Markakis was a big fan of pitching great Roger Clemens. He began wearing the Rocket's uniform number (21) on his back when he played for Young Harris Junior College in 2002 and 2003. And Nick was able to keep that number when he joined the Baltimore Orioles.
At Young Harris, Nick was a star pitcher as well as outfielder and best hitter.
Nick's Mom, Mary Lou Markakis, a banker, says she knew Nick had a special talent for baseball before he was even two years old. She would bring him, then in diapers, out in the backyard with his older brother, Dennis, give them both a bat and pitch beach balls to them.
"Dennis would swing and miss, and Nick would swing and hit," she recalled.
Within a very few years, Nick would sit and watch baseball on TV for hours.
Nick's mom is a banker, and his father is a car salesman.
Nick was drafted twice by the Cincinnati Reds.
In 2001, they drafted him out of high school in the 35th round, but he did not sign. Then in 2002, he was their 23rd round pick. The Reds offered a $1.5 million signing bonus, but Markakis again didn't sign.
He waited until 2003 when the Orioles drafted and signed him (signed by scout Dave Jennings) to a $1.85 million contract. Markakis had 18 family members around when he signed on June 11, 2003. It looked like a Big Fat Greek Signing.
In 2002, Markakis was Baseball America's Junior College Player of the Year after batting .455-17-74 and going 11-3, 4.53 on the mound. In 2003, he went 12-0 with a 1.41 ERA, 148 strikeouts and 27 walks in 90 innings. Baseball America listed him as the 16th best prospect overall and seventh-best pitcher in the 2003 draft.
In 2003, Baseball America again named Nick as their Junior College Player of the Year.
In July 2003, Nick got a leave of absence from the Orioles organization in so he could play for the Greek National Team in the European Championships.
Triple-A Ottawa outfielder Chris Lemonis joined Markakis on the Greek National Team that won a spot in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Markakis hit .323-0-7 with four stolen bases in eight games as Greece finished second in that 2003 tourney.
In 2003, for Aberdeen (NYP-Orioles), Nick hit .283-1-28 in 205 at-bats.
In 2003, Baseball America rated Markakis as the third best prospect in the Orioles' organization before 2004 spring training. And the magazine ranked him the #1 prospect in the Orioles system before both 2005 spring camp and 2006 spring training.
- In August 2004, he played for the Greek Olympic team, which was assembled with a great deal of assistance from Baltimore owner Peter Angelos. Most Orioles officials regarded the trip as a great opportunity, though they were chagrined when Markakis was also asked to pitch when the Greek staff was hit by injuries. He made two relief appearances in the Olympics (touching 94 mph, it should be noted) and he was one of the event's best hitters, going 9-for-26 (.346) with a home run.
- During the offseason before 2004 spring training, Markakis gained almost 20 pounds of muscle as part of an effort to increase his power numbers.
- Markakis has a lively left arm. Many Major League teams had him on their draft lists as a pitcher. His FASTBALL is in the 90-94 mph range. And he has a slurvy-CURVE that is 78-81 mph, and a CHANGEUP that has good sink. But the Orioles put him in the outfield for his fine bat.
Markakis has an impressive aptitude for the game. He has instincts and intangibles that are about as good as there are around.
He works hard, and goes about his business without trying to stand out in the clubhouse. He is a good teammate and more of a leader by example.
Nick is quiet, keeping to himself a lot. While other players are joking around, Markakis is usually glued to the clubhouse TV monitors, watching video of the pitcher the team will face later that day. He doesn't warm up to people, even teammates, very quickly. He has always been shy and taken longer than other kids to adapt to his surroundings.
"It takes me a little bit to get comfortable around guys," Markakis acknowledged. "It's kind of like switching schools in the 2nd or 3rd grade. You kind of keep to yourself until you get to know the guys."
- In 2007, Markakis's best friends on the Orioles were pitchers Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen. In 2006, Chris Britton and Nick hung out a lot.
- Off the field, Nick said, "I'm a big outdoor person—hunting, fishing, being outdoors with my dog. I like doing anything outside. In the offseason, it's time to relax and get out there in peace and quiet. I hunt a variety of stuff—coyotes, deer, duck."
