Sitting in a hotel room reflecting on camp
Only Junior could come up with a prank like this one on Roger Hansen
If it’s Friday, I must be in Oakland.
I can look out my hotel window and clearly see Oakland, so I have to disagree with the old saying that, “There is no there there.”
It is drizzly here in the Bay Area, with temps in the mid-50s. From what I understand, the temperature is about the same in Albuquerque, where the Mariners play the Rockies tonight in the first of a two-game series before heading West to play the Giants on Sunday and open the regular season on Monday night in Oakland.
Meanwhile, my pal and colleague Kirby Arnold reported via telly that the temp is close to 80 in Peoria today. That’s about 20 degrees higher than yesterday, when camp closed. It was the coldest Spring Training that I can remember, but the memory isn’t what it used to be.
SportsCenter is being shown on the TV next to me, and it appears that the warm, fuzzy feelings about the Mariners going into Spring Training has subsided. The “experts” are now predicting a second or third-place finish in the AL West.
The coolness has much to do with, I suspect, Cliff Lee being injured and probably not at full strength until much later this month, or early May. That, and the Mariners’ continued difficulty scoring runs — in Arizona, no less — has sent up some red flags.
The long drive from Peoria to Oakland yesterday gave me plenty of time to reflect on the six-week camp and I came up with my own version of various awards.
Most Outstanding hitter: Mike Sweeney wanted to come back to Seattle so badly this year that he batted .543 in Spring Training and went from a guy with no chance of making the 25-man roster to the spring star.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Rule 5 Draft choice Kanekoa Texeira could have been on the pitching staff even if he had surrendered more than one run the entire spring. He can keep his long, curly hair and beard.
Defensive Player of Camp: Kudos to Jose Lopez, who made the switch from second base to third base without complaining (too much) about it, and did a terrific job. He might not be as good defensively as Adrian Beltre, but I can think of a lot of former hot corner occupants that are less reliable there than Jose.
Best Prank of Camp: The huge display on the batter’s eye in center field at Field 1 (see above photo) was another Ken Griffey, Jr. masterpiece. This one is of himself and Minor League catching guru Roger Hansen, Junior’s “baby-sitter” in 1988 at Double-A Burlington, Vermont. Hansen was “demoted” from Triple-A Tacoma to keep a close eye on Junior, who was a teen-ager at the time.
Griffey told me that Hansen never, ever complained about being sent down and “I learned a lot from that.”
Griffey also had the first runner-up prank: a T-shirt with a photo of mustachioed pitching coach Rick Adair in is much-younger days. That was followed up by the same picture, along with with his wife, Louisa.
Most Memorable Swing: First baseman Tommy Everidge told me the story about his dad passing away from kidney failure the day after he was married and in his first at-bat of the spring — and on his first swing — Everidge hit a grand slam. How sweet was that?
Best Medical Story: Catcher Rob Johnson, who had three surgeries during the off-season, promised on the first day of camp that he would the Opening Night catcher for Felix Hernandez. Looks like Robby Robert was true to his word.
— Jim Street