Shawn Garrett knows his way around a baseball diamond. The Rainiers' infielder/outfielder was drafted out of high school in 1997. Since then he has played every position (with the possible exception of catcher). He has been with nine different organizations (Padres, Pirates, Rockies, Athletics, Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees, White Sox and Mariners), and played on 15 different teams, all at Triple A and below.
After signing on with the Mariners as a minor league free agent last December, Garrett started this season with Double A West Tennessee. He was called up to Tacoma May 2. In 58 games with the Rainiers he is batting .276 with five home runs and 29 RBI. He is currently the only switch hitter on the Rainiers' roster. This quality coupled with his ability to play darn near every position on the team makes him very valuable. As of July 14 he has played 19 games at infield positions (mostly first base) and 33 games in the outfield.
Garrett did some pitching in high school. In fact he was a starting pitcher his sophomore, junior and senior years. In one memorable game he struck out 16, while giving up only two hits. He also played basketball in high school.
"I was drafted as a third baseman by the Padres," he said, "but when I was first drafted I mostly pitched and played shortstop (in Arizona and the California League.) The past four, five years I was more in the outfield. Since I got here (to Tacoma) I've been in the infield a lot more than on other teams." While Garrett was in the Pirates' minor league system from 2001 to '04, he played all three outfield positions (with Idaho Falls, Fort Wayne, Lynchburg, and Altoona). Then in 2005, he signed with Oakland and moved back to the West Coast, spending the entire season in the Pacific Coast League with Sacramento.
Again he played all three outfield positions, plus 20 games at first base with the River Cats. He also had his best offensive season to date, hitting 17 home runs and accumulating 82 RBI while batting .295. "It was a consistent year. I was in the line-up every day. I thought (coming off this season) it was my best opportunity to make the big team," Garrett said.
Garrett signed with another new team for 2006. This time he headed back to Pennsylvania, to play half a season each with Scranton-Wilkes Barre, the Yankees' Triple A franchise in the International League. Mid-season he was released and signed with St. Louis, who sent him to Triple A Memphis.
Coming out of spring training, Garrett felt this would be his breakthrough year. "I was right on the edge of getting there," he said. "I established myself as a hitter and had done everything I needed to do to get myself in the right situation to get to Majors. The more success you have the more you want to grab onto it and make it yours."
Then he started to have little injuries. "I tried to play through them. I kept pressing, and I lost my approach and focus. It became a combination of mental and physical problems." He had the lowest batting average of his career that year (.220).
"My priorities were out of whack," Garrett continued. "I made baseball the most important thing in my life and it shouldn't be. This was a terrible time, but this year of trials prepared me to continue to play." As a professed Christian, Garrett now looks at 2006 as "a blessing."
"My little window of prospect status has come and gone," Garrett added. "Now I want to do whatever I can do to help myself be a good player, plus switch hitting should help me stay in the game for awhile longer." He spent 2007 with Trenton, N.J., and Birmingham, both Double A teams. His batting average skyrocketed to .290 and he both hit for the cycle (April 28) and hit a grand slam (his second - the first was in 2006).
Being a minor league free agent often means never wearing the same uniform for consecutive years. That has pretty much been Garrett's story for the past five seasons. After his first six years as a minor leaguer he has signed with at least one new franchise every season. So on Dec. 11, 2007, he became a Seattle farm hand.
"I like it here," he said. "This organization plays the game the right way. They pay attention to details, but it's not overbearing." He also likes Tacoma for its environment. Being from a small town, Garrett enjoys places that have nice outdoorsy surroundings.
Besides getting to see a lot of nice scenery, another part of being on several teams is making a lot of friends. Garrett cannot go anywhere where he has not played with or against someone. Coming to the Mariners' organization he ran into Prentice Redman. Their paths had crossed before when they played together at the beginning of this season in Double A West Tennessee, and now on the Rainiers.
After all that travel, Garrett likes spending his off-seasons in one place. That place is Kinmundy, a small town in southern Illinois where he grew up. He and his wife bought a house there in 2005. "It's three houses from my parents, near grandparents and an uncle. We really enjoy living there, where we can have big family dinners and go to the same church we've always gone to." The Garretts' two daughters like being part of this big family. After spending time visiting dad during the season and living in apartments, they keep asking, "When are we going back to the big house?" which is what they call the family home.
Garrett played four years of varsity baseball at South Central Consolidated High School. Curt Jones was his high school baseball coach. Jones calls Garrett "our best player." "He had a lot of potential. By the end of his junior year I could see his career really unfolding," Jones said. "Scouts came out of the woodwork to watch him play during his senior year."
Originally drafted at the end of his senior year (1997) by the Padres, Garrett chose to spend one year at Olney Community College, about 50 miles east of Kinmundy. He began his professional career with the Arizona Rookie League Padres in 1998. That year he batted .333.
Garrett calls 2001 one of the highlights of his career. He began the season with Lake Elsinore, the Padres' Single A franchise in the California League. "We were the minor league team of year. I played with Jake Peavy and Xavier Nady. It was fun showing up at the park, knowing you're going to win."
Having been invited to two Major League spring training camps is also high on Garrett's list. Since he has not played in the Majors yet, he calls this his time in the Show.
Garrett knows he can contribute to the Rainiers with both his offense and his defense. "I feel I've always been a consistent offensive player but I also take pride in my defense. I hope wherever [scouts] see me, they say 'I like his bat, but he makes the right plays in the field too.' The older you get the more you appreciate that it's not all about the bat." He added that even when he is not hitting well he knows his defense can still shine. His philosophy is, "When I'm not getting hits, I want to run down all the line drives others hit. I don't want anyone to get any hits either."
As the Rainiers head into the final third of the season, Garrett is positive about the team's chances, but knows they have some catching up to do. "We've played at .500 (the first 90 games) but haven't hit a hot streak, where we win 15 out of 20. We're capable of that, the pieces are here." But there have been a lot of transactions lately and he knows it is hard to maintain team cohesion with new players coming in. "Even when the pieces change, the core group has to continue playing the game the right way. We have a great group here. If I can add anything, help pick the guys up, mentor the younger players, that's how I feel I can help."
After his playing career is over, Garrett probably will stay in some area of baseball. Back home he has a hitting facility where he works with younger players during the winters. He also conducts camps and clinics at local schools. "I'm semi-creative," he said. "I have a few little ideas (for baseball-related items.)" In fact he has a patent on a baseball item he is currently developing. He also has a passion for teaching, whether in some baseball area or math or science. With his contract he received money that can be used for college and he might do that eventually.
Whatever his future holds, Shawn Garrett will continue to play his heart out, be a good teammate and, in his words, "look at baseball as a game, and be a tool of God where He has me now."