Filia brings flair to Mariners camp
Club's No. 28 prospect has unique walk-up routine
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It’s not easy to do a walk-up song routine without the walk-up song, but then, Eric Filia isn’t one to be deterred by little inconveniences in life.
So before Filia steps to the plate for Cactus League at-bats this spring for the Mariners, the 26-year-old outfielder is still doing the little quick-step routine and shimmy that he’s been refining since his college days at UCLA.
It takes a little confidence to break out a dance step as a rookie non-roster invitee before stepping to the plate in a Major League setting, but again, the California native isn’t shy.
“I like to bring a little personality to the game,” said Filia, who is the Mariners’ No. 28 ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. “Baseball is supposed to be fun. I like to have fun with it. My whole walk-up routine, I started it in high school. I didn’t do the whole shimmy until High-A, a couple years ago. But it’s fun.
“People love it,” he said. “Some people don’t, some people do. But it’s part of my game and I’m not going to change. It’s a little personality.”
Filia clearly walks to the beat of his own drum. Or in this case, the walk-up song “Touch My Body” by Mariah Carey that he now has to play in his head approaching the plate.
He does miss having the actual music playing to help his cause.
“A little bit,” he said with a smile. “My wiggle, wiggle, my walkup music. I miss it. It’s routine. It’s fun.”
When Filia stepped into the box when the Mariners were conducting a simulated game situation the day before their Cactus League opener, manager Scott Servais -- who was pitching to the hitters -- motioned Filia to back out and do his walk-up routine when his turn came to hit.
Filia obliged, to the amusement of the entire team that was gathered for the competition. Filia then hit a slow roller to second base.
“He told me to step out in the middle of my AB,” Filia recalled with a smile. “I went, ‘Thanks,’ then I rolled it over. Appreciate it. But it’s cool. It’s fun.”
Filia obviously would like to be known for more than just his walk up, obviously. His bat is his true calling card in baseball and he’s put up outstanding offensive numbers at every level to date, particularly an eye-opening .319 batting average and .407 on-base percentage in three Minor League seasons since being drafted in the 20th round in 2016.
“He is really interesting in a lot of different ways,” Servais said. “He’s got track record. He’s walked like 150 times in his Minor League career and has struck out 100 times or less [actually 149 walks and 94 strikeouts]. He obviously controls the strike zone well.
“With Eric, he’s always swung the bat no matter what level he’s been at. But you have to play both sides of the ball. There’s some more things to his game that need to continue to progress.”
Filia refining his defense is one challenge. And at 6-foot, 189 pounds, he doesn’t bring a lot of power. Filia hit 11 homers in 276 Minor League games, including two last year at Double-A Arkansas when he posted a .274/.371/.348 slash line in 79 games after serving a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
But his bat-to-ball skills and ability to get on base give him a chance to advance and his biggest strength fits well with the Mariners’ control-the-zone philosophy.
“I don’t like striking out,” he said. “It’s a free out. As long as you put the ball in play, you put pressure on the defense. It’s my biggest thing. I really try to swing at my pitches and not pitchers’ pitches, that’s very important to me. It’s been part of my game and the more I’ve grown up, I understand myself as a hitter so it’s developed into a nice strength of mine.”
He’s using his time in his first Major League camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible in every aspect of the game and more.
“I’ve been picking a lot of Mitch Haniger and Jay Bruce’s minds, both on the field and off,” he said. “Just how they carry themselves every single day. Not as much just baseball-wise, but how they look at life and look at baseball and stuff like that.
“I tell my brothers and I’ll tell my kids, the more relationships you build, you never know where it can take you. You meet people from all around the country and all around the world. It’s a blessing. The biggest thing is coming out here and learning as much as I can and having fun. It’s still a game. It’s still baseball. It’s a lot of fun."