Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in June's baseball draft, was introduced Tuesday at a news conference at Safeco Field. Zunino will take batting practice Tuesday with the Mariners.
Catcher Mike Zunino described his day at Safeco Field as a tease Tuesday.
The third overall selection by the Mariners in the June draft was introduced to the media during an afternoon news conference. A few hours later, he took off his silky silver suit and buttoned up a Mariners batting-practice jersey.
It took him a few rounds to find his swing as he took hacks with the Mariners. But Zunino, Baseball America’s College Player of the Year, didn’t finish without blasting a few tape-measure homers, including an upper-deck shot to left field.
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“For not hitting in a couple weeks, it felt pretty good,” Zunino said, referring to his layoff since his Florida Gators were eliminated from the College World Series. “Definitely some fine-tuning stuff to get done in the cages, but I feel pretty good.”
The consensus first-team All-American stuck around with his family and fiancee to watch Felix Hernandez on the mound. Zunino’s father, Greg, is a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. Greg Zunino has known general manager Jack Zduriencik since they were amateur scouts in Texas and Oklahoma 23 years ago.
“He’s definitely been the person to expose me to the game and bring me to games since I was really young,” Zunino said about his father. “It’s one of those where he’s been there for me all the time to talk baseball and just to be very reassuring. No matter bad game or good game, he always tells me to look forward to the next day and play again.”
Zunino will take that mentality with him to Everett, where he will start his career in Class A with the AquaSox. As a finalist for the 2012 Golden Spikes Award, Zunino will fly to New York for the Friday ceremony.
And the tease will continue when he will be honored at the All-Star Game next week in Kansas City, Mo.
“It’ll be a good spot for him,” Zduriencik said. “He’s been off for a little while now, and some of these interferences he’s going to have these first couple of weeks we’re going to go ahead and work on him with that. We’ll let him play there and see how the summer unfolds. But that’s the schedule right now.”
Zunino takes pride in his defense and relationship with his pitching staff. Zduriencik and M’s scouting director Tom McNamara went to see him at Florida, and after a 16-inning game, Zduriencik said he was impressed by how Zunino cleanly caught every ball.
“You just got to put the time in, and we had great arms,” Zunino said. “You’ve got to be patient, put the time in, catch their bullpens and hold a conversation with those pitchers about what their strengths and weaknesses are and just kind of work with them.”
Zunino said he needs to improve on his consistency at the plate, something his father agreed with. Greg said his son was selective during his at-bats his sophomore year, but he tried to score more runs his junior year. It led to some swings outside of the zone.
“Sometimes when you’re going good, you try to do too much and when you’re struggling you try to do too much to get out of it,” Zunino said. Zunino spent time after batting practice trying to soak up as much information as possible. As exciting as this time is for Zunino, those emotions weren’t reduced.
“This is definitely going to get me a little bit more excited and a little bit more ready to get out,” Zunino said.