Marcus Nidiffer Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 24
“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Towards the end of Spring Training 2012, Marcus Nidiffer was finally feeling optimistic about his future in pro baseball.
A three-year starter behind the dish for Kentucky, Nidiffer had gone undrafted after his 2010 senior season, but caught on with the Astros as a free agent. He made enough of an impact in his first summer with Houston to be invited to fall instructs—only to have a new regime installed in the front office, one that would cut him loose during the ensuing spring training.
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However, after one season in the Angels organization, he felt that he’d finally made his mark. Towards the end of his first spring with the Angels, he’d even appeared in some big league spring training games.
“I had a little bit of taste of it—I thought that I could make it,” said Nidiffer of those big league games.
Unfortunately the Angels had a different plan in mind, releasing Nidiffer as the spring wound to a close. His best option to continue his pro career was suiting up for the Traverse City Beach Bums in the independent Frontier League. Not where he’d imagined spending his age-25 season, but Nidiffer had long been a player who could battle through adversity.
He’d entered Kentucky on a small scholarship, staring down a roster crunch at catcher and a lack of confidence in his ability to compete at an SEC program. Redshirting and then subsequently garnering only six at-bats in his RS-freshman season certainly didn’t help, but Nidiffer got to work and eventually cracked the lineup as a sophomore and cemented a roll behind the plate.
Indy ball for Nidiffer began as a means to get back to affiliated ball—a pit-stop on his longshot climb to the big leagues. He knew if he kept showing up, kept playing well, he might get another shot. So wherever there was a catching job, Nidiffer went.
Eventually though, Indy ball became more than just a temporary solution. Following his two-season stretch with Traverse City, Nidiffer headed for Pomona, New York, home of the Rockland Boulders in the Can-Am League. It wasn’t the big league dream, but Nidiffer thrived.
Already a half-year older than the league average during his first season with Rockland, and as a natural leader behind the plate, Nidiffer took on mentorship roll nearly from the get-go. For five years he was a steady presence—whether managing a pitching staff, hitting home runs, or just being the go-to guy for younger players looking for advice.
Nidiffer grew to love Indy ball. Playing to win in front of passionate fans in Pomona, having a steady summer baseball routine with a manager he respected. He loved Rockland, and Rockland loved him.
“I felt like that was where I was meant to be from the beginning, and I ended up at the end of the road where I was supposed to finish my career,” Nidiffer said.
Like for any ballplayer, Nidiffer’s big league hopes never fully left. But, after the 2018 season in which the then 31-year-old pulled double-duty behind the plate and as the team’s pitching coach, Nidiffer finally hung up his catcher’s mitt and finished his Indy ball ride. For a guy who rolled onto the Kentucky campus unsure if he’d even be able to compete in college, 698 professional games and 124 dingers is a pretty good showing.
“I wasn’t ready for a normal lifestyle—I fought it for a long time, and I had a blast doing it.”
On our latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm’ we talk to former Kentucky standout Marcus Nidiffer. Marcus talks staring down aces every weekend in the SEC, trying to stick as an undrafted free agent, and life during his years in Indy ball.