J.B. Tucker: Strappin' It Up

EVERETT, Wash. - J.B. Tucker is a fifth year senior out of Wake Forest and is enjoying his first year with the M's Class-A affiliate. Prior to his years at Wake, where last season he hit .252/.332/.428 in 40 games with five home runs and 30 RBI, Tucker was a standout at Mississippi State University. Tucker transferred following the 2003 season and immediately won the Demon Deacons' starting catcher job.

He's managed to do the same in Everett, after signing with Seattle prior to the 2005 draft. Offensively, Tucker has been fairly solid, hitting .247/.374/.493 through July 22nd in 20 games with three home runs and 13 RBI. He's also tied for the team lead in doubles with nine.

Pat Dillon, the AquaSox seasoned play-by-play man, has had plenty of opportunities to see Tucker in action this year and has been impressed with what he's brought to the game.

"I think he's solid defensively," Dillon says, "He's been getting the lion's share of reps behind the plate and he's a good middle-of-the order hitter. He's just a smart all-around baseball player."

InsideThePark.com: Why did you transfer schools from Mississippi State to Wake Forest?

J.B. Tucker: Well, Wake Forest was a better fit for me because I was splitting time with another catcher at Mississippi State and I wanted to catch everyday, so I went [to Wake Forest]. Also, academically, it's a much better school and that was really important to me.

ITP: Did the transfer have anything to do with your spending a fifth year at Wake Forest?

J.B.T: Yeah, I wanted to graduate, definitely and because I transferred I lost a lot of credits, so I ended up needing that fifth year so I could get my degree.

ITP: Why did you choose to sign with the Mariners?

J.B.T.: Well, the organization has a really good reputation with developing players and my coaches highly recommended it. I had several choices, you know, because I could sign early. I wanted to get with an organization where I could learn the most, have the best opportunity, and also get the opportunity for advancement.

ITP: Do you mind splitting time behind the plate with Brian Schweiger?

J.B.T.: No, not at all. Catching everyday would be really tough on the body and he's a really great guy to have come in and catch a game. Two games on, one game off or three games on, one game off is great. As long as I'm getting in there and getting my at-bats, I've got no problem with him catching a couple games.

ITP: Is there a competitive nature between you and the other catchers?-- (Brian Schweiger and Daniel Santin)

J.B.T.: Actually, we're a pretty tight catching corps. We keep a book of the opposing hitters when the other guys are catching and well go over it and discuss hitters to try to help each other, which helps the team. We're pretty close. It's competitive in the sense that we all want to do well, but I don't think it's competitive to the point where I want [the other two] to do bad or anything.

ITP: Do you work with the pitching staff in that sense as well, logging and scouting hitters?

J.B.T.: They have their own books, as well, and we discuss a game plan for certain hitters, how we're going to get people out, and what kind of sequence we want to use, so yeah, we definitely discuss with the pitchers what we're going to do.

ITP: Do you have a favorite pitcher that you like to work with?

J.B.T.: I like working with Nick Allen the best. I like the way he pitches—he's really quick, he throws a lot of strikes, keeps everybody in the game, he can throw all his pitches for strikes, and he keeps the game moving.

ITP: Did you gain any new experience catching for rehabbing Mariners reliever Rafael Soriano?

J.B.T.: Oh yeah. It was a new experience for me just seeing the caliber of pitcher that actually pitches in the big leagues. In college, it's always a goal to reach the major leagues and catch for a pitcher that's pitched significantly in the major leagues. It opened my eyes to see that I'm not that far away [from the majors], but then again there's a lot of polishing up that all these pitchers and other players need to do to get there.

ITP: As a catcher, was it discouraging to see the Mariners sign a top draft pick this year like Jeff Clement?

J.B.T.: He's a big signee, which is a little bit intimidating, but he has to strap it up and play everyday just like me. I'll let my performance and hard work-ethic give me the opportunities I'm looking for.

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