SECTION 331

Just a goth girl and her baseball team.


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Spring Training – Not Just For Seattle Anymore

Firing up the computer at the bottom of the 4th inning while I’m hanging out in Blitz Sports Bar’s Ladd’s Addition branch after lunch with my brother and Tom. It’s virtually empty here on a Friday afternoon, but the food is good, the beer selection is great, it is very open and inviting, and the staff was super cool and have now five of the 32 or so TV screens tuned into ROOT so I can watch today’s game against the Brewers at like three different angles. I am a pint and bits of a bloody mary into my lunch time at the moment, with two hours left on my laptop battery. Let’s see where this goes. I am so terribly overjoyed to be able to see some Seattle baseball, I don’t even care that I am being aurally assaulted by classic rock!

As I start this paragraph, the score is currently 5-0 in the Mariners’ favor. Mike Zunino stepped to the plate 0-1, and hit a single that scored both Seth Smith and Kyle Seager, a nice grounder that went right under the Brewers’ shortstop’s dive. It was just a single for Zunino, but it was a 2-RBI single, and a hit; if that is what Zunino is going to do this year, I will take it. It’s an encouraging thing to see from him, for sure. I haven’t heard yet how he is changing his approach at the plate, so I have nothing to go on, but a hit is a hit is a hit, and given the fact that I would probably refer to Zunino as a “pick to click” in 2015, that was fun to see.

Danny Farquhar entered the top of the 6th with a 7-run advantage, and was taken yard by Juan Centeno. Outside of that, Farquhar had a really good 6th inning, with many of his pitches either called strikes or swinging strikes. The bottom of the 6th was pretty painful for the Brewers’ who were plagued by terrible pitching and throwing errors. DJ Peterson provided a sacrifice fly that scored a run to end the 6th at 10-1. Peterson is doing well this spring so far. I don’t know if that means a slot at the Tacoma level for him or not this year, but it is certainly encouraging. I have only seen him play live once, up in Everett, so I don’t have much personal experience with him, but his name is certainly on people’s minds.

I got to see a little bit of Mayckol Guaipe’s pitching in the bottom of the 7th. I know Guaipe is not remotely close to making a major league team this year, but if I had to base an opinion on today’s performance I would have serious doubts. I’m sure there must be room for improvement. If I hadn’t eaten and drank right away and was not interspersing discussion with my brother and husband, I might be more inclined to rediscover GameDay as I sit here, but since none of those conditions exist, I referenced this article by Ryan Divish, written about two weeks ago, about Guaipe’s supposed indispensibility on our extended roster. I am hoping that this is just a bad outing and that he has more of a future, but today was not a good day for Guaipe. The inning started off well enough, with a few 90+ MPH pitches and an out on Parker Berberet, but went downhill with walks and hits and runs and someone needs to make it stop. Poor guy. I’m not judging him by this, certainly, but my first impression of Myckol Guaipe was not a good one. As always, hoping that changes. I haven’t read any in-depth analysis on Guaipe (which is likely apparent to anyone reading this), so I’ll just call it a bad day with two runs in one inning and leave it.

I probably need to take off from here now, given my family obligations and other things that are afoot as I am down in my hometown, and this may be the worst post I have ever written due to distractions of lunch and being in a bar without TV sound, but I am thankful, nonetheless, to have been able to watch most of this game. I have to leave to meet my mother and get ready for a dinner out with friends, and seeing Forrest Snow pitching and still in the Ms organization is awesome. The Mariners will win this game, and while it doesn’t really matter, it does kind of matter. A little bit.

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Shortstop Battle, A Struggling Catcher, and Taijuan Walker

I work during the day time and don’t have TV anyway (we got rid of the cable box for a few months to try and save money), so if ESPN isn’t broadcasting Spring Training games streaming, I simply can’t listen to them. I have been trying to keep up via the Seattle Times with the goings-on of the team, but there seems to be more news than ever coming out of camp, and it’s been difficult to keep up with everything.

