The resilience it takes to struggle and still soldier on is hard to come by. I finished this recap, kind of hated the beginning, and had to come back and rewrite it. I still don’t love it, but I feel like if I keep writing recaps, it’ll get easier, I’ll get better, and I may even eventually write something great. Why do I feel this way? Because I have a new example that it’s possible.
I don’t know whether or not Jake Scheiner feels like he belongs as he hangs around big league camp. On the one hand, professional athletes are known for their confidence; certainly in baseball, you have to believe in yourself to justify the grind of the minor league lifestyle. But on the other hand, imposter syndrome is particularly common among high achievers. I’d certainly understand if he did feel a bit out of place in a big league spring training game.
After all, Scheiner came to the Mariners as the afterthought return from the Phillies for Jay Bruce in 2019, and you probably haven’t heard much about him since. He’s 26 and hasn’t played above AA. He wasn’t selected for the 2020 60-player pool. He was Rule 5 eligible this year, but wasn’t protected. His Fangraphs page doesn’t even have a prospect future-value box.
But he’s kept plugging away, pursuing his craft, trying to get better.
And tonight, he was called upon in a big league (spring training) game in a high-leverage situation. For a glorious moment, his luminosity got to schine.
Touch ‘em all, Jake. You may never hit a bigger homerun in your life. Tonight, Jake Scheiner showed us that no matter how unlikely your presence, if you put in the work and dig deep to overcome your self-doubt, you can prove you belong.
Even before this moment, it was clear this game was about trying to belong, though the story was more about established guys trying to fit into a new group. Starting a new job is hard enough under any circumstances. But the new Mariners have to try to carve out a place for themselves within a group so cohesive that they lived by the “fun differential.” Their top prospect is nightly putting on one of the greatest shows in baseball. They sold out their stadium for a non-special event for the first time in ages, and head into the year with legitimate playoff aspirations after years in the doldrums. Sure, it’d be exciting, but it’d be nerve wracking too. Four of these new guys demanded your attention tonight, but only three of them will leave feeling like they’ve done more to secure their status in the group.
Jesse Winker, erstwhile Red, started the game by letting a ball drop in that you have to imagine any decent left fielder could have reached with a little hustle:
Maybe this wouldn’t have stood out except that it was compounded by losing a routine fly ball in the lights the next inning, for what seems like the umpteenth time already:
In the scheme of trying to make a good first impression, that play rates up there with farting in the break room. Worse yet, both those plays would cost runs, the first one an RBI single, and the second a “double” that would come around to score. Later, Winker had a bad throw to second base that could have caught Carlos Rodriguez stretching a single but didn’t. With only a single hit this spring, Winker’s got a lot of work to do to establish himself as an essential part of this team. You can’t live on your prior reputation alone.
The good news for Winker is that he came over with a buddy. Eugenio Suarez has his back, and in the fourth, was determined to prevent another ball from reaching left field.
This will definitely earn Suárez a little love from Perry Hill pic.twitter.com/hDcx8dQxEo— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 3, 2022
Suarez later barehanded a bunt in a fashion that called to mind none other than Kyle Seager. As Kate alluded to in the tweet, it sure feels like Suarez has been soaking up as much of Perry Hill’s wisdom as he can. Listening to a highly respected boss? Always a good way to endear yourself to your coworkers.
For his part, Robbie Ray made himself appreciated with brute force, taking on the lion’s share of a group project without complaint. He fanned six hitters in five and a third with just one walk:
If you could take your eyes off Willy Adames nearly falling over in that video, you might have noticed Sergio Romo. Watching the game, I assure you it was the other way around. Sergio Romo offered the most charismatic in-game interview yet this spring. He exudes self-assuredness and spoke convincingly about how important it is to know yourself so that you can succeed. His locker is apparently in between George Kirby and recently announced fifth starter Matt Brash, and Romo seems to love giving the gift of his wisdom to the young pitchers. I’m jealous because I want Sergio Romo to be my mentor.
Later in the game, Romo made his Mariners debut with a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out Keston Huira on a nasty slider that is somehow hard to pick up even when you’re only protecting against an 85-mph fastball. He’s talking the talk and walking the walk, and nothing will get you to the inner circle faster than that. An all-around banner day for Romo, who also had his 40 in 25 published today, earns him tonight’s Sun Hat Award for making an important contribution to the game. He also did this:
gotta keep your head on a swivel pic.twitter.com/vioHvrwGor— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 3, 2022
Elsewhere in the game, Luis Curvello walked two but didn’t let either score, Sewald struck out the side, and Steckenrider pitched a clean inning. To be sure, tonight’s lineup was more Milwaukee Brewers Total Landscaping than the defending NL Central champs, but the pitching staff did its job tonight.
On the other side of the ball, the Mariners looked like they were going to hold the 2021 NL Cy Young winner in check when Corbin Burnes had only struck out one through the first three innings. But he would go on to strike out five of six at one point and leave the game with six strikeouts, no walks, and only two hits. One of them, though, came off the bat of a finally awake Tom Murphy at 105 mph. Behold: Corbin, burned:
A well-timed hotshot down the left field line from Souza would plate two more in the eighth to tie things up for Scheiner’s big moment. He may not be on the 40-man roster, but tonight, he broke through and looked like he belonged. It’s an example for all of us.