The Star-Studded Rattlers Outfield

Way out in Appleton, Wisconsin there is a team that very few in the Seattle area even know about, let alone follow on a regular basis. It might be time for that to change, thanks in large part to three outfielders who grace the grass at Fox Cities Stadium.'s Dan Larson spoke with trio to help introduce them to the Mariners fans in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you been following Major League Baseball's All Star Game Fan Vote? If not, here is what you have missed: the three leading vote getters to start in the National League outfield are Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Sammy Sosa, respectively. With Griffey Jr. getting his 500th career home run against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 20, that means that all three now belong to the prestigious "500 home run club."

What does this mean to Mariners' fans? Well, nothing. But, with so much attention being placed on a starting outfield, the time seems appropriate for a closer look at the dynamic trio that roams the outfield for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Seattle's Mid-A affiliate.

Left fielder Josh Womack, center fielder Wladimir Balentien and right fielder Chris Colton definitely have a long way to go before their names can be mentioned in the same sentence as the three outfielders that will most likely represent the National League on July 13 in Houston, but there is little doubt that they form one of the most formidable outfield tandems in the Midwest League.

Womack is perhaps the most well known of the three, as he was the Mariners second round pick in the 2002 MLB First-Year Player Draft. This season, he has gotten most of his at bats as the lead-off hitter in the batting order, a role his is still adjusting to.

"I'm not really used to leading off," said Womack. "I really don't feel much different hitting one, eight, or nine."

If he is not comfortable in the leadoff role it certainly does not show, as he is hitting .320 in the slot. By contrast, his batting average elsewhere in the order is .253. Womack also amassed 11 stolen bases and a team-leading 49 runs, numbers that put him in the upper echelon of the league in each category.

His counterparts, Balentien and Colton, compliment his speed and run scoring ability on the bases nicely. The two are tied for the team lead in home runs with 11 each and have a combined 81 RBI.

Perhaps more impressive than what the three do at the plate is how they perform in the outfield. They have combined to play 192 games this season and have committed just three errors, all by Balentien.

"Make the routine play," said Womack. "They always say, 'Don't go to make the spectacular play, just stay inside yourself and not try to go the extra mile to make the extra throw. Just do what's expected of you and good things will happen that way.'"

And good things have definitely happened for these three thus far this season. It should come as no surprise, however, because they have great chemistry both on and off the field.

"Everybody is great friends," said Womack. "Everybody communicates on the field. We know we've got to do our jobs. We know what they (the other outfielders) have to do so we always push each other that way."

Womack, a third-year pro out of San Diego, Calif., also said the three motivate each other and make sure that when one person makes a mistake they pick their head up and move on.

"We have a good relationship," Balentien said, echoing the same sentiment. "We help each other out and don't have any problems."

The three have clearly meshed well in the outfield this season, and the results have followed suit. Let us hope the Mariners can keep them together and follow their paths all the way to Safeco Field.

While the Timber Rattlers' trio is still light years away of being mentioned in the same breath as Bonds, Griffey and Sosa, they have shown through the first half of the season that they can at least be mentioned one of the best outfield combinations in the Midwest League.

And right now, they'll take it.

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