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October 26, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Matt Tuiasosopo preparing for winter ball in Puerto Rico after Samoa fundraisers

The off-season has already been a busy time for Mariners infielder Matt Tuiasosopo and won’t slow down at any point soon.
Tuiasosopo heads to Puerto Rico on Nov. 1 to begin a lengthy winter ball stint with the Criollos de Caguas squad. He’ll be playing third base primarily, but had a recent conversation with the team’s general manager and hopes to see stints at other positions.
“I’ll be playing a little bit at second base and see if I can bounce around to other spots as well,” he told me this afternoon.
Tuiasosopo was playing for the Mariners the final weekend of the season when he heard of the devastating tsunami that hit his family’s native Amercian Samoa. At least 176 people were killed throughout the Samoan Islands and entire villages were flattened by the tsunami, caused by a major 7.9 magnitude earthquake. Since that time, Tuiasosopo’s family, renowned sports-wise throughout the Seattle area, has been raising money to help the rebuilding effort.
Photo Credit: AP

On Oct. 10, he stood outside Husky Stadium with his family and about 200 volunteers and collected cash from fans in a “Fill the Helmet” drive prior to Washington’s football game against the University of Arizona. On that occasion, the family partnered with World Vision for the fundraiser.
“Everyone from my family was there, except of course, Marques,” he said, refering to his former NFL quarterback brother, now a Huskies coach. “But the next day, the whole family was there doing it again, including Marques. Both times, we got there about two, or three hours before the game and just stood out there collecting money.”
That next day was outside Qwest Field, prior to a Seahawks game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This time in a fundraising effort started by the Seahawks and Medical Teams international. Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, whose family is also from Samoa, offered to match the first $10,000 raised.
The family announced after the fundraisers that about $30,000 had been raised. Tuiasosopo had hoped to make a trip over to American Samoa this off-season, but that’s been dashed by his new winter ball schedule. He’ll have time to come back to Seattle for Christmas, but then will fly back down to Puerto Rico and play there almost until spring training begins.
Tuiasosopo’s grandfather lives in American Samoa along with scores of other relatives.
“They’re doing al lright,” he said. “They’ve had a couple more earthquakes, but I don’t think it was anything too serious.”
The family has said that anyone wishing to make further donations should do so through World Vision. Or through the Katina Missions website.
Donations can also be sent through Medical Teams International , which is partnered with the Seahawks and Tatupu.
As for Tuiasosopo’s ballplaying, he remains an intriguing part of the Mariners’ off-season plans. Tuiasosopo is obviously an option at third base, with the expected departure of Adrian Beltre. He could also be a second base option should the team decide to trade or move Jose Lopez to another position.
One free-agent I’m hearing rumblings the Mariners will take a look at is all-star second baseman Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers. Hudson was limited to late-inning substitution duty during the recent NLCS, with hot-hitting Ronnie Belliard getting the nod over him, but did swat a pinch-hit home run in the deciding fifth game.
Hudson was on an incentive-laden one-year, $3.38 million deal in Los Angeles. The Gold Glove winner had been slowed in the field by a career-threatening wrist injury the past few seasons, though he did put up 551 at-bats in 2009 — his most since 2006 and second-best total of his career.
That, in turn, enabled Hudson to reach most of his incentives and took his compensation for the season up over $8 million.
Since leaving the American League after the 2005 season, the switch-hitting Hudson has put up an on-base-plus slugging percentage in the .774 to .808 range, which is consistently better than what Lopez has managed, along with a superior glove.
The wrist would obviously be a lingering concern for a player who turns 32 in December. And Hudson’s .774 OPS this past season was his lowest since joining the NL.
But expect to hear more of his name mentioned as the off-season progresses. The Mariners have some interesting options for the middle infield.
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Geoff Baker

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