More from Arizona – Seattle Mariners
You already got a taste of my time at the Peoria Sports Complex in my interview with Scott Steinmann, now for the rest of my long-awaited photos and observations.
The day was March 8. My goal, find Steinmann on the back fields at all costs. After securing my media pass in the very easy to find Mariners office (where I ran into Mariners’ radio voice Dave Niehaus reading the newspaper), I started my search. Being a first-year Seattle affiliate, my trip around the back fields wasn’t as easy as it was in Surprise with the Texas Rangers. I encountered a lot of as-of-yet unfamiliar faces, but did see some notable people:
Mariners’ lefty Jarrod Washburn. Wash pitched collegiately at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which happens to be the school I graduated from. He donated about a million dollars to the renovation of the school’s baseball field, plus his Anaheim Angels jersey still makes its home in the display case at the Kolf Sports Center on campus.
Roy Corcoran (’02), the only former LumberKing remaining in camp with the Mariners. Corcoran (#48) remains after Tug Hulett (’05) was acquired by the Kansas City Royals last month. The bottom photo shows Roy receiving instruction from new Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair, who I interviewed while he was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the Texas Rangers the last few seasons. It’s a small baseball world, after all.
After asking around, I was pointed to the back mounds where Steinmann and pitching coach Lance Painter were presiding over bullpen sessions. At this point, Mariners fans will have an easier time recognizing the pitchers in these photos than I will. I’m still trying to get familiar.
If you haven’t read my interview with Steinmann, it’s just a few posts below. He had some very encouraging things to say about his approach to managing young players, and some complimentary things to say about Clinton.
The Mariners hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks that Sunday afternoon, packing the park with Phoenix-area fans mostly dressed in red and black. Since the Dbacks train nearly an hour south in Tucson, the local fans come out whenever they play in the greater Phoenix area. Still, there was no shortage of Mariners fans, especially in the seats behind the plate.
Hopefully they get to put up another one of these signs very soon.
The story of the day was obvious: Ken Griffey, Jr’s first action in a Mariners’ uniform (and first Cactus League game) since 1999. Even with a ton of Diamondbacks fans on hand, Griffey easily got the biggest ovation of the day.
Griffey’s first spring at-bat.
Griffey walked in each of his first two at-bats, scored each time aboard and singled sharply to right in his last at-bat before being replaced by Chris Shelton. Not a bad first day back. Still, the day truly belonged to Wladimir Balentien and “The Muscle” himself, Russell Branyan. Balentien took Seth Etherton deep for a three-run homer in the first inning, and Branyan followed it up with a ball that landed in Reno (ok, it was actually the right-field bullpen).
It would have been a two-homer day for Branyan if not for the towering batter’s eye in Peoria. In the second inning, he again teed off on Etherton with a drive that missed clearing the wall by a foot. He settled for a two-run double and a 2-for-4, 3 RBI day.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, a man trying so hard to win a spot in the Mariners’ rotation that he decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for his native Australia was on the mound that afternoon. He worked a solid three innings, but was touched up by RBI doubles from Tony Clark and Chris Roberson. Not a bad performance in early March, when it’s all about feeling comfortable on the mound and not totally about the result. Unfortunately, I was there six days too early to see Rowland-Smith hit.
Upon review of the final boxscore, I found out that I had indeed seen a potential 2009 LumberKing get in the game for Seattle. Tyson Gillies came on defensively for Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth inning. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see him tear up the basepaths (he didn’t get an at-bat), nor did I see him throw any seeds to the plate. Hopefully plenty of time for that.
Some more pictures of interest:
Griffey getting to know some of his new teammates in the dugout.
My favorite part in Peoria, the tropical (and crowded) berm areas.
Another former LumberKing sighting. Brandon Watson (’01) of the Diamondbacks.
Thanks again to everyone with the Mariners’ Media Department for setting me up with the media pass. Hopefully I can go back next year.