Cole Young’s Welcome to the Mariners moment wasn’t his meeting with manager Scott Servais on Tuesday afternoon. It wasn’t taking ground balls at shortstop with J.P. Crawford, showcasing the athleticism and arm that made him the Mariners’ first-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft.
It wasn’t the handful of homers he deposited into the stands during batting practice, drawing knowing nods from Servais, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and assistant general manager Justin Hollander.
And it wasn’t signing his contract that included a signing bonus of $3.4 million, which is slightly over the slot value ($3,292,900) of the No. 21 pick.
Nope, it came just after the Mariners’ daily infield workout and the transition to batting practice when coach Perry Hill hollered in his raspy falsetto voice that echoed through an empty T-Mobile Park.
“Cole! Pick up those baseballs!”
Young, all of 18 years old, turned red and smiled, as Crawford, Ty France, Adam Frazier and others chuckled at his initiation into professional baseball from the always-gruff Hill.
“He’s just trying to get me better, which I enjoy doing,” Young said.
A slick-fielding shortstop with a lefty swing out of North Allegheny High School in western Pennsylvania, Young had committed to play baseball at Duke, and the Mariners knew they had to pay a little more than slot value of the 21st pick to get him to sign. They quickly reached an agreement after last week’s draft.
“To be a part of such a great organization means a lot to me,” Young said. “I’m glad I’m part of the Mariners organization.”
The Mariners players welcomed Young to the organization as only they can — teasing him like he was one of their own.
When he did the fundamental work of fielding grounders on one knee in front of the dugout, Young looked visibly nervous. He missed the first ball and bobbled the second. Out of nowhere, a player’s glove went flying toward him.
“Use this one, that one doesn’t work,” one player said.
No sympathy for the kid?
“He makes more money than I do,” another player said.
Young took the ribbing with a smile. Relaxing and handling the drill with ease.
He also looked comfortable at shortstop, working with Moore and Crawford. Hill was out there talking to him the entire time — always teaching.
“He’s got a few things with his footwork and crossing over his feet, but I can fix that in 30 minutes,” Hill said.
Crawford, who was the No. 16 pick of the 2013 draft by the Phillies out of Lakewood High School in Southern California, didn’t get to participate in a workout after signing. He was impressed by Young.
“He was good,” Crawford said. “He seems like a great kid. But he’s a Steelers fan, so I don’t know about that.”
Crawford knew Hill would be focused on Young during the infield work and would hold him accountable like the big-league players.
“That’s why he’s the best,” Crawford said.
Young was happy for the critique and the attention.
“I’d take ground balls all day,” he said.
He will report to the Mariners complex in Peoria, Arizona, in the next few days, start working out and possibly participate in the complex league.
“I just gotta keep working harder, and I should never be satisfied with where I am,” he said. “I’m just gonna keep working hard.”
Servais, who relishes talking to draft picks and prospects in an initial get-to-know-you meeting, offered him some advice in their meeting.
“They’ve all been fun to talk to,” he said. “At first they are so nervous. They come in, and they sit down. You ask, ‘Who’s your favorite player?’ to get the conversation going. They’ll always have a question or two, and I’ll give them advice whether they want it or not.”
“You’re going to play for 15-18 years or whatever it is in pro ball,” he said. “I said, ‘You’ll never remember what your batting average was in a particular year. You won’t remember how many home runs you hit in a year, but you will remember how many times you went to the playoffs. You will know the times you win. There will be four or five of your best teammates that you will stay in touch with. You’re gonna play with hundreds of players, but you’ll remember four or five guys because they’re the best teammates. So you be a best teammate. You be a really good teammate and see what happens.’ ”
Servais brought up a player who embodies It — his starting center fielder.
“I never forget the first time I met with Julio [Rodriguez],” he said. “I said two things to him: ‘Be the best player on your team no matter where you play and be the best teammate on your team.’ He takes direction very well.”