By Shannon Drayer
Willie Bloomquist had other offers on the table. He also knew Arizona was interested in bringing him back, but when the phone call came from agent Scott Boras with an offer from the Mariners, Bloomquist had no question about which direction he wanted to go.
"I had no reservations about saying take it, take it now," Bloomquist said Thursday from his home in Arizona. "The opportunity to come back home, the Mariners presented that to me. I was certainly excited to have that happen."
Having a two-year offer was also a positive both in terms of security and comfort in his new (and old) clubhouse.
"It allows me to hopefully take on a little bit more of a leadership role knowing I am going to be around these guys for a couple of years at least," he said. "This is, from what I understand, a very young and very talented team. Hopefully, the fact that I am a little bit older and have been around a little bit I might be able to establish myself [in] a little bit more of a leadership role and help these guys reach their full potential, whatever that might be, help point out things I have learned over the years."
While largely unfamiliar with the current team – Felix Hernandez is the only remaining teammate from when Bloomquist was last with the Mariners – he did have conversations with former hitting coach Dave Hansen as well as outfielder Raul Ibanez, who told him he would be a great fit.
"Everyone has said I think you [have] the type of mentality that maybe they can learn from, and hopefully I can bring that to the table with this organization," he said.
Bloomquist did drop a little bit of the "grittiness" that he is known for in the interview, at one point saying that if you give less than 100 percent you are a disgrace to the uniform. That is still there. What has changed is that he knows himself and his limitations better than he did in his first go-round in Seattle.
"When you are young and breaking in, I was just so gung-ho in wanting to play, wanting to play, wanting to play," he said. "I still have the same role, but I have more embraced that role, accepting what I am capable of doing and what I am not. Early in your career, in that situation, you are not quite sure what you are capable of doing because I had really never gone out and played every day and had that opportunity."
He got that opportunity in stints with the Royals and Diamondbacks.
"It made me a better player to realize that the Mariners are not signing me for my power numbers," he said. "Sometimes it takes going out and playing to know what you can and cannot do."
He feels he still has plenty to bring to the table and will do so completely healthy after dealing with a pair of injuries last season. The broken hand he suffered when he got hit by a 94 mph fastball is completely healed and the oblique strain is behind him. He is excited about the prospect of coming home to the team that wanted him both coming out of high school in Port Orchard, Wash. and college at Arizona State. He is also excited to see what other additions general manager Jack Zduriencik makes to the Mariners.
"I know in talking with Jack, he still has some stuff up his sleeve that is going to make us a better team," Bloomquist said with a slight chuckle. "I think with the moves that are in the future, what they have with the good 1 and 2 punch at the top of the rotation, we get going in the right direction, this could be a dangerous team."