The decision helped lead the infielder to signing with the Mariners, which has him thinking there maybe were greater forces involved, too. “I had someone up there looking down on me, for sure,’’ he said.
PEORIA, Ariz. — The only person who might have wanted Shawn O’Malley to someday wear a Mariners uniform more than Shawn O’Malley was his father, Rich.
“He was a huge Mariners fan,’’ says O’Malley, a utility infielder and non-roster invitee to the team’s major-league camp. “He’d been a Mariners fan through thick and thin. He was at the game when Edgar (Martinez) hit the double (to win the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees). So it’s really cool now that I’m here.’’
O’Malley only wishes his father was, as well.
Mariners 4, A’s 0
Notable: At Peoria Stadium, the Mariners broke open a 1-0 game in the eighth inning, scoring three runs with RBI singles from James Jones, Stefen Romero and Patrick Kivlehan. The Mariners’ earlier run came in the fourth inning. Kyle Seager doubled to right field and scored on Justin Ruggiano’s single to left. Four Mariners pitchers — Erasmo Ramirez, Jordan Pries, Tyler Olson and Carson Smith — combined for the shutout, giving up three hits. The game lasted just 2 hours and 25 minutes.
Player of the game: Brad Miller didn’t have a hit or drive in a run. But he had one of the bigger plays of the game. In the first inning with a runner on third and one out, the Mariners elected to bring the infield in to cut off the run at home. It was an atypical strategy for the situation in the game, but not for spring training, when teams work on those situations. Standing on the infield grass, shortstop Miller made a diving stab of a low rocket off the bat of Marcus Semien. Miller then flipped to third to double up the runner and end the inning. Miller also drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth that started Seattle’s rally.
Quotable: “It was nice. That’s not an ordinary spring-training game.” — manager Lloyd McClendon on the quick, clean game.
On tap: The Mariners will play night baseball Thursday as they host the Cleveland Indians at Peoria Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Taijuan Walker will make the start for Seattle, and right-hander Carlos Carrasco will get the nod for Cleveland. The game will be televised by ROOT Sports and broadcast by ESPN 710.
Rich O’Malley, a former star football player at Richland High School who raised his family in Kennewick, died of a heart attack in July 2013 at age 55.
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His father’s death came in the middle of a crossroads season for Shawn O’Malley, a fifth-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2006 out of Southridge High in Kennewick. O’Malley had not made it past Class AAA with the then-Devil Rays, two shoulder surgeries helping stunt his progress.
At the end of the season, his contract with the Rays having run out, his father’s death still fresh and having also gotten engaged, O’Malley thought about giving up baseball.
“It was just rough,’’ he said. “I had been playing so long. I just thought, ‘I’m about to get married and start a family; maybe I should just pack it in.’ ’’
His wife, Samantha Paradise — the women’s basketball coach at Andrew College in Cuthbert, Ga. — helped convince him to keep playing.
“My wife was persistent in me playing another year and just having fun,’’ he said. “So was my mom and my brother and my sister. And I was like, ‘All right, why not?’ ’’
The decision helped lead him to signing with the Mariners, which has him thinking maybe there were greater forces involved, too.
“I had someone up there looking down on me, for sure,’’ he said.
Before becoming a Mariner, though, came the realization of another goal he had hoped to share with his father, finally breaking through to the majors.
That came with the Angels, who were the only team to offer O’Malley a spring-training invite in 2014. He responded with his best season, hitting .330 with Class AAA Salt Lake to earn a major-league call-up in September, roughly three months shy of his 27th birthday.
Pinch-hitting for Albert Pujols in a blowout win at Minnesota, he got a hit in his first at-bat, beating out a chopper to shortstop.
When his mother, who had made the trip from the Tri-Cities, greeted him afterward, the first thing she said was, “Your dad would be so proud.’’
“He (his father) had probably been dreaming about that just as long as I had,’’ O’Malley said. “It sucks he wasn’t there in person. But I know he was there. I could feel it.’’
O’Malley was released after the season when the Angels traded for second baseman Johnny Giavotella.
But this time, there was no doubting whether O’Malley wanted to keep playing. And when the Mariners called with an offer a few days later, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made.
“You have to weigh your options,’’ O’Malley said. “But there was just a good vibe (coming from the Mariners). Sometimes it’s just a vibe feel.’’
Seattle signed O’Malley in part as insurance in case Willie Bloomquist wasn’t ready for the season after having microfracture knee surgery last year.
Bloomquist is healthy, so O’Malley likely is looking at beginning the year at Class AAA Tacoma.
O’Malley has just one hit in 14 spring at-bats, but his versatility and steady fielding have made an impression on manager Lloyd McClendon.
“I think he’s a very serviceable big-league player,’’ McClendon said. “I like him a lot. He certainly adds depth for us.’’
And O’Malley hopes that proves enough to someday play in a major-league game for his dad’s favorite team.
“It’s crazy how it’s worked out,’’ he said.