(Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners)
The picture above, taken by Mariners’ director of baseball information Tim Hevly, shows Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay posing with Mariners executive Bob Engle on Saturday night at the Baseball Writers Association of America dinner in New York, where the pitchers received their Cy Young Awards. Engle, the M’s vice president of international operations, signed both players — Halladay while scouting of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Hernandez with the Mariners in July of 2002.
It was a star-studded affair in New York, with all eight major award winners on hand — besides Hernandez and Halladay, the attendees included MVPs Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto, Rookies of the Year Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey, and Managers of the Year Ron Gardenhire and Bud Black. Retiring managers Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre were honored, as was Hall of Famer Pat Gillick. Ex-Mariner R.A. Dickey received the “You Gotta Have Heart” award, while Seattle’s Tim Lincecum won the Babe Ruth Award as postseason MVP (but was not in attendance).
As a bonus, the legendary Willie Mays was in the audience, sitting with the Giants’ contingent.
“Mays got a huge standing ovation — it was a very cool moment,” Hevly said.
As an aside, that reminded me of the BBWAA dinner prior to the 1994 season, when Barry Bonds, after winning the National League’s MVP, cause a hubbub by declining to attend the event. Mays, Bonds’ godfather, saved the day by showing up to pick up the hardware for Bonds.
The main ballroom at the New York Hilton held roughly 1,200 and was packed with baseball dignitaries. “There really is a baseball royalty feeling,” Hevly said. “It seemed like half the people in the game were there.”
The Mariners were represented by Hevly, Engle, team president Chuck Armstrong, GM Jack Zduriencik, scouting director Tom McNamara (who was already in New York for a scouting event), and one of the Mariners’ New York-based scouts, Joe Nigro.
One of the notable moments of the evening, Hevly said, was when each player, one by one, emerged from the elevator at the Hilton, accompanied by security personnel, to make their way to a photo shoot prior to the dinner. A large crowd of onlookers shouted the name of each player and snapped photos as they were hustled away.
“It was sort of like being at the Academy Awards,” Hevly said. “Here came a human wall through the crowd and into the reception ballroom. A photo area had been set up, and it was the first time the player saw their hardware. Someone handed them their award, and it was really cool to watch different players, including Felix. The first thing they did was really look at it. And because everyone had their family with them, they took all sorts of photos — Felix with his wife and the Cy Young; Felix with Bob Engle and Roy Halladay…”
If you scroll through this photo gallery, you’ll see several shots of Felix. According to the Associated Press, Hernandez during his acceptance speech thanked CEO Howard Lincoln, Armstrong, Zduriencik, as well as “all the managers — there have been a lot” and “all the pitching coaches — a lot, too.”
Well, let’s see: Since coming up in 2005, Felix has played for managers Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu and Daren Brown, with Eric Wedge on deck. As for pitching coaches, there have been Bryan Price, Rafael Chaves, Mel Stottlemyre, Rick Adair and Carl Willis.
But I found more amusing the quote by Hernandez from his speech in this MLB.com article: “There have been so many great pitchers to choose from, I am honored to be selected. To be around these great people is truly an honor. My teammates were great this year, unbelievable. They not only supported me offensively, but emotionally, they were there all the time.”
Now, that’s very gracious of Felix. One can only imagine how he would have gushed if his teammates had supported him offensively with more than 3.10 runs per game (lowest in the American League), or had given him more than seven total runs of support in his 12 losses.
One neat thing about the New York BBWAA dinner is the program, of which I’ve seen copies in the past. Teams take out large ads honoring various players, executives and personnel. The Mariners had three ads, which you can see here — one for Hernandez, one for Dave Niehaus, and one they shared with the Reds honoring Ken Griffey Jr. You can see the latter two here, and you can also see the Griffey ad here, once you scroll past the Joey Votto gallery.
Hernandez, by the way, has now headed in our direction. He flew to Seattle after the New York event and will appear at the annual Mariners FanFest this coming weekend at Safeco Field.