EVERETT — The Everett AquaSox didn’t make the Northwest League playoffs this season, but their 2019 campaign still produced some notable storylines.
Here are five that defined the Frogs’ recently completed season:
1. Young blood
The AquaSox made waves throughout Minor League Baseball when veteran manager Jose Moreno was suspended and later relieved of his duties, leading to 25-year-old Louis Boyd being named the team’s skipper on July 23.
“It was like a dream come true,” Boyd said of his 38-game stint as Everett’s manager. “I’ve always told myself I wanted to get back to the Pacific Northwest for a summer. There is no better place to spend a summer. … The fact I was given this chance and this opportunity and (had) a chance to go home and see family and see fans that I remember from when I played here, (it’s) been such an advantageous situation for me.”
Boyd was listed as a player on High-A Modesto’s roster at the start of the 2019 season, but his playing days were numbered when he told the Mariners he was interested in coaching. He had a graduate assistant position lined up at his alma mater, the University of Arizona, but instead found himself coaching the infielders at Modesto under manager Denny Hocking — an experience Boyd said helped prepare him for his new assignment.
“I kind of came in with that belief that I could do it,” Boyd said. “I was helped really well from Denny in Modesto and I felt like he prepared me really well and I trusted my ability to lead and I knew that I would be able to learn a bunch just by being able to absorb information from my staff (in) the situation that presented itself.”
Prior to officially taking over, Boyd spent a week getting to know the AquaSox players.
“(That week) was incredibly valuable for me because the players were able to learn who I was as a person, not as the manager,” he said. “They were able to be themselves and mess around and not worry about saying the wrong or right thing. I think because of that, when I stepped into the manager role, guys trusted me and could be themselves, no matter what. I thought guys benefited from that and I benefited from that.”
What does the future hold for Boyd? He’s not sure.
He said he would like to continue to manage in the Mariners’ organization and would welcome a return to Everett.
“Obviously I would love to be back here,” Boyd said. “This is a perfect situation for me. I couldn’t ask for anything more, so it would be phenomenal if I could be back.”
2. No walking here
George Kirby hates walking people. He’ll tell you that and his numbers certainly reflect that attitude.
The Mariners’ first-round pick in June’s major-league draft made it through his first professional season without issuing a free pass in 23 innings. He became the first NWL pitcher to not walk a batter with a minimum 20 innings pitched since future big-leaguer Dan Otero accomplished the feat for Salem-Keizer in 2007. Kirby is just the 10th pitcher since 2006 to post zero walks in 20 innings or more over a season in all of Minor League Baseball.
“It was good to see a zero in the walk column to end the season,” Kirby said. “Just with the way I command it and left the zone when I needed to, it was difficult for hitters to be comfortable, I guess. Overall, I did good job with command and being able to throw strikes and making guys try to beat me.”
Kirby was more than just an elite control pitcher. The Elon University product compiled a 2.35 ERA in nine appearances — eight starts — and averaged 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Although batters hit .270 against him, he didn’t allow a run in six of his nine appearances for the AquaSox.
3. Local player finds his footing
AquaSox outfielder Trent Tingelstad, a native of Marysville, brought a healthy cheering section with him to every Everett home game. The Mariners’ 22nd-round draft pick in June, Tingelstad was assigned to Everett for his first pro season.
“It’s really special,” Tingelstad said of being the hometown player. “I don’t think many people can say they played in their hometown. There are so many teams, so many affiliates. To have one in your hometown and to end up there, it’s special.”
The Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate hit .240 with five homers, 11 doubles and a team-high 41 RBI.
AquaSox hitting coach Joe Thurston said Tingelstad came into pro ball with above-average plate discipline and evolving power.
“He definitely controls the zone very well,” Thurston said.
Tingelstad said he’s headed to the Mariners’ spring-training complex in Peoria, Arizona, this fall for the organization’s annual high-performance camp.
4. Breaking the glass ceiling
The Mariners made a groundbreaking move when they hired Amanda Lee as the AquaSox’s athletic trainer, the first female to work in that role in the organization’s history.
Female athletic trainers are rare in professional sports — not just baseball — but Lee’s gender was no distraction.
“There hasn’t been a moment since I’ve been here that something seemed different because she’s a female,” Boyd said. “She’s not our female trainer. She’s just our trainer. We don’t look at her as anything different. She does a great job of being an athletic trainer for the Everett AquaSox.”
5. A pitching staff full of possible gems
Kirby was the main attraction of Everett’s pitching staff in 2019, but there was much more to Everett’s rotation and bullpen this season.
Several hurlers on Everett’s staff who showed promise, perhaps none more than second-round pick Brandon Williamson, who compiled a 2.31 ERA in 15.1 innings. The TCU product added a curveball and a revamped slider to his arsenal, which already included a fastball that touched 95 mph. He averaged 14.67 strikeouts per nine innings.
Meanwhile, Vancouver, Washington, native Damon Casetta-Stubbs (11th-round pick in 2018) was the true workhorse of the rotation, leading the NWL in innings pitched (70). Tim Elliott, the Mariners’ fourth-round pick in June, was limited to just 30.1 innings but was solid, posting a 3.86 ERA. His piggyback partner, Jorge Benitez (ninth-round pick in 2018), was hit or miss, but he was awfully good when he was on, including a five-inning no-hit outing against Eugene on Aug. 23.
Several other members of Everett’s staff distinguished themselves during the season, including right-hander Juan Then. Seattle’s No. 16 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, Then was promoted to West Virginia on Aug. 18 after the 19-year-old compiled a 3.56 ERA in 30.1 innings in Everett. Ivan Fortunato, 20, quietly assembled a 3.20 ERA for the AquaSox, and crafty left-hander Brayan Perez, the Mariners’ No. 18 prospect, put together a 3.23 ERA in 30.2 innings.