The Traveling Man

For his first two minor league seasons, Josh Ellison took the typical path minor leaguers usually do after being drafted. Ellison, chosen by the Mariners out of high school in 2001, started in the rookie league with Peoria in 2002, then moved up to short-season Single-A ball in Everett in 2003. By all indications, 2004 was going to follow a similar course for the outfielder.

As it turned out, though, 2004 was anything but typical for the 11th round draft choice. Amazingly, the 21-year-old spent time at every level in the organization this past season, filling in whenever and wherever needed all season long. He accepted the role with open arms.

"I look at it like I was very fortunate to be able to go to each level to play this year, and to be able to learn different things about pitchers at each level," said Ellison.

The outfielder began the season at extended spring training, then was called up to Wisconsin early in the summer. After a hot start, he hurt his neck and lost his stroke, finishing with a .209 average in 91 at bats.

Ellison was then sent down to Everett, where he spent all of 2003, staying only a week before being called up to the California League to play for the High-A Inland Empire 66ers.

His chance to move up to Double-A San Antonio came when the team needed a temporary outfield replacement for Shin-Soo Choo while the outfielder participated in the Futures Game.

Once Choo returned to the Missions, Ellison went back to the 66ers. Then, in the final weeks of the season, the well-traveled outfielder got a promotion up to Triple-A Tacoma to play for the short-handed Rainiers.

Quite a journey, especially when considering it didn't really begin until about midseason.

Ellison, due to his unique perspective, was able to get an up-close-and-personal look at the wide-range of pitching from the low minors to the high minors. He says it was easy to see a difference at each stop.

"At extended spring, you see a lot of guys who are all over the place," he said. "One minute they could be painting the corner, the next minute they could hit you.

"At Everett and Wisconsin, guys throw a lot harder. They have a lot firmer fastball, low 90's, and decent breaking balls.

"In the Cal League, guys throw their breaking ball more for strikes there, even at 2-0 and 3-0 counts. They can mix it up real good.

"At Double-A, they hit their spots, and in Triple-A, it looks like they are painting (the corners) to me. In the time I was there, I think there were three pitches over the plate."

Ellison finished with 5-for-22 in his stint with Tacoma, and is back home in Florida now in the opening weeks of the offseason. He hopes to find a league where he can play fall ball, but if not he plans to just stay in shape so he can be ready to go in 2005.

As for where he expects to begin next season, that is up in the air.

"I'm prepared to go anywhere," he said.

Honest words from a guy who has been everywhere, at least as far as a Mariners' minor leaguer is concerned.

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