Out of uniform, Nick is almost always in sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt that is usually advertising some baseball equipment company.
After the 2005 season, in 26 games in the Arizona Fall League, Markakis finished with a .326 average, one homer, and 12 RBIs. With the help of 11 walks, he ranked seventh in the league with a .421 on-base percentage.
Nick's best friend growing up, Taylor Scott Randahl, died on April 14, 2000. An avid mountain biker, Randahl was riding home when a car going in the opposite direction hit a deer. The deer went across the road and knocked the 16-year-old off his bike. He died about two hours after the accident.
"I never did get to see him again," Markakis said, his quiet voice filled with regret. "I was with him earlier that day, but he was cremated."
He and Randahl first met in 1993, when they were in elementary school. That year, Markakis's family moved from Long Island, New York to Woodstock, Georgia.
"They were best friends since about the day they met," Doug Randahl said. "They were Frick and Frack. They were running in the neighborhood, making forst in the woods. They did what boys do."
Tattooed on his right arm is a cross over the name, Taylor Scott Randahl.
On the day of his best friend's wake, Nick was scheduled to pitch for Woodstock High in the second game of the state playoffs. After attending the wake, Markakis arrived in the second inning with his team down 3-0 to state power Walton High. Markakis entered the game and didn't allow a run. Woodstock lost, but the tribute was complete.
"That is when I knew he had it," his brother Dennis said. "To have something like that happen and to be able to put that out of his mind, I knew there was something there." (Jeff Zrebiec-Baltimore Sun-June, 2007)
Nick and his wife, Christina, were married after the 2008 season. And they celebrated the birth of their first child on March 11, 2009. It was a baby boy, Taylor Jason Markakis. He was named after Markakis's late friend, Taylor Scott Randahl, who died in 2000 in a biking accident.
They live in Monkton, in the Baltimore area.
On May 27, 2010, Nick's wife, Christina, delivered their second son, Tucker Edward. Christina delivered the couple's third child, a son named Toby, on September 11, 2013.
Nick's wife Christina is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a degree in education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher. An excellent athlete, she was a member of the Florida Atlantic cross-country and track and field teams, earning All-Atlantic Sun Conference honors for indoor track. Nick and Christina met before the start of the 2006 season at a Super Bowl party hosted by Orioles' outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, a mutual friend.
Christina also went to high school in Florida with the wife of Nick’s good friend and teammate, Brian Roberts.
- In 2007, Nick was named Most Valuable Oriole by the local press corps.
Markakis's most impressive non-baseball skill is his ability to balance common household objects on his chin. He can do it with a vacuum cleaner and a shopping cart. Midway through the 2009 season, he was photographed balancing a folding chair.
- In 2009, Nick and his wife, Christina, established the nonprofit Right Side Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of distressed children in Maryland. The Markakises have hosted several charitable events.
- April 15, 2013: He is not the star of the game and Markakis rarely is sitting in front of his locker even if he is. There are postgame workouts to get in and treatment to receive, the latter of which Markakis finally appears from in Boston and unassumingly sits on the couch, more than happy to fade into the background of reporters' game stories and be overshadowed by the flashier players and more quotable personalities like Adam Jones.
It is the same thing at home, when Markakis—the Orioles' longest-tenured active player—has two hits and two runs scored in the home opening-win. He follows that with a 4-for-5 night that includes two doubles. It isn't that he's purposely avoiding interviews as much as Markakis simply doesn't want the credit, a fact that extends beyond the baseball field and into the clubhouse, where the players frequent the pool and ping-pong table, both quietly purchased by Markakis.
"He's one of the most giving guys around, but it's not broadcasted," manager Buck Showalter said. "He just doesn't want anyone to know about it. Probably about half the stuff [he does], I don't know about."
"He's just one of those really good ballplayers that not a lot of people know," Orioles closer Jim Johnson said of Markakis. "Other pitchers know who he is, I'll tell you that. They hate facing him. And when you have respect from your peers, I think that's all you can really ask for in this game."
June 5-6, 2013: Nick missed two games to attend his grandmother's funeral. He said he was able to be with her for about an hour before she passed away.
