By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
Between every inning, Phillies outfielder Brandon Marsh wets his hair.
The furry-faced 24-year-old — who, with his scraggly beard, looks like a cross between an eccentric yoga instructor and a desert-island castaway — either heads down to the bathroom sink in the tunnel or fills a bunch of plastic cups with water from the dugout cooler, which he then dumps on his head.
“It’s called having some f—ing edge,” Phillies backup catcher Garrett Stubbs responded when asked why his teammate’s luscious locks were perpetually moist. “That guy knows how to find his f — ing edge.”
But even though Marsh wets his hair at least 15 times a day, he has washed it only once in the past month. His most recent haircut was over the All-Star break, a few weeks before his trade to Philly, meaning Marsh has yet to get a trim since moving to the City of Brotherly Love. Hair product? He uses zero, preferring to let the elixirs of the natural world do the job.
Across baseball, there are a number of so-called “wet guys,” a term lovingly coined by the indomitable David Roth. The concept is simple: There are a ton of baseball players, but the wet ones stand out. Think Brandon Crawford or Colby Rasmus or Clay Buchholz, guys who, when you flip on the TV, are always inexplicably soaking wet. Marsh, while a relative newcomer, fits perfectly into that rich tapestry of baseball moisture.
But whenever the Phillies center fielder — who etched himself into local baseball lore with a critical, three-run moonshot in his team’s emphatic, series-clinching W — ends an offensive inning stranded on base and doesn’t have the requisite time to re- dress the lettuce, he’s forced into a scratchy, suboptimal, desert-like danger zone.
“If I don’t wet it,” the Medusa of the Phillies explained, “it gets super bristly out there. I don’t like it that way. I like it wet.”
If this whole situation seems a little bizarre, well, that’s baseball. Or maybe it’s just the Phillies. In a sport full of offbeat characters, the Phillies have assembled a particularly odd group of dudes. It’s a team that impeccably mirrors the energy of the city it plays in. And that’s not an accident. Veterans such as Rhys Hoskins, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos have worked hard throughout the season to foster a team culture that empowers players to let their freak flags fly.
And beyond the good vibes and the dewy ‘do, Marsh has contributed elite center-field defense, a burst of speed on the basepaths and the occasional big blast. Drafted by the Angels in the second round of the 2016 draft, the lean Georgia high schooler slowly developed into the organization’s consensus best prospect. But in his first 162 games with the big-league club, Marsh struggled to make an impact in Anaheim, with a mediocre .653 OPS in that span.
But in 41 regular-season games with Philly, he posted an above average (particularly for an elite defender) .773 OPS. He’s also not shy to voice his opinions, particularly when it comes to music.
“I hate country music,” Marsh said when asked about his tastes, a particularly fiery opinion for a guy from Georgia. “Country music bums me out, man. All the songs are about a girlfriend who left you or something. I don’t wanna think about that. I want to punch my locker and bang my head on the ceiling while I listen to Lil Uzi Vert.”
It probably goes without saying that when Marsh was acquired at the deadline in exchange for Philly’s top position-player prospect, Logan O’Hoppe, the bearded firecracker fit right into the Phillies’ quirky atmosphere.
“Before we traded for [Marsh], we did a ton of research on who he was outside the lines in addition to who he was as a player,” Phillies GM Sam Fuld told FOX Sports after Game 4. “Everyone loved him, spoke highly of him. We knew he’d fit right in and continue to improve our culture.”
“There’s a real camaraderie we have as a team,” Castellanos said Saturday. “When Marsh came over here, we told him, like we tell all our guys: Come in, be yourself, whatever that may look like or sound like. No one is going to judge you in this room.”
‘You can see how much fun we’re having’ — Rhys Hoskins on Phillies
Rhys Hoskins spoke with Ken Rosenthal after the Philadelphia Phillies advanced to the NLCS, praising the young players and management for constructing this team.
While Phillies players set out to induce that funky vibe from the jump, it didn’t manifest until former manager Joe Girardi, who brought a much more heavy-handed and serious presence, was given the heave-ho in early June. New skipper Rob Thomson prefers a more hands-off approach, one that has helped engender an atmosphere in which Bryson Stott feels cool with sprinting around the clubhouse with a cardboard Bud Light case on his head while taking pictures of everybody. (Stott, for the record, does not drink.)
“I feel like this year, we’ve done a better job of creating an environment where guys feel comfortable, feel comfortable being themselves,” Hoskins said.
Team chemistry in sports is often a nebulous, manufactured dynamic. Team with great energy have fallen short in October — or not even reached the postseason. And clubs with toxic dugouts full of players who depise one another have captured the biggest prize. More often than not, it’s a total crapshoot.
But just because good vibes can’t be quantified doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Whatever the Phillies have nurtured is clearly working. Any overachieving underdog team has to have an edge. And Stubbs already explained where Marsh finds his.
“We love Marsh, man,” Hoskins gushed. “He’s a weirdo, but we all have a little bit of weirdo in us, right?”
Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
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