EVERETT — Marcus Littlewood’s professional baseball career began with a brief false start. But today his coming out party begins in earnest.
The talented young shortstop is the most-prominent name on the roster when the Everett AquaSox open the 2011 Northwest League season today at Tri-City,
and Littlewood is ready to show why he’s considered a top prospect.
“This is awesome,” Littlewood said about getting his professional career under way. “I’m going through a lot of learning experiences, living on my own and becoming more independent. But I’m loving it. I’m growing up and maturing.”
Littlewood, a 19-year-old from St. George, Utah, was the Seattle Mariners’ second-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound switch hitter was often cited as the best position player ever produced by a Utah high school, and he currently finds himself knocking on the door of the top 10 on most Mariners prospect rankings.
“He’s got power in his bat at a young age, and the glove and the arm are starting to play better in the field,” Everett manager Scott Steinmann said. “He’s still 19 so he’s learning a lot, but he learns every day and is a very coachable young man.
“I’m starting to see why he was a second-round pick.”
Littlewood is a true baseball rat. His father, Mike, has been the head coach at Dixie State College in St. George since 1996, and he also coached the Zion Pioneerzz of the now-defunct independent Golden Baseball League. So Littlewood grew up immersed in the game.
Littlewood built a huge reputation as a prep player, and when the Mariners selected him 67th overall he became the earliest high school position player ever selected from Utah.
But Littlewood nearly passed up on his chance to join the Mariners organization. He had committed to play collegiately for the University of San Diego, and Seattle’s recruitment efforts extended to the final day of the signing period last August before they finally landed him, thanks to a reported $900,000 signing bonus.
“It was tough,” Littlewood said about deciding between college and the pros. “Going into the draft I knew I was going to play the whole summer with USA Baseball, so that was set in stone. But I would change my mind every day, it seemed.”
Because the protracted negotiations lasted until the minor-league seasons were almost over, Littlewood was not able to make his professional debut, leaving that milestone for this year.
However, Littlewood is not making his professional debut with the Sox. He was assigned to Clinton of the mid-Class A Midwest League out of spring training, an aggressive assignment for a teenage position player with no professional experience.
Littlewood struggled in the chilly midwest spring, batting .158 in 27 games before being returned to extended spring training in Peoria, Arizona. But Littlewood was not discouraged by his stint with Clinton.
“It was a great experience,” Littlewood said. “I started off really hot, then I went into this miserable slump that I couldn’t seem to get out of. I know I would have gotten out of it if I stayed there. What I take from that is just to forget the game before and go at it the next day.”
Littlewood got his game back on track the past three weeks at extended spring training, and now he’s getting a second chance at a first start with Everett — at a level more consistent with his experience level. He’ll play primarily at shortstop for the Sox, but will also see some time at second base.
Steinmann, who helped coach Littlewood during his stay at extended spring training, already signaled his intent to put Littlewood into a key role, batting Littlewood second in Wednesday’s Everett Cup exhibition game.
“When he returned to extended, he started a little slow, but the last couple weeks he really turned it on,” Steinmann said. “He’s got a really good eye for being a young player and he actually showed a little power at extended. I was surprised he had that much power. He got back going in the positive direction, and I’m looking forward to him doing well.”