Brandon Maurer | The Mariners Surprise Starter

Seattle Mariners fans are waiting patiently for the arrival of several hyped pitching prospects. They’ve been itching to see Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen in Seattle for years. Well, one of the M’s young guns is finally ready for his big league debut, but it’s not one of the ‘Big Three’. Instead, it’s starting pitcher Brandon Maurer.

Brandon Maurer Seattle Mariners

Brandon Maurer

Maurer is in the Mariners’ rotation after a stellar spring (beating out Erasmo Ramirez and Jeremy Bonderman for the roster spot). The 22-year-old (that’s right…he’s only 22) finished 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in Cactus League play. He only allowed 23 hits and seven walks in 24 innings, while also striking out 25. His most impressive performance was happened on March 25th against the Reds. Maurer struck out seven batters over seven shutout innings.

Brandon Maurer is originally from Newport Beach, California. He was selected by Seattle in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Here’s the crazy thing — he’s never pitched above AA. Maurer spent the entire 2012 season with the Jackson Generals (the Mariners AA affiliate). Maurer, who is listed as 6’5″ and 215 pounds, went 9-2 with a 3.20 ERA last year. That was enough for him to be tabbed as the M’s sixth best prospect by Baseball America over the offseason.

I hate the throw up a red flag, but Brandon Maurer has battled injuries his entire career. He fought through elbow woes in 2010 and shoulder issues in 2011, but he’s avoided surgery the entire time. Maurer was finally healthy during the 2012 season, but he still only pitched 137.2 innings. That’s easily a career high for him, because Maurer has averaged just 64 innings over his first five professional seasons.

Brandon Maurer Mariners

Brandon Maurer

If Maurer stays healthy, Baseball America says he’s capable of throwing four solid pitches. He’s best known for his 93-95 mph fastball (which tops out at 97 mph) and his “swing-and-miss” slider. His curveball and change-up are apparently a work in progress, but they obviously worked well for him this spring. At the same time, it shows that Maurer is still a work in progress and there’s bound to be some growing pains this season.

I know people don’t put a lot of stock in spring training stats, but Brandon Maurer proved he’s ready for the bigs. He didn’t just face no-name minor leaguers; he went up against big league batters (especially later in the spring). There’s plenty of reason to be excited about this kid. He’s young, but he’s talented. Maurer is the first of what’s going to be a solid wave of pitching prospects heading to Safeco Field in the near future.

What do you think of Brandon Maurer? Do you think he’s ready for the big leagues? I would love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and . Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for the latest on the world of sports, music and travel!

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The Trufant Dream: Three Brothers In The NFL

There’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Trufant sometime during the NFL season for the last ten years. First it was Marcus Trufant playing for the Seattle Seahawks, and then Isaiah Trufant joined Marcus in the league when he signed with the New York Jets three seasons ago. Now, it’s time for a third Trufant to explode on the NFL scene.

Desmond Trufant | Trufant Brothers

Desmond Trufant working out at University of Washington Pro Day

Desmond Trufant spent the last four years as a star defensive back at the University of Washington. He’s since played in the Senior Bowl, worked out at the NFL Combine, and most recently ran through drills at University of Washington Pro Day in Seattle. Desmond has been so impressive in his workouts that he’s now a projected first round draft pick. When he takes the field in September, he’ll become the third Trufant to suit up in the NFL, achieving one of the rarest feats in NFL history.

“It’s really cool,” Desmond told me after his Pro Day workout, which was attended by his brother Marcus. “I don’t know the last time there’s been three brothers in the league, and all playing the same position too (Marcus, Isaiah and Desmond are all cornerbacks). It’s big. We’re just looking forward to it.”

According to my research, only 26 families have put three or more brothers in the NFL (dating all the way back to the league’s debut in 1920). It’s an even more incredible feat to put three brothers in the league at the same time. You don’t have to look far to find the last brothers to do it: Rob (New England Patriots), Dan (Cleveland Browns/New England Patriots) and Chris Gronkowski (Indianapolis Colts) all played in the NFL during the 2011 season. Aside from the Gronkowski’s though, only seven other families have watched three or more brothers play in the NFL in the same season (or seasons).

It’s going to take some work from the Trufant’s to make that happen next season though. Marcus is a free agent after ten years in Seattle, Isaiah is an exclusive-rights free agent after two seasons with the Jets, and Desmond still needs to be drafted and signed (although that won’t be a problem). So, it’s not a guarantee that we’ll see ‘Trufant’ plastered on the back of three different NFL jerseys in 2013.

Marcus Trufant | Trufant Brothers

Marcus Trufant answering question’s at Desmond’s Pro Day

There’s some speculation that Marcus’ career is over. He might not find a team that’s willing to sign him (the Seahawks won’t comment on his status right now), or he might just call it quits on his own (even though he’s only 32-years-old). I honestly don’t think retiring is in Marcus’ plans though. When I asked him about the three Trufant brothers playing together in the NFL next season, he was really excited about the idea.

“It’s big time for our family,” Marcus told me. “It’s big for this city, because we were all born and raised here in Washington. It’s just love all the way around. We’re just trying to do the best wan can to represent.”

