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All In The Geographic Family

June 7, 2004
By Corey Brock

SEATTLE--It appears as if Matt Tuiasosopo will be throwing a new ball this summer.

The two-sport standout from Woodinville High was the Mariners' first pick in Monday's first-year player draft.

Tuiasosopo, a quarterback recruit for the University of Washington, was taken in the third round with the 93rd overall pick. A righthanded-hitting shortstop, Tuiasosopo batted .394 with a home run, 14 RBI and 13 stolen bases for the Falcons. Tuiasosopo is rated by Baseball America as the state's top prospect and the 60th best overall player in the draft.

Tuiasosopo hasn't decided if he'll pursue a professional baseball career or play football at Washington. Still, he sounded as if he were leaning toward baseball during his press conference at Safeco Field.

"I met with the Mariners (Sunday) and I told them I wanted to be a baseball player--and a Mariner," Tuiasosopo said. "This is a game that I love playing. I let them know that this is what I can see myself doing." Now if he can just convince his family.

Tuiasosopo's older brother, Marques, played football at Washington, leading the Huskies to the Rose Bowl. He's currently on the Oakland Raiders' roster. Another brother, Zach, is now a fullback at Washington. Tuiasosopo's father Manu played football at UCLA as well as professionally for the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Mariners never expected Tuiasosopo to be available. The popular thought Monday was Tuiasosopo's football commitment to the Huskies have scared teams from taking him earlier in the draft. The Mariners themselves weren't exactly hot and heavy after Tuiasosopo, though that was partly by design. "We didn't want to tip our hand," scouting director Bob Fontaine said. "We felt it was best just to let things play out. But we think that he's a good one."

Though Tuiasosopo had contact with Seattle during the season, he hadn't met with Fontaine until Sunday. It was at that meeting where Tuiasosopo reiterated his intentions to play baseball--and not football. "The meeting convinced all of us that this was something we had to explore," Fontaine said.

Now all that needs to be settled is Tuiasosopo's signing bonus. Tuiasosopo will likely get better money than most third-round picks. His bonus could be approach $1 million. Tuiasosopo has already said he will only do one sport or the other, but not both.

"That's really important to me," Tuiasosopo said. "I have always played three sports. For me to be the best player I can be, I want to put my focus into just one thing."

Hanging above Tuiasosopo in the press interview room Monday was a Seattle jersey with his name on the back. He's not a Mariner yet, but the general feeling from both parties was his signing could occur in the next few days. "Right now, I'm just excited," Tuiasosopo said. "I will be talking it over with my family and with the Mariners. And hopefully we'll come to an agreement."

MARINADE

The Mariners drafted 16 players on the first day. Seattle didn't have a first or second pick, as they lost those selections to the Royals and Twins as compensation for signing Raul Ibanez and Eddie Guardado.

The Mariners used their fourth-round pick on a catcher--a position the organization is lacking in. Rob Johnson, a righthanded-hitting catcher from the University of Houston, hit .335-7-46 for the Cougars after starring in 2003 at Cypress (Calif.) Junior College.

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