Littlewood takes it all in after late call to big league camp

Catcher gets chance to be in same clubhouse with Mariners' All-Stars

Littlewood takes it all in after late call to big league camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- If you're looking for the happiest guy in Mariners camp this spring, the early leader in the clubhouse would be Marcus Littlewood. For the simple reason that, well, he's actually in the Mariners' clubhouse.

Littlewood was sitting home in Provo, Utah, two days before the Mariners big league camp was scheduled to open when his phone rang and his caller ID showed Chris Gwynn, Seattle's Minor League director.

"I saw it was him and my heart started racing, like it always does," said Littlewood, who spent last year splitting time between Class A Clinton and High Desert. "He said, 'Can you come down to Peoria tomorrow?'"

Littlewood immediately packed, threw his gear in his car and made the nine-hour drive to Seattle's spring facility. At the time, he was told the Mariners thought backup catcher Jesus Sucre had visa issues that were holding him up in Venezuela.

But when the 22-year-old arrived for his physical, there was Sucre. And there went his big chance, he figured, as he reported for duty instead to the adjacent Minor League facility where he was due the following week for an upcoming minicamp.

But before long, word came that Littlewood was wanted back over on the big league side. For two days, he was the only player among the 61 in camp without a name on his uniform or a nameplate over his locker.

He didn't care. Littlewood was sitting in the same clubhouse with Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and the like. Granted, Littlewood's locker was tucked into the far corner of the room. But he was in the room. And in the meetings and workout sessions and bullpens. On the third day, he received a jersey with his name on the back. And now -- a week into camp -- he's just reporting back to work every day and keeping his head down.

"I don't really know what I'm doing here, but I don't really care," Littlewood said. "I'm just enjoying it. Catchers are kind of in demand, so maybe it's just that they need catchers, which is fine with me. I'm here, ready to go."

Indeed, with 28 pitchers throwing, every team needs extra backstops. With Littlewood, the Mariners currently have eight in camp.

"I'm just trying to learn as much as I can from these guys that have been here," he said. "I'm just going day by day, knowing any second they could send me back to the Minor League side. But you know what? It doesn't really matter to me. I'm here and that's all that matters."

Littlewood is an interesting case. He was drafted in the second round by the Mariners in 2010 as a shortstop out of high school in Utah, but former Minor League director Pedro Grifol converted him to catcher a year later.

"It was a major transition," he said. "I didn't know how to put my gear on. I'd never caught before. It took me about a year and a half to where I finally got comfortable with it. But I've found I really love catching. I don't miss shortstop at all and I'd played shortstop my entire life. I got rid of my infield gloves, bought some catcher's gloves and that was it. If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it 100 percent."

And now he finds himself doing it wearing a Mariners uniform with his name on the back, showing what he can do in the Major League camp and pondering the day when he might rise through the ranks far enough to stick around.

"It's every little boy's dream," he said, "and I have a chance to absolutely try it."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.