Seattle's Smoak rooting for ex-mates in Texas

Seattle's Smoak rooting for ex-mates in Texas

Seattle's Smoak rooting for ex-mates in Texas
For Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, figuring out his rooting interest in the World Series isn't a tough choice.

Smoak will be pulling for the Rangers to win it all this year as they face the Cardinals in their return trip to the Fall Classic, having played with many of their players during his time in Texas before being traded to Seattle a year and a half ago.

"Of course, you always want them to do well," Smoak said Wednesday from his offseason home just outside Charleston, S.C. "A lot of guys on that team I came to be pretty close to when I was there. In fact, I'm going to be in Mitch Moreland's wedding here in about a month. It's good to see guys you played with in the Minor Leagues and came up in the system with have success that way."

Smoak, acquired by the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal in July 2010, has had to watch his former team reach the World Series twice now since his departure. It must be hard not to wonder what if, but the 24-year-old doesn't spend time going there.

He's grateful for his opportunity to be the starting first baseman in Seattle and a key piece of the Mariners' future, while wishing his old squad well.

"It is kind of weird, but even when I was there, you knew they were headed in the right direction with the pieces they had and the talent on that team," he said. "It's one of those things you saw coming, and now they're finally there."

Smoak has stayed particularly close to Moreland, the Rangers' first baseman. The two played against each other in college in the Southeastern Conference, Smoak at South Carolina and Moreland at Mississippi State, then came up in the Rangers' system at the same time.

Now Smoak is getting ready to be in Moreland's wedding in Alabama in mid-November.

"He's been texting me a lot because he wants me to get fitted for a tux," Smoak said with a chuckle. "We've gotten pretty close, and now being in Seattle and playing against each other, I see him a lot. And he's got a pretty good duck hunting place in Mississippi."

Smoak said he naturally became close with the younger members of the Rangers during his rookie season in Texas in 2010, but appreciated the veterans there as well.

"Craig Gentry and I were in the big leagues together as rookies, so he was kind of my hang-out partner," he said. "And [Ian] Kinsler was a guy who took me under his wings and showed me the ropes on and off the field. Looking back today, him being a pretty big-name guy and me being a nobody, he helped me a lot.

"It was a fun bunch. It's always fun when you're winning. It's a little different story. But that is a good group of guys. All I can do is wish them the best, unless I'm playing against 'em."

Smoak said he'll watch the World Series when he can, but acknowledged it's not easy seeing other teams soaking up the postseason experience.

"Of course you wish you were there," he said. "It's not always great to watch, but it is good to see how exciting and fun it is to have success and how much harder we have to work as a team and players to get there to have that fun.

"Let's hope one day we can bring that to Seattle."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.