Cardinals’ manager Oliver Marmol launches ed tech company aimed at mentoring aspiring athletes
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Oliver Marmol says his rise from player to the youngest manager in the MLB was helped by the mentorship he received and questions he asked over the years.
Now, the St. Louis Cardinals manager is hoping to give other aspiring athletes the same opportunity he was given.
Marmol is venturing into the business world as the co-founder of sports-focused educational technology startup Versus (VS), which he launched with his wife Amber and two other co-founders who have ties to the Cardinals.
On Tuesday, VS announced the upcoming launch of its platform and app, which is designed to provide interactive instruction and mentorship to athletes. The subscription-based app offers video instruction from famous athletes and coaches.
Users of the app — young athletes, their coaches or parents — can also ask instructors questions live during a session and receive an immediate response thanks to next-generation conversational AI technology.
“I wish this was something that existed when I was a player. When I think back as to how I’m able to do what I do today, it all comes down to access,” Marmol told Fox News digital. “Our hope is that this app allows them to receive mentorship from some of the people that have already achieved what they are looking to achieve.”
More than 20 athletes and coaches make up the list of instructors, which include former and current MLB players, such as Albert Pujols, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ozzie Smith. Other instructors include Olympic softball players Jennie Finch, Jessica Mendoza and the head coach of the Florida Gators softball team, Tim Walton.
When interacting with the talent, Marmol said users can learn more about both the physical and mental side of sports. VS is initially offering courses across baseball and fast-pitch softball, and it will later expand to soccer and football, he added.
Marmol said users, whether they are 10 years old or over the age of 18, can ask the instructors hundreds of questions that they will have answers to. He said the app is also tailored to parents and coaches, who can ask one of the instructors, like Pujols, questions about what his own family did to motivate him or what his coach did to help him grow as a player.
“I’ve had access as a staff member to some of the greatest minds in baseball that have allowed me to take from certain values and principles from them and apply them to how to lead and how to hold the clubhouse, how to communicate with players … staff and management,” Marmol said. “So I’ve been able to take so much from different people that have already achieved what I’m trying to achieve, and that has allowed me to expedite that development process.”
CARDS REPLACING SHILDT WITH BENCH COACH MARMOL
Marmol said the idea for the startup came about after he and his wife went on a mission trip overseas to Guatemala, where they stayed at an orphanage for seven days and helped out at a feeding center.
“It was the first time we were exposed to that level of poverty, and it really had an impact on how we would do life moving forward,” Marmol told Fox News.
After getting back to the U.S., Amber proposed creating a platform with connections in sports to allow athletes to teach their craft and talk about how they got there mentally and emotionally, he said.
VS plans on contributing 10% of its topline revenue to charitable organizations that focus on development and access for underserved youth. It is also partnering with different athletes and companies to sponsor 50,000 subscriptions of the service to kids who wouldn’t have access to this information otherwise, Marmol said. The company plans to match those 50,000 subscriptions to give away 100,000 eventually.
“Before now, aspiring athletes who desired to learn more did so on a linear path with two-dimensional content. But through Versus, they will be able to go deeper with our experts to break down the mentality of becoming an elite athlete and unlock their full potential on and off the field,” said Eric Frye, CEO of VS. “Never before has there been an offering that has our mix of professional-level mentorship, live interaction and philanthropy.”
The app and website were developed by New York-based company Fantasy, and VS partnered with Los Angeles-based company StoryFile for the conversational AI technology.
Marmol, who has been part of the Cardinals’ organization since he was drafted in 2007, was named manager of the team last October. He replaced Mike Shildt, who was fired following the end of the 2021 season. Shildt is a co-owner of VS, along with Trey Nielsen, a former minor league pitcher with the Cardinals.
Marmol called the timing between his hiring and the startup a “coincidence.” He expressed excitement about this upcoming baseball season, saying it felt “real good” to see everyone in the clubhouse again.
“It was an interesting offseason, but now being back with everyone has been awesome,” Marmol added.