MOUNT VERNON — The Mariners Care Community Tour made a stop Friday at the Skagit Valley Family YMCA.
A standing-room-only crowd of hundreds of Seattle Mariners fans young and old packed an area usually reserved for spin demons pedaling as if their life depended on it.
On this afternoon, however, bikes were replaced by ballplayers and mascots.
The lineup included up-and-coming outfielder Braden Bishop and infielder Shed Long, along with bench coach Jared Sandberg and the two-time Washington Sportscaster of the Year, Dave Sims.
Hitting cleanup was none other than the Mariner Moose who brought his minor league cohort, Webbly, of the Everett AquaSox.
It began with introductions including career highlights and expectations for the coming season. That was followed by an audience-led question and answer period and a raffle where everything from a stuffed mini-Mariner Moose to four club-level tickets to the game of your choice were given away.
And of course, what Mariners meet and greet would be complete without an autograph session? This one proved so popular, the line wrapped its way nearly around the YMCA’s indoor track.
Others in attendance opted to start with pictures with the mascots.
Sims kicked it all off by stating, “Let’s talk some baseball.”
“This season is definitely going to be exciting,” Bishop said. “We really aren’t sure what this team is going to look like. It’s going to be fun to find out ... Getting experience takes time and patience. I know Mariners fans have a lot of patience.”
Long said being a professional baseball player is all about having a routine.
“You have to go about your business as a pro,” he said.
They were asked about their most memorable moments of their young careers. Long said it was seeing Mike Trout of the Angels wind up on second base after crushing a double.
“I just said ‘Wow! Wow!’ that’s Mike Trout right there, standing there. I eventually talked to him.”
For Bishop, it was replacing the great Ichiro Suzuki in what was his final game played in front of a sold-out crowd in Tokyo as the Mariners took on the Oakland A’s.
“I was able to sneak on the roster as the 26th guy,” Bishop said, “right after they expanded it. I went in for Ichiro and got booed by the whole stadium, by the whole country.
“When he came off the field, he said to me, ‘It’s your turn now.’ That was quite an experience.”
The day’s big winner, however, was Orlando Ponce. The Mount Vernon High School senior went home with those club-level tickets.
“I am definitely a Mariners fan,” he said. “I’m shocked. It’s crazy. I had to look at the number twice, to make sure. Now I am going to have decide what team I want to see them play.”