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Tuesday June 11, 2013Former Gator Mike Zunino Promoted To Major Leagues By Seattle Mariners

Gainesville, Fla.

Former Gator catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was called up to the Major Leagues by the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. He becomes the third player in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure at Florida to reach professional baseball’s highest level after left-hander Nick Maronde (2009-11) was called up to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last August and left-hander Steven Rodriguez (2010-12) joined the Los Angeles Dodgers last September.


Chosen in the first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft by the Mariners with the third overall pick, Zunino’s final collegiate appearance in his junior season came on June 18, 2012, at the NCAA College World Series against Kent State. He had been recently playing for the Tacoma (Wash.) Rainiers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he had a .238 average in 47 games, with team-highs in RBI (43) and homers (11), to go along with 34 runs, 12 doubles and a .503 slugging percentage. Zunino becomes the first position player and the sixth player from last year’s MLB Draft to reach the Major Leagues – Rodriguez was the first.


The recipient of the 2012 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award, Zunino batted .373 (41-for-110) with 35 RBI, 29 runs, 10 homers and 10 doubles in 29 games for the Everett (Wash.) AquaSox, the Class A short-season affiliate of the Mariners last year, before hitting .333 (17-for-51) with eight RBI, six runs, four doubles and three homers in 15 games for the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals of the Double-A Southern League.


Playing for Peoria of the Arizona Fall League, Zunino was a key cog in the Javelinas’ run to the league title and was named to the AFL’s Top Prospects Team. In the championship game, he finished 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI as Peoria edged the Salt River Rafters, 4-3. Baseball America rated him No. 1 on the Mariners’ list of top-10 prospects at the beginning of December and said that he was the best power hitter and the best defensive catcher within the organization.


Zunino was Florida’s “Triple Crown” winner in 2012 in helping the Gators to their third-consecutive NCAA College World Series appearance, leading the team in batting average (.322), RBI (67) and homers (19). The Cape Coral, Fla., native paced the Orange and Blue in total bases (164), doubles (28), sacrifice flies (11) and slugging percentage (.669). He was also 9-for-10 on the basepaths.


Zunino was first nationally in sacrifice flies, third in doubles, fourth in round-trippers, fifth in total bases, ninth in doubles per game, 10th in RBI and 11th in slugging percentage in the final NCAA statistics. A two-time, first-team All-SEC recipient and two-time member of the league’s All-Defensive Team, the three-year starter registered a .994 fielding percentage in his final campaign, with three errors in 510 chances, and threw out 20 runners who attempted to steal on him.


Zunino became the first Gator catcher to be voted as a first-team All-American twice. He batted .327 in 193 career games, including 188 starts. His total of 17 sacrifice flies matches Mario Linares’ (1988-91) for the most by a UF player, he ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list in both doubles (58) and homers (47), occupies sixth in slugging percentage (.620) and RBI (175) and rates seventh in total bases (425). Zunino also totaled 224 hits, scored 159 runs, drew 72 walks and was 24-of-30 on stolen-base attempts. His sterling fielding percentage of .995 is second on the school’s career chart, as well as his 1,340 putouts. He committed just eight errors in 1,473 total chances. The Gators posted a 147-56 (.724) record over his three seasons, the top three-year performance in the program’s existence.


Besides Zunino, there are five other players with UF ties in the Big Leagues: infielder Mark Ellis (Los Angeles Dodgers), right-hander Darren O’Day (Baltimore Orioles), outfielder Ryan Raburn (Cleveland Indians), Rodriguez and catcher David Ross (Boston Red Sox).


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