WAWAKA

Jeff Mault's years of practice, patience and perseverance will soon be rewarded with his ultimate goal: a contract to play professional baseball.

Mault, the hard-throwing, righthanded pitcher who graduated from West Noble High School in 1999, received a call Friday from the Seattle Mariners, who told him to report to their spring training camp in Peoria, Arizona on April 11.

Mault caught the attention of Major League Baseball scouts by taking part in the International Performance Baseball Academy in Orlando, Fla., over the past few weeks. There were scouts from dozens of teams there, and it was the Mariners who summoned Mault on to bigger and better things.

"It's exciting and I'm ready for it," Mault said last Friday. "It's been a long time."

Mault has built an impressive baseball resume over the years. From helping the Chargers win multiple sectional crowns in high school, he went on to star for Olney Central Community College in Illinois for two seasons, then moved up to Austin Peay University, a Division One school in Clarksville, Tenn. At both schools he earned numerous honors and accolades while also setting school records.

Mault said the Mariners told him they will sign him to a free-agent contract as soon as he arrives in Arizona, and he'll probably be moved on to a minor league club after working out with the Mariners in spring training.

"They said I'd probably go to San Bernadino, California, and join the Inland Empire 66ers, their single-A minor league baseball team in the California League," Mault said.

The club, formerly known as the Stampede, has won league championships in 1995, 1999, 2000 and 2003. They became just the fourth team in California League history to win back-back titles when they won the crown in 2000.

At the baseball academy in Orlando, which is a showcase for free agents, Mault said he received a lot of attention as well as instruction for his pitching.

"We worked out for a couple of weeks and then played several games against minor league teams. I picked up a couple miles an hour on my fastball. It was all fun, too. I had a blast," he said.

His throws were clocked at 94, 95 and 96 miles an hour with one type of radar gun, and 93 and 94 mph on another gun.

In February, Mault traveled to Arizona for a tryout with the San Diego Padres at their spring training camp. While the Padres liked what they saw, they told Mault the team already had enough righthanders and sent him back to Indiana.

Mault was going to play minor league ball with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the Northern League, in northwest Indiana. But he'll be more than glad to switch those plans for a spot with the Mariners' organization.

Mault is the son of Jim and Darlene Mault of Wawaka.

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