I’m typing this late Saturday night, still wearing my Mariners cap and Mariners ugly sweater. Things couldn’t be better unwinding from my day at Fan Fest.
It was a perfect, cool day for what is becoming an institution in my pre-season schedule.
- Pick up friends in Tacoma
- Pick up more friends in West Seattle
- Head to Safeco Field
- Lunch at Henry’s
- Catch as much of the Dugout Series as possible
- Don’t miss Jerry Dipoto
It was a great day to wander Safeco Field. Chilly, but dry, and not much wind. The crowds seemed larger than in years past.
This is one of those events the Mariners seem to do very well. This year was a bit different than those past. The other FanFests I’ve attended, there were a few people signing autographs early, and if you couldn’t be there early, you were out of luck. This year there were a dozen members of the Mariner family signing all day, including Leonys Martin and Jean Segura. Nice.
There were some glitches however. The ballpark opened at 11:00 with the crowd divided between autograph seekers and those not interested. Autographs began right away and conflicted with the Dugout Series schedule. The 11:00 program with Martin didn’t happen because his writin’ arm was otherwise occupied.
We did see minor league pitcher Adam Moore, future Mariner stars Kyle Lewis and Tyler O’ Neil, and then new Mariners Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson.
Segura and Dyson were quite reassuring. It is evident they both want to be here. Segura has a close relationship with Robinson Cano, who helped him develop for his monster 2016 season. Dyson wants to show the world he is an everyday player as he heads into his free agent year. Both have something to prove and it’s hard to see how the M’s don’t benefit as the regular season beckons.
At 1:00 we shuffled over to Henry’s, across Edgar Martinez Drive. I love Henry’s for its menu and incredible beer selections. The place was relatively deserted, and we were in and out quickly. Good for us. Lucille and a burger hit the spot, then it was back to Safeco.
Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly share their feelings about a bounce back season after joining the Mariners.
We arrived in time to see pitchers Yovani Gallardo, James Paxton and Drew Smyly discuss their off-season and predictions for the season. Smyly promised 20 wins for each of them as the some of the crowd clapped, some smiled knowingly, and others simple rolled their eyes. I was one of the latter, but with my fingers crossed.
But the show I really wanted to see was G.M. Jerry Dipoto and Manager Scott Servais. They spoke later in the day than last year, wrapping up the series at 3:00. Dipoto shared his decision making process and the philosophy guiding the team, looking to be better defensively and to be improved on the basepaths, and laid out the steps he took to get there. There is a certain self-confidence in his explanation that is comforting, unlike his predecessors who always seemed as though they were looking for bits that might fit, even if they were a bit scuffed and broken. Dipoto is also a master at spinning his own dealings, so listeners unquestionably believe the players he acquired were absolutely the perfect players for this Mariners team. That’s much better than Jack Zdurencik, who always led me to believe he’d had a little too much LSD the night before his explanation
Servais was charming as always and apologized for his mistakes as a new manager. He also acknowledged the team he was going to have was different and gave him more strengths to manage. He said all the right things. What became abundantly clear, however, is the close bond he has with Dipoto and how “on the same page” they are.
With Dipoto and Servais done, we headed over to the team store where I was able to exhibit a little self control and walked out with nothing. But I did have my eye on an awesome Nelson Cruz jersey selling for half off. With Nellie having only two years left on his deal, I decided to pass rather than opt for early obsolescence. Now if it was a Cano jersey, I would have been in.
Also bumped into my niece Jackie, her boyfriend Dirk and his son Leonard. It was a pleasure. They are all big Mariners fans and it was fun to see them. Leonard managed to log 14 autographs. Amazing.
There’s never a bad day at Safeco Field. My three FanFests have been thoroughly enjoyable. It signals spring training is just around the corner. And for 2017, things are looking up for the Seattle Mariners. Bring it on.