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Tuesday, December 7
Updated: December 8, 4:10 AM ET
Olerud returns to Seattle roots

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- John Olerud decided to return home, agreeing Tuesday to a $20 million, three-year contract with the Seattle Mariners and spurning a chance to re-sign with the New York Mets.

John Olerud
John Olerud, right, has a lot to smile about as he talks to Mariners president Chuck Armstrong at a news conference.

"This was a real difficult decision for me," Olerud said. "There were times where I was leaning towards the Mets, definitely. I came close, but never to the point where I said 'Let's go for it.' "

The first baseman, coming off an $8 million, two-year deal, said the Mets made a "very comparable" offer. The contract with Seattle calls for salaries of $6.35 million in 2000, $6.7 million in 2001 and $6.95 million in 2002.

"I think if it was any other team other than the Mets, it would have been a real easy decision," Olerud said.

With the Mariners, Olerud will be able to commute to Safeco Field for home games. He has a wife and 15-month-old son living in Seattle and will be able to play in front of his parents. He also has grandparents on both sides of the family in Seattle.

"We couldn't match that," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. "It really boiled down to what city he wanted to play in."

Olerud, 30, has spent the last three seasons with the Mets, who acquired him in a trade with the Blue Jays. He hit .298 this year with 19 home runs and 96 RBI. He was fourth in the NL with 125 walks and fifth with a .427 on base percentage.

New York now has a big hole to fill in its batting order, with former Mariners first baseman David Segui a possibility. Segui also played with the Mets from 1994-95.

"What's next is that we put the pursuit of plans B, C, D, E, F and G in place," Phillips said. "It's going to make for a more exciting offseason than we hoped or expected."

One of the first phone calls Pat Gillick placed after Seattle hired him as general manager in October was to Olerud's parents, a call that earned the Mariners a $5,000 fine from commissioner Bud Selig. Olerud hadn't filed for free agency yet and Selig said the call created the appearance of tampering.

Olerud said Tuesday that Gillick's presence in Seattle was "definitely a comfort factor." Olerud won World Series rings with Toronto in 1992 and 1993 when Gillick was general manager of the Blue Jays.

Gillick said the main thrust of his sales pitch to Olerud was that the club "is on the upswing" and that Olerud's swing "is really suited" to Safeco Field. The uncertain status of Seattle's two stars, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez did not feature much in the talks, Gillick said. Both are eligible for free agency after next season and the Mariners have said they will try to trade Griffey before next season.

Olerud said instability was one possible negative with the Mariners.

"As a player, it's a lot more fun to play on a winning team," he said, "but with Mr. Gillick here, we're going to be moving in the right direction."

Olerud said he wanted to keep the contract short and asked for -- but didn't get -- a no-trade clause. The contract includes a limited no-trade clause that allows him to pick 10 teams a year that he does not want to be traded to.

In 1993, Olerud won the AL batting title with a .363 average and was picked for the All-Star Game -- his only appearance.

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John Olerud talks about returning to Seattle.
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