The Mariners Virtual Baseball Bash continued apace this afternoon, with a flurry of events including an hourlong Season Ticket Holder Zoom event with three of the team’s most high-profile pitching prospects: Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Emerson Hancock. The trio fielded a series of questions from play-by-play announcer Aaron Goldsmith before taking inquiries from the chat box in later innings.
Following are some highlights of the sixty-minute conversation:
Aaron Goldsmith: “Where are you guys dialing in from, and what have you been up to in the offseason?”
Logan Gilbert is at home in Florida, where he notes that the temperature is nice but the humidity is bad for his hair. (You just gotta get the right product, Logan.) He took some time off but is back into working out and training at the Florida Baseball Ranch, where he recently attracted some attention with a video of him throwing gas with a backwards hat. “Figured I’d turn the hat around and try to get a little extra velocity, he says. “Not sure if it worked.” It is unclear how he thinks the hat and his velocity are connected.
Also in Florida is George Kirby, training at Cressey Sports Performance, where he casually mentions sighting Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer. “Are you allowed to talk to them?” Goldy asks. Kirby: “There are a lot of guys just sharing ideas. Most of the people are around my age — it’s good to connect with them. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to talk to Noah or any of those guys.” He notes that he’s lost around twenty pounds, and Goldy observes that he’s “yoked,” so it’s clear he’s been putting the offseason to good use.
Emerson Hancock is at home in Cairo (“KAY-row”), Georgia, but is driving every day to - you guessed it - Florida to train in Tallahassee. Though he is living with his parents, he emphasizes that he’s paying for his own gas. Hancock, Goldy notes, is in a strange position of having been in the org for a year but not having pitched yet. Still, Hancock is happy for the small amount of time he got to spend at T-Mobile last year. “The first couple of days I was there… Marco was there, Sheffield was there, you just kind of look and see how it’s done…. The culture is incredible…. Everyone is really on board and I feel like we do a good job of helping each other.”
Following the intros, Goldsmith springs a short-answer question inspired by everyone’s soon-to-be-favorite MarinersVision segment - slash - thinly-veiled Truth or Dare repackage, “Take it to the Grave.” Goldy kindly does not ask the players to chug condiment packets or anything else (though come on, certainly baseball wasn’t the only thing they learned in college), but he does ask what their least favorite condiment to chug would be, you know, hypothetically.
Kirby, who receives way fancier condiments than me: “Blue cheese.”
Hancock: “I’m out on mayonnaise. I can’t stand it.”
Before the audience questions, Goldsmith has one more inquiry for each of the trio.
AG: “Logan, I understand that you and Jarred Kelenic have been facing off all the time in training but then debriefing about it afterwards. Jarred has been very positive about this experience. What do you have to say about it?”
LG: “Usually you don’t get to speak to anybody [you face] afterwards about what just happened, but we had a unique opportunity.” He notes that it’s been very useful to get to ask Kelenic about his batting decisions. “What did you see in that pitch? What made it so easy for you to take it?”
AG: “What is it that makes Kelenic so tough to face?”
LG: “He’s really disciplined. He won’t chase things. You can beat him occasionally on something but it probably won’t happen again.”
AG: “You guys have been competing at as high a level as there is outside of MLB for as long as you can remember. Then that fuel of competing has been taken away from you. What has that been like?”
GK: “Getting work in Tacoma was awesome. Logan hit it on the head. Kelenic is such a patient hitter and you see guys all day who are good…. Just doing my work and working out and hopefully we’ll get back to Spring Training soon.”
AG: “What has been the most eye-opening element of being a full-time pro?”
EH: “I think just the realization that this is what I do now, that I have to take care of myself 24 hours a day, get enough sleep, work out, recover. This is literally my job now.”
Finally, our threesome took a moderated set of audience questions.
“What motivates you and gets you going every day in regards to baseball?”
- Gilbert: “Just wanting to get better every day”
- Kirby: “There are always ways to get better… I’m happy with where I am right now but I gotta keep working at my craft. It’s a fun motivation to have.”
- Hancock: “The first thing to note is that we love to play. We love what we do. We love the work that goes into it. And I love to win.”
“Which major league player was your biggest influence in deciding to become a professional baseball player?”
- Hancock: “Clayton Kershaw… I loved his competitiveness, I loved what he did off the field.”
- Kirby: “I think just growing up watching the Yankees. It looked like so much fun, winning, hitting home runs.” Goldy: “What’s this hitting home runs business?” Kirby: “Well not me personally.” Goldy: “When did you know that pitching was going to be your path?” “Probably sophomore year of high school. I transitioned out of basketball and started playing in the summer and going to other states to train.”
- Gilbert: Nolan Ryan Goldy: “Are you going to pitch until you’re 50 as well?” Gilbert: *laughs* “That’s the goal”
What’s your favorite baseball movie quote?
- Gilbert: ““I wanna announce my presence with authority” in… what’s that movie called?” [Bull Durham]
- Kirby: No answer
- Hancock: “I dunno, I was trying to think of something from Benchwarmers”
Do you have a particularly memorable mound visit story?
