Fun and games at Mariners spring training includes a mariachi band for Leonys Martin’s birthday

Mar 6, 2017, 1:18 PM | Updated: 1:22 pm

PEORIA, Ariz. – Despite losing 10 players to the World Baseball Classic, including the majority of manager Scott Servais’ leadership group, the Mariners’ clubhouse was still a hub of activity Monday morning. There was an interloper. Right on schedule at 8:30, Felix Hernandez strolled through the door looking every part the Spring King in his ensemble of a T-shirt, capri pants, sunglasses and, of course, a heavy chain necklace and diamond studs.

“What?” he asked with a grin as he walked by.

You are not supposed to be here, Felix.

“I have to work out,” he answered.

Felix checked in last week on the weight room in Surprise, Ariz., where Team Venezuela will train together for the next three days before leaving for Jalisco, Mexico to play their first WBC game. It had everything he needed but he chose to do his morning workout in Peoria. He wasn’t the only one. Closer Edwin Diaz is also still here as the team from Puerto Rico is headquartered in Scottsdale the next few days.

Photos, videos and updates from Mariners spring training

Elsewhere in the clubhouse there was some unconventional bonding going on. Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who owns and operates a fishing guide service in Idaho in the offseason, walked through the clubhouse with first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, who excitedly was sharing stories about snook fishing in Florida.

There was a huge box in front of reliever Steve Cishek’s locker. That’s rarely a good sign, but in this case it was there because Cishek was doing some good. A buddy in Chattanooga, Tenn. called him and asked for help with a youth team that was trying to get going but had no equipment. Cishek threw a few of his gloves in the box and encouraged his teammates to donate some of their used equipment.

Around the corner, Thyago Vieira, the giant who throws flames, checked out the pitching assignments then dropped his water bottle on the floor and expertly dribbled it across the hall. Soccer was his first sport.

Pool, of course, was being played with the clubhouse tournament in full swing. Servais wandered in and checked out the activity. Soon the morning meeting would start and the real fun would begin.

The meetings are held each day and have nothing to do with baseball. Outings are organized, speakers of interest and entertainers are brought in, younger players are asked to stand up and tell a little about themselves. You’re good at pool? Great, get a pool table into the clubhouse and show us. You play the piano? Your recital will be on Sunday. To make sure everyone is well informed, a news reporter is assigned.

Pitcher Andrew Moore recently took that job over.

“He has turned into our new world reporter,” Servais said. “The guys had a harder time understanding Dylan Unsworth (from South Africa), so we said, ‘Let’s get the guy from Oregon to handle it.'”

Good-natured teasing goes on. If it’s your birthday, be ready for the spotlight. To honor Leonys Martin’s 29th birthday on Monday, Servais had a surprise for him: his very own mariachi band, paid for by Kyle Seager to follow him all day, from the clubhouse meeting to the field for stretch and outfield drills to the batting cages. The smile never left Martin’s face. He sported a sombrero throughout his entire workout.

“This is amazing. My teammates, my friends, my family surprised me. It is an amazing feeling to have this present. It’s emotional for me,” he said at his locker after practice while the mariachi band – with Felix on fiddle – played at pianissimo.

Martin was a gracious host of his new entourage, at one point calling over a clubbie for water to make sure that his band, clad all in black, stayed well hydrated throughout the workout concert.

Martin and teammates fired in requests and the band obliged. Martin, wearing a sombrero the entire time, tried to get through his normal routine of field and cage work.

“It was kind of weird,” he said. “But just having fun with my teammates. It was a great moment for me. I appreciate it.”

Martin is deeply appreciative of the home he has found in Seattle and the welcome he was given from Servais.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Martin said of Servais. “He is trying to make this team be like a family, be together.”

Martin and Servais were in the Rangers organization together. While it is hard to imagine now, that organization soured on Martin, whose inconsistency at the plate had him demoted to Triple-A his final year there.

“I end my last year (in Texas) with a really tough moment,” he told me in an interview last season. “That relationship wasn’t over in the right way.”

Martin needed to feel welcomed on his new team and from Day 1, arms have been open. Any scars are now gone thanks in large part to Servais.

“He has been amazing all the time with me,” Martin said. “He’s been on my side all the time from the first time I met him. He has been one of the best coaches I have ever had.”

Martin, who is perhaps the loudest in the Mariners’ clubhouse, is also one of the most popular. Teammates liked seeing him enjoy his day.

“It’s a great day,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said. “It’s his birthday and the boys did something special for him. I have never seen anything like this before in my life. I think it is something nice to keep the guys loose on the field through practice because practice can be tough early in the morning. It’s the fun and what you get out of it that matters, and I think for Leonys today, I think he’s very happy today.”

One thing is for certain: Martin’s 29th birthday will be hard to top.

“It is something I will never forget all my life,” he said.

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Fun and games at Mariners spring training includes a mariachi band for Leonys Martin’s birthday