Brad Miller and Chris Taylor are fighting an important duel at shortstop, where they platooned last year. I have not heard how either of them are doing thus far, but I figure either way the team comes out a winner. I didn’t have any issue with how that position was handled last year, and while I realize that there are offensive and defensive issues depending on who you point the finger at, between the two of these guys, we’re not doing too badly. I know they want someone who is The Guy, and it will be interesting to see who that turns out to be, but things still feel strong, because regardless of who The Guy is, we have another Guy ready to back him up if need be. I’m kind of attached to Brad Miller, and if he picks up where he left off at the end of last year, so much the better. But really, I have no horse in this race. Whomever is the best is who I’m hoping they’ll choose.

The other cause for concern is catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino was terrible offensively last year, which is saddening, since we finally have a guy – a young guy who might stick around a while – who is not Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Miguel Olivo, or anyone else to whom the words “passed” and/or “ball” might be attached. For as little as I have been writing lately, I remain steadfast in my love for and confidence in Zunino. I want him to show his bat who is boss and really take charge at the plate; but if we have a solid number 9 hitter at .200 who is all business defensively, I’ll take that too. In the time I have been a Mariners fan, we have not really had a catcher like Zunino. Even Kenji Johjima – while pretty solid in that position – was extremely reserved in comparison. Zunino is everywhere back there. He runs for pop-ups that the third or first basemen could easily get. He throws himself over dugout bars, and into the crowd if he has to; usually without results because the ball is too far into the stands to catch, but he does it anyway, like a boss. He blocks the plate aggressively and with absolutely no fear. And this from a guy who only a few years ago was virtually unknown to most Mariners fans. I also drafted him at the season ticket holder draft event a while back, because everyone else at my table had already chosen, and I couldn’t decide. Zunino seemed too obvious at the time, but pressure from a friend made me write him down. When he was picked, I felt like I had won something personally (which of course I had, in the form of free hot dogs and decreased pricing on beer that day), and I think it remains so to this day (credit to my friends, of course, but still). If Zunino can figure out his at bats, he’ll have everything; the adoration of the fans (moreso than now!), the faith of Felix Hernandez…really, what more does a catcher need? Zunino is apparently trying to change his approach, which, according to this article by Ryan Divish, seems more of a mental than a physical issue for him. This is good, though, because it’s far easier to change the way you think about the game than it is to make your body do something it either can’t or won’t do. Wishing Zunino the best of luck; if he manages to transform himself into a better hitter, it will be a great story this year.

Taijuan Walker came into Spring Training like a lion this March, throwing two scoreless innings and giving up only one hit while nabbing two strikeouts. I think that the team favors him over Roenis Elias, and I think I do too. Nothing against Elias at all, but clearly the organization wanted to see what Walker’s first dive into the pool was going to look like, and I have to think they loved what they saw. I, sadly, missed his start due to a work meeting, but was able to join the game online around the 4th inning or so. I hope he leaves March like a lion, too. I would love to see him as a steady in the rotation finally. I have heard a lot of praise  of his throwing via Twitter and radio, and am looking forward to seeing more of it for myself.

I am in Portland for a bit now, staying with my brother, who has TV. I have not yet been brave enough to check his cable set up to see if he gets ROOT, but hopefully I can watch a game tomorrow between the Ms and the Brewers. And if I can’t watch it here, I might actually see if there is a pub somewhere around for lunch and TV. I won’t be back in time for the game on Sunday unfortunately, so I want to try and get at least one in this week if at all possible. In the course of figuring out my work schedule for Opening Day, it came to my abrupt attention that it is now only 24 days away. TWENTY FOUR DAYS. I put the remainder of my payment for my tickets down tomorrow, my tickets for the home opener are already secured and ready to go. This is finally happening, and the next few weeks are going to be very exciting, I can almost not wait. But since I have to, I will. I will have to go into work for a few hours that Monday morning, since I have no backup for a part of my job that is specifically mine, but after that, it’s off to the stadium, where I will hopefully be able to live-Tweet and run into some friends for the early day game. I don’t have any creative way to end this post, so I’ll end it by stating the obvious, because I almost can’t believe it myself; Baseball is nearly back!


