Leone, pink backpack in the Big Leagues

Earlier this season, the fraternity of former Clemson baseball players who had made it to the Major Leagues added another member when Dominic Leone made his debut with Seattle.

It happened April 6 in a game at Oakland. Along with Brad Miller, currently the Mariners' starting shortstop, Leone is one of two Clemson products currently playing in the American League.

Leone was in Texas in mid-April for one of his first road trips as a big leaguer and with a gaudy, monogrammed pink backpack in tow to announce his rookie status to the world when he talked with us.

But it's not so bad.

He figures if he has to pay his dues by ensuring that backpack is stocked with refreshments for his fellow relievers and even has to sing on command when asked to by the M's veterans, it's a small price to pay to be in the show.

Originally a 16th round pick of the Mariners in the 2012 draft, Leone has made 11 appearances out of the bullpen this season, sporting an 0-0 record and a 2.13 ERA. Overall he's given up 10 hits and three earned runs in 12 and two-third innings with seven walks and 12 strikeouts.

Not too bad bad for a rookie, eh?

Here's CUTigers' conversation with the former Clemson standout as he makes his way in the Big Leagues:

What has your time with the Mariners been like thus far?
Leone: It's been awesome. Luckily I've pitched well and we've been playing well as a team. It's fun to get out there and prove yourself to everybody.

How nervous were you in your debut?
Leone: Yeah, it's the same thing. When I first got out there, my nerves were up a little bit and then I gave up the double to (Eric) Sogard and as weird as that sounds, that kind of put me in the moment. That settled me down and I was good after that.

So, are you and Eric Sogard forever linked since you surrendered your first hit to him?
Leone: Well, yeah. Funny story, I played with his brother in the (Arizona) Fall League this past fall. I played against him also at NC State. The big running joke was that if you ever face my brother, it'd be funny, it'd be awesome. So, when I got called up, he texted me and said hey, hope you face my brother. Sure enough, he was the first guy I faced. I was like, this is unbelievable.


Originally a 16th round pick of the Mariners in the 2012 draft, Leone has made 11 appearances out of the bullpen this season, sporting an 0-0 record and a 2.13 ERA. (Roy Philpott)
Given your friendship with Alex Sogard, did he at least rib you about giving up your first knock to his brother?
Leone: No, he's a good guy. He texted me after and was like hey, congrats. I said yeah man, your brother got me. He said that's OK, you'll get him next time. It was pretty funny.

How famous (or infamous) is this pink backpack you know carry around?
Leone: Yeah, it's monogrammed. That's what it's all about, you get called up as a rookie and it's definitely wearing a pink backpack that'll earn you some respect as well as performing. But it's all fun. You've got to learn to enjoy it, embrace it and kind of run with it and have fun with it.

So, what does this mythical pink backpack have in it?
Leone: Just the typical stuff-waters, Gatorades, stuff like that. It's nothing crazy. Everyone wonders what's in the mysterious backpack? No, it's just simple stuff.

Brad Miller says the young players could be asked to sing in front of the team at a moment's notice. Who's in charge of that and how does that make you feel?
Leone: Everyone is subject to that. John Buck's in charge of that this year and the rumor is, nobody is safe. So once you get on that bus, it could be anybody.

So, how does that work exactly, one of you being asked to belt out a tune?
Leone: He'll call you up in the microphone and say hey, get up here, sing a song. He'll be at the front of the bus and he'll call guys out. It's pretty fun but it's nerve racking though as a young guy. You want to get up there and impress these guys. It's nerve racking. It's just a frightening moment.

"You go to Clemson and the coaching staff there preaches that they want to help you get to the next level, so seeing that guys have actually done that and moved on and succeeded is awesome."

What did you take away from your time at Clemson?
Leone: Yeah, I take a lot of what I do know from routines and stuff that I learned in college. With Coach Leggett and Coach Pepicelli and Coach LeCroy who came in even T.R. (Tom Riginos) who was there my freshman year, all those guys chipped in and helped out, kind of molding me into what I am today. They helped me establish a routine, get settled into what I feel comfortable with and were helping me learn how to be most effective for my three years that I was there. It was good.

What's it like being teammates with Brad once again?
Leone: It's awesome. We had D.J. Mitchell in the spring for a little bit. It's nice to see those guys around. It's nice having Brad here because it's somebody that you can walk in the locker room and you've spent time with him. You've had years with him. It's always nice to see those Clemson Tigers guys that are performing at the highest level because that's our goal. You go to Clemson and the coaching staff there preaches that they want to help you get to the next level, so seeing that guys have actually done that and moved on and succeeded is awesome.

What has been the biggest adjustment for you to the big leagues thus far?
Leone: I think finding that routine and being consistent with it, that's the biggest thing. There are guys who might not have a 90-plus fastball, but they locate and they do other things that are really phenomenal. Then you've got your Craig Kimbrels who throw 100 and they get by that way and have really good stuff. Being consistent with whatever you have in your arsenal has been the biggest adjustment for me. I think finding a good routine and sticking to that routine has really kind of helped me pitch well in these first couple outings.

Was giving up your first hit to Eric Sogard your welcome to the show moment?
Leone: No, it definitely was. It was one of those, the adrenaline was running and I got on the mound. Like I said, that double by Sogard kind of put me in my place. OK, we're here. We got the first one out of the way. Let's go after these guys now.

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