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Ishikawa lets his on-field actions speak volumes
Travis Ishikawa is a rare breed.
In the day of the me-first athlete perpetuated by the never-ending, self-gratifying chest-thumping after a meaningless second-quarter jump shot or a third-inning, bases-empty, seeing-eye single Ishikawa is different.
The 19-year-old, 2002 Federal Way High School graduate takes pride in not standing out on the field. The only thing that stands out is the way Ishikawa plays the game of baseball.
If actions speak louder than words, Ishikawa is a Boeing 747 at takeoff.
A home run to him means running around the bases with his head down, slapping fives with teammates and sitting down in the dugout. You will never see Ishikawa stand in the batters box gazing at the ball he just drilled fly out of the ballpark, showing up the pitcher.
In all my years of coaching, I have only seen one kid like him, said Federal Way baseball coach Eric Fiedler. He is one of the nicest and most courteous kids I have ever met.
Ishikawa is currently in Scottsdale, Ariz. at the San Francisco Giants minor league spring training facility. The organization breaks camp Monday, and it looks like the 6-foot-3 first baseman will be heading to Hagerstown, Md., to play for the Giants single A affiliate in the South Atlantic League the Hagerstown Suns.
Everything has been going pretty good, Ishikawa said about going through his first spring training. I havent got to see Barry Bonds swing it, though.
The South Atlantic League is what is called a long-A league, meaning the team plays more games than at lower-level short-A, which is where Ishikawa ended his season last year with the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes.
So, basically, Hagerstown is the third-stage in a six-stage rise to the ultimate in baseball the Major Leagues.
Its a rise that the Giants organization can see Ishikawa making before his baseball career comes to a close. Last year in Salem, Ishikawa hit .307 in 88 at bats for the Volcanoes. A .307 average doesnt sound that impressive compared to the .415 he hit his senior year for the Eagles, but Ishikawa was the first teenager to hit over .300 in the Northwest League since a guy by the name of Ken Griffey Jr. (maybe youve heard of him).
The Giants arent putting the same type of pressure on Ishikawa as the Mariners put on Griffey to be the savior, but they are very high on him.
That became evident when the Giants paid $955,000 to sign the first baseman, their 21st-round draft pick last June. It was the highest bonus awarded to date for a player drafted after the first round.
We obviously had him much higher on our board, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said after signing Ishikawa. Hes very accomplished in a lot of ways, offensively and defensively. Hes got a chance to hit for average and power at (first base) and be a well-above average fielder.
The Giants were able to afford such a large bonus for Ishikawa, whom Baseball America ranked as the 60th-best player in the draft, because their top picks signed quickly and for reasonable bonuses, leaving the Giants with room in their budget. They agreed to terms with Ishikawa on the day of the Major League All-Star game, the organizations deadline for offering contracts for the current season, according to Baseball America. Ishikawa dropped to the 21st round because he was stern about wanting to go to college if the price wasnt right. He signed with Oregon State before the draft.
In the end, the price was right, and close to a million dollars would change any normal 18-year-old kid. But Ishikawa isnt your normal teenager. The normal teenager would have bought 23-inch rims to go on a new Cadillac Escalade after receiving that kind of money.
He hasnt bought a thing, Fiedler said. I think hes bought a cell phone and a (Sony) Playstation.
That should change later this year maybe.
I think I am going to buy a car when I get home this summer, Ishikawa said. Im just not sure what yet.
Even more mind-boggling money-management maturity came during Ishikawas four months at home in Federal Way following last baseball season. Even with close to a million dollars percolating in his bank account, Ishikawas unbelievable work ethic wouldnt let him sit around and collect the interest.
I applied for and got a part-time job at Old Navy, he said. I got pretty bored sitting around.
Sitting around is something Ishikawa will never get used too, especially on a 15-hour bus ride.
The smell of diesel fuel and stopping for 7-11 Big Gulps and nachos are just part of the minor-league life, glorified (so to speak) in the movie Bull Durham.
There are some long bus rides, Ishikawa said. Its real tough to get comfortable. I am up and down all night. Some of the guys have even told me that the bus driver would sometimes fall asleep at the wheel. So when I am trying to sleep, I dont know if he is sleeping or not, so I am always jumping up and thinking we are going off the road.
Needless to say, Ishikawa doesnt get much sleep on the bus, but doesnt complain about it.
Thats just part of the process and part of Ishikawas attitude.
Remember, theres no bus rides in The Show.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com