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Jesus Montero’s Serious Change

With the sunny, clear weather we are having in Seattle today, and a friend’s mention that the University of Washington baseball team has started playing games in earnest this weekend, not to mention the fact that I am currently sitting in a friend’s apartment looking out on the Space Needle with the sliding doors open to only a light chill, I feel baseball season more and more upon us. It is a month and change away, and I don’t know if I can wait that long. I was able to get some Opening Day tickets with yesterday’s paycheck, and whereas normally I opt for the upper deck tickets that are automatically attached to a 16/20-game plan when you ask for them, I decided to go in style in the lower deck, section 144. And aisle tickets as well! It’s like they know me! I can hardly wait. I want to start this year off on a high note, because I feel like it’s going to end on one. I also have designs on a Diamond Club experience this year, but given that I am planning visits to Coors Field and Chase Stadium, next year, I am not sure I can make that happen. I desperately need a raise for all this baseball.

A short while ago, I wrote about Jesus Montero’s second chance and how I was a little gunshy about it. Montero’s weight, his attitude, his injuries, and an unfortunate altercation last year with a Mariners crosschecker at an Aquasox game when he was rehabbing all made him not only a target of derision for fans in general, but also really caused a lot of us to wonder if he really wanted to play the game. Moreover, if he really wanted to play it here in Seattle. Maybe he was used to being in an organization like the Yankees, who are even right now struggling with the choice to keep Alex Rodriguez or what seems like an obvious option to dump him, and from which  Montero earned his 50 game suspension after making some other bad choices (I will hold off on any comments about Nelson Cruz, that’s not what this post is about). A lot of Montero’s career with this team seems to have been taking it for granted. Did he think we were pushovers? Did he think he could just ride it out being tossed back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle, and that was all his career would ever amount to? Did he want anything more from his career? Was he even legitimate major league material? I could go on and on with questions, because Jesus Montero seemed to be an endless black hole that demanded those questions and would never give up any answers, just sucking up criticism until the Mariners finally released him…

But that’s not what happened.

Jesus Montero changed. A lot. First, the most noticeable aspect of the changes he has made. His weight. Normally, I don’t like talking about athlete weight. There are athletes who don’t have what one might typically consider an atheletic build, and there are athletes who do, and both kinds are definitely professional and able to do what we know they can do. Weight is generally speaking not really much of an indicator of athletic skill. We all know Prince Fielder is a pudgy guy who can’t really run all that fast, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for with his bat; so I don’t judge baseball players on their weight, only whether or not they can play the game. Montero was pudgy, and was just not very good at baseball. This much we know. In fact, he was so bad at baseball, I never took any pictures of him so I don’t have any photos of my own, so I will use as a before photo, this picture taken last year, attached to a Ryan Divish article, wherein Jack Zduriencik basically says that all hope for Montero has been lost, all expectations forgotten. Then an after photo from another Divish article written a few days ago, which everyone should read if they haven’t already.

So, before and after…

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Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.06.48 PMTaken just about a year apart, the difference is obvious. Montero cleaned up his weight game hard. Like really hard. No more what I generally think of as “catcher’s thighs”, a smaller waist, a trimmer core. He looks less like a meatloaf and more like a baseball player. We were told last year before he came to camp – when the first photo was taken – that he had “lost weight”. I remember being pretty excited about it, then seeing photos and thinking he looked pretty much the same. Even with the lack of expectations on the Mariners’ part though, I figured they must either know something about him that the rest of us didn’t, or they simply couldn’t unload him on some unsuspecting team. 2014 went on, and the lack of expectation proved accurate. Jesus Montero just wasn’t a good baseball player.

