Erick Monzon, a secret no more

PEORIA, Ariz. – Upon being drafted by the Texas Rangers back in 1999, Erick Monzon had a choice – sign or go to college. The 29th round selection decided to pursue a degree, starting at the junior college route and ending at the University of Tampa, passing on his first chance at a career in professional baseball.

Monzon graduated in May, 2004 with a degree in sports medicine and a minor in personal training. With a college degree finally on his resume, his thoughts returned to pro ball, and on May 22 the Puerto Rican infielder signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Seattle Mariners.

From there, Monzon reported to Arizona and began to get his feet wet. He participated in extended spring training, learning the nuances of Seattle's minor league system. By the time the Arizona Rookie League started up in mid June, Monzon was ready to go. He appeared in three games for Peoria, and immediately made his presence felt with five hits in his first 12 at bats. His torrid start earned him a quick promotion to the California League.

The success carried right over. Monzon provided Inland Empire with a boost in the final month of the season as the team's starting shortstop. His offensive production - .339 , 7 HR, 18 RBI, 4 SB in 115 at bats – got the attention of everyone familiar with the team, and even surprised Monzon.

"Seriously, yeah," said the 23-year-old, admitting that he was shocked that he produced the way he did after being a No. 2 hitter in college. "The first year, coming out of college, I didn't expect to swing the bat the way I did. I got used to the pro level really quick, I think."

Along with his surprising offense, Monzon's "shortstop" caliber arm makes him an asset to the organization in the future. He says he's comfortable playing anywhere in the infield.

"I like shortstop, but I know how to play third and I've got used to second a little bit more," said Monzon.

The disappointing part about it is that he might have to do it at a lower level in 2005, at least at the start of the season. Monzon is currently working out with the Wisconsin team in spring camp, a full level below where he was at last season. He realizes the position he's in, however, and understands that the organization probably wants further proof that he can produce both offensively and defensively for an entire season.

"I've got to prove myself first in Wisconsin," he said. "I think I've got to prove to everyone that I can swing the bat and play defense. I think they know I can do it, I just got to do it again."

This time, there will be no sneaking up on anyone. The secret is out; the world knows about Erick Monzon.

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