As a lifelong Mariners fan, Taylor Ard
grew up idolizing players like Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez. Little did he know while he was watching some of the Mariners' most historic teams, though, that he would one day have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.
Just two weeks into his professional career, the Everett AquaSox first baseman is doing everything he can to make the most of his opportunity.
Ard's path to the Mariners organization was not direct -- he was drafted by the Marlins in 2010 and the Red Sox in 2011 before finally settling down with the Mariners in 2012. The Vancouver, Wash., native started his path to the Majors a few weeks ago after signing his contract at Safeco Field, an opportunity that allowed him to venture into the clubhouse and meet some of the Mariners' current players.
All of a sudden, Ard's Major League aspirations seemed much more obtainable.
"Meeting the guys, you realize when you talk to them that they're just ordinary guys just like you, and they were in your spot at one point in time," he said. "Your dream of becoming a big leaguer could become a reality."
Just 13 games into his professional career, Ard knows he still has everything to prove. Even so, his .320 batting average has already started to open some eyes, and his 13 RBIs are second most in the Northwest League. He is also fourth with a .560 slugging percentage and sixth in on-base percentage at .424.
He attributes his quick start to a number of factors. For one, he actually prefers using a wooden bat over aluminum and had three years of experience swinging one prior to his Minor League debut. More importantly, he's not focused on the numbers he puts up in the box score, but knows he needs to string together quality at-bats and be aware of pitch selection in order to progress.
The 22-year-old's discipline and work ethic is already paying off.
"So far, he's done a good job with his consistent approach, and he's done a good job swinging at strikes, laying off the balls and taking his walks," said AquaSox hitting coach Scott Steinmann. "Everybody brings something different to the table, and with Taylor, it's his power."
Ard finished his junior season at Washington State with 12 home runs, which ranked third in the Pac-12 Conference. The professional level is much more taxing on young players, though, just based on the travel schedule and number of games played. Most young players refer to that as a grind.
Ard simply calls it the dream.
"I'd much rather be playing baseball every day than going out and looking for a 9-to-5 job, so I'm blessed to have this opportunity," he said. "Being able to be in a position where potentially I could be playing for the Mariners one day, it's definitely like a dream come true."
They grow up so fast: OF Rymer Liriano, who played for the Eugene Emeralds in 2010, will represent the World Team in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City on July 8. Liriano hit .271 in 53 games with the Emeralds that year.
200 and counting: Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett earned his 200th win as a manager June 17 with a 7-3 win over Vancouver. Hulett has managed the Indians longer than any other skipper and won the NWL title in 2008.
He said it: "We had a little talk in there before the game, and I said, 'Guys, we're playing for first place right now. ... We had fun with it. You can build on a game like this for sure." -- Hulett to the Spokane Spokesman-Review after their first win of the season.
Help wanted: The Canadians are looking for volunteers to help coach and umpire children ages 6-11 in the Vancouver Canadians Baseball League. Those interested should contact email@example.com.