Vinnie Catricala says he "kind of flew under the radar a little bit" early in his minor league career.
That's not the case anymore. Not after the Jesuit High School graduate was named the Seattle Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, hitting a combined .349 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs between Class A and Double A.
Or after a strong showing in spring training landed the 23-year-old in Triple-A Tacoma to start this season, where he has been the Rainiers' everyday third baseman while moving around the middle of the batting order.
Tonight, the Rainiers conclude a four-game series against the River Cats at Raley Field, where Catricala used to watch games as a kid.
"It's one of those feelings where you don't really believe it," Catricala said Wednesday. "I'm still like, 'I've got a game here?'
"I slept in my own bed (Tuesday) night. I haven't woken up and played baseball in Sacramento in six years."
Since being drafted in the 10th round by the Mariners out of Hawaii in 2009, Catricala has hit well at each of his stops in Seattle's farm system.
Entering this season, Catricala had a .322 batting average in 327 minor league games. This spring, the Mariners invited him to his first big-league camp.
"Really, I was just taking it all in, and I felt lucky to be there," Catricala said. "I didn't really have any expectations as to how I did. I just wanted to go out there and play.
"Seeing Ichiro (Suzuki) in person, seeing guys like Felix Hernandez in person you're in college watching them on TV, and then to be there three years later, it was a little surreal."
Catricala was also given some stability in the field. An infielder in high school and college, Catricala shuffled the past two seasons between the corner infield spots and left field.
Catricala said he played mostly left field late in the 2011 season in Double A. So while working out at home during the offseason, he didn't field any ground balls until the Mariners called a few weeks before spring training.
"They called me and said, 'Hey, we want you to play third,' " Catricala said. "I was like, 'I don't even have an infield glove.'
"What was good about spring training was they told me, 'We're going to give you a good look at third and see what you can do over there before we do anything else.' They put me there, and I haven't moved."
Entering Thursday night's game, Catricala had committed just one error in 14 games. He was hitting just .182 a product of "just trying to do too much" in the first two weeks, he said but led the team with 10 RBIs.
Before the Mariners optioned him to Tacoma this spring, Catricala said he was told to "keep doing what you're doing."
"They were just like, 'It could happen faster than you think, but don't think about it,' " Catricala said. " 'Just go out and play.' "