Class Can Wait

Baron opts for minor leagues over Duke

Peoria, Ariz.—By all rights, catcher Steven Baron should be in the Duke lineup this year.

He was drafted 33rd overall last year out of Miami's Ferguson High by the Mariners with their supplemental pick, but Baron's mind was set—he was going to Duke, and that was all there was to it.

That was before Seattle catching guru Roger Hansen was put on the job of changing Baron's mind. That wasn't easy and changing the mind of Baron's parents was even harder.

At the end of the day, Hansen sold the Mariners as the right place for the 19-year-old Baron to continue his baseball career. The last holdout was Baron's father, whose heart was set on his son continuing his schooling.

"He kept saying, 'Look you are going to school to get an education,'" Baron said. "My mom was iffy, (saying) it was my decision. My dad was 'go to school, go to school.' Even after I was drafted I was still intent on going to school. It wasn't until the contract was in front of me that I realized I had to do it."

And after a season working out in Miami with, among others, Alex Rodriguez, Baron is making points with Seattle's brass.

"The kid can catch," said manager Don Wakamatsu, himself a former catcher. "To think that he's a year out of high school—it's amazing.

"He's a pretty confident kid and he's a strong kid, much stronger than I envisioned, especially right out of high school. He's got great leg strength. But he's got real soft hands and a presence about him. He's not intimidated by any means."

Mariner director of pro scouting Tony Blengino went so far raving about Baron's hands as to say that had Baron been born north of the U.S.-Canada border, he would be an NHL-level goalie.

The Mariners have high hopes for Baron to make a quick ascent through the Seattle minor league system, even though the organization is as deep in catching as in any position.


• Outfielder Greg Halman had taken so many swings before camp opened that when he reported, he was sporting a bandage on his left hand. It's nothing serious, however.

• Lefthander Ryan Feierabend is back throwing again after missing last year following Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Although he'll get a long look in spring, Feierabend is likely to pitch with Triple-A Tacoma when the season starts.