow in their footsteps, but there are some advantages too.
"Everyone expects you to be just as good as them," Mooney said. "I want to be better than them. They got to go first, so I know what I have to do to be better."
Like most siblings, the rivalry between the brothers goes back a long way.
"There's a rivalry in everything we do," Mooney said. "None of us like to lose. Usually at the end of any competition we play together, there turns out to be a fight about something or a wrestling match."
With that being said, Marcus is glad to have the two older brothers help him along in his career.
"They practiced with me every day whenever they were home from playing professional baseball or in college," Mooney said. "We have a cage in my yard, and we'd go hit every day. We also had a little infield in the back yard, and we'd all take ground balls."
While the three share a love of baseball, each has his own identity.
"We're alike in that we all have the same sense of humor," Mooney said. "We all watch the same TV shows and listen to the same music. We're different in that, I'm a little bigger than them. Peter's more of a laid-back sort of guy, and Michael is an athletic freak who is always out doing something. He plays every sport he can. I guess I'm a little mix of both."
Marcus is diplomatic when talking about each of their baseball-related strengths, stating that Michael was probably the best fielder, while Peter was the best hitter. Marcus said that he has the best throwing arm of the three. While Michael and Peter had the chance to play on the same high school team, Marcus never had that opportunity.
"That would have been sweet if we could have all played in the infield at the same time," Mooney said.
Among his most memorable moments as a Gamecock so far include producing the game-tying two-run single with two outs to tie the game in the ninth inning at Clemson last year in the 5-3 South Carolina victory. While he was happy with his initial season, he's looking forward to better things in 2015.
"Last year was awesome," Mooney said. "I struggled in some aspects of the game. Hopefully my hitting improves this year, and hopefully I can cut down on the errors a little bit. I just want to be a team guy and do it what it takes to get base runners in. Hopefully we'll make it to where we want to be at the end of the season, which is Omaha."
While his lifelong dream is to play professional baseball, the youngest Mooney wouldn't mind having some other bragging rights within the family.
"The only thing I could one-up Peter with here is to win the College World Series and be the MVP," Mooney said. "Or I could double the amount of rings he has and really rub it in his face."
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