Marc Coffers leaves the field Saturday at Swanson Stadium after FGCU defeated Liberty 10-9 in a battle for the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season title. GREGG HARDY/CSI
Let’s play word association.
Marc Coffers. Home.
Is there a better word to attach to the former Barron Collier High School baseball star who’s now in his junior season at Florida Gulf Coast University?
Home is where Coffers chose to pursue his dream of getting drafted by a Major League Baseball team. Home is also where he darted toward — then slid into, headfirst — to propel FGCU to its first and only NCAA tournament berth two years ago.
“I just had a really good feeling he was going to throw a breaking ball in the dirt with a two-strike count,” Coffers said, recalling his iconic play in FGCU sports history, one that broke a 3-3 tie in the 10th inning against top-seeded Jacksonville during the 2017 Atlantic Sun Conference title game. “It was a high-risk, high-reward kind of situation (because) if I would have gotten thrown out, it would have been really bad for me, but it worked out in my favor and we won, so it was awesome.”
(This year’s ASUN tournament, which starts Wednesday morning with regular-season champion FGCU taking on sixth-seeded host Stetson, is at the site of that landmark Eagles win: Melching Field at Conrad Park in DeLand. However, the chance of Coffers again playing the role of hometown hero appears dim, as a shoulder injury forced him out of the Eagles’ starting lineup for the final five games of the regular season. Then again, you never know — Coffers scored in two of those games as a pinch runner.)
After claiming that 2017 ASUN title, FGCU won its first NCAA tournament game — a 10-6 triumph over Michigan in which Coffers went 1 for 4 with a walk and run scored. It must have been a moment of sweet affirmation for Coffers considering that just a year earlier, it didn’t look like he would end up at FGCU.
Coming out of high school, Coffers had been recruited by SEC schools Ole Miss, South Carolina and Mississippi State. After committing and de-committing multiple times, he realized he wanted to stay closer to home and play in what he calls his “backyard.”
With his family in attendance at all FGCU home games, Coffers still tries to make it home to Naples at least once a week to have dinner with them.
“Marc was committed to an SEC school and for some reason it did not work out,” said Dave Tollett, the only head coach in the 17-year history of FGCU baseball. “I can tell you the exact day it was because of how big of a commitment Marc Coffers was. It was July 1, 2016. I saw his high school coach (Charlie Maurer) at a game, and he said Marc is not going and we can get it done in the next 12 hours, and I said we are on it. I remember it like it was yesterday when you get a player like that.”
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As a youngster, Coffers — who grew up idolizing legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter — took his first swings while playing for a YMCA T-ball team coached by his dad. Later on, he played in a Naples youth baseball league where he got his first taste of winning championships while playing with a group of players he said he “grew up with and had good chemistry with.”
Mainly a catcher during his younger years, Coffers saw action in left and center field when he joined the Barron Collier program (then coached by Charlie Maurer’s brother, Dan) in 2013. The reason: Barron Collier already had a talented catcher — Karl Ellison, who started as a freshman on Vanderbilt’s 2014 national championship team.
Coffers, who first caught the eye of Division I schools while playing travel ball with the Orlando Scorpions, was back behind the plate as he helped Barron Collier reach the state semifinals in 2016.
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In his first season at FGCU (which saw him play all three outfield positions as well as catcher), Coffers hit .279, boasted a 10-game hitting streak and was named to the ASUN’s all-freshman team. In addition to scoring the championship-clinching run, Coffers hit .500 during the ASUN tournament and was named its Most Valuable Player.
Coffers started all 53 of the Eagles’ games in right field as a sophomore before making the switch to full-time center fielder this year.
“He can change the game because he has a lot of tools,” Tollett said. “He has a real good skill set. He can hit for power. He can steal bases. He can bunt for a base hit, so he brings a lot to our table. With him being our leadoff man, he can be a table setter for us and can create a lot of pressure on people.”
The level of admiration between Coffers and Tollett is mutual.
“Toe and I have a really great relationship,” Coffers said. “We became really close in the three years I have been here. He molds people into men and is a really fun coach to play for.”
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A business management major who hopes to one day start his own business, Coffers first wants to take his shot at a professional baseball career.
“My whole life it has been, ‘Let’s get drafted,’” Coffers said. “It’s like my dream, but when you grow up a little you realize if you get drafted it’s awesome, but if you don’t, I still have another year here and (then) I have my entrepreneurship to look forward to.”