But now? Now I have hope for Montero. The Divish article the second photo was taken from mentions a newfound humility for the catcher.  Apologies. Workouts. A loss of 40 pounds. A drive that the organization hasn’t seen before. An attitude that indicates he wants to be a Seattle Mariner for once and for all, and for real. And a daughter he wants to play for now. I want this to be his thing. I want to see a new and improved Jesus Montero that was what we hoped he might be when we sent Michael Pineda east. Pineda has not done well in New York, either. I want to win this trade, dammit! I loved Michael Pineda when he was here, and until he started having problems with the Yankees, I was completely bummed about the situation and everything it led to. But now it seems that Montero’s new resolve might be making it possible to turn his career around and be a worthwhile member of the Seattle Mariners.

Will Jesus Montero be an everyday catcher for the Mariners? Probably not. Mike Zunino has come up here and pretty much owned that position, and right now it looks like Montero might find himself at more of a utility spot with first base than anything else, with Jesus Sucre and a few others battling for secondary spots at catcher in camp right now. But perhaps now his time in Tacoma is either limited or up entirely, and he might find himself a home on our major league roster for once and for all, taking some shots with Logan Morrison in the right infield. My fingers are crossed. Let’s do this, Jesus! I believe that you can do the thing!


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Thursday Baseball Apathy. Maybe.

We are still not quite out of football season on sports radio, and I don’t have TV back just yet (we cancelled our cable to save money, and won’t be getting it back until later in March/early April), so I am still at a loss to really gather feelings on the upcoming season, and I feel like I should be way more excited than I am. Or maybe I really am excited, but I can’t communicate that just yet because I am a visual person and until I actually see some real life, current, non-rerun baseball I won’t even believe it’s happening. But yesterday was the first full squad workout, and I am seeing some pictures and short video show up on my Twitter and Instagram feeds (yes, I still have an Instagram account, and so do the Mariners), so maybe when next week rolls around, I’ll be all over this. Maybe. Nelson Cruz is clearly ready for the season to start, so maybe I should get it together and start being a bit more excited here. It is nearly March, after all.

Rickie Weeks lopped his dreadlocks off (it must feel amazing, I remember cutting mine, too) and come to camp ready to share my corner of the ballpark in left field with Dustin Ackley. It is planned that he will platoon (I’m using that word even if Lloyd McClendon won’t) with Ackley depending on righty/lefty pitcher needs, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. Ackley’s migration to the outfield has worked really well for him, so hopefully Weeks can follow suit and still maintain his massive OPS. Since the days of Raul Ibanez, left field has felt nice and secure defensively with the players we have put out there, and if the team is confident in Weeks, I will be, too.

Robinson Cano is far more optimistic than I personally am willing to be about this season just yet. I do like the way the team is looking so far, and I am definitely looking forward to see who makes it where out of Spring Training, and yes, I remember last year’s success very, very well, but it just seems too good to be true right now, and I don’t want to go nuts. You know what I do like about Cano’s statements, though, regardless of whether or not I can buy into it wholesale this very minute? That attitude! And Robbie Cano has played for winners before; I trust him to at least know what a good team might look like, and he seems to be a fan of the changes and additions made over the offseason. I can seriously hardly wait for the noise in the stadium when these guys are announced at the home opener.

Hisashi Iwakuma is also feeling better too, and took a bullpen the other day, some video of which the Mariners posted on their Instagram site. He looks good in that short clip, pitching pretty effortlessly in the Arizona sun. I hope he doesn’t have any setbacks this year, and stays down in the zone, as Mike Zunino mentioned in the above link. I love Kuma’s pitching style, he is just a treat to watch and I am glad he is ours. Also at that link, Tom Wilhelmsen just got back from Florida, where he lost his arbitration hearing, but isn’t letting that sour him at all. Wilhelmsen is endearing that way; he’s laid back and kind of just rolls with the punches. I worry sometimes that he might not stick around forever, and I know that can happen, but I just love the fact that he comes off as more of a cartoon character than Serious Athlete. Serious Athletes are a dime a dozen, and Serious Athletes are boring; it takes someone special to be a guy who can throw a 95MPH fastball, pal around with fans with abandon, and then mix everyone a drink afterwards. Have I mentioned lately that I love our bullpen? Because I really love our bullpen, everyone!