While Marcus was a first round draft pick out of Washington State in 2003, and Desmond appears to be a first round pick in 2013, Isaiah had a much different path to the NFL. After starring at Eastern Washington, he played in the Arena Football League and United Football League before he cracked an NFL roster. He didn’t even make his NFL debut until he was 28-years-old. He plays some cornerback for the Jets, but Isaiah is more of a special teams player in New York.

“Our parents raised us well,” Desmond told me. “We all went through good programs. We worked hard and had a lot of dedication, and it’s all paying off.”

Three brothers playing in the NFL at the same time would be a dream come true for the Trufant family. If it doesn’t happen, it’s still amazing to have three brothers play in the NFL at any point. We won’t know the fate of the Trufant’s for the next few months. Free agency started a couple days ago, the NFL Draft isn’t until late April and training camps don’t kickoff until August. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Keep your eyes peeled to the transaction wire for the latest.

UPDATE: Desmond Trufant was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Do you think we’ll see all three Trufant’s playing in the NFL next season? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to check out http://allaroundtim.com for the latest in the world of sports, music and food!

Trufant Brothers | Three Brothers In NFL

Marcus, Isaiah and Desmond Trufant

Goalie Fight: Brandon Glover vs Austin Lotz

A Western Hockey League game between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips turned wild and crazy over the weekend. A line brawl ignited late in the third period, and it eventually led to a goalie fight between Seattle’s Brandon Glover and Everett’s Austin Lotz. There was big obstacle standing between the two goalies though – a linesman.

The whole thing started after Everett’s Mirco Mueller took Seattle’s Alexander Delnov into the boards. The Thunderbirds thought it was a dirty hit, so Evan Wardley quickly took down Mueller in revenge (even though Mueller was never called for a penalty on the check). That led to a bunch of pushing and shoving, but no real goonage — until Brandon Glover decided to get involved. He sprinted down the ice after Austin Lotz. Before Glover could get there, a linesman tried to intercept him to break up the fight. That didn’t seem to matter to either of the goalies, because they decided to fight anyway — even with the linesman standing between them. Check this out!

Before I move on, I need to rant:

What is happening to hockey? Linesmen used to let players fight; only stepping in when the fight was over. Now, linesmen are breaking up fights before they even get started. It was very clear that Glover and Lotz were both willing combatants, and the linesman was still going to stop them from throwing blows anyway. I understand that he was trying to keep order, but it still breaks my heart as a hockey fan. Fighting is a part of the game — plain and simple. Quit trying to take fighting out of hockey!

Okay, now that’s out of my system…

Lotz is escaping this goalie fight without much damage, but the same can’t be said for Glover. He received two-minutes for instigating the fight, two-minutes for leaving the crease, five-minutes for fighting and a game-misconduct for his actions. The league also handed Glover a two-game suspension and fined the Thunderbirds $500 for the fight. As for Lotz, he received a five-minute major for fighting, but he was allowed to stay in the game while someone served the penalty for him.

It wasn’t the best goalie fight blow-for-blow, but you definitely won’t find a more entertaining goalie fight this year. I really hope the linesman learned a valuable lesson. If players want to fight…let them fight. They’ll find a way to drop the mitts if you’re standing in the way or not.

What do you think about this goalie fight between Brandon Glover and Austin Lotz? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of sports, food and music!

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Goalie Fight Linesman

Austin Lotz, the linesman and Brandon Glover

Gonzaga Basketball Trick Shots Video

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team is one of the best shooting teams in the country. They have the second best field goal percentage in the nation, landing more than 50% of their shots. That’s an impressive stat, but the shots the Zags make when they’re just messing around are even more impressive. Thanks to a Gonzaga basketball trick shots video, we get to see what these guys are capable off when they’re not in the national spotlight.

The Gonzaga basketball trick shots video features guards Kevin Pangos, Kyle Dranginis, Drew Barham and Rem Bakamus. They use trampolines, bicycles, walls, elastic bands, chairs and just about anything else they can find to drain buckets. They can also bomb from long distance. The Zags land multiple shots from halfcourt, high in the stands and even from the rafters inside McCarthey Athletic Center. My words can only say so much — you really have to watch the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video to believe it:

If Pangos, Dranginis, Barham and Bakamus weren’t enough, the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video also showcases PGA Tour golfer Kyle Stanley dialing up a long distance bucket. Stanley is from Gig Harbor, Washington, and as the video describes, he’s a big Gonzaga basketball supporter (even though he went to Clemson). Stanley is no slouch on the golf course either. He chalked up his first professional win at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open. At 25 years old, Stanley has a bright future on the links.

I think every shot on the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video is really impressive, but my favorite bucket is when Barham and Pangos team up at the 5:14 mark. Barham, who is standing near the free throw line with his back toward the bucket, bounces a ball high into the air. Pangos, who is just beyond the three-point arc, throws his basketball at Barham’s and deflects Barham’s ball toward the hoop and in. It’s truly unbelievable.

The Gonzaga basketball trick shots video came out in September and it already has more than 100,000 views. I covered the Bulldogs when I was a sportscaster in Spokane, but I’m clearly behