The gang’s all here now –and by “here”, I mean of course spring training camp down in Arizona. I took the bus in to work this morning, as I am fighting either the beginnings of another cold (the second this year so far, yuck) or some early-onset allergies due to the drier weather we’ve been having here lately. In any event, since I was not behind the wheel of a car on the way in, I got to do some more baseball reading, and that is always a positive.
Shannon Drayer’s article regarding Mike Zunino’s offseason and attitude coming into camp this year were widely talked about over Twitter yesterday, and with good reason. Zunino spent about 10 days this winter with Kyle Seager and his two bat-swinging brothers Corey and Justin at Kyle’s North Carolina home. I’m not sure which is more endearing; the idea of three Seager brothers swarming around Zunino like little baseball satellites to help him improve, or the idea that they might have been doing at least some of this exercise in the snow and/or bad weather that has been hitting the northeastern portion of the country this year. Obviously there is no telling yet whether or not the collaboration has worked, but Zunino’s attitude about the entire thing and his issues last year is great, and encouraging if he is going to be a workable member of this team. Some guys might try and downplay their poor performance from previous years, even in the face of evidence well-known or otherwise; but Mike Zunino is a realist, and he clearly knows that he has work to do this year, especially now that there are other catchers on the roster and his place on the major league team is not a given. His extra work in Tacoma at the end of last year is also encouraging. Over 10 games and 43 plate appearances, he garnered a .317/.349/.585 line, so he clearly doesn’t have an issue with Triple A pitching. Now if he can only translate that into hitting in the majors, I will be a happy girl! Scott Servais, per Drayer’s article, also called Zunino right after he (Servais) was hired, to address the issue of Zuni’s hitting. The excellent part of this is that Nelson Cruz himself credits Servais to helping him improve his batting swing during both their time with the Rangers. With Seager, Cruz, and Servais on his side, all my fingers are crossed that this means good things for Mike Zunino.
Because of a season ticket holder draft party event I went to in the Terrace Club a few years ago, I sort of consider Zunino “my” guy. We were all given pieces of paper with players’ names on them, and if memory serves the idea was for fans to choose who the Mariners would pick in what round. I didn’t want to choose him because I knew he was an obvious pick, but everyone else I was with at our table chose other players before I had the chance to go with anyone else, so Zunino was mine by default. He was of course chosen, and while I didn’t manage to win anything from the party, I have always sort of paid attention to him as he has come up from Everett to Seattle, and have been on his side to succeed ever since. Liking players is a very personal and sometimes really weird thing for a lot of fans; you get attached to guys for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons make a lot of sense, while others just don’t. My affinity for Mike Zunino doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I could have chosen Patrick Kivlehan or Chris Taylor, but I didn’t wind up with those guys at a random event I went to with a bunch of friends. Sometimes being too slow on the draw isn’t a bad thing. Jerry Dipoto says this is “the year of Mike Zunino”. Who am I to argue?