Six Mariners prospects live, dream together
Mariners prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer, Stefen Romero, Logan Bawcom and Jarrett Burgess share a five-bedroom home 10 minutes from the team's spring training complex.
Seattle Times staff columnist
PEORIA, Ariz. — Call it the Prodigy House.
Six Mariners prospects rent a five-bedroom home about 10 minutes from the team's spring training complex. It is a residence of extraordinary talent, with four of the franchise's primo youngsters — pitchers Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer and infielder Stefen Romero — sharing the same space. They're so essential to the future that, if the fire alarm ever went off in their place, you'd expect Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge to emerge toting extinguishers.
Not that these guys consider themselves so important. They're typical twenty-something males, enjoying life and minimizing their housing costs.
"It's a lot of fun," said pitcher Logan Bawcom, the fifth tenant of the Prodigy House. "Just a madhouse all the time. Everybody's laughing. We all joke around with one another. It's a lot of fun. It really is."
Another pitcher, Jarrett Burgess (who isn't in the big-league camp), is the sixth tenant. He was a late addition and sleeps on the couch because there aren't enough bedrooms. But Bawcom says the couch is "pretty much a bed, it's so big." The boys are quite proud of their place.
They've had the house since the Arizona Fall League. The players realized that, in order to reach their lofty goals, they needed to be frequent visitors at the Mariners facility. Walker supplied most of the furniture. They don't cook much, but they do rotate the responsibility of making necessary purchases such as water. They're fairly neat, and Paxton, the mature one at age 24, keeps everyone in line.
"He looks over us and makes sure we don't get into any trouble," Walker said, laughing.
Romero, the only position player in the house, says the vibe is nothing like the movie "National Lampoon's Animal House."
"Just video games," said Romero, 24. "Normal stuff — watch TV, joke around.
"We don't really talk too much baseball. They do, obviously, because they're all pitchers. They talk pitching and stuff, but we really don't talk too much baseball."
Bawcom, Maurer, Paxton, Romero and Walker all spent time on the Mariners' loaded Class AA team in Jackson, Tenn., last season. They developed a bond and a sense of mission. They hope to grow together and become vital members of playoff teams in Seattle. They already prepare and carry themselves like big-leaguers. A spring training clubhouse full of established pros can be intimidating, but they look like they belong.
Their résumés suggest they'll be in Seattle soon. Romero, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 220 pounds, was the Mariners' minor-league player of the year last season. Paxton and Walker, 20, are part of the Big Three, with Danny Hultzen, a potentially dominant pitching trio. But some are starting to believe that the 22-year-old Maurer, who was the most improved minor-leaguer in the organization last season, could develop into an even better pitching prospect.
The only thing more striking than the talent in the Prodigy House is the chemistry.
"We challenge each other," Paxton said. "We help each other along. It is a really good dynamic. We spend a lot of time together. It's like a family now. We're around each other 24/7. We're all really close."
These prospects know it's unlikely they'll all go from the minors to the big leagues together. But that doesn't stop them from dreaming. They talk about it all the time.
Romero and Walker have been friends since they signed with the Mariners. They were members of the team's 2010 draft class, with Walker the team's top choice that year and Romero being selected in the 12th round.
"He's like my little brother," Romero said of Walker. "It's a blast. Great way to build team chemistry for, hopefully, one day in the big leagues. Just going up through the system together, it's something you can't really plan out."
So, the roommates work hard during the day to fulfill their personal and collective aspirations.
And then they entertain each other back at the Prodigy House.
"We're all goofy in our own way," Maurer said. "Every day's kind of a fun day." At the end of spring, they'll leave their goofy abode and, well, the future is uncertain. It's likely they'll be together in Class AAA Tacoma this season. But they're not afraid to declare that they want more.
"Hopefully, we'll all end up in Seattle at one point," Maurer said.
Landlords, get your leases ready.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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