I ran up to FanFest on Saturday to do some interviews for this story on Michael Saunders playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. Quick note, in the video above Jack Zduriencik mentions signing another catcher. The team already signed Ronny Paulino to a minor league deal the other day. But it sounds as though the team will probably sign veteran Kelly Shoppach in the coming days.
A few quick thoughts …
1. The place was packed with kids and families – which is what it’s for. Say what you want about the Mariners ownership and such, this event is fantastic. It’s one of the best things that the Mariners do. Kids have a blast at this thing. Obviously, with so many people, I heard complaints about the lines being a little long for certain activities. But still, I didn’t see any unhappy kids.
Also credit to the Mariners players, they really seem to enjoy the event. That’s important. Part of the responsibility of being a professional athlete is interactive with the fans that pay to see you play. The Mariners have players in this organization that not only recognize that, but also embrace it.
here’s a link to all the videos from the dugout sessions at FanFest.
2. Michael Morse is a large human being. I covered “Mike” since he was back in the Rainiers. And he went from big to ginormous. As TNT columnist John McGrath mentioned in his column on Sunday, Morse went from 215 to 245 … and it’s all muscle. No wonder how he got the nickname Beast.
Morse has continued to do his killer offseason workouts that he learned from Raul Ibanez. They are all day affairs that includes core work, sprints, baseball movement specific lifting and lots of hitting. He also added hot yoga to increase his flexibility.
3. Brendan Ryan is clean shaven. His wife forced him to shave off his absurd mustache after the season to prepare for their recent nuptials. Ryan was interesting as usual.
“I was reminded of it daily leading up the wedding,” he said.
He said his elbow his fully healthy and feels better than he did a year ago at this time.
“I’m going into spring training in a much better place than I was in the last few years,” Ryan said.
Of course, the big thing is hitting. Can he become a legitimate hitter once again? The Mariners aren’t asking him to get .280. They’d take .240 in a heartbeat.
“Any time you talk about someone I struggled the way I did, you are talking about confidence,” Ryan said. “It’s tough to go up there and fake it. You know the swing isn’t where you want it and it’s major league pitching so it’s difficult to begin with.”
Ryan talked about hitting with more a small ball approach, admitting he got caught up trying to drive the ball for extra base hits.
“I need to be more scrappy and more willing to hit the ball on the ground and live with what happens after that,” he said. “If I’m hitting hard ground balls and line drives, the rest will take care of itself. I’ve gotten away from who I am. I need to get on base more.”
4. I saw Jesus Montero, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. He looks pretty good. In this video, Montero along with Franklin Gutierrez talk about the upcoming season.
Gutierrez talked a little about his health and playing winter ball in Venezuela. Montero talked about his offseason and catching this season. Montero also talked about the running training.
“Everyone knows I’m slow,” he said. “I worked on some little things.”
Best part is when a young kid asked if Gutierrez would move to right field if the team signed Michael Bourn at the end.
5. Kyle Seager has been working with his younger brothers, Corey and Justin this offseason. He’s going five days a week, which includes lifting and hitting and speed and agility.
“I took almost a month off and then got started up in November,” he said. “It’s necessary for me. I’ve always been a guy that really had to work hard. I feel better when I’m always fine tuning everything. It’s something I put in a lot of time and effort on.”
6. Here’s Mike Zunino and Stephen Romero talking in the dugout chat session. Good kids.
7. From where we were sitting, I couldn’t get a good look at the fences or where they are going to be. There’s still lots of construction. But every player who was asked about the fences got a little smile talking about it. They all believe it will help them.