Craig Tearing Up Northwest League in Encore Season

EVERETT, Wash. - As a minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, the Everett AquaSox have grown accustomed to dramatic roster changes from year-to-year. Minor league baseball is, after all, a business of uncertainty. This season, only four players have carried over from the 2004 AquaSox squad. One of those players, however, has become one of the few sure things at Everett in the early going.

In the battle for the Northwest League West title, the Sox have found one of their greatest consistencies in outfielder Casey Craig.

Craig put up respectable numbers for Everett in 2004, batting .265 with five home runs and 30 RBI, but his offense this year has exploded. After stints earlier this year with High-A Inland Empire and Double-A San Antonio, Craig returned to Everett where his numbers have been amongst the best on the team. In 18 games this season, the La Mesa, Calif., native is hitting .354 with two homers and nine RBI.

Some of those numbers may be attributed to his time spent with Inland Empire and San Antonio, where Craig experienced a higher level of play.

"Everything's pretty much the same [as Class-A baseball], only people get a lot more consistent," said Craig. "Everything kind of flows more. It's just quick baseball and good games."

Craig was limited to four games with Inland Empire and eight with the San Antonio Missons. He didn't get enough playing time to see his numbers truly take off as they have with the AquaSox, but Craig says he never felt underused.

"The organization told me exactly what they expected from me and they brought me up there and everything worked out exactly how they said and how it was supposed to," said the 20-year-old outfielder.

Along with bouncing around to different teams, Craig has been filling positions in the outfield whenever and wherever a vacant spot has called for his expertise. He grew up playing centerfield, but has recently found another spot in the outfield grass more to his liking.

"I got signed as a centerfielder, I've always played centerfield, but since I've been playing [in the minor leagues] I've mostly played left field and I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable out there," said Craig.

Craig finds himself equally comfortable in the left-hand batter's box. This past Sunday, in a 12-11 AquaSox win over division rival, Salem-Keizer, Craig put up arguably his best offensive performance of the year. He finished the game with five RBI—four of which came off of a grand slam in the second inning. The towering shot to right was one of the longest homers Everett Memorial Stadium has seen all year. He struck again in the fifth with a solo shot to right-center.

While Craig is indeed a power-hitting force to be reckoned with, his real strength lies in his ability to get on base and put runs on the board. Through July 11th, Craig has 11 stolen bases and 20 runs scored. He has also drawn nine walks and hammered out six extra-base hits. Though he has been utilized mostly as a leadoff hitter, Craig says he's comfortable anywhere in the lineup.

"It doesn't really matter, I like hitting everywhere," he said. "It's just good to be in the lineup, pretty much."

"He likes to hit where Pedro wants him to hit," says Alex Gary, referring to Everett manager Pedro Grifol.

Gary, along with the rest of the AquaSox roster, has been following Craig's example as the team's offense has exploded in the last week. During a recent road trip to Boise, the Frogs took four games in a five game series and scored a total of 43 runs.

"Everybody is starting to mesh together a little more and starting to have a little more fun as a team and everything's starting to click," says Craig.

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