I have to get back to work, but hope to be able to write again tomorrow. March is almost here. Spring Training proper is almost here. Baseball is almost here!


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Some Thoughts on Montero, Chavez, Gutierrez and Zunino

I have wanted to write for a while now, but with football reigning supreme in Seattle, it’s been kind of difficult to find the narrative of the Seattle Mariners. I figure the best thing to do would just be to air my big dumb opinions on various points of interest and articles published over the past few weeks. So here we go!

Jesus Montero is being given another chance. I really hate to be a downer when I’m not normally (not with any degree of seriousness, anyway), but I am weary and therefore wary of the rollercoaster that is our middling catcher. I certainly want to have more faith in him, and it sounds like the fact that he has met with the organization and constructed a plan for coming back happier and healthier – and has made his reporting weight with reporting still weeks away – is a good sign. I really do like the concept of Jesus Montero, and he seems to have a good degree of random power, but the attitude hasn’t been there and the hitting hasn’t been reliable. I would really love to see him make it here. I feel like he’s pretty good defensively, and hasn’t had any knee issues behind the plate, so I really just want him to get himself together and play. My fingers are crossed, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I did that last year, when everyone was saying that he had slimmed down and then when I finally saw a photo of him at spring training, he looked pretty much the same as he had before. I’m pulling for him, just being cautious about it. Given the catcher depth that the Mariners have piled up, sounds like they are, too.

Back in January, too, the Mariners signed Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez to minor league contracts. I like the Chavez signing; they clearly intend to keep him around for utility purposes, and I am glad he has decided to stay there. I have always been an Endy fan, he’s just a fun player to watch. But the Gutierrez offer both surprises and saddens me. Saddens because I love him so much and I just want him to be healthy and fast and in center field where he shines so well, and I know it can never be that way. I miss him in center. We got to see some fantastic defense while he was there, and while we have seen more defense from healthier players, I miss those high home-run-stopping jumps in the early evening sun. Surprised, though, because as the article linked above states, we clearly should not be expecting anything from him at a major league level at all. He seemed to do alright in the Venezuelan winter league, but that doesn’t help us in Seattle, and I have to wonder why the Ms have decided to keep him around. I’d love to see him back up here once or twice, but I’m not holding my breath. We have made improvements, and while the thoughts of what could have been with him will always echo on in my head, I know I have to separate the fan from the logic and what I know to be necessary. Whatever happens, I hope he has fun in Tacoma and stays healthy this year.

Speaking of Tacoma, I need to try and get down there this year more. I said that last year, but I felt really out of touch with the big picture last year, because I was completely missing out on the Rainiers. Maybe there will have to be some out of town Mariners games where I take the opportunity to go see what will likely be a fairly familiar roster.

Finally, I was listening to 710 ESPN Seattle this morning, and there was a lot of encouraging Mariners talk, sandwiched between football’s combine talk (don’t try and explain it to me, I could not care less if I put effort into it). There was some discussion of who to watch out for as the breakout/most improved player in 2015, and Mike Zunino’s name was tossed around. To finish up the Ryan Divish article linking party, some bits and bobs on Zunino and how he’s done so far with the Mariners. I am just flat out going to say on the record that I am an unapologetic Mike Zunino fan. I love everything about him. Do I wish he would hit more? Of course I do. But he is a great game caller, the pitchers seem to adore him, and he is a bit of a clubhouse personality that the team has been lacking for a while. I like upbeat players that aren’t afraid to take themselves a little less than seriously, and Zunino does this with style. Dave Cameron’s guy may be Dustin Ackley, but I think I’ll go with Zunino too. I feel like he is destined for something great this year.

