When the Seattle Mariners offered a contract to Aaron Barbosa last July, the swift outfielder and aspiring structural engineer from Dracut seized his professional baseball opportunity.
Boy, did he ever.
Seattle was the only team to make an offer to Barbosa, who at the time was starring for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League after his junior season at Northeastern University.
The Seattle Mariners so far are looking very smart.
Barbosa's first professional experience resulted in numbers even better than his impressive numbers in college and the Cape Cod League. In 101 at-bats for the Pulaski (Va.) Mariners of the rookie Appalachian League last summer, Barbosa batted .356 with an on-base percentage of .455. He stole 19 bases in 22 attempts.
He then batted .529 (9-for-17) in the playoffs while helping lead Pulaski to its first league title since 1991.
"I was just trying to do the same things I had been doing (in college) and it worked out," says Barbosa, who on Feb. 14 will report to the Mariners' minor league spring training in Peoria, Ariz.
Barbosa is not sure where in the Mariners' system he will start out his second pro season. He turns 22 on April 14. "I know it's a cliche´but obviously I just want to keep moving up," he says. "I did pretty well so I expect I will move up from the level I was at."
Barbosa, who was a true student-athlete majoring in civil engineering, still had one year left at Northeastern when he signed with Seattle.
Some people advised the lefty-hitting lead-off batter to continue terrifying Cape League pitchers to draw more pro offers. Barbosa was batting .344 with 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts in 27 games on the Cape after hitting .307 with 26 stolen bases in 28 attempts last spring for Northeastern.
"It was a tough decision," he says. "I wanted to go back to school when I didn't get drafted (last June). But what it came down to was I thought (the Mariners' offer) was a good opportunity."
Barbosa did return to the classroom after the instructional league last fall. He is hoping to complete work toward his degree over the next two fall semesters. "Getting my degree is something that is definitely important to me," he says.
Barbosa in just three seasons became Northeastern's career leader in stolen bases (69), which included a single-season school record of 29 in 2012. He also has Northeastern's single-season record for hits (76 in 2012). He batted .331 over his college career.
This former Dracut High soccer, basketball and baseball captain tunes out those who might doubt his pro potential because of his size (5-10, 157). The realization that these doubts exist certainly helps fuel Barbosa. "I try to use anything I can to keep an edge and have a mentality to keep working," he says.
The feedback he received from the Mariners' organization was positive after his impressive pro debut.
"We won (an Appalachian League) championship, so that helped (generate positive feedback)," says Barbosa. "Winning cures everything. The whole team heard mostly positive things."
That championship wrapped up a memorable 2013 of playing baseball for Barbosa, beginning last Feb. 21 in Fort Myers when he singled off Joel Hanrahan and made a diving catch in right field to rob David Ross of a hit during Northeastern's annual exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox. A thrilling day for a Dracut kid who still rooted for the Red Sox.
"I'm working not to root for them now," says Barbosa, Seattle Mariners property, with a laugh.
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