Twice a week, hours before the Orioles have to be at their spring training for team stretch, a bulked up Nick is at Pilates. He started the regimen in 2013 during the baseball season, but he got really intense about it, among other things, over the winter. His focus is on core strength and balance, two key components of an offseason like Markakis has never had before, one that had him pounding the pavement of his driveway for workouts just two weeks after the Orioles' season had ended and weighing in 16 pounds heavier this spring.
Markakis is confident he has never been this strong, not even close. "I'm at the point in my career where a lot of things don't matter to me right now besides winning," said Markakis. In the 2013 off season, the emphasis was on adding strength and speed, with Olympic lifts and a lot of the same programming Markakis adopted under vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson's fitness overhaul. Athletic trainers Joe Hogarty and Ryan Crotin would come for the workout sessions at Markakis' Monkton, Md., home, with the group switching to Camden Yards later in the winter as more of the players started to filter in. There were no breaks, even for the holidays. When teammate Ryan Flaherty, who is dating Markakis' sister-in-law came to North Carolina for the family Thanksgiving, the pair were in the gym for "hours," said Christina Markakis. "And they didn't miss a day."
Markakis enlisted the team's chef, Jenny Spiliadis, to help him eat clean, and she dropped off food twice a week. It wasn't about hitting a specific number on the scale but adding "good weight" to put him back where he needed to be strength-wise. "Obviously he's put on some muscle," said Flaherty.
Manager Buck Showalter said, "This is the first time he's really been able to do these things physically. Nick's a guy that's so easy to trust. He's a good father, a good husband, a good teammate. He's a guy who is not going to embarrass you off the field, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's a guy that's real easy to pull for." (Ghiroli - mlb.com 2/03/14)
This year, 2014, like every other year, Markakis will collect his pink bats and send them home ticketed for his mother, Mary Lou. Mary Lou is a breast cancer survivor, having beat the disease while Nick was in college, and MLB's awareness—which always coincides with Mother's Day—provides an opportunity for the prevention and treatment to take center stage.
"I try to do as much as I can for her, because I know how much it means to her," Markakis said. "It's completely different; I can sit here and say it's a good cause and not know anything about it. But when you see somebody go through it. I used to drive my mom to her chemo treatments. And on the way home, you see what it takes out of them. You get a whole different perspective on it."
Last year, Markakis decided not to use his specially made MaxBat black bat with a pink label on Mother's Day, donning pink cleats, wristbands, and batting gloves instead. He used his regular MaxBat, with an orange label, to avoid what likely would have been a fine in a mini-controversy in which Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe—whose mother is also a breast cancer survivor—went ahead and used his pink labeled bat.
The issue was that Louisville Slugger produces the special pink bats for MLB so other companies' pink bats can only be used if there's no visible logos or other markings. Markakis is hoping this year to be able to use the bat he gives to Mary Lou after Mother's Day, although his efforts in raising cancer funds far exceed the holiday.
Major League Baseball, which supports the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) initiative in the winter, started the tradition in 2006 of using pink gear on Mother's Day, and some of the bats will be auctioned off afterwards to raise even more money for the cause.
"These types of things in general are good, but in my case, a little more meaningful to me because of what I've seen my mom go through. And what it does to a person, what it takes out of them." (Ghiroli - mlb.com 5/9/14)
- June 2003: The Orioles chose Nick in the first round, out of Young Harris Jr. College in Young Harris, Georgia.
- March 4, 2008: The Orioles renewed Markakis for $455,000 for the 2008 season.
- January 19, 2009: Markakis and the Orioles agreed to a six-year, $66 million contract. It includes standard incentive clauses, a limited no-trade clause—in which he can block a deal to at least eight teams each year—a slew of incentives, and a mutual option of $17.5 million for 2015, plus an unspecified team buyout for the 2015 season.
- October 31, 2014: Markakis became a free agent when the Orioles declined to pick up their $17.5 million option for 2015, paying the $2 million buyout, instead.
December 3, 2015: Nick signed a four-year deal for $44 million with the Braves. He also received $2 million as part of the contract.
Markakis has annual salaries of $10.5 million. And he can earn $50,000 for making the All-Star team, winning an MVP award, earning the World Series MVP, or getting selected the comeback player of the year. Nick can earn $25,000 apiece for winning a Gold Glove and the League Championship Series MVP.