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Closer Look

Olerud's stability a common denominator in success

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Latest: Saturday October 07, 2000 12:09 AM

  John Olerud Teammate Alex Rodriguez feels John Olerud brings a winning attitude to whatever team he's playing for. Otto Greule, Jr./Allsport

By John Giannone, CNNSI.com

SEATTLE -- His personality perfectly matches his on-field performance -- consistent, dependable and without a trace of the bravado that too often spoils sports.

John Olerud speaks quietly, matter-of-factly, and rarely about himself. His body language is even quieter. No chest-thumping. No obnoxious look-at-me gestures. He attracts much attention but covets little of it.

Yet Olerud proved again on Friday with his bat, his glove and his presence that no Mariner -- including MVP candidates Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez -- is more valuable to this team.

"It's no coincidence that wherever he goes, his team wins," Rodriguez said of Olerud. "He plays for the Blue Jays and they win the World Series. He goes to the Mets and they make the playoffs. He comes here and look what happens."

What Rodriguez is trying to say is that Olerud -- with a quiet demeanor and little fanfare -- makes his teams better. There can be no better compliment paid to a teammate.

"He's brought stability and some professionalism here," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said Friday after his team swept the White Sox into winter with a 2-1 victory.

"He's very steady, very consistent. He does a heck of a job at first base with the glove, and he swings a nice bat to go along with it."

A perfect description for Olerud's day and week. Heck, his entire first year in the Pacific Northwest, the place he was born, raised and attended college.

The place he adores.

"This series, we played about as well as you could hope to play," Olerud said, speaking more of his mates than himself. "We made big plays defensively. We executed, getting bunts down and moving runners over, and we got great starting pitching.

"So we just played some real solid baseball for this series. So you can't ask for a better job than what everybody did this series. So this is about as well played a series as you could ask for."

And when it came time for the Mariners to deliver the lethal blow to the American League's best regular-season team, Olerud obliged.

With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Olerud rifled a line drive off reliever Kelly Wunsch's stomach. A wild throw allowed Olerud to advance to second.

A few minutes later, as Olerud watched from the bench, pinch-runner Rickey Henderson put the Mariners in the AL Championship series.

Familiar territory for John Olerud, who wouldn't want it any other way.

"Being back home over the course of the year and the way things have gone, it's worked out great," Olerud said with the slightest hint of a smile. "So I'm definitely real happy."


 
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