LAS VEGAS -- Cubs fans know Carlos Marmol as the team's hard-throwing closer. In the Dominican Republic, Marmol is a working cowboy.Early in the morning at his ranch near Banao, Marmol is literally up with the chickens. Someone has to feed them, as well as the 300 cows and eight horses. Someone also has to milk the cows, which is another one of Marmol's duties. He wants to add more livestock. "Maybe when I go back," he said. He grew up on a ranch, so the hard work is natural. Marmol is one of the youngest in a family of eight that includes two sisters and five brothers. Farming is good, but baseball is a far more lucrative way to make a living in the Dominican Republic. At the age of 17, Marmol was a catcher and had a tryout with the Reds. They passed. Then he worked out for the Cubs and scout Jose Serra, who is now the team's Latin American coordinator. It was a morning session that lasted about one hour. He ran, threw. On his first swing, he broke the wooden bat.
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"It was the first time I hit with that kind of bat," said Marmol, who had only used aluminum before.Serra liked what he saw of the raw athlete, and one week later, the Cubs signed him. A few years later in the Minor Leagues, they converted him to a pitcher. "It was exciting," Marmol said about his first pro contract. "It's exciting when you get to the big leagues. You never think about being a professional player. My family was excited -- the whole town was." He was able to take care of his large family and bought a home. And he eventually bought the ranch that he worked on, which he now calls Hacienda Marmol. "My ranch, I used to work there, grew up there, and now it's mine," Marmol said. "I can't believe that. My brothers, we ride and talk about that." They ride around the ranch, and reflect on how far they've come. They also have to ride to keep an eye on the herd. Marmol, 28, has a favorite horse that he bought when it was young. "She does whatever I say," Marmol said. If only it was that easy to pitch. On Saturday, Marmol walked the first two batters he faced when he took over in the fourth against the Reds. After striking out Drew Stubbs, Marmol gave up a single to Zack Cozart and a RBI double to Joey Votto. He walked the next batter before striking out Fred Lewis. This is the first spring in which Marmol does not have to compete for a spot. He secured the closer's job last season after totaling 38 saves in 43 opportunities. Marmol struck out 138, which led all Major League relievers, and gave him an average of 15.99 Ks per nine innings. He was rewarded on Feb. 14 with a three-year, $20 million contract. Despite Saturday's outing, it's been a good spring. "No competition, I'm very calm," Marmol said. "I know what I have to do. I just have to keep going and try do the same. I don't have to worry about money, I don't have to worry about my job. I think I'm doing good. I feel very good." Marmol could be the anchor of a very strong Cubs bullpen that got a boost with the addition of Kerry Wood. "We've got Kerry, we've got me, we've got [Sean] Marshall, who is one of the best left-handers in baseball for me," Marmol said. "We'll be fine -- we'll be real good." When the season ends, Marmol plans on buying a go-cart to help him round up his cows on the ranch. That can wait. "It's nice," Marmol said. "I love it -- I love my life now. I can take care of my family. I feel good." His cows are pretty content, too.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.