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August 31, 2009 at 6:21 PM

Dustin Ackley takes his first hacks

Let the record show that Dustin Ackley’s first swing as a Mariner produced an opposite-field line drive — a clean single into left.
OK, it was batting practice, but it still made Ackley feel good.
“That first swing, I didn’t know where the ball was going to go or if I was even going to hit it,” he said with a laugh after taking a round of BP before Monday’s game with the Angels. “It was a relief. I was glad to see the ball was hit hard, at least.”
Ackley, who on Aug. 17 signed a five-year major-league contract with the Mariners that will pay him at least $7.5 million and possibly $9.5 millon, was in Seattle to officially sign his contract (advisor Scott Boras was on hand, too, as well as his family from Walnut Cove, N.C.).

As part of the day, Ackley donned a Mariner uniform (No. 13, his college number at the University of North Carolina), held a press conference, schmoozed nervously in the clubhouse with current Mariner players, and took batting practice. It’s the typical routine for a No. 1 draft pick, but this one had a little more scrutiny than usual because of Ackley’s status as the No. 2 overall pick.
Ackley said he didn’t really like all the eyes on his BP session, which he took with the final group of the afternoon — Michael Saunders, Ryan Langerhans, Jack Wilson and Rob Johnson.
“I would just as soon everyone turn their back’,’ he said. “I like that better.”
But Ackley, despite his admitted nerves, sprayed line drives all over Safeco Field — a venue he called “sweet. I’ve heard great things about it, but being here, you could really tell.”
“It was good,” he said of his hitting session. “It was nice to get out there and take some swings and feel what it’s like.”
In the clubhouse, he shook hands with Ken Griffey Jr who he said was one of his favorite players growing up in North Carolina.
“I played his video game, had Wheaties boxes with his picture on it,” Ackley said. “He’s one of those guys I’ve always grew up watching.”
Griffey is out of the lineup with a sore knee, but he still put on a show in BP, hitting numerous homers, one into the second deck in right.
“It’s pretty sweet. Watching him take BP was spectacular,” Ackley said. “You watch him in games, but in BP, he’s putting balls everywhere. It’s pretty unbelievable being in person with him.”
Mike Sweeney squired Ackley around, and Ackley said that Langerhans and Saunders, among others, also went out of their way to make him feel comfortable.
GM Jack Zduriencik said Ackley will stay in Seattle for a couple more days before heading to their training complex in Peoria, Arizona.
“We’re going to try to get him back in baseball shape, and then he’ll matriculate into the Arizona Instructional League,and after that the Arizona Fall League,” Zduriencik said. “From now until the end of the Fall League, he’s going to get a lot of baseball, and then be ready for spring training.
Asked for his expecations as he begins his professional career, Ackley said,” I’m really excited to get going. I’m just trying to prepare myself to put myself in position to move as fast as I can. How fast that is depends on the people around me and things like that. I’m going to put myself in position to move as quickly as possible, and hope things work out.”
He said he was glad to get the signing process over and begin playing.
“It was a lot of sweat and nerves,” he said. I’m just excited for it to be over with and things to get going.
Ackley proclaimined his arm is “100 percent, if not close to it,” after Tommy John surgery in July of 2008. The Mariners drafted him as an outfielder, though he played mostly first base at North Carolina.
“I’ll just try to do the best I can, prepare myself and be ready for however fast I may move up,” he said. “Whatever that is, I’ll be faithful that things work out my way.”



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