Zunino and his catching and pitching friends will report to the Mariners Spring Training facility this Friday. Position players will follow early next week. I am ready for Spring Training to start. I am very very ready for meaningless baseball.


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Mariners Refuse to Abuse 5K, And How You Can Help

Yep. After years of wanting to and either forgetting to set the date aside, or planning things on top of it, I am finally going to participate in this. The Mariners have been holding this event for quite a few years now, and I have never gone due to my own negligence, so now is the time. Since this is a baseball blog and I don’t want to get into some of my own life experiences here (no, I have never been abused, but I have had friends who have been), but suffice to say it’s a subject that hits a bit close to home with me.

I’m not a runner or athlete of any kind, but I can walk like a crazy person and not get tired, and 3+ miles is really not that much of a big deal for me. If the weather is cool (which is a big if, in July), I will even wear a full-body fleece set of pajamas I got that make me look like a big cat. I don’t know anything about 5K events, but I have seen enough pictures to know that people dress up and wear funny hats and whatnot, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on any fun. If it’s hot, I’ll opt for something maybe a bit more sensible, like exercise clothing, and probably toss on some Mariners gear for good measure.

In any event, you can learn about the event here and register for it (a $40 fee gets you on their list), learn more about it here at this link, and it benefits these fine folks at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, whose website helped me help my friends.  If you’d like to help me raise more money, I have a donation site located here, with a picture of me in the aforementioned fleece PJs.


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Mariners FanFest 2015: The Furbush/Wilhelmsen Comedy Half Hour

Yesterday started off pretty early for me, around 7 or so. I took my time getting ready to leave, packed my camera and whatnot into this backpack I was given for Christmas that is made of baseball leather and has red stitching on the outside (and more room in it for things than my laptop bag has), and headed off down the street to the bus stop. It is probably pretty warm out this morning too, as people are gathering for today’s event, and it was unseasonably warm yesterday. A bit of a sprint and a short bus ride later, and I was downtown, headed for the field.

I made my way through downtown towards Jimmy’s, where I’d planned to have breakfast, found a seat in the back of the bar (which was already quite full, likely of both Mariners fans and people going to the Seattle Boat Show across the street), ordered my breakfast, and relaxed. I want to say I was there around 9AM or maybe a little thereafter. I took a very leisurely bit of time to eat, then went over and planted myself in line at the left field gates around 10A. And here is where I give a recommendation; get there an hour early. Last year, Su and I didn’t get there until after 11, and the lines were insane. Get there a little early, deal with standing for a bit, and you get in in no time.

After the gates opened, I had a job to do, so Su and I parted ways – she for Dugout Dialogue, and I for Select-a-Seat. I met a very nice fellow who gave me a sheet with the four options for 20-game plans (which is so much nicer and compact than the 10 or so plans they used to have for 16 games), and asked me where I’d like to sit in the stadium. I tried to get my old seats from a few years ago, but they were gone for that plan, so I settled for the two next to them. We chatted about the Mariners Fan Fest vs those of other teams. I need to say something about how good we have it in Seattle as fans. Some teams hold their yearly winter festivals for the public at places other than their home fields, and some don’t have them at all. The Mariners organization has done a very nice job of opening the park and giving fans mostly free reign of the main and lower concourses, and access to parts of the field that we wouldn’t ordinarily have, like the team’s clubhouse and the rooftop control room – which isn’t all that impressive in itself, but getting to see a little bit about the park itself (rather than focus on the game) is educational at the least, and frankly kind of neat. The Mariners have also done a good job of using all the main bits of the park; tons of bouncy houses for kids around the main concourse, zip line in right field, tee ball in center, and catch in left, with the ever-present ROOT Sports news desk by home plate, and the ability to walk onto the field from first base to third and the visitor’s dugout; something I do just about every year and never get tired of. So yeah. We have it pretty good here.

