Don't put Grandpa Miguel Olivo in a rocking chair just yet
Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo is making his second stint in Seattle a success by showing the grit, toughness and leadership the team needed.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Is this the same guy?
Miguel Olivo sure isn't hitting like the catcher the Mariners saw a few seasons ago.
2004 with M's
50 games, .200 average,
6 HRs, 14 RBI
2005 with M's
54 games, .151 average,
5 HRs, 18 RBI
2011 with M's
61 games, .234 average,
11 HRs, 34 RBI
Gramps is a 32-year-old with huge, cartoonish biceps. He plays catcher for the Mariners. He hits long home runs in clutch situations and makes wind gusts with his throwing arm.
If not for the bald spot atop Miguel Olivo's head, you might not think he was old enough to be a father, let alone a grand one. Don't be fooled, though. Ignore his athletic physique, and you could see him wearing a Cosby sweater.
"Yeah, I'm grandpa," Olivo says, smiling. "It's very exciting. I gave her my last name, too. Malia Olivo."
Malia was born in January. Technically, she's the 5-month-old of his stepdaughter, Erica, who is 20. But Miguel doesn't believe in labels. Family is family. Simple as that.
"People say, 'How is your daughter 20 years old?' " Miguel says. "I don't need to explain or tell them that my wife is older or that we both brought kids into our marriage. I just say, 'Trust me, she's my baby.' "
The Olivos have six children, period. He's proud of them all. He considers himself lucky that his wife, Gloria, went to a Class A baseball game in Modesto, Calif., 12 years ago. Erica, who was 8 then, asked him for an autograph. Miguel obliged, flirting with Gloria all the while.
Later that season, he went to the hospital with a broken nose. He saw Gloria, a nurse, again.
"I said, 'Hey, you're working here?' " Olivo recalls. "After that, it started working out."
Miguel and Gloria have been married for 12 years. His personal life is as cozy as a grandpa's. But his professional life has been a long search for stability. For an athlete who squats behind the plate, Olivo has had a difficult time finding home.
He has played for six teams in nine seasons. Despite producing respectable results, he has played for three teams in the previous five years. He says he's "disappointed" about this nomadic existence, but then again, he wouldn't be back in Seattle if he had found a permanent home.
He wouldn't be a leader for a franchise that desperately needed one. He wouldn't be contributing to the success of one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. And he wouldn't be making amends for a forgettable first stint in Seattle.
To be certain, Olivo has had his struggles during this second act, too. He's only hitting .234. He still allows too many passed balls and doesn't prevent enough wild pitches. But he continues to erase speedy base runners with his strong throwing arm, and even better, he saves his biggest hits for critical moments.
When the Mariners signed Olivo to a two-year, $7 million contract during the offseason, the common reactions included shrugs and yawns. That guy again?
Olivo played with the Mariners for parts of the 2004 and 2005 seasons and didn't produce. He hit .200 in 50 games in 2004. He hit .151 in 54 games in 2005. He kept running to the backstop because pitches got past him. He left an awful impression, and it has bothered him for years.
"When I got here, I didn't know a whole lot about the game," Olivo said.
"There was a lot of people that started talking bad about me, that said I wasn't a good player or whatever the first time I was here in Seattle. Now that I've grown up and my life is better, I just had to come back to prove to those people that whatever they said, that's wrong."
Olivo has given the power-deprived Mariners some pop. He has 11 homers. He's on pace to match his career best of 23 homers, which he set two years ago in Kansas City.
Grandpa Olivo has done a solid job at a position that has been a major weak spot for the Mariners in recent seasons. Kenji Johjima didn't work out, and he went back to Japan. Rob Johnson couldn't hit. Adam Moore hasn't been healthy.
Olivo might not be a long-term solution, but for as long as he's here, he plans to make an impact. He has shown toughness and a willingness to throw his body around to make things happen. He famously passed a kidney stone in a game last year and kept playing, and he has brought that same mentality to Seattle. As a leader, he has kept this team united and focused on improving after a rough April.
"We have a good team, and on a good team, you need somebody to tell somebody what to do," Olivo says. "And that's why we're playing so good because everybody is together."
Olivo hopes he can make Seattle his home. His family lives in Oakdale, Calif., but he'd like to move here. He's hoping his two-year deal could turn into a longer tenure. He could see himself ending his career in this city.
"Relax like a real grandpa, you know?" Olivo says, laughing.
He's the kind of player that teams always think they can upgrade. But sometimes it's best to appreciate what you have. Olivo is serving the Mariners well. This is his home, for now. This is his second chance, for sure.
Grandpa doesn't feel redeemed as much as he feels refreshed. He's helping a young team win. And victories are victories. Simple as that.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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