Seventh Rounder Ready to Go, Eh?

PEORIA, Ariz. – The Mariners will get a big boost to its minor league system this season in the form of center fielder Sebastien Boucher (Boo-shay), a seventh round pick last June who never played in 2004 after signing with Seattle.

Boucher, a Canadian native, wasn't allowed in the country due to United States immigration laws. Immigration shut down on giving away Visas last April, according to Boucher, and after the draft no Canadians could get in to play. Anybody from any foreign country couldn't come in to the country until October."

It wasn't until then, last fall, that Boucher was able to get some work in as a Mariner farmhand. He flew down to Arizona in October to take part in the final weeks of instructional ball, getting his feet wet in the system, then it was back home to Ottawa for the rest of the offseason..

"I just went home and worked out to get ready for spring training," said Boucher. "There are facilities back home where I can work out."

Heading into draft day, Boucher was touted as a quality center fielder coming out of Bethune Cookman University in Florida, a player who could cover ground defensively. At the plate, scouting reports compared him to a young Kenny Lofton; he could leadoff, he could get on base and he could swipe a bag.

Being unable to showcase his talents after draft day, Boucher felt frustrated back home in Canada. As he remained away from the baseball diamond, the other Mariner draftees were making progress, taking part in their first pro season. That didn't sit well with Boucher.

"That was a little tough for me to take," said the outfielder. "I wanted to come out and actually play. I signed early, too."

The addition of Boucher to the Mariners farm system in 2005, if all goes as planned, will significantly upgrade the organization's depth in the outfield. With speed and instincts that could allow him to steal 30-40 bases, only Jamal Strong could compete with Boucher in that category among M's minor league outfielders.

"I've got good speed and I can run the bases pretty well," said Boucher. "That's definitely my best asset right now. I like being a leadoff guy. I believe that's what they drafted me for. Get on base, steal some bags, get the offense going a little bit."

With the help of Mumba Rivera, another Mariner draftee last June out of Bethune Cookman, Boucher has become increasingly comfortable with his teammates and his surroundings this March. Rivera, an affable person, made the transition easier for the outfielder.

"It was nice when I got out here to have at least one person that I already knew," said Boucher. "He brought me around to meet everyone else.

As of now, with spring training quickly winding down, Boucher says he hopes to play in Wisconsin this season. It appears likely, though, that he'll begin the season in extended spring training down in Arizona.

"I didn't play last year and sort of lost a year on all the other drafted guys," he said. "I'm hoping for Wisconsin, but I think I'll start out in extended to make sure I'm ready."

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