Baseball / Northwest League -- Bloomquist Gets Feet Wet -- Aquasox Rookie Starting Career Close To Home
Seattle Times East Bureau
EVERETT - Willie Bloomquist drove north in his black pickup, the same king-cab truck he has driven since he left Port Orchard for Arizona State three years ago.
A very large signing bonus sits in Bloomquist's bank account. He could upgrade, but Bloomquist said that last week's six-figure check from the Mariners is no reason to change.
"I'm content with what I have now," he said.
He's happy to start his professional career, which began Friday with an I-5 commute to Everett Memorial Stadium. He's in camp with the AquaSox, Seattle's Class A team in the short-season Northwest League. On Friday, the AquaSox begin their season at home against Yakima at 7 p.m.
"I'm happy to be here," he said. "It's near home. It's a place I'm familiar with."
He meant the area, not the situation. When camp opened, he knew he would be staying in a hotel with the rest of the team; he just wasn't sure which hotel and didn't know any of his teammates.
He wasn't even sure about his position. He played shortstop in high school and college, but AquaSox Manager Terry Pollreisz said he most likely will begin the season at second base.
"I didn't know what to expect," Bloomquist said. "I just came with an open attitude, an open mind."
His only expectation was a chance to play, something he hadn't done in nearly a month. The Sun Devils (12-12 in the Pac-10, 39-21 overall) were the only sun-belt team to finish .500 in Pac-10 play and not receive an invitation to the NCAA's 64-team tournament.
Bloomquist, an ASU junior, was named Pac-10 Player of the Year after batting .394 and collecting 100 hits in his 60 games. Still, he was left wanting at least one more game.
"It's tough to go out on a sour note," he said. "It's different if a team beats you."
Instead, Bloomquist's college career ended with the televised announcement of the NCAA field, which didn't include his team.
He was ready to play baseball for a living and only a disappointing contract offer would have sent him back for his senior year.
The Mariners drafted Bloomquist for the second time. In 1996, he was their eighth-round selection out of South Kitsap High. This time, he was the Mariners' third-round choice and he was ready to sign.
His father, Bill, handled the contract negotiations.
"I didn't want to get involved in the financial stuff," Willie said. "It detracts from the game."
Last Thursday, friends, family and former coaches gathered in Bloomquist's Port Orchard home. They snapped pictures and traded jokes as he signed the six pieces of paper that made him a member of the Mariners organization.
He said his signing bonus exceeded the average for last year's third-round picks, which was $383,000.
"I'm not going to see a whole lot of it," he said. "And I'm not the kind of person who will spend it on myself."
That money will be a nest egg in the bank. Something to use down the road when it's time to buy a house.
For now, the game is most important to Bloomquist. He's playing for the organization he rooted for as a kid when Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds and Spike Owen were his favorite players.
He's ready to be on the field again and happy to let the front office decide what happens next.
Pollreisz coached Bloomquist with the Tacoma Timbers, a semipro team, two summers ago and knows what to expect from Bloomquist.
"He has always hit," Pollreisz said. "He could be a very good offensive producer at the position."
But Bloomquist is still learning. On the first day of AquaSox practice, Pollreisz explained the team's signals. He also told his players not to address him as coach, but rather, "Polls."
After practice, Bloomquist referred to him as "coach." He corrected himself mid-sentence and Pollreisz laughed.
Some habits are hard to give up. Kind of like an old truck.
-- At Sunday's practice, Pollreisz was struck in the face by a line drive while throwing batting practice. The impact broke his upper jaw bone.
"It really took me out," he said.
He was scheduled to have his jaw wired shut this morning. It will remain wired for the next two to three weeks, but Pollreisz will still handle his managerial duties.
-- Friday's game against Yakima is the AquaSox's first under new owner Mark Sperandio, who reached an agreement to buy the team from Bob and Margaret Bavasi last October. The sale was approved in March by Major League Baseball.
-- A hot tub is among the new promotions the AquaSox are offering this season. A group of up to six can reserve the hot tub beyond the right-field wall and watch the game from what Sperandio
calls the wettest seat in the house.
-- Ticket prices range from $10 Diamond Club seats to $5 general-admission seats. Youth GA tickets are $4.
. AquaSox schedule .
. Dates Opponent .
. June 18-20 Yakima .
. June 21-25 at Salem-Keizer .
. June 26-30 Southern Oregon .
. July 1-3 at Yakima .
. July 4-6 Spokane .
. July 7-9 at Portland .
. July 10-11 Portland .
. July 14-18 Eugene .
. July 19-21 Boise .
. July 22-24 at Spokane .
. July 25-29 at Eugene .
. July 30-Aug. 1 Portland .
. Aug. 2-3 at Portland .
. Aug. 5-7 Boise .
. Aug. 8-10 at Yakima .
. Aug. 11-13 at Spokane .
. Aug. 14-18 Salem-Keizer .
. Aug. 20-24 at Southern Oregon .
. Aug. 25-27 Yakima .
. Aug. 28-30 Spokane .
. Aug. 31-Sept. 5 at Boise .
. Sept. 7 NWL playoffs start .
. Note: Bold denotes home games at Everett Memorial Stadium.
. Game times: Weekday games begin at 7 p.m.; weekend games begin at 6 p.m.; July 21 game begins at 12:30 p.m.; Aug. 15 game begins at 2 p.m.
Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.