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Mariners introduce top pick Zunino

Mariners introduce top pick Zunino

Mariners introduce top pick Zunino
SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara on Tuesday introduced Mike Zunino, the Florida catcher they took with the third overall selection in June's First-Year Player Draft.

In three years at the University of Florida, Zunino developed into one of the premier players in the game. As a junior this past season, Zunino won the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award, given to the College Player of the Year and the top collegiate catcher, respectively. He is currently a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which recognizes the nation's top amateur baseball player.

"Every once in awhile, a high first-round-type talent is out there, and that's what we saw in Mike," McNamara said.

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"I think when you look at what he brings to the table, his offensive numbers are impressive," Zduriencik said. "But his defensive leadership, what he does behind the plate, I think is going to be very important to this organization as we move forward."

With such a high talent on their hands, the Mariners had to wait awhile to bring Zunino to Seattle. First it was the College World Series, then award ceremonies in Wichita and Lubbock and still, he has obligations in New York and Kansas City. Finally, when Zunino is able to get back to baseball, the Mariners will send him to Class A Everett.

Those in Everett should expect to see an impressive offensive player, but one that prides himself on defense. Zunino said he admires the way Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek played the game, and how Buster Posey brings both offense and defense to the table.

"I'm just a hard-nosed player," Zunino said at his introductory news conference. "I take every game one game at a time, play as hard as I can. I pride myself on my defense and working with the pitching staff. Obviously enjoy swinging the bat, also, but just like to work with the pitching staff and take a lot of pride in my defense."

Zunino hit .371 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs as a sophomore at Florida, winning the SEC Player of the Year award. As a junior, Zunino hit .322 and had 19 home runs and 67 RBIs. He grew up in the game, as his father, Greg, is a scout for the Reds and his mother, Paola, was a catcher on the Italian national softball team.

"I'm just excited to be part of this organization that has so much young talent," Zunino said. "Hopefully I can continue in their groundwork. I'm just extremely grateful to have this opportunity."

Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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