So after I gave this friendly stranger who works for the Marines a boatload of money and he explained the next steps in the payment plan process, we shook hands, and I went on my merry way to meet Su. But not before stopping at the King’s Court area, and voting for what shirt will be given out next year. I am sure they will do multiple designs, like ever year, but frankly this was my favorite:

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Next up in my travels was this:

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That is a rough picture, and I apologize; cell phone and me trying to stay out of people’s way. In any event, this is being taken to Arizona to meet up with the Seahawks in their Super Bowl endeavors. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about this; but since it looks like history is being made, I decided to sign it, in the lower left corner (was not signed when this picture was taken): Go Hawks! Go Mariners! and then the scribble that passes for my signature. Several hours later, we would walk back past this thing, and there was barely any room on it. People were signing on the back. They’ll need another one for today’s event!

I took a stroll around left field and the third base side of the park, where there were several organizations set up for charity donations, joining or supporting local baseball and softball organizations, the 710 ESPN booth, a kiosk where you could buy game-used gear, one where the Diamond Club was set up with chairs and tables (probably the closest I will ever get to actually being in the Diamond Club), and finally I located Su sitting over the Mariners dugout waiting for the next folks to show up and talk at Dugout Dialogue.

Next up to discuss the game was Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McClendon, who sat down and responded to questions from Dave Sims, Aaron Goldsmith, and then the audience at hand.

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Two of the questions of note were about Ichiro and Michael Saunders. A fan asked what basically amounted to a question that placed some degree of assumption on the front office having even looked at bringing back Ichiro as an option. Zduriencik handled it well. He basically stated that Ichiro was never an option for this club this year, while still maintaining the degree of respect they have for the player and his game. On the record, I’m just going to say that if Ichiro ever plans his last year, I really hope they do something as a feel-good signing for his last season here, like they did with Ken Griffey Jr. He might not play in the capacity we’re all used to seeing, but it would be nice to have him back one last time. A kid next to me asked a question about how McClendon plans to use the outfield, and as names and positions were rattled off, my brain went to “Hey, what about Michael Saunde- aw man!” Immediately after this, someone did ask a question about why Saunders wasn’t kept, and Zduriencik said that while they did like Saunders, we had a need for starting pitching, and thus JA Happ was acquired in that deal. No drama, just straight up fact. If you’re looking for controversy, Jack’s not going to give it to you.

Next up were Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, with Walker sporting some new frames and a sweet pair of fingerless gloves, though honestly I was sitting out there with only a sweater on. It was a nice day yesterday. Even texting and using Twitter, my own fingers stayed pretty warm. First time ever; usually during this event it’s 30F and raining out.

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A short break later, and Brad Adam appeared, as did Austin Jackson and JA Happ.

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Full disclosure, we didn’t stick around for this one. Su was hungry, and I wanted to check out The Pen, so we left about midway through, with JA Happ giving some praise to Jackson for his fielding work.

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We wound through a maze of bouncy houses, a line to have your picture taken at “Let the Arrow Fly” out near the Moose Den (basically, there is a dirt mound, some grass, a photo background, and you do the Fernando Rodney thing), then the Moose Den itself. I recovered a schedule from Select-a-Seat so I could let my friend Eric (Red Sox fan) know when he should avail himself for a Sunday game against Boston, Su cast her vote for the Felix shirts, and then we went downstairs to Edgar’s and watched adorable tiny children play catch with their parents.

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Su got a bacon-wrapped hotdog and a beer, my friend Tom and I had beer (breakfast was huge, I did not need lunch in the least), another Tom showed up and we chatted a bit about this and that, and after Tom #2 left, the three of us stood around and chatted until we realized that it was almost time to see Nelson Cruz take some questions. So back upstairs, another walk around the third base side of the park, and back to the dugout!

Cruz was just settling in with Dave Sims, and the three of us snuck in as close as we could.

