Seattle Mariners fans are already familiar with Dave Valle. The former major league catcher spent 10 of his 13 big league seasons in a Mariners uniform and has spent the last 16 years as a member of the M’s television broadcast team at ROOT.
But Tri-City Dust Devils fans can catch Valle in his new gig as manager of the Everett AquaSox, who are in the middle of a five-game Northwest League series at Gesa Stadium.
Valle is a NWL veteran himself, having made his professional debut for the Bellingham Mariners in 1978.
“I was 17 years old out of New York City. I thought I was the toughest street kid out there,” Valle said. “I found out quickly after going 0-for-30 that this is a different league.”
They were the first stumbling steps on a professional baseball journey that lasted nearly 1,000 games in the majors, with 77 home runs and 350 RBIs.
Valle said a lot of things have changed since he toured the Northwest with his fellow Bellingham teammates in a school bus rather than the MTR coaches they use now.
“Buses don’t bother me. Now they’ve got Wifi on them, and you can watch videos,” he said. “It’s different (than) 36 years ago. It wasn’t even a big school bus, it was a short school bus. There was not one empty seat.”
Not so much has changed, though, for the family man whose dream has always been to become a professional skipper.
“I’ve always known I wanted to manage. Once my youngest was off to college, it was time to see what opportunities were out there,” he said.
Valle was one of just a handful interviewed for the Mariners job before Seattle hired Lloyd McClendon.
“It was an honor to be a part of the whole process,” he said, acknowledging that he feels he has found a place in Everett.
“With the young men I have right now, I’m more of a teacher. They’re all still learning what it means to be a professional every day. They need a lot of reminders, like my children did when I was raising them,” Valle said. “I feel like I’ve adopted 30 young men, but it’s been really enjoyable getting to know them and understanding how they think.
“My biggest desire is to remind them what an honor it is to be playing a game for a living and also that it carries tremendous responsibility. They can’t blow (the opportunity) on something non-baseball related.”
NCAA hit men: When the Dust Devils lineup was introduced for Wednesday’s home opener at Gesa Stadium, the fans got to see the last two NCAA batting champions — outfielders Mike Tauchman and Drew Weeks — introduced one after the other.
Tauchman, a 10th-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies last year, led the nation with a .425 average in 2013, while Weeks, a seventh-round pick out of the University of North Florida, led the nation this spring with a .430 mark.
“You can see why those guys are great hitters,” Dust Devils hitting coach Warren Schaeffer said. “It’s more of a confidence thing. They know they’re good, and they stick to (their approach).”
Hoelscher saves face: Tri-City rookie third baseman Shane Hoelscher, a 17th-round draft pick out of Rice University, picked up his first professional hit with an RBI single in the second inning during the Dust Devils’ 10-1 win Wednesday.
But he almost committed the cardinal sin of overrunning first base.
“I finally got one to fall in, but I almost got back-picked. I thought, ‘I’m going to get picked off,’ ” he said. “That’s why I didn’t try and go for second. I didn’t want to get thrown out.
“I get my first hit, come off the base. That’s all I got.”
Asked how much of a fine that offense would have drawn in Kangaroo Court, Weeks smiled.
“It would have been bad. At least five bucks,” he said.
Dust Devils in NWL rankings: Tri-City ranks first in the NWL in stolen bases (18), tied for second in hits (55) and third in batting (.268). The Dust Devils stats aren’t as pretty on the pitching side. They are last in ERA (7.06), hits allowed (62) and homers allowed (8).
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org