The Mariners hosted their annual pre-spring training media luncheon this year, conveniently streamed on Mariners dot com for those of us not in attendance. The lineup of speakers was as follows:
- Kolten Wong, newly-acquired Mariners second baseman;
- Justin Toole, new Director of Player Development;
- Gregg Greene, VP of Marketing;
- Nova Newcomer, Director of Community Relations, and the team from EL1 Sports;
- Chris Marinak, Chief Operations and Strategy Manager, MLB;
- Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander, you know them;
- Scott Servais, you know him too;
- Cal Raleigh, Big Dumper;
- Teoscar Hernández, newly-acquired Mariners outfielder
We’ll be splitting this into two parts: the business side and the player/personnel side, because otherwise this would be an unreadable behemoth.
From Gregg Greene and Marketing:
- If you haven’t bought your Opening Day tickets yet, uh-oh. Opening Day 2023 is almost sold out, although there are a few tickets reserved for new season ticket holders, if you’ve been on the fence about that.
- Deals at the ballpark: There will again be 32 value games offered this year, and also the J-Rod Squad will return at $25 general admission tickets (meaning you and a pal could buy tickets separately and still sit together). Also, the value menu will expand from seven to twelve items. Make your guesses as to what those items will be in the comments. I hope one is a pretzel, the cheapest source of carbs/energy for a game.
- Promotions! There are some fun promotions coming up. We’ll write them up more extensively at a later date but some games to put on your calendar: Julio ROY bobblehead (April 1), Cal Raleigh “clinch” bobblehead (April 14), J.P. Crawford Funko Pop! (May 27), Ty France’s first bobblehead (July 18), and a Julio Funko Pop! (August 29). There’s also a crossbody bag (March 31) that looks very cool and actually useful, always a bonus for a ballpark giveaway, “Electric Factory” sunglasses (May 6), a “Cal-Boy Hat” (July 1), and a pair of Eugenio Suárez giveaways: a “Geno Grigio” wine tumbler (May 7) and a “Good Vibes” talking bottle opener (June 18).
- Fireworks Nights dates will be May 26, June 16, June 30, July 14, August 11, August 25, and September 29.
All-Star Week information:
Chris Marinak from MLB offered a few insights into what MLB is planning for the showcase event in Seattle. Here’s a handy screenshot that lays out the week’s activities:
Things get started Friday with the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic, a joint partnership between Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr. and MLB, which provides an All-Star experience for players from HBCUs. Read more in MLB’s official announcement here.
The “Play Ball Park” experience is a Fan Fest-type experience designed with kids in mind. It will be located at the convention center and on the corridor on Occidental, and MLB is also considering putting “activations” at other places around the city. Per Marinak, while the convention center event would likely be ticketed, the outdoor events would likely not be.
The MLB Draft, taking place on Sunday, will be open to the public. MLB is still working out where exactly it will be held.
For the Red Carpet show prior to the Home Run Derby, MLB plans to hold the event at Pike Place Market with views of the “harbor” (sic) and feature players walking through the market area and around downtown Seattle.
The city of Seattle will also benefit as host of the All-Star Game with MLB’s “Legacy” program, which provides community support from MLB to All-Star Game host cities. What that looked like in LA in 2022 was money for Boys and Girls Clubs, weekend food for families, coach mentoring programs to increase the number of people from underserved communities in coaching roles, and support for unhoused veterans, among other things, like aid in field refurbishments.
Mariners Training Centers:
Unfortunately the stream on Mariners dot com for this part of the program went on the fritz, but here’s what I’ve been able to gather: the Mariners are partnering with EL1 Sports to support state-of-the-art baseball and softball facilities that are open to the community. EL1 was co-founded by Aaron Trolia, former Mariners prospect, and Jameel Cante, who notes the unique barrier Seattle’s climate can create for aspiring players: “When we built a facility business, we left some people outside.” The Mariners Training Centers aim to break down those barriers and bring everyone inside so that all kids have an equal shot at developing in the sport.