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Cruz was asked about everything from how much he liked it here to how he felt about our facilities in the Dominican Republic, to not having to play against Felix. Cruz said he was very glad to not have to face Felix, and also not to have to deal with the “Ks in left field“.  While part of me thinks it was just a friendly appeal to his new fanbase, part of me would love to think that having 200 people yell for your failure might get into a player’s head eventually. Cruz said that while people in the DR do wear Mariners gear, fans are more likely to follow individual players, rather than a whole team. I got the impression that the team’s baseball-building facilities in his country might be doing some good for younger players who really want to make it to MLB.

Next up were John Hicks and Alex Jackson (who will eventually trip me up with Austin Jackson), two of our minor leaguers. Jackson is 19. Rick Rizzs hosted them, and the fan Q&A seemed longer than the previous sessions. Wonderfully enough, almost every single question asked of these two were asked by children, both boys and girls. Some of them were serious, some were just sweet, but it was nice to see so much interest in the game from a younger generation.

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Hicks and Jackson, for their part, seemed a little nervous on the dais, but I am sure they’ll get better and more comfortable with practice.

Next up, the comedy duo of Furbush and Wilhelmsen…

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They put these two together last year, and it was a huge hit for those in attendance. Lots of joking around with Rizzs and Goldsmith and each other. Wilhelmsen kept the beard hat on for longer this year than he did last year, but so far has not made it through an entire interview with the thing on.

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Then a fan in the audience, one of the 4 Old Bats, brought up the song “Build Me Up Buttercup“, which prompted this:

More talk of Wilhelmsen’s dancing, and then this happened:

There is a small chance that both of these videos may be pulled, because somehow me posting a few seconds of a song violates someone’s copyright rules (and you can’t have fun on the internet), but I hope that people can enjoy them if at all possible. If not, there are better copies of said events filmed by the Mariners themselves here, and those are also one after the other, with better sound and film quality than my Canon. Any way, much fun was had, and I don’t remember a whole lot of what was said because I was either laughing or lamenting the fact that I am really going to miss these guys when they’re gone. But for now, I will enjoy them as much as possible while they’re here. Our bullpen is still pretty weird, and I love it.

The last two speakers for the day were DJ Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan, and yes I had to look that last one up just to be sure on spelling. Their segment was much lower key than their predecessors, and they spoke about their careers so far, and coming back from various injuries. Also, thanks to a girl sitting in back of us at the time, I now know that Kivlehan’s favorite food is strawberries, while Peterson prefers Mexican food of all kinds.

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Peterson was also asked by a boy sitting in a row in front of him whether or not he would ever get his hair cut like “The Boz”. Much shock all around initially, as I think most people have more or less forgotten about Brian Bosworth and his antics from the 1980s, and Aaron Goldsmith was impressed the kid even knew the name. Peterson declined, he likes his hair just fine the way it is, thank you.

After a quick sweep downstairs to see if we had missed much of anything in the clubhouse level, Su and I went back to her car and tooled back over to my neck of the woods in West Seattle, where we dropped some stuff off at the house and then proceeded to Beveridge Place for some beer and food. We were joined by one person from LookoutLanding, Cody Morris, part-owner and brewer for Gastropod Brewpub, and soon a new location in South Lake Union (which will apparently feature Indonesian food, I am looking forward to it). We did talk about baseball and football, but I’ve always been interested in the art of brewing beer, and I learned a lot from him over the course of the evening. A few of my friends randomly showed up there just because they were looking for some place to go, and we had a table of beer, pizza from Peel and Press, and lots of good discussion. A great way to end an excellent day.

Lastly, for those of you who might be worried about the new takeover of Elysian Brewpub by Annheuser-Busch, don’t be. Things are going to stay the same. I would go into that more, but this isn’t a beer blog. Just rest assured that your beer and food will remain untouched by the large corporations; though they may have to get rid of that Loser Ale, for obvious reasons.

For anyone going to FanFest today, have a great time. I hear the temperatures are supposed to be over 60F today, and maybe they’ll open up the roof! Go Mariners!

 

 

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