Sports

Fields signs with Tampa Bay Devil Rays

For Matt Fields, missing the opportunity to play for the Kitsap BlueJackets this summer doesn’t hurt as much as one would think.

And he’s got 200,000 reasons to get over it.

Fields, a graduate of Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, drafted in the 44th round of the 2004 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, signed with the club this week. As a result, rather than suiting up for Kitsap, he’ll compete with the Princeton (WV) Devil Rays, Tampa’s rookie-level minor league affiliate.

“I’m excited,” Fields said. “I’m looking forward to the competition level and seeing how the atmosphere is. It’s going to be all new to me, but it’s going to be fun.”

Despite being drafted late by the squad, the Devil Rays saw enough potential in the power-hitting first baseman to offer him seventh-round money, BlueJackets coach Matt Acker said. In addition to the $200,000 the freshman at Green River Community College signed for, the team also will pay for his education.

“For a 19-year-old, that’s a major start on life,” Acker said.

“It makes me want to go out and work as hard as I can for them,” Fields said.

Also his coach at Green River, Acker said he wasn’t surprised at Fields’ decision. He just didn’t expect the kind of money the Rays offered. Acker said that just shows the commitment the team has made to Fields as a prospect.

“Once he got that, ‘Hey, if you goof up, go through a little slump, they’ll take care of you,’ (he wasn’t as nervous),” Acker said. “The thing is, this is only the beginning of his talent.”

Paul Kirsch, Tampa Bay’s Northwest scout responsible for signing Fields, said the club projects him as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.

“We like him a lot,” Kirsch said. “And he’s done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s a good athlete, a good prospect and a good kid. There’s a lot of things to like about this kid.”

But above all, Kirsch said the team likes his bat.

“He’s got one tool that’s hard to find out there,” Kirsch said. “That’s power. And he uses the whole field.”

Signing early was also an advantage for Fields, Acker said.

“The advantage Matt has is signing as a freshman,” he said. “He has the option to go back to college.

“He was good to have play here. We got something from him and he got something from us.”

Fields’ first game with Princeton in the Appalachian League is June 21, but he will leave to join the team in extended spring training on June 5.

Meet ‘Jack the BlueJacket,’ players

The BlueJackets will hold a meet and greet with BlueJackets players and their new mascot, Jack the BlueJacket, Sunday, June 5, at the Kitsap Mall.

Devon Jameson, 8 of Port Orchard, and Logan Peck, 7 of Poulsbo, won the naming contest put on by the team.

As the winners of the contest, they got to participate in the Armed Forces Day Parade, received a BlueJackets T-shirt, baseball cap and a pass for general admission seating to every BlueJackets home game this season.

Season set to start

The BlueJackets will host a split-squad game on Saturday, June 4 at the Fairgrounds ballfields to get ready for the home opener on June 10.

Kitsap will start the season with an exhibition road game on Tuesday, June 7, in Kirkland against the Kirkland Kodiaks.

For more information visit the BlueJackets Web site at www.kitsapbluejackets.com.

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