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Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs
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Mariners notebook: Rick Rizzs on M’s award winners, remembering Niehaus

Rick Rizzs poses with a statue of his longtime Mariners broadcast partner Dave Niehaus. (AP)

It was good to hear Rick Rizzs on the 710 ESPN Seattle airwaves Wednesday morning as he joined Danny and Gallant to talk about what has been a big last week for the Mariners with J.P. Crawford and Evan White picking up Gold Gloves and Kyle Lewis winning Rookie of the Year.

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“It was fun watching these kids getting an opportunity to play,” the longtime voice of the Mariners said of the team’s full class of rookies. “Now you can see the fruition of a lot of the labor that Jerry Dipoto did over the past two years taking an organization that was one of the worst in baseball as far as the farm system to one of the best. To see those kids finally get to the big leagues and the wave that is going to continue of players behind the players we saw this year, it’s really exciting to see where this club is headed.”

It wasn’t just the young players that were on Rizzs’ mind, though, as Tuesday marked the 10-year anniversary of the passing of his former broadcast partner, the legendary Dave Niehaus.

Rizzs said that he would be forever grateful for Niehaus’ guidance when he was a young broadcaster. It was that guidance that actually took Rizzs away from the Mariners for a few years in the early 1990s as he went to Detroit when Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell’s contract was not renewed by the Tigers.

“Rick, if you want to be a No. 1 guy you have got to go for it,” Niehaus told a young Rizzs.

Unfortunately, the situation was not ideal. The blowback against the Tigers for not bringing back Harwell was severe and Mike Ilitch, who bought the team a year later, reinstalled the broadcaster as one of his first acts. In 1995, Rizzs returned to the Mariners.

“Dave got me back again,” said Rizzs. “I owe this man everything. He was such a great friend and mentor.”

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Rizzs shared with Danny and Gallant a couple of great stories with about working with Niehaus which can be found in this podcast.

• This is a busy week for Rizzs as the annual Toys For Kids Gala and Auction will take place. Rizzs founded the charity along with another of his former broadcast partners, the late Dave Henderson. The organization gives the gift of toys and more to homeless and disadvantaged area children throughout the year. Due to COVID-19, the gala and auction will be an online affair this year with the registration free.

The virtual auction is already underway with a live auction to follow this Saturday, Nov. 14. A little holiday shopping tip here from somebody who has attended the event many times: It is well worth your while to take a look at the auction items, which include memorabilia from baseball and other sports (Russell Wilson autographed end zone pylon, anyone?), trips, wine, toys, a Marshawn Lynch Football Week and much, much more.

The live auction can be found here, while more information about Toys for Kids and the gala can be found here.

Notes

• According to numerous reports, Mariners vice president and assistant general manager Justin Hollander is one of five finalists for the general manager vacancy in Anaheim.

Jerry Dipoto, who resigned from the GM post with the Angels midseason 2015, brought Hollander over to the Mariners in September 2016 from the Angels organization, where he had worked for 9 years. Should the Angels hire Hollander, it would be an interesting turn of events to say the least.

• The Mariners will wrap up Instructional League games this weekend. Top prospect Julio Rodríguez has already left for the Dominican Republic, where he will play ball for Escogido in the Winter League. Also on that team, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco. How can you watch these games? Well I’m glad you asked. Information on a streaming service can be found here. This is essentially the DR’s MLB Network, and while it is in Spanish, it is not too hard to navigate if you don’t speak the language.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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