Cactus League Report: Mariners add pop-a-shot to pool in the clubhouse
PEORIA, Ariz. – A different venue for the Cactus League Report as it hit the road and broadcast from Goodyear Ballpark before the Mariners’ game against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday. One hour of baseball talk from Rick Rizzs, Aaron Goldsmith and me, featuring interviews with Ben Gamel, Braden Bishop and Dan Altavilla, who gave us a little scoop about what is soon to be a new clubhouse addition.
“We actually just ordered a pop-a-shot basketball game,” Altavilla told Goldsmith.
Like two years ago with a pool table that is now a mainstay in the clubhouse, manager Scott Servais picked a player to fund the Mariners’ newest toy.
“We were in our meeting and Skip sees Dee (Gordon) sitting in his locker and he said ‘Dee, what do you want to pay for?'” Altavilla explained. “He kind of volunteered him to buy the pop-a-shot for us. I guess they had it in Miami and I look forward to having it in the clubhouse.”
In addition to the clubhouse fun and games, Altavilla gave an up close look at new Mariners reliever Juan Nicasio, revealed what adjustments he has made with his delivery to help his command, and provided insight into how the Mariners are utilizing Trackman and the Driveline programs.
Gamel sat down with Rick Rizzs and shared the secret to why he appears so comfortable against left-handed pitchers. Turns out he had a left-handed batting practice thrower when he was young. He also talked about a fix that hitting coaches Edgar Martinez and Scott Brosius gave him late last year that he believes will help achieve his No. 1 offensive goal this season: consistency.
“I can go to a toe tap if I am not feeling so good, kind of like a B-swing if you will,” he said. “It really slows me down. I get so in and out of my swing with my leg kick sometimes, it just helps me compete.”
Gamel was also excited to talk about new teammate Gordon, who has been going through a well-known transition to the outfield.
“Dee doesn’t need as much help as he thinks he needs,” he said. “He’s going to be really good out there. As long as we are communicating I think we will be very good out there.”
I sat down with Bishop for a conversation, and the former UW star has been taking work in the same group as Gordon and has enjoyed what he has seen.
“Obviously watching how hard he works on that position change is impressive,” he said. “He’s just using his athleticism to make plays and that’s the most impressive thing because a lot of times in this game it can get so technical, but it just kind of a breath of fresh air to watch a guy like him go out and run around and be athletic and make great plays. I told him I’m excited to see the first time he is on SportsCenter laying out in the gap.”
Bishop is making the most of his opportunity of being in big league camp for the first time, spending as much time in the cages as he can trying to learn from the veterans. Off the field, Bishop has continued with his efforts to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research, his way of trying to make a positive after his mother’s diagnosis. Earlier this month he tweeted that he would make a donation for every hit he got this spring. That tweet started a movement – #Hits2EndALZ and #Ks2EndALZ are now a thing on Twitter with people throughout baseball at every level signing on.
As of Wednesday morning 100 people around the game had pledged their support. Bishop feels the support every time he sees someone wearing a 4MOM wristband as many of his teammates do.
“It’s really special because I have developed relationships with these guys over the last 3 1/2 years, come up through the minor leagues with a lot of them,” he said. “It’s just special because from Day 1 I want to start this movement, just get people talking and now it’s to the point where they wear the wristband and somebody goes, ‘Wow, that’s a nice wristband. What’s it for?’ and then they tell them. That was the goal because I can’t be everywhere. I can’t be the one to always explain it. That was my whole point, educate these guys of what this disease can do, how it can affect families and individuals and try and spread the message of how terrible this disease can be, but shine a light on it.”
To learn more about Braden’s efforts to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, log on to 4MOM website.