There are five centers across the region, located in Seattle, Redmond, Puyallup, Tacoma, and Woodinville, and they’re hosting an open house to celebrate their grand openings. Read more here.
Player Health Updates:
PerJerry Dipoto, Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy, and Sam Haggerty are all back to full baseball activity, although Haggerty is slightly behind the others. All should be ready for Spring Training. Dylan Moore apparently had a setback, and although Dipoto described it as “nothing to create concern as it relates to Opening Day,” he might not be available right at the beginning of spring training. Evan White is also doing full baseball activity, and per Dipoto, “our medical training team believes Evan is as healthy as he’s been since 2021”. Justin Hollander spoke a little about Tom Murphy and how excited the team is to have him back, mentioning the stuff that often goes unseen, like the information he brings in meetings and the preparation and the confidence he lends to a starter to stick with a game plan; he described it as having an “unquantifiable effect” on the team.
On the pitching side, Andrés Muñoz has been out of his walking boot for two weeks, and is progressing towards throwing. Paul Sewald is already on a throwing program, and both should be ready for spring training. Casey Sadler is also ready to go, and will look to compete for Erik Swanson’s old spot in the bullpen.
Other off-season updates:
Justin Hollander praised Jarred Kelenic’s off-season, saying he’s been working hard on both the physical and mental sides and that reports—such as from Jarret DeHart, Mariners hitting strategist who recently visited Arizona to check in with JK and do some analysis and testing—have been “over-the-top awesome.” Hollander restated his confidence that there is a corner to turn for Kelenic, and he will turn it. “Jarred’s work ethic, his desire to be great, is second to none, and we’re really seeing the fruition of that this off-season...his off-season couldn’t have gone better in our eyes.” Dipoto, reminding everyone that development isn’t linear, compared Kelenic’s career arc to that of Atlanta’s Kyle Wright, another heavily-touted young prospect who scuffled upon entry to the league.
J.P. Crawford, Matt Brash, Taylor Trammell, and Tommy La Stella have all been training at Driveline this winter. J.P., per Hollander, “nailed every bit of what we hoped his off-season would look like,” noting that J.P. is always a hard worker but this year has taken his off-season preparation to another level. The team’s goal for J.P. has been wanting to get more consistency out of him and eliminate the slumps, but part of that is recognizing they need to bake in more days off, something Servais spoke to, as well. “JP is a grinder, he wants to play every day, and it’s hard to take him out of the lineup. But I think what we’re seeing here over time is he can maybe be more effective, offensively for sure, if he does get consistent days off.”
Dipoto has what he calls a “squishy-firm” list of players who will head to the WBC classic: Julio, Teoscar, and Diego Castillo for Team DR; Eugenio for Venezuela; Matt Brash for Canada; Matt Festa for Italy; and prospect Harry Ford for Great Britain. Sam Haggerty is a possibility for Italy but not currently a lock to go, which makes all of us very unhappy. Luis Castillo will not be playing for the Dominican Republic, which Dipoto described as “a choice we made together.” Matt Brash also will enter camp as strictly a reliever, with Dipoto saying “that was the agreement we made when he decided he wanted to pitch for Team Canada.”
- Kolten Wong has been “begging” Perry Hill to come down to Arizona so they can get to work. Wong admits he had a poor defensive season last year and attributes some of that to being in uncomfortable positions because of the shift, so he’s excited to see the shift go away.
- Wong also said he’s excited to play with J.P. and thinks they’re the same type of player, high-effort grinders. He’s also excited to play with Julio, who “runs the show, and rightfully so.”
- Servais says there will be no full-time DH: Teo, Pollock, and Murphy/Raleigh will rotate through the spot. “I know it’s great if you’ve got the big bopper, but if that guy doesn’t exist, it’s a great way to get guys off their feet.” He also mentions wanting to get Suárez some rest, and mentions Tommy La Stella as a possible third base replacement (?!).
- Teoscar Hernández is excited to join the club and hopes he can just be himself. “I want to bring positive energy to the clubhouse, to the field, and to my teammates. So we can have a good relationship not just as a team, but as a family.” Seems like Teo will fit in just fine.