Jesse Winker on trade to Mariners: ‘This is where I want to be’
Life in baseball can turn on a dime. Just ask new Mariners outfielder Jesse Winker.
Only days after the MLB lockout ended last month, the Mariners made a deal with the Cincinnati Reds to add Winker, a 2021 National League All-Star, and Eugenio Suárez, a 2019 All-Star, both to their burgeoning lineup. Just like that, Winker was moving across the Cactus League during spring training to join his new team.
“It is a jarring experience, for sure,” Winker said when he joined Seattle Sports Station’s Jake and Stacy on Monday afternoon.
Winker, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up mostly in Florida, said the trade is made all the more jarring by the fact that he still lives on the east coast and has yet to go to Seattle due to the Mariners starting the season with a road trip in the midwest (the M’s will play their home opener Friday night against Houston).
Despite all that, Winker has fit right in with his new team and has found a way to embrace his situation.
“It’s been great getting to know everybody, and coming over here in the trade I heard about how close the group already was so they were very receptive to me coming over here. They’ve made me feel like (I’m at) home,” he said.
“You’re going to be uncomfortable going to a new team, that’s just the nature of the beast. But everybody here has made me feel like I’ve been a part of this organization for a really long time. … The trade is new, it’s refreshing, and the way I looked at it is the Mariners wanted me more than the Reds. I try to keep a simple approach to life and when I looked at it that way, I was like, ‘Perfect, this is where I want to be.’ And I’m excited to meet everybody and see everybody and represent Seattle to the best of my ability.”
“The Sandlot” catch
Winker made an immediate impact for the Mariners on opening day, catching the final out of a 2-1 win over the Twins right in front of the wall in left field. The catch was on a towering fly ball off the bat of slugging Minnesota catcher Gary Sánchez, one that appeared headed for the seats off his bat.
Asked about the play, Winker – like he did in a postgame interview with Seattle Sports Station Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Friday – referenced the main character of the classic baseball movie “The Sandlot.”
“I was excited we won,” Winker said Monday, “and to be honest with you, I was just excited that I caught the ball. … For a second there – you know, I can’t jump really high, so I thought I was gonna have to try to jump maybe to catch it, and then at the last second I was like, ‘Oh my God, the ball’s right here, I can just just catch it.’ It was kind of like a Scottie Smalls moment.”
Listen to the full interview with Winker with Stacy Rost and guest host Michael Bumpus in the player below.