Austin Shenton Joins Select Company
Austin Shenton would never compare his swing, nor his plate approach, with that of Jose Canseco or Jay Buhner.
But count Shenton, a 6-foot, 205-pound third baseman, with those sluggers as members of the fabled few known to have ever crushed a home run over the center field wall at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium, where the Mariners hosted their alternate training camp.
Crush is probably an understatement. Cheney's center field wall is not only 425 feet from home plate—it’s also 29 feet tall.
That moonshot has been among the most memorable highlights of the Mariners’ alternate site intrasquad games and workouts, with most of the top prospects spending their time in Tacoma.
This was supposed to be the 22-year-old Shenton’s first full pro season after the Mariners drafted him as a 2019 fifth-rounder from Florida International. He played 53 games between short-season Everett and low Class A West Virginia, slashing .298/.376/.510 with seven home runs.
In the down time between spring training and summer camp, Shenton made a batting cage at his parents’ home in Bellingham, Wash., bought workout equipment off Craigslist and went on frequent bike rides to stay in shape. He also worked out with NFL safety Taylor Rapp, a fellow Bellingham native.
But Shenton’s big homer off 2019 first-rounder George Kirby on a 98 mph fastball on Aug. 11 was a welcome result in what had otherwise been a struggle for Shenton in the intrasquads.
“Honestly, I haven’t been hitting the ball extremely well so far,” he told reporters afterward. “I’ve put in other good ABs, just not really found any results. This this was kind of a breath of fresh air.”
Canseco and Buhner launched pitches over the wall during batting practice, with Canseco doing so as a member of the Tacoma Tigers and Buhner in 2001 while on a rehab stint. The only players known to hit a baseball over that wall in actual games were A.J. Zapp (2004) and Shin-Soo Choo (2005).
“I think it was a mixture of luck, Kirby throwing really hard—and a decent little swing,” Shenton said.
— Top outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez, who suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist diving for a ball during a workout in July, had resumed full baseball activities, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
— Righthander Erik Swanson on Aug. 17 went to the 10-day injured list with a right forearm strain after making six appearances with the big league club.
— Righthander Logan Gilbert, a 2018 first-round pick, hasn’t been a big fixture at Seattle’s alternate camp because of a lat injury suffered during summer camp, but he's worked on adding a changeup to his repertoire.