Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

Carson Vitale during a rainy day run in early January. The Seattle Mariners field coordinator, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged (to himself, and online) to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Carson Vitale Photo)

Carson Vitale during a rainy day run in early January. The Seattle Mariners field coordinator, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged (to himself, and online) to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Carson Vitale Photo)

Ten miles a day.

Like anything, Carson Vitale’s 2021 resolution starts simple but gets complicated fast.

The former Saanich resident, who is part of the Seattle Mariners coaching staff as the field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles (5,874 kilometres) this year. The reason the 32-year-old is burning through his sneakers on the streets of Seattle is twofold, to challenge himself physically, and to bring money and awareness to filling the gaps around food insecurity for children in the region’s public school system.

The bearded runner is donating 50 cents for every mile he runs to the United Way of King County, where he also volunteers, while recruiting others to donate.

“Volunteering this winter has opened my eyes just as much here as [my time] living in the Dominican Republic opened my eyes to the conditions there. There are things [in plain sight] that are out of sight to many people,” he said. “This game has afforded me a certain lifestyle and I feel the responsibility to make sure people benefit from some of the things I’ve been afforded, to give back a little, is my civic duty.”

Carson and wife Lucy relocated to Seattle last year and started a weekly volunteering shift for the United Way, delivering meals to kids in the school system.

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale meets with umpires ahead of a game against the Texas Rangers in T-Mobile Park in Seattle during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)

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Vitale is off to a steady start.

He’s clocked 141 miles (228 km) through his first 12 days (including back-to-back half marathons on Jan. 7 and 8), banking extra miles so that he can comfortably miss a run – or two – once the season gets busy.

And it will get busy.

As the Mariners field coordinator, Vitale works directly under the farm director and oversees all things player development. The former Lambrick secondary student is around the clubhouse offices or on-field morning, day, and night. He arrived with the Mariners in time to help develop the team’s biggest wave of talent since it produced Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in the 1990s, with a core of prospects led by Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Logan Gilbert.

“In this role you are situated between front office, staff, and players. Sometimes I’m helping with hitting, catching, pitching, analytics, or working with players in the weight room to tap performance. The two constants are the development of people and processes, to benefit the on-field product,” Vitale said.

In a game of luck, the Mariners’ current philosophy is to focus on the people and the processes along the way.

“These things are in our control, whereas, the game itself is out of our control in terms of luck and randomness,” Vitale said.

It’s gratifying work and despite his young age, he’s no rookie coach.

Vitale, of course, was familiar with the city of Seattle long before the organization recruited him ahead of the 2017 season.

He was born and raised in Saanich. He went to Marigold Elementary and is a 2006 graduate of the Lambrick secondary baseball academy, where his father Rocky is a teacher and coach. The catcher finished college playing NCAA for the Blue Jays of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he met his wife Lucy. After a brief pro stint as a player, he quickly shifted to coaching in the Los Angeles Angels and then Dodgers minor league systems.

The Mariners recruited him in 2017 and he worked two seasons with the Mariners minor league affiliates until 2019.

When he was told he’d be elevated to the big league club in the fall of 2019, he moved to Seattle with Lucy. The second weekend after they relocated here they were on the Clipper to Victoria to visit family.

“Hopefully, the [border rules] change and we can actually enjoy being close to the family,” Vitale said.

How Vitale became such a regular runner dates back to those early years coaching in the minors, but long after he left Victoria as a high school athlete.

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“Never did like running as a player,” Vitale recalls.

Early in his coaching career, he was managing a Los Angeles Angels team in the Dominican Republic league.

“In the Dominion Republic, I found myself with a lot of afternoons of free time. My Spanish was not good. My staff did not speak a lot of English. So instead of reading, I listened to books [and podcasts] while running, and it felt good.”

It became something he couldn’t live without, for the fitness but also the mental clarity it’s provided.

That said, he’s staring up a big mountain. Vitale not only has to avoid injury but also pay extra attention to his diet and rest. The weight of his schedule often means fighting the urge to run faster.

“I know there will be days when I can’t run 10 miles. Spring training will be tough. Day games will be tough. There’s a lot of work to be done before a 1 p.m. start, especially coming off a night game.”

Ultimately, 2020 was too big of an eye-opener for Vitale to move forward without better connecting to his community.

“Why not try to help people in the city who need assistance, perhaps through the vehicle of running,” Vitale said. “If I can get even one person to raise some funds for people who need it, then it’s worth it, and to give back to the city I have come to love.”

Vitale and the Mariners report to Peoria, Arizona in February for spring training.

Visit givebutter.com/Run365/carsonvitale to see Vitale’s fundraiser.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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