M’s take a chance on Tuiasosopo

  • By Larry Henry / Herald Writer
  • Monday, June 7, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Which sport will it be for Matt Tuiasosopo – professional baseball or college football?

That’s a decision the Woodinville High School senior hopes to make in the next few days.

The Seattle Mariners made him their first choice in the Major League draft on Monday, picking him in the third round with the 93rd selection overall. He also has signed a letter of intent to play football for the University of Washington this fall.

Tuiasosopo, a shortstop, hinted strongly that he wants to play baseball. In a meeting with M’s officials the day before the draft, he said he told them “I want to be a baseball player. I want to be a Mariner and I was lucky enough for them to come out in the 93rd pick and draft me.”

The M’s were his favorite team growing up. “It’s a good fit,” he said at a press conference at Safeco Field before the M’s opened a three-game series with the Houston Astros Monday night. Hopefully, things will work out.

Tuiasosopo was projected as a first-round pick by Baseball America, but the fact that he had already signed with the Huskies might have scared off some teams. The Chicago Cubs, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the New York Yankees had shown the most interest in him.

Not until Seattle called on Sunday and arranged a meeting did the family know the Ms were also keen on him. They were pretty low profile the whole baseball season, Tuiasosopo said. They told me that they didnt want to come out and show their cards.

The Ms were hoping he would still be available when they picked, but knew there was a possibility that he wouldnt be. Matt was a young man that, regardless of where we drafted, we had a lot of interest in, said Bob Fontaine, vice president of scouting. Having been through a lot of drafts and having your heart broken the pick before because somebody selects a player (you wanted), you learn … its not over til its over and the players there (for you to select). We were all very pleased that he was there, but none of us showed any emotion until the pick actually took place.

Tuiasosopo could play college football and professional baseball, but felt that in order to be the best player I want to be, Id put all my focus into one thing.

Fontaine said whichever sport he picks, hes going to be a good player. And the Mariner exec praised him for deciding to go with one sport. I think something thats a real credit to him, that really sat so well with us (is) for a young man 17, 18 years of age (hes 18) to make a decision to go forward with one sport, to give up one he truly loves, shows a lot of determination and dedication, whatever the decision is, Fontaine said. Youve got to respect that. We think that type of makeup, that type of determination is going to make him a very, very good baseball player.

That is, if he decides to play baseball. And that, of course, will depend on what kind of money the Ms offer, though that subject hasnt been discussed yet. Talks are expected to begin shortly with his representatives. Hopefully, we can get this resolved as fast as we can, Fontaine said.

A shortstop in high school, Tuiasosopo is also projected as a shortstop in the pros.

What kind of player could he be?

A good one, Fontaine said.

The big loser in all of this could be the Huskies, who signed the best football player in the state when they signed Tuiasosopo.

An outstanding quarterback, Tuiasosopo said hes talked with the UW coaches about the possibility of playing baseball and theyve been really supportive. They just want the best for me, whatevers in my heart.

He sounded as if baseball has a stronger tug on his heart strings than football. He mentioned watching Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez as a youngster.

Was that bigger than watching Brock Huard play quarterback for the Huskies? Probably, he said. I loved going to games and watching the Mariners play.

Just as baseball is his favorite sport, so is Rodriguez his favorite player.

Tuiasosopo comes from a family of gifted athletes. His father, Manu, played in the NFL. His oldest brother, Marques, led the Washington Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory his senior year and now plays for the Oakland Raiders. His second oldest brother, Zach, plays football for the Huskies. His oldest sister, Leslie, was a volleyball star for the Huskies and is now an assistant coach at the UW.

Each member of his family, he said, did his or her own thing, and I will do what I want to do and do it with my heart.

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