Drayer: Mariners’ unity was evident on Jean Segura’s big day
The press conference the Mariners held Wednesday to announce shortstop Jean Segura’s contract extension was in some ways like many such press conferences the interview room at Safeco Field has seen over the years. The player’s jersey was hanging in front of the logo backdrop above the podium and stage. The player was dressed in a suit as many are on the day they sign their biggest deals. The general manager was sitting alongside him on stage while family members and agents were in the front row. The media was assembled, the cameras rolling in the back, some front office members filing into the rows of chairs that had been set up.
There was an unfamiliar sight as well. Standing in the back of the room was Nelson Cruz, still in his street clothes having come from the doctor’s office after getting a MRI on his troublesome calf. Teammates usually do not attend these press conferences, but there was Cruz. Shortly after he arrived, more players filed into the back row, all in their pregame uniforms. Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia, Taylor Motter, Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino, and Tyler Smith were all there for their teammate’s moment.
“We’re a team here,” Motter said. “Being there for him meant more for us than anything else.”
The sight of the players on hand at the press conference was a very welcome sight for GM Jerry Dipoto. In the group he saw team, something that has helped the 2017 Mariners get through an almost incomprehensible number of injuries to key players and brutal losses. In answering a question about Segura’s extension, Dipoto actually addressed the group of players in front of him.
“The guys in the room, it is important that you guys here grow together and the core of this club stays together for a number of years,” he said. “We have talked repeatedly about the core group that is here and our belief that this isn’t a short window of opportunity to compete, and this is another example of how we wanted to express that. We believe in this team, we believe in these players and we believe in Jean Segura as our leadoff hitter and our shortstop for the foreseeable future.”
Segura had words for his teammates in the room as well.
“You guys have been awesome,” he said. “Guys have been bouncing around, back from Triple-A to here, playing hard. I got hurt a couple of times and Motter stepped up to do a great job. Gamel came here and did an awesome job. And to be here in this room right now, it means a lot.”
I found it interesting that Segura singled out Gamel and Motter. Cano, his best friend, was in the room as was fellow countryman Cruz, but Segura mentioned two of the more unheralded players on the team, two players who stepped in when the starters went down. Motter appreciated the acknowledgment.
“That just shows the type of guy he is,” Motter said. “Not only is he a good player, he is a good guy. When he goes down the first time he said, ‘This is going to be your spot. Just go out there and do your thing.’ We sat down, had a little conversation with me and then hurt his ankle and he says, ‘Hey papi, same thing. Round two.’ It means a lot to me coming from a guy like that, especially knowing that it’s his job but he’s rooting for me when he’s out.”
That is the environment in the Mariners’ clubhouse right now. It’s an environment that Cano is thrilled to have.
“First thing for me is that we have to respect each other as a person and as a player,” he said. “And secondly, we have to be around to help each other. We have a group of guys that listen and I think that’s something that you really want to be around. Guys that can really listen, guys that can really help each other. There’s good chemistry. You see guys playing pool and playing videos games. Guys don’t walk in here and say, ‘You need to focus on baseball.’ You can just relax and feel like you’re home.”
Said manager Scott Servais: “What you are trying to create is a family atmosphere when guys are playing for something bigger than themselves. I think we have that right now. That’s what it is going to take. That’s what all good teams have. They want to come to the ballpark, they want to hang out together, they want to give each other a hard time, and they hold each other accountable. The family atmosphere is what we are trying to create here.”
It was on full display Wednesday at Safeco field.