Sports

Bloomquist sets all-star example for local youth

1996 South Kitsap High School graduate, Willie Bloomquist, has played for the Seattle Mariners since 2002. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
1996 South Kitsap High School graduate, Willie Bloomquist, has played for the Seattle Mariners since 2002.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

When it comes to baseball in Seattle, he never will be confused with Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez.

Even retired pitcher Aaron Sele -- a former North Kitsap High School standout -- was a more accomplished major leaguer.

While 1996 South Kitsap graduate Willie Bloomquist isn’t a significant major league player, the Mariners’ utility player is an important figure in Port Orchard. And it’s nice to see the Kitsap County-Bremerton Athletic Roundtable and Kitsap Sports Council honor him after the Aug. 24 game against Oakland at Safeco Field.

Bloomquist, 30, might as well be the aforementioned stars when it comes to Little Leaguers and those who wear the Wolves’ pinstriped jerseys. They see a hometown player notorious for his work ethic who overcame physical limitations to become a third-round draft pick in 1999.

They see hope.

Perhaps with the same dedication to training and relentless pursuit of success, they, too, can earn a college scholarship and play pro baseball. Bloomquist was such a committed Little Leaguer that his father, Bill, and friends helped construct a field in the family’s backyard.

The commitment never has waned. Bloomquist helped guide coach Elton Goodwin to the second of his three state championships in 1996 at South with a 23-0 record. He helped Arizona State reach the College World Series in 1998, and then returned to the Northwest to play for his childhood team.

In Seattle, Bloomquist has had to make some adjustments. He never has been a strong enough hitter to be a major-league starter. After posting a .321 slugging percentage in 2003 -- his first full season with the M’s -- Bloomquist could have found himself out of the majors.

Instead, he’s improved in other areas. While his slugging percentage has remained consistent -- his career mark is .324 -- Bloomquist has worked on his plate discipline. In 2004, he had an abysmal .283 on-base percentage. On this year’s free-swinging, last-place squad, Bloomquist has the best on-base percentage (.382) of any player with more than 100 at-bats.

Bloomquist entered the major leagues in 2002, which was manager Lou Piniella’s last season in Seattle. Piniella stressed the importance of versatility and used it to find such players as Mark McLemore and Desi Relaford consistent playing time. Bloomquist learned that early and played every position besides catcher and pitcher two years ago.

In an era when high-school coaches complain that their players are resistant to making adjustments and listening, Bloomquist should serve as an example for upcoming athletes. In a nondescript way and without Hall of Fame talent, he’s become one of the most successful athletes Port Orchard has produced.

Now that is worth recognizing.

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