by Mark Harris
PEORIA — First baseman Dan Vogelbach was a key player for the Cubs last season. It was actually the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, not the World Series champions.
A midseason trade to Seattle left him watching from afar Chicago’s successful run, which concluded with Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery, another key player in the deal, inducing a 10th-inning groundout to secure the Game 7 victory.
His focus is on the Mariners now and the rookie is making the most of the opportunity. Improved defensive play has put him in a good position to make the 25-man roster and be part of a first base platoon with Danny Valencia. Although his hitting has cooled off a bit this spring — he’s hitting .268 with one home run — his .292 average and .505 slugging percentage in Triple-A last season has Seattle excited about his future.
Now Vogelbach, 24, is trying to acclimate to his new life with the Mariners, and luckily for him, the Seattle clubhouse is a welcoming environment.
“You go into that clubhouse and everybody helps each other,” Vogelbach said. “(Kyle) Seager is always open to questions and he always helps. You take advantage of that, you take advantage of a guy that’s been successful at the highest level.”
Seager is a ideal player to emulate. The 29-year-old third baseman has a Gold Glove and All-Star appearance and had a spectacular 2016 season, hitting .278 with 30 home runs and 99 RBI.
And even though the Mariners clubhouse is full of big names, Vogelbach feels like he fits in with the group.
“The guys in there, no matter how good they are or how good they’ve been, they’re never too good for anybody,” he said. “You got (Robinson) Cano and (Nelson) Cruz and they’re never too good for anybody, never too busy for anybody.
“It’s been fun. I’m just going to continue to learn and take in from guys who’ve been successful at the biggest stage.”
Before arriving in Seattle last season, Vogelbach spent all his time with the Cubs organization in the minors.
And although he was at Cubs spring training for about “a week and a half” last year, he never had a realistic chance of making the Opening Day roster.
He did, however, excel in Iowa, batting .318 with 16 homers and 64 RBI in 89 games. His production dipped a bit in the Mariners’ Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .240 with seven home runs and 32 RBI.
The Mariners liked what they saw from Vogelbach, and called him up to play in eight games at the end of the year.
“Being up there for a little bit and getting a taste helps you slow down the game and see how things work up there,” Vogelbach said.
Vogelbach only recorded one hit in 12 at-bats in the big leagues with Seattle, but he has played well in his first spring training with the Mariners and odds are good he will stick around.
And then, maybe, create new memories.