Ever since he first picked up a baseball playing tee-ball and Palamino ball in the Mountlake Terrace Youth Athletic Association, Aaron Brooks knew the game would be a lifelong pursuit. “I just want to play baseball; that’s all that really matters,” said the now 21-year-old. “That’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.”
Brooks will be spending this summer playing baseball for the Everett Aquasox, the Class-A short season affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Everett opened its 2013 Northwest League season on June 14 and is scheduled to play 76 games through Labor Day. Aquasox home games are played at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Brooks found out he was being assigned to play with the Aquasox just three days before arriving in Everett earlier this month. “I knew Everett was a place I could go,” he explained. “It gave me something to really shoot for. I wanted to come home and play here.”
Brooks, a 2010 graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School, still has plenty of connections to the area. His mom and dad live in Mountlake Terrace and plan on attending all of Brooks’ home games. “They actually bought season tickets when I can get them free tickets,” Brooks said. “That’s them for you; they’re pretty committed.” Their support even extends to some Aquasox away games; they made the trip to Spokane to see Everett’s first series of the season, and have said they hope to travel to other Aquasox away games this year.
Brooks is looking forward to having the support of parents and friends this summer. “I feel that having people I know, fans I know, come out and watch the game actually helps me,” he said. “You feel more comfortable. Looking up into the stands and seeing people you know, they’ve already seen you pitch — they’re there to support you.”
The 6-6 right hander already has one appearance on the mound in relief for the Aquasox this season. Brooks pitched the final two innings for Everett on June 16, picking up the save in a 4-3 Aquasox victory. He hopes to see many more opportunities to pitch for the team this season. “However many innings they need me to throw, I’ll throw them,” he pledged.
Brooks was drafted by the Seattle Mariner organization in 2012 and spent his first season playing professional baseball in the Arizona League last summer. He picked up 10 saves in 17 game appearances, striking out 21 and walking only three in 18 innings for the AZL Mariners. This year he hopes to improve on the 4.00 ERA he had last summer; “If I can keep it below three, I’d take that,” he said.
While posting a strong ERA is Brooks’ short-term goal for this season, his ultimate ambition is to get to the Major Leagues. “I don’t really have an exact timeline,” Brooks explained. “Whenever I get there, if I get there, then I get there.”
For now, Brooks will be playing on the same field where he used to watch Aquasox games when growing up. But his perspective on Class A baseball is different now that he is on the field. “When I came and watched Aquasox games I used to think, ‘ah, it’s just baseball.’ Now that I’m here and I’m playing in it, I have a whole different respect for these players and this level of baseball.”
Brooks explained that he didn’t see too much of a difference in the level of play in high school and at the community college level — he played one year at Edmonds Community College in 2012. But jumping into professional baseball, even at its lowest minor league levels, he realized that the talent and abilities of the players is much higher. The batters he faces throughout an opposing team’s lineup are all capable of strong at-bats, he said.
“The coaches always say, ‘it’s seven, eight, nine coming up’ (a reference to the seventh through ninth hitters in a battling lineup). But they can still hit the ball. They got drafted for a reason,” Brooks said.
The day Brooks found out he was drafted by the Mariners in 2012 is still fresh in his memory. He had been on the scouting list of a few teams, so Brooks had some inkling that he may be selected. “It’s not that it was a huge surprise that I got drafted, but it’s still an amazing experience,” he said. “You never really are ready for it. It’s very surreal that you get drafted and say, ‘wow, I get to play major league baseball.’ I don’t think anyone is ever really ready for that.”
Brooks feels he is ready for the next step in his baseball career. And his philosophy is simple: “Just come in and do the best I can.”
You can see the complete 2013 Everett Aquasox schedule here.
— By Doug Petrowski