PEORIA, Ariz. — We all have these moments, particularly as we get older, when the calendar forces us to ponder the future.
So it is for veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist, now 36 and back for a second tour with the Mariners after a five-year trek through Kansas City, Cincinnati and Arizona.
This is not what you think.
First…let’s step back four years.
It was during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver that Bloomquist, then with the Royals, looked at the TV screen and figured: “Hey, I can do that!”
He was watching the two-man bobsled, and he was serious.
Bloomquist quickly recruited a partner in now-retired catcher Jason Kendall, and he had T-shirts made with the Olympic rings, and an image of a bobsled with an “818” logo that challenged, “Think we won’t?”
The “818” logo was a combination of Bloomquist’s No. 8 (which he is wearing again this spring) and Kendall’s No. 18. The two talked, with all apparent seriousness, of becoming bobsledders once their careers ended.
It mattered little to either than neither had ever been in a bobsled.
“We’ve got years to train for it,” Bloomquist declared.
Fast forward to now to find the Olympics in Sochi pushing to a close. The two-man bobsled medals have already been awarded, and…well, it was a nice dream, right?
“Oh, no,” Bloomquist insisted. “Not a dream. South Korea (in 2018). We’re in. Jason and I are still talking about it…We’re still onboard.”
Bloomquist envisions himself as the driver in a two-man sled, although he allows: “We’d entertain the possibility of doing a four(-man sled) if the opportunity is right.”
One important requirement hasn’t changed in four years, however. Bloomquist isn’t ready to shift career gears just yet. He signed a two-year deal last December that brought him back to the Mariners.
He now cheerfully reprises a role — utilityman — that he regularly chafed under from 2002-08 before departing as a free agent. It was a desire to prove he could play regularly that ended his previous tenure.
“I wasn’t satisfied and happy with that role on my first go-round,” he admitted. “I couldn’t have accepted that before. That’s why I was so excited to get out. And, believe me, I’m not coming in saying I don’t want to play.
“My goal is still to play. That being said, I’m more at peace with this role than I have been (earlier in my career). Just because I’ve proven to myself and, I think, to other people that I can play every day.”
And, as before, he can still play everywhere except pitcher and catcher.
“That was my first signing when I got here,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. He was the first guy I thought we needed to go after because this guy is so important to a ballclub.
“To have a veteran guy, who can move around and do a lot of different things, really gives you stability with your options on a daily basis.
“And with all of the traveling that we do, I thought that guy was really important; that we really had to target the right guy. And I think we got the right guy.”
Bloomquist is oldest non-pitcher on the Mariners’ 40-man roster and, as such, understands his role includes mentoring duties to the club’s youthful roster. That could be a precursor to a future as a coach or manager.
“I still feel like I have a lot left in the tank to play,” he said. “But when I’m done playing, whether that’s in two years or four years, I’ve thought I might want to manage or coach or something.
“After we’ve won the bobsled, of course.”