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July 27, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Mariners honor their past and look to the future

Had a chance to stop by Safeco Field today for the Mariners Hall of Fame luncheon to honor pitcher Randy Johnson and catcher Dan Wilson. The pair will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in a ceremony tomorrow and many former players were on-hand at the lunch.
One of those not in attendance was Jay Buhner, who stirred things up on the airwaves last week when he stated that he’d “vomit” if Ichiro got another big contract. I’m told Buhner is in Spokane at his son’s baseball tournament but will be at tomorrow’s ceremony.
Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t here today either, but did deliver a video board message to Johnson and Wilson congratulating them. So did broadcaster Bob Costas, as well as John Kruk, who was famously brushed back with a Johnson pitch that missed home plate by a good five feet in the 1993 All-Star Game.
“Thanks,” Kruk told Johnson in the video. “Thanks for not hitting me in the head.”
Later, after the luncheon, Johnson said: “I was very fortunate to have played 22 years in the major leagues, and the two moments that strike more people is killing a pigeon and John Kruk. Who knew that’s all I had to do make YouTube, throw a pitcher over John Kruk and kill a bird.”
Funny moments aside, there were some nice tributes during the luncheon, including Wilson thanking former hitting coach Lee Elia — who made the trip up from his Tampa-area home in Florida — for all he’d done for him at a point in his career where he was feeling the pressure to do something at the plate.
“We did a lot of hitting in the cage, but also a lot of soul-searching too,” Wilson said.
Johnson was pretty candid after the luncheon in discussing his departure from Seattle and how it impacted him personally.
The one thing that bothered me when I left here was when people thought I wasn’t trying my hardest,” he said. “As an athlete, that bothered me a lot. I’d be the first to say, I didn’t play well, I didn’t pitch well. Did it distract me? Absolutely. I’d be the first to say that. But if the game was that easy, to leave here and be a mediocre pitcher in a good pitcher body, and go on to Houston and do legendary things, how can I answer that?
“I never did it when I was in Arizona. And I won four straight Cy Youngs. I never went 10-1. The game is funny. All I can say is, I wasn’t focused. It affected me. When I left here, I felt there was a ton of bricks off my back. I had nothing to prove, but when I came to the ballpark and I had no worries, then I was really confident. When I was coming to the ballpark at the end of ’98, not knowing if I was traded, did that affect me? Yeah. That’s part of the game. Some athletes, it doesn’t affect that much. Other athletes, maybe it affects them. Well, it affected me. I’d the first to admit that.”
Alvin Davis, who just joined the team’s player development staff as a roving instructor, was also on-hand at the luncheon. The former 1984 AL Rookie of the Year will spend the latter part of this season touring minor league facilities in Everett, High Desert, Peoria and Tacoma, giving hitting tips and instruction to players there.
His biggest challenge will be to teach them about the “intangibles” required to make it to the big leagues.
“These guys obviously have the physical tools,” Davis said. “They have the tools. They grade out on the scouting reports and the charts or else they would not be AAA, or big league ballplayers. But a lot of it is just learning the intangible part of the game and that contributes so much to your success at this level. Because the talent, it really becomes splitting hairs at this level.
“Of course you’ve got some elite players. But most of the players at the big league level, the difference between success and failure is intangibles. What’s happening inside. It’s confidence. And I’m talking about that deep-seated confidence as well. There’s a lot of bravado, a lot of braggadocio up here. A lot of swagger. And that comes with the territory. But sometimes a guy can appear confident on the outside, but not be confident on the inside deep.
“You (media) guys know this as much as I do,” he added. “One of the things you have to learn how to do to be successful at this level is to handle failure and handle criticism that comes with it. That’s part of the territory. Because it’s a production-oriented event. That’s what baseball is all about and if you don’t produce, you’re going to get criticized.”

Davis has coached high school ball in Riverside, Calif. the past seven years after being a “full-time dad” before that and staying completely away from baseball since his retirement. He decided he wanted to give the pros a try now that his children are off to school and phoned Mariners president Chuck Armstrong a while back to see what would be involved in that.
“I’m a Mariner at heart, always have been and always will be,” he said. “This is my organization, this is my family and I want to see us back at the top of the division. It’s tough being a Mariner fan living in Southern California, because there are Angels nuts down there. Amd I get to see a lot of them, I get to see a lot of what they’re doing with their club. And i want to see us back where we belong.”
That conversation and subsequent ones led to his new role as a “special assignment instructor” which will see him srrive for early work with hitters and help them with their approach, technical tips and basic advice on surviving in the big leagues. I asked him whether he’ll specifically speak with Justin Smoak when he visits Tacoma.
Davis told me he’d like to and would leave it up to Smoak to decide whether he wants to sit down for a baseball conversation with him or not. Part of the challenge with younger players, Davis said, is knowing when to push and when not to.
He quoted former manager Jim Lefebvre, who once told him: “Sometimes you’ve got to try easier.”
And when it comes to Smoak, he added, maybe the best thing would be to talk some baseball. Or, maybe it would be to talk fishing. He’ll leave it up to him.
The lineups:
Mariners (44-57)
13 Dustin Ackley (L) 2B
55 Michael Saunders (L) CF
63 Jesus Montero DH
27 John Jaso (L) C
15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
33 Casper Wells LF
20 Mike Carp (L) 1B
4 Carlos Peguero (L) RF
26 Brendan Ryan SS
49 Blake Beavan RHP
Royals (41-57)
4 Alex Gordon (L) LF
2 Alcides Escobar SS
6 Lorenzo Cain CF
16 Billy Butler DH
8 Mike Moustakas (L) 3B
13 Salvador Perez C
21 Jeff Francoeur RF
35 Eric Hosmer (L) 1B
17 Chris Getz (L) 2B
33 Jeremy Guthrie RHP

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Jesus Montero


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