By Jim Moore
Bad news, ladies: John Jaso’s taken. The Mariners’ developing cult hero — that’s what ROOT Sports’ Dave Sims calls him — is engaged and will get married this winter.
He proposed to his girlfriend on a six-mile hiking trip into the mountains.
“I’ve got this outdoorsy thing going on,” said Jaso, who grew up in McKinleyville, Calif., near Eureka on the northern coast. “I was raised backpacking and camping, and it was her first backpacking trip.
“She was crazy to go up there with me. No car, no cell phone, no hospital, nothing. She was totally relying on me. It was awesome the trust she showed in me.”
Jaso proposed under the stars. During an interview on “The Kevin Calabro Show” on Tuesday, I asked him if did it the traditional way, on one knee, and Jaso said: “I’m not a one-knee guy. I hope you can forgive me.”
John Jaso has produced in key situations, including his game-winning sacrifice fly in Monday’s win over the Tigers. (AP)
Going into the season, I figured Jaso would be the forgotten man, some obscure guy the Mariners got from Tampa Bay in a trade that they probably wouldn’t have made if they had already acquired Jesus Montero.
Montero figured to be the backup catcher behind Miguel Olivo, leaving Jaso nothing but morsels of playing time. For the seven games, Jaso did not stir from the bench.
When he finally got into the lineup, he made an immediate impact with a triple and the game-winning RBI single, knocking in Michael Saunders in the ninth inning, the difference in a 4-3 victory over Texas.
Jaso, 28, has had three-game winning at-bats, a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly that capped the Mariners’ 3-2 win over the Tigers Monday night at Safeco Field.
A career .247 hitter, Jaso is leading the Mariners at .306 with six of his 11 hits going for extra bases.
He shines during the brightest moments and has no problems delivering when he’s behind in the count.
“That two-strike thing is pretty important,” Jaso said. “I’m definitely confident with two strikes. I don’t change much. A last at-bat is like any other situational at-bat.”
Jaso wasn’t bothered when he didn’t play right away. He stayed focused by getting quality swings in batting practice and “not trying to play home-run derby.”
He also remembers where he could be. As a 12th-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2003, he had to bust his tail to make it, spending years in the minor leagues on buses, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“It’s a rough road going through the minor leagues,” Jaso said. “Times were tough and money was scarce. My family helped me through it. I’m so thankful that they were there to help me.
“I’m happy it all worked out. I definitely don’t take it for granted. I still have the awe factor when I’m catching (in a big-league game). All those years I played in the minor leagues putting in the hard work. There were a lot of guys who put the hard work in, too, and didn’t make it. I definitely count it as a blessing.”
Jaso enjoys working with the Mariners’ other catchers, Olivo and Montero, and has seen increased playing time now that Olivo has been sidelined with a groin injury.
“The three of us, we have a friendly relationship,” Jaso said. “Catchers have to stick together, and that’s what we do. With Olivo going down, I’m going to be in there a little more, and he’s cheering me on the side. And Montero’s doing a great job so far.”
Jaso lives with his fiancée and four pets — an English bulldog named Bruce; a chinchilla named Gustavo and two hedgehogs, Bill and Marble.
“I look around me and it’s like, ‘What the heck is going on?'” Jaso said. “It’s a zoo.”
Of Gustavo the chinchilla, Jaso said: “He’s the man. He runs all over the apartment and makes the dog frustrated because he can’t catch it.”
Asked about the hedgehogs, Jaso said: “They’re a different a kind of animal. They keep to themselves a little bit. But they’re entertaining in their own way. I love ’em just as much as the other pets.”
I thought about asking him more probing questions such as: “Why would anyone want hedgehogs as pets?” and “If you did get hedgehogs, why did you name them Bill and Marble?” but I moved on and finished the interview with a question about him becoming a developing cult hero in Seattle.
“I’ll be whatever,” Jaso said, laughing. “As long as I get handshakes out there and see smiles on fans’ faces. The positive energy coming from the fans, I like the feel here. I’m glad to be a part of it.”