The Mariners introduced new center fielder Mallex Smith to the media Thursday and someone asked Smith what he was most excited about in going to Seattle.
“I’m going to enjoy fans in the stands,” a smiling Smith joked. “So that’ll be, that’s a big one for me. I’m gonna be excited about that. I’m looking forward to seeing those seats full.”
It was a light-hearted jab at his former team, the Rays. Smith, who was acquired from Tampa Bay in a five-player trade in November, spent two seasons playing in front of cavernous stretches of empty seats in Tropicana Field. The Rays ranked last in the majors in attendance and were 29th of 30 teams last season, averaging 14,964 fans during Mallex’s time there.
The Mariners, who ranked 14th in MLB attendance last year, averaged almost twice that many fans (28,388).
Smith was in a jovial mood during the media conference, which also introduced new Mariners pitcher Justus Sheffield and shortstop J.P. Crawford. It’s actually Smith’s second stint with the team, although his first stint almost deserves an asterisk; Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired him from the Braves in January 2017, but traded him 77 hours later to the Rays as part of the deal that brought Drew Smyly to Seattle.
“Initial thought: Jerry’s gonna flip me again,” Smith joked. “I’ll actually get to suit up as a Mariner hopefully this time. Jerry, don’t do it again, please. But overall just excited about the obstacles that lay ahead. I know we haven’t been to the playoffs in a long time. So I’m excited about actually helping us get into the playoffs and changing the culture, getting to meet my new teammates, and having fun on the baseball field.”
The speedy 25-year-old center fielder is a rising star. He’s not a power guy (two home runs in 480 at-bats in Tampa Bay) but does everything else well. He covers a lot of ground in center, is a base-stealing threat (40 steals last year) and makes contact. He slashed .296/.367/.406 last season.