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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 28, 2010 at 1:34 PM

Believe Big: Randy Johnson to throw out first pitch at M’s home opener

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Just got back from the Mariners’ annual spring training kickoff luncheon, loaded with notes and quotes. There were presentations by trainer Rick Griffin, amateur scouting director Tom McNamara, pro scouting director Carmen Fusco, assistant GM Jeff Kingston, special assistant Tony Blengino, pitching coach Rick Adair, manager Don Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik. Catcher Rob Johnson was also there to discuss his recovery from three offseason surgeries (he’s rarin’ to go). The Mariners unveiled their new slogan for 2010: “Believe Big,” which plays off Wakamatsu’s “Belief System” mantra and reflects their high hopes for the upcoming season.

I’ll dispel the info in increments throughout the day as I transcribe tape and go through notes, but I’ll start with the news that Randy Johnson, who announced his retirement earlier this month, was announced as the ceremonial first-pitch thrower for the home opener against Oakland on April 12.

“If he throws a strike, maybe we’ll leave him in there,” joked team president Chuck Armstrong.

It’s a great move by the Mariners and verification that no bad blood lingers from Johnson’s messy departure in 1998. Armstrong said the original idea came to him from marketing VP Kevin Martinez shortly after Johnson’s retirement announcement. Armstrong liked it, and so did CEO Howard Lincoln. Armstrong put in a call to Johnson’s agent, Alan Nero, who ran it by Johnson.

“Alan called me back immediately and said Randy said yes immediately as well,” Armstrong said. “He said Randy was psyched and honored to get the invitation, and was looking forward to connecting with you guys (the Mariners) now that his playing days are over. A very important part of his career was as a Mariner, and he hopes he stays connected the rest of his life.

“All that is good. We’re pleased and honored Randy will come on Opening Day. Randy won more games with us than any other team he pitched for. He’s a fan favorite. He’s been very much a gentleman every time he’s come back for the opposition.”

This would seem to be a precursor to Johnson joining the Mariners Hall of Fame, which requires former players to be two years out of the game and be voted in by the Mariners board of directors. There are currently just four members — Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez.

“That’s a vote of our board, but I would certainly think that Randy Johnson ought to be in the Mariner Hall of Fame,” Armstrong said.

Here’s another nugget for you: The Mariners’ list of non-roster invitees to spring training. There are 19 of them, including several with major-league experience. But all of the names, I believe, have been revealed already throughout the winter, so no big surprises:

Pitchers: RHP Chad Cordero, RHP Josh Fields, LHP Nick Hill, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP David Pauley, LHP Mauricio Robles, LHP Chris Seddon, RHP Steven Shell, RHP Levale Speigner.

Catchers: Eliezer Alfonzo, Josh Bard, Steven Baron, Luis Oliveros, Guillermo Quiroz.

Infielders: Brad Nelson, Josh Wilson, Chris Woodward.

Outfielders: Corey Patterson, Mike Wilson.

(Photo by Associated Press)

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