Matt Tuiasosopo: On the Fast Track

APPLETON, Wisc. - The Seattle Mariners and their fans feel they have a few gems in their minor league system. Guys who, given the proper coaching and experience, can someday blossom into potential star ballplayers at the major league level. As far as position players go, none may have the upside of Matt Tuiasosopo.

Selected by the Mariners in the third round last June, the 18-year-old from Woodinville, Wash. has been impressive so far as a professional, despite the constant pressure of playing under the spotlight. He hit a home run in his first professional at-bat, and hasn't looked back since, finishing 2004 with a .412 batting average at Peoria and a .248 average at Everett. So far, it'd be hard to ask for anything more.

This season has started out much the same for Tuiasosopo, as he has surged out of the gate. Through Wednesday, he's carrying a .381 batting average and already has a walk-off home run to his credit, coming in the 11th inning Wednesday afternoon against Quad Cities. He's also tied for the team-lead with seven RBI and has scored four runs as a member of the Mariners' Mid-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

When asked what the biggest difference was in the baseball he knew prior to being drafted to the baseball he was now playing, the Rattlers shortstop noted the everyday abilities of all the players.

"I was at the big league camp, and it was an amazing experience to see how consistent they are with everything," said Tuiasosopo, "and that's probably been the biggest thing so far, consistency."

Tuiasosopo has been consistent thus far, and so have his teammates, leaving the up-and-coming prospect with an optimistic viewpoint for the season.

"Top to bottom, they have top prospects in the organization here. That shows just how good our organization is," Tuiasosopo said, adding, "It makes it easier, we all played with each other last year. I played with some in rookie ball and some in short season, and we have some camaraderie."

Sharing the same opinion as many in the Mariners' front office, Tuiasosopo expects good things from his 2005 team, with one goal in mind…

"We want to win our league, the Midwest League," said Tuiasosopo, who is a shortstop for now but could very well end up as a third baseman or corner outfielder in the future. "We want to be consistent, hitting wise and defensively, and make the routine plays."

Even though the Rattlers' shortstop was highly touted coming out of high school, he has still managed to turn many heads thus far in 2005.

"He has just been improving a little bit at a time, everyday, getting better and better," said Rattlers' hitting coach Tommy Cruz. "I'm just excited to see him play, and improve throughout the season."

The Seattle Mariners and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have, what they think to be, a future star in Matt Tuiasosopo. How far can he go? What does his future hold? There's no telling for sure, but if the early signs of this season mean anything, the answer to both those questions will likely end up being music to the ears of Mariners' fans around the globe.

Scouts and coaches have watched, tested, and drilled him; and all have agreed. With his unique combination of size, talent, and work ethic, the sky is the limit for the kid from Washington.

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