Mariners FanFest is the first sign of baseball returning to the Pacific Northwest. Amid trivia contests, zip line rides, and autograph opportunities is one of the most insightful (at least, one of the most entertaining) events: Dugout Dialogue.
This year’s rotation featured a panel of past, current, and future Mariners, hosted by Rick Rizzs and his new co-broadcaster, Aaron Goldsmith.
A few highlights from today’s Q&As:
On favorite sports outside of baseball
Mike Morse: Football.
Kyle Seager: Basketball.
Michael Saunders: Hockey. More specifically, the Vancouver Canucks. A concerned young fan piped up after this declaration, “Michael Saunders, if Seattle gets a hockey team will that be your favorite?” Saunders generously offered to root for the “Seattle Whatevers,” but reminded fans that his loyalty to the Canucks and refusal to bandwagon a team was a quality they both shared.
Mike Zunino: Zunino revisited this topic by suggesting that if he played in Seattle, his allegiance to the San Francisco 49ers might be swayed by the presence of the Seahawks. It’s a temping offer.
On the imminent trade of Felix Hernandez
Jack Zduriencik spoke at length on his favorite subject, the non-trade of King Felix. In response to a question about fielding offers from rival GMs, he revealed that any package of 4-5 prospects is not enough to convince him to trade, in this fan’s not-so-humble opinion, one of the best pitchers in baseball. In addition to his strong feelings about keeping Felix in Seattle, Jack reaffirmed his satisfaction with the Mariners’ farm system, telling the crowd, “We have prospects.” He ended his response by saying that any further discussion about dealing Felix had to be tabled.
On overcoming embarrassing moments in baseball
For Mike Morse, this moment arrived when the umpires at Busch Stadium made an errant call. Having mistaken a grand slam for a fly ball, they ordered all runners to return to their original bases, sending Morse from third base to second, first, then home plate. According to Mike, backstop Yadier Molina muttered, “You wouldn’t swing at that.” Undaunted, Morse replied, “You don’t know me,” hacked at an invisible pitch with an invisible bat, and proceeded to jog around the bases again.
Mike Zunino’s story is slightly different. During a college match-up between Zunino’s Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs, the young catcher missed his mark on a pickoff throw to second base—laying the pitcher flat with a concussion. As Mike reassured the crowd (and the YouTube footage confirms), the pitcher has since recovered.
On inspiring the next generation of baseball players
While players generally fielded questions about their expectations and goals for the upcoming season, some of the best questions were posited by the young baseball fans in attendance.
“When you were twelve, did you dream of being in the major leagues?”
“What’s your favorite color besides the Mariners’ color?”
And, a personal favorite: “What’s it’s like to be a rookie?”
FanFest runs through Sunday, January 27, from 11am-4pm. You can purchase $10 tickets at the Mariners box offices outside Home Plate Gate and Left Field Gate. Admission is free for kids 14 years and younger.