Thursday, May 7, 2009

My first day as a Seattle Mariner didn't go too well. We knew what was coming and still couldn't hit it.

Note: I apologize for the delay in posts, but a nasty storm knocked the power out here and we just got back up and running. Anyways, here's how my day went on Thursday at the K. I have to admit, it was one of the funnest work days I've ever had.

If you're wondering how good Brian Bannister was on Thursday, well, even the Mariners (despite knowing exactly how Bannister would attack them) couldn't score on him. You see, I know this because on Thursday I was a Seattle Mariner. Yes, I crossed over into the dark side, spending more than three hours just hanging out with the M's before the game. Let me explain.

To make a long story short, my boss and I were at the game to do a story on the Mariners hitting coach Alan Cockrell - a local standout from southwest Missouri. Alan, as you can imagine, has had his hands full lately trying to get his young players hitting again after a hot start to the season.

Anyways, he invited us inside the indoor batting cages just behind the visitors clubhouse to get an up-close and in-person feel for his job and the guys he works with. Needless to say, I spent the next three hours watching Ichiro and his teammates crush pitches, tell stories and fall into a state of shock when it was revealed that Manny Ramirez had been suspended for 50 games.

Caught up on some conversation with Royal great Mike Sweeney too. Mike, who has always been one of the most pleasant players I have met through the years, immediately rushed over and shook our hands - my boss and I - thanking us for being there and telling us how great it was to be back in Kansas City. He probably took 50 cuts in the cage before rushing off to get ready for the game.

As Mike was hitting he kept telling us how he had stayed up the night before until 1:40 a.m. watching film on Bannister, just hoping he'd get his shot in front of the K.C. crowd one more time. Well, he wasn't the only one studying Banny. Alan himself had done his scout work and came to a conclusion everyone else has as well - Banny has scrapped his four-seam fastball in favor of a cutter and has become hard to hit.

This was the story AC told all of the Mariners hitters that day. Out of respect for AC and the Mariners, I won't disclose everything that was said and worked on that day. But I can tell you some of it.

AC repeated like 150 times to those guys that Banny would throw "70 percent cutters, and his curveball would be back door, every time". He told them there would be very few, if any, four seamers - that Banny had scrapped that pitch.

He beat this through every starter that came into the cages. They asked him tons of questions about Banny and what he would do. AC told me, "The thing is, we KNOW what Bannister is going to do. We know what he's going to throw, but he's going good and we still might not hit him."

They DID know what he was going to do. He did EXACTLY that AC said he would do. It was no secret. It was no surprise to even the average fan. Everyone knows what Banny is going to do these days. Sure enough, the Mariners didn't hit Banny well. Ichiro took the advice. So did Griffey. The rest of the team had no chance. Banny was that good.

I have to admit I certainly took a different perspective from that game after knowing what the Mariners were looking to do at the plate. I mean, you can speculate but it's totally different when you actually hear what the approach is going to be from what the coaches say in the cages. It just opened my eyes even more about what Bannister accomplished in this outing.

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