Zunino's pro career with Mariners get delayed
Mike Zunino, along with fellow catchers Marcus Littlewood and David Villasuso, provided some much needed muscle and the tarp covered the field just in time for the rain to stop.
Special to The Seattle Times
EVERETT — Three hours before his professional debut was scheduled to begin Friday, Mike Zunino learned all about life in the minor leagues.
Minutes before batting practice was scheduled to begin, a thunderstorm ripped through Everett Memorial Stadium. The grounds crew did its best, but the rain came down so hard that the tarp became stuck halfway across the infield.
In jumped Zunino, who recently signed for a reported $4 million after being selected with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Seattle Mariners, to lend a hand.
Zunino, along with fellow catchers Marcus Littlewood and David Villasuso, provided some much needed muscle and the tarp covered the field just in time for the rain to stop. More downpours came later, and after a 90-minute delay the game between the Everett AquaSox and the Tri-City Dust Devils was postponed.
Zunino is now scheduled to make his debut in a doubleheader in Everett on Saturday beginning at 5:05 p.m.
For Zunino, a highly-decorated catcher from the University of Florida, pushing the tarp was just a part of being on a team.
For manager Rob Mummau, who was off watching practice in the batting cages when the tarp became stuck, it was typical of Zunino.
"Oh no, I didn't know he did that," Mummau said. "But that's just like him. That's the kind of guy he is."
Like all of Everett's players in the short-season Northwest League, Zunino is staying with a host family and driving a borrowed car. Zunino said he is just another baseball player chasing a dream to play in the major leagues.
"I like to think of myself as an extremely hard worker and I try to push everybody around me," Zunino said. "I like to stay loose at the same time, though. I'm here for the same reason as everyone else — to get better, win ballgames and have fun.There are no expectations. I just want to get out there and play baseball."
Zunino, a stocky 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 29th round out of in 2009 out of high school in Cape Coral, Fla.
"I didn't have any money thrown my way so it made it an easy decision to go to Florida," Zunino said. "I was set on the school and happy with that decision. It was a great three years there and it definitely paid off."
Zunino led Florida to the College World Series three seasons in a row. As a junior, he started all 66 games for Florida and was fourth in the nation with 19 home runs, 10th in the country with 67 RBI, third with 28 doubles and 11th with a .669 slugging percentage.
Zunino said he has no timetable to move up the Mariner farm system and feels he needs work on all phases of his game.
"Everything needs to be improved," Zunino said. "There's nothing I can be completely satisfied with. I just need to fine tune everything everyday."
Zunino collected just about every major collegiate award after his junior season ended in June. He won the 2012 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, recognizing the top amateur baseball player and was selected Baseball America's college player-of-the-year.
Zunino was scheduled to be Everett's designated hitter in his pro debut, a role he may stay in for a few games while he gets acclimated to pro baseball.
Zunino joins a hot Everett team leading the Northwest League with a 20-7 record.
"I'm just happy to be back to playing some ball," Zunino said after being off since June 18 when Florida was eliminated from the College World Series. "I'm just going to do everything I can to help the team win." We're in first place right now and if I can help them stay there, that's the main goal, to try to win games."
Mummau, who scouted Zunino in Florida, wasn't surprised to see Zunino's name called so early.
"It's a combination of things," Mummau said. "It's his power, his ability to receive and throw, and his makeup. I've known him for a while. He's got the whole package."