Mike Ford has had an interesting time with the Seattle Mariners. In two separate stints with the club, he has yet to appear in a game with them. The Mariners originally acquired Ford, a power-hitting first baseman, in the Rule 5 draft in 2017. He played with the team through spring training. When he did not earn a spot on the big-league roster, the Mariners sent him back to the Yankees. This offseason, the team signed him to a minor league contract, and then he was promoted to the big leagues to fill in for an injured Luis Torrens. Only by “fill in” we mean “fill a seat on the bench” because, over the course of a week, Ford did not get into a single game before being demoted back to Tacoma.
Baseball players dream of that moment when they get the call to the big leagues. Some are destined for stardom. Others appear and disappear from a roster so quickly that this column may rank near the top of the Google results for their name.
Ford’s trip back to the minor leagues got me thinking about Mariners players who only managed to show up in a single game during their time with the team.
Remarkably enough, there have been many, just within the past 20 years. One, the final entry in our list, has been stuck in my brain ever since his single infamous appearance. In my research, I excluded pitchers because trying to comb through that data is a mess of taxi squad relievers and position players pitching, so here are the Mariners of the last 20 years who only appeared in a single game for the team throughout a season.
Kevin Padlo, infielder, 2021: We only must go back one year to find our first entry on this list. Padlo made his major league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, appearing in nine games for the Rays before being released in August when the Mariners picked him up. He spent most of the rest of the season in Triple-A Tacoma before making a single appearance as a pinch hitter for the Mariners on Sept. 3 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He struck out.
He appeared with the Mariners in 2022 spring training but couldn’t crack the big-league roster. However, the team did think highly enough of him to leave him on the 40-man roster, giving him the possibility of another call to the big club. However, earlier this week, the team traded him to the San Francisco Giant, likely ending the possibility of Padlo making another appearance for the Mariners ended with the trade, but not necessarily, as we shall see in one of our later entries.
Zach Vincej, infielder, 2019: Like Padlo, Vincej had a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues before joining the Mariners. After being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of Pepperdine University, he ground his way through the minor leagues before making his debut in September 2017 for the Reds. He didn’t see much playing time, appearing in nine games and getting one hit. He was picked up by the Mariners the following offseason and eventually got the call to the big leagues on Aug. 1. He started that day against the Houston Astros and collected two hits and his first major league RBI. After the game, he was sent back to the Mariners and eventually released. While his time in the organization was brief, Vincej must have enjoyed it. This season he rejoined the Mariners organization as a coach with Triple-A Tacoma.
Brandon Bantz, catcher, 2013: The first player on a list to appear in just one big-league game. Bantz was drafted as a senior out of Dallas Baptist college in 2009 and spent the next four years working his way through the minors, never putting up strong hitting stats but developing a reputation as a solid presence behind the plate. When Mariners backup catcher Jesus Sucre was banged up in early June of 2013, Bantz got the call to become the team’s backup catcher. He got the start behind the plate on June 8 and went 0-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Five days later, he was sent back to Tacoma without seeing the field again. He bounced around the minors for a few more seasons, ending his professional career in the minor system of the Miami Marlins in 2015, but never made it back to the big leagues.
Guillermo Quiroz, Catcher, 2006: Quiroz is probably the longest-tenured and most well-traveled of any of the players on this list. Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 1998, He toiled in the minors for six years before appearing in 17 games in the big leagues for Toronto in 2004. The following season he resurfaced again for another dozen games. If there is a skill that will allow you to get an opportunity in the major leagues, even with a subpar bat, it’s catcher defense. Quiroz developed a reputation as a solid backstop who could fill-in in a pinch. The Mariners grabbed him from the Blue Jays at the end of spring training in 2006, and he made his first start behind the plate on April 8 to give regular catcher Kenji Johjima day off. Three days later, he was sent back to Tacoma and replaced by fellow journeyman catcher Rene Rivera. That offseason, he entered free agency and signed with the Texas Rangers appearing to end his stint with Seattle with just the one appearance. However, showing that windows never close on veteran catchers, he returned to the Mariners in the 2009 season, gathering a whopping four appearances that year. He even came back in 2010 for another pair of games! He spent three years with the team, and you can count his appearances on two hands. Over a ten-year major-league career, Quiroz appeared in 148 games, less than a full season, with over a third coming in Baltimore in 2008, where he somehow managed to play in 56 games.
David Freitas, Catcher, 2019: Before the final entry on this list, a brief aside for another catcher, David Freitas. Freitas appeared for the Mariners for one game in the 2019 season. However, his tenure with the team started the year before when he appeared in 36 games as a beloved, if light-hitting, backup catcher. His lone appearance in 2019 came on opening day when he was a last-minute fill-in behind the plate. He had made the team out of spring training as the backup but stepped in when the team’s regular starter couldn’t go on opening day. The next day the Mariners acquired current starting catcher Tom Murphy, and Freitas was sent back to Tacoma. A week later, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ron Wright, DH, 2002: Over eight years in the minor leagues, Ron Wright developed a reputation as a slugging designated hitter/first baseman. However, despite routinely posting double-digit home run totals to go along with solid on-base skills, he never received a promotion to the big leagues. Entering the 2002 season, he appeared likely to merely serve as minor league depth for a Mariners team that was coming off a record-setting season in 2001 and had Edgar Martinez entrenched at DH and John Olerud at first base. However, early in the season, Martinez injured his hamstring, and the Mariners needed a fill-in while they tried to figure out a long-term solution. They decided that fill-in would be Wright, a Washington State native who would get to play for his hometown club. Wright was summoned to Texas, where the Mariners were playing the Rangers, to make his debut. As Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone recounts, Wright told his family not to make the trip, because he would see them at the Mariners’ upcoming homestand.
Wright would write his name in the history books in his debut, but not in a good way. He struck out in his first at-bat, in his second, he had the misfortune of grounding into a bizarre triple play, which included multiple rundowns and ended with Wright being thrown out at second base, while in his final plate appearance of the day, he grounded into a double play. Six outs in three at-bats. A rough start, but there’s always tomorrow, right? Unfortunately, not so for Wright. The Mariners needed bullpen help for their next series, and Wright was sent back to Tacoma. He never appeared in the majors again. I highly recommend reading Stone’s full story on Wright, as the one-time Mariners has a great attitude about his one-day major league appearance. Plus, there are very few players where you can watch the entirety of their big-league career in one very brief video.
Whether their career spanned one very bad day, or a decade, all of these one-Mariners do get to put themselves in the elite club of major league ballplayers. And even though they may have been brief appearances, at least they actually say they got into a game with the team.