By David Krueger Herald Writer
EVERETT — Aaron Brooks didn’t need a host family when the Seattle Mariners assigned him to Class A Everett last week.
In fact, if necessary, Brooks would be willing to house an AquaSox teammate in his old apartment.
Brooks, a former Mountlake Terrace High School and Edmonds Community College pitcher who is in his second season of pro baseball, finds himself in a unique situation this season — playing for the local team he grew up cheering for.
“It’s kind of weird to be pitching in this stadium as a member of the AquaSox,” Brooks said. “I watched them growing up … and now I’m here playing. It’s kind of an awesome experience.”
While growing up in Mountlake Terrace, Brooks developed into a big Seattle Mariners fan, and was a regular at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“One of my longtime friends had season tickets to the AquaSox and I used to come to games all the time with him,” Brooks said. “I’m a big fan.”
After spending his freshman season at Gonzaga, Brooks transferred to Edmonds Community College where he went 7-3 with a 2.71 earned-run average and 60 strikeouts as a sophomore. He then received a pleasant surprise during the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
“I knew at some point I would get drafted, but the shock was getting drafted by the Mariners,” Brooks said. “It was a very, very exciting moment for me.”
Seattle selected him in the 26th round. He spent his first season with the Peoria Mariners in the Arizona Rookie League. He made the jump to Everett this season.
“I wanted to get here last year, but it was great that I got to come here this year,” he said. “The anxiety of practicing down in Arizona (in extended spring training) and not knowing where I’m going to go and seeing the possibility of Everett made me work extra hard to get here. I knew it would be a great time and a great experience.”
Now Brooks is back in the Northwest — and back in his old apartment. He lives with his girlfriend and another roommate, and while he didn’t fill out the official paperwork, he said he’d be willing to serve as a host family.
“I would,” he said, “if someone needed a place to live.”
Brooks said Everett is a great place for him to be assigned because he is comfortable with his surroundings, and because he enjoys looking into the crowd and seeing a few familiar faces.
“It actually is very nice to have (family and friends) around,” Brooks said. “When I played in Arizona, I didn’t know anybody down there. I come here and there’s a bunch of fans and I know half of them. It’s really cool to have support for myself and the team.
“I think this is a great place to start pitching in front of a crowd for me, because I know a lot of them and it’s kind of easier to learn how to deal with that pressure of pitching in front of a crowd.”
AquaSox manager Rob Mummau said playing so close to home can be either a positive or a negative for a young player.
“I think it depends on the kid,” Mummau said. “Sometimes it can be a distraction. Sometimes it can be a good thing where he feels comfortable in his home state. I’m just getting to know Aaron and we’ll see how it goes.”
Rich Dorman, Everett’s pitching coach, said he believes the familiar surroundings will help Brooks this summer.
“I’ve seen it go both ways,” Dorman said. “I’ve seen it work well, and help the kid. I’ve also seen them try to press more to impress his family and friends. I think he’s more headstrong than that. He should be fine.”
Brooks, a right-handed relief pitcher, posted a 0-1 record with 10 saves and a 4.00 earned-run average last season at Peoria.
“Everything that I’ve seen from him I like,” Dorman said. “I like his makeup. So it’s just a matter of letting it happen for himself and realizing it’s not a sprint, this is a marathon. It’s a career.”
Brooks’ AquaSox debut came last Wednesday in the Everett Cup, the annual exhibition contest between the Frogs and the amateur Everett Merchants. He came on in the ninth inning and, by his own admission, wasn’t as sharp as he hoped to be.
Dorman said Brooks just “overthrew” in his first game on the mound. Pitching in the ninth inning, Brooks gave up a hit and a walk before working out of what Dorman called a “self-induced jam.”
The pitching coach said he expects Brooks to put it behind him and have a strong season.
“In August he’s going to be a different guy,” Dorman said. “He’s going to improve with every game, every outing.”
Brooks said his first-game struggles weren’t because he was overly excited to be pitching in his home state. He just had an off night.
But, Brooks remains confident those off nights will be few and far between.
“I just didn’t have it last (Wednesday),” he said. “But it’ll come. I’m comfortable here and with comfort on the field comes success.”