- Gilbert: “In high A [Rob] came out and I was waiting for him to talk and he was waiting for me. We were just staring at each other. He was there for a couple of minutes and there were maybe two words”
What do you look for in a catcher?
- Hancock: “I look for someone who’s a leader… has authority, calls his own game, can take control”
- Gilbert: “You can tell when a catcher really wants you to succeed and cares about your career”
- Kirby: “Easy to talk to. You don’t have to be on the same page but [you can have a conversation about it]”
What’s your relationship like with catching prospect Cal Raleigh?
- Gilbert: “We’re obviously very close. Probably one of the closest friends I have. We really clicked… it’s good on and off the field [which isn’t always the case].” Goldy: “I hear he’s a preparation monster” Gilbert: “Absolutely. I think I take pride in preparation then along comes Cal and blows me out of the water. We won’t play a guy for a couple of months and he still knows the whole scouting report.”
What are the biggest differences between college and pro game experiences?
- Kirby: “In pro baseball the approaches get a little better. People are more patient and looking for certain pitches. In college it’s easier to get away with [things].”
- Gilbert: “Agreed. You have to be a lot more precise around the zone.”
[Goldy notes the story of Kirby having 6 3-ball counts in 26(?) innings. Hancock shakes his head in admiration.]
How tough has it been to get your training in over the past 12 months, and how has the support been from the Mariners organization?
- Gilbert: “It was really tough at first because of the uncertainty. The Mariners were constantly checking in, asking what we had available… I have some weights on my porch, etc… they were really great in their support and making sure we had everything we need.”
What do you think of the opener trend?
- Hancock: “It would be hard for me to get over that mindset of getting the ball right out of the gate… but [you have to focus on the good of the team]”
- Kirby: “Agreed. It can be fun to come in and see if you can go deep into the game but [I like to be out there from the beginning.”
What is something a Mariners pitching coach has said that really stuck with you?
- Hancock: “Ari [Ronick] has been really good to me. He’s helped me understand the importance of getting in a routine.”
- Kirby: “I had Sean McGrath at Elon and now he’s going to be a coach in Everett. He said, ‘Just go out and be a savage’ and that really stuck with me.” [Goldy: “Do you take full credit for him being hired by the Mariners?” Kirby: *laughs* “No. He’s a good coach!”]
- Hancock: “Rob [Marcello]… reminding me that you don’t have to be perfect out there on the mound. At the end of the day the pitcher has the advantage.”
How are you using technology as part of your off-season training?
- Gilbert: “I’m really fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of access to the technology at the Florida Baseball Ranch.. Trackman and Rapsodo(?), Edge Pitching.” Goldy talks about his wingspan. Gilbert: “Yeah usually on my fastball I have a 7 ½ feet extension… so the ball starts out 7 ½ feet closer to you and looks faster”
- Kirby: “Rapsodo… you can see the spin and learn from those pitches.”
What are your goals for the 2021 season?
- Hancock: “I just want to get out and compete and play. I really hope we have that opportunity.”
- Kirby: “Same here. I’m just looking forward to competing and helping out whichever team I’m on.”
- Gilbert: “It would be great to be in the Major Leagues. That’s my goal.”
“Aaron, what is the best place to eat in Peoria?”
- Goldsmith: “As anybody will tell you who’s spent five minutes in Peoria, the great thing is its convenience… it’s not exactly known for its one-off type of places.” But Aaron suggests Arrowhead Grill. “I would recommend asking about the rib bones. They sound feral. Pitch like a savage!” Pizzeria Bianco is also mentioned, of course.
- Logan: “I’ve heard good things about Arrowhead Grill as well. But my favorite is probably the Cheesecake Factory. I know it sounds bad but it’s right there! It’s so close!”
- Hancock is a fan as well. Chicken pot pie and an original cheesecake slice is his order.
- Aaron mentions running into Dan Wilson eating alone at the Cheesecake Factory and how it felt kind of sad. “But maybe he just wanted some time alone to think about the catching situation”
What ways can fans show their support that you will see [when they can’t be at the ballpark]?
- Gilbert: “Around our age, social media is pretty big, and the more fans are active the more we see it.”
- Hancock: “The messages, the instagram posts, that means a lot. It lets us see how passionate fans are about Seattle and about the team.”
What did you enjoy the most about your time in Everett?
- Kirby: “My host family was wonderful to be around. Me, Patrick Frick and Utah Jones were roommates and it was fun. It was nice being close to the water, the weather was great, the fans were awesome.” Says the family hosting him was hosting for the 10th or 11th year, had hosted Kyle Lewis, Dan Altavilla, among others.
What has been your best experience since turning pro?
- Gilbert: “The one that stands out is just your first game, especially after being a few years in college. But one that stands out recently is going to the big league camp.”
- Hancock: “I remember walking onto TMobile for the first time. That was pretty cool.”
- Kirby: “Getting that invite to the taxi squad was pretty awesome. Me and all those guys and what they could share with me. It was a fun summer.”