Dad pushed Bloomquist to be the best
Mariners utility man learned to always play at a higher level
One of life's lessons that Bill Bloomquist taught all of his kids was to take effort to a higher level.Don't just try hard, try harder. That message hit home with Mariners infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist. "Dad put it in my mind that someone being better than me was not acceptable, and I think in a lot of ways that has helped me get me where I am today," Willie said. "He instilled in me to never accept anything but the best and told me I could always do better." Every Father's Day is special to every son and daughter, and this one will have its special moments for Willie and his dad. The aftermath of a car accident several years ago while on a hunting trip with some buddies led to the 65-year-old Bloomquist living in a Port Orchard, Wash., care facility. "Things went haywire during the recovery process," Willie said. As he looks back to his formative years growing up in the Northwest, the Mariners' all-purpose player realizes the importance of having a father who built in him a baseball foundation. "He's the one that developed the love of baseball in me," Willie said. "He coached me until I was about 15, and taught me how to play and how the game was supposed to be played. But more than that, he's the reason I can be stubborn and hard-headed at times." It's that hard-headedness that still doesn't allow Willie to accept his role as a utility player. "It eats me alive," Willie said. The former Arizona State University star, drafted in the third round in 1999, advanced through the Mariners Minor League system as a middle infielder, dreaming of some day becoming the regular shortstop or second baseman for his hometown team. But players that were drafted higher, or had signed lucrative contracts, kept him in the Minors.
"It bothers me when somebody beats me, or when somebody is better than me," Willie said. "My old man developed that attitude in me, and it's still there. When I was told that I would become a utility player, I decided that I would become the best utility player in the Major Leagues."The fact that he has played more positions -- seven last season -- than practically any other player in the big leagues demonstrates his value to the Mariners. But there is still something, or someone, missing at Mariners home games. Physical limitations prevent Bill from attending his son's games at Safeco Field. "One thing I am really grateful for is dad got to see me play the month of September in 2002, when I was first called up," Willie said. "It was before his accident, and he got a chance to be a proud dad for a month. "Ironically, the best day I ever had in the Majors was the last game he has been to. I hit a grand slam in the first inning off Rob Bell of the Devil Rays and drove in six runs. It was my first [Major League] home run. That was a special day." The father of two daughters himself, Willie said, "Dad and I have always been close. There were two sides to him: the one always pushing me to get better and be better and the one who took me fishing. "I was raised the right way. No matter how well or how poorly I play, I feel I play the right way. I give it what I got and play hard. Those are things my dad taught me how to do."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.