Drayer: Mariners don’t know where their season will start, but they know it’s going to be very different

Mar 11, 2020, 5:50 PM

Mariners spring training...

The Mariners may start 2020 at the spring training complex they share with the Padres. (Getty)


The Mariners will not be heading home when spring training ends. That much we know, and in that sense, players and fans are in the same boat waiting to see if the ‘home’ opener will be played in Arizona or Texas after Washington state banned crowds of 250 people or more through the end of March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Previously: What are Mariners’ options with Washington’s crowd ban?

“It’s definitely different, definitely been strange,” Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager said Wednesday of the situation. “First and foremost all of our concerns go out to the people. People in Seattle, the fans, our neighbors up there, throughout the country now. It’s definitely strange not knowing where we are going to be necessarily, but that’s not our job. Our job is to get ready to play baseball games. That’s what we are doing and eventually they will tell us where to go.”

Baseball is the ultimate ‘one day at a time’ sport but you do want to know where each of those days are going to start.

“It’s been on a lot of our radars,” pitcher Kendall Graveman said. “MLB, MLBPA has done a good job keeping us informed and keeping us in the loop being able to communicate to a few guys in our locker room and spread the word what’s going on. You have keep an open mind, just trying to be open with everything and making sure that us as players, it’s changing daily, it’s changing for everyone. That’s part of life in general, trying to go with it, go with the flow and make sure that you still create some sort of atmosphere of structure and continuing to get your work done. That’s kind of the mentality we’ve gone about it.”

From Mariners CEO John Stanton to manager Scott Servais to the players themselves, the preference is clearly to play the early home games in Arizona. Many have their families already in the area as are most of the baseball operations and media relations people. Stanton indicated that if the Mariners are required to play away from T-Mobile Park longer than the initial series, it’s a possibility they could play games at any number of facilities in Arizona, including the team’s home spring training stadium in Peoria to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

“We’re really taking everything one step at a time right now,” Stanton said, pointing out that what they are doing now would be what they would do if they knew for certain they were dealing with a longer ban. “From our point of view we think we are creating a template for making decisions for subsequent rounds. I don’t think the governor or anyone else knows what the circumstances will be in Washington on March 31, nor do I think anyone knows what the circumstances are going to be in any other market in the country. This thing has moved at a scary pace and the virus is obviously of great concern for all of us.”

The Mariners’ players are miles away from Seattle, engrossed in the work they have been doing this time of year since they entered professional baseball, but there is an awareness for what is going on in their baseball home. For Seager, baseball home became a second home last fall as he and his family spent the winter in Issaquah.

“It’s been very strange,” he said. “My son started school this past year. We were up there this winter. You make a lot of friends up there, a lot of friends in school. My wife has been in contact with a lot of the people back there. It’s scary stuff, it’s something that is definitely very concerning and it’s definitely something we take notice of.”

While nobody wants to give up a home opener, there is obviously a bigger picture that comes into focus with the developments in Seattle.

“It’s not just baseball that’s being affected, it’s our families and our fans, the people who come to games and support us,” said Graveman. “We are concerned about the wellbeing of fans and people and I think that they are trying to stay ahead of it and make sure that everyone is safe.”

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Servais acknowledged. “It’s one of those things we can’t control. Obviously we’ve got to do what’s right for our home city and understand the severity of it.”

Once the decision is made on where the Mariners’ season-opening, seven-game homestand will be played, Servais will have some work to do. If the Mariners stay in Arizona, he will have the challenge of getting the team ready to go in a very different environment. Rather than the pomp and circumstance and the very definitive turning of the page from spring games to games in big stadiums under big lights that count, the Mariners could find themselves walking from their spring training clubhouse to the field in Peoria Stadium just as they have for the past month. This will not be the same.

“It will be different,” said Servais. “You don’t have to have a big rah-rah speech at home when there’s 50,000 people there and everybody’s got those butterflies for opening day so that part will be different. Guys are anxious to get to the games played that count. Stats count, wins and losses count. Once the finality of the decision is made, when we are playing, where we are playing, day game, night game, then you go into the mode – how do we get ready? My instinct says it will probably be down here in Arizona, but we have to wait and see.”

For more on the Mariners’ reaction to the ongoing outbreak, listen to Stanton’s interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy here.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Click here for more Mariners coverage from spring training

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