Who's got next? The Mariners' Dustin Ackley
Dustin Ackley was coming to a new city to play on a new team at a new level of professional baseball.
And on top of everything else, he was still learning to play a new position.
But in a season of meager accomplishments by the Seattle Mariners -- the team finished last in the four-team American League West for the second straight season and the sixth time in eight years -- Ackley gave the ballclub hope for a more promising future.
The 23-year-old Ackley was voted the team's Most Valuable Position Player by the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for a season in which he hit .273 with six home runs and 30 RBI after being promoted from Class AAA Tacoma on June 16.
Ackley attended the University of North Carolina, where he played mostly first base and outfield. But the Mariners, who selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, moved him to second base in the spring of 2010, and a little over a year later he was playing that position in the major leagues.
"I feel like I progressed a lot at second base," Ackley said last week. "Making that transition and the adjustment to the major leagues was, I think, the biggest goal I had (after arriving in Seattle). And I think I was adequate at second base. I don't think I was a liability.
"With the pace of the game, and with me being so new at that position, it was kind of tough at times. I still had situations I'd never been in before, and there were times I was caught off guard by things. But I learned enough from my coaches and teammates to where I don't think it was a complete disaster."
At the plate, he went on, "I was happy overall with how I hit. I wish I would've finished stronger (his average dipped in the season's final days), but with the work I'm doing in this offseason to get ready and then knowing what to expect this upcoming season, I think that'll really help me."
Since the season's end, he said, "I've been working really hard. I'm going in (to next season) as strong and as healthy as I've ever been."
The Mariners need a few more players of Ackley's potential -- OK, maybe several more -- to be serious contenders in the years to come. But for now, second base seems to be a position in good hands for the team's foreseeable future.
"I've felt confident in my ability ever since I got to the major leagues," he said. "I had a decent amount of success (as a rookie), even though my numbers weren't crazy or outrageous. And now I feel this is something I can do for a long time. I feel like I'm going to have a lot of success from here on out."
Monday: Everett Silvertips
Tuesday: Seattle Mariners
Wednesday: Husky football
Thursday: Husky men's basketball
Friday: Husky women's basketball
Saturday: Seattle Sounders FC
Sunday: Seattle Seahawks
Monday, Jan. 2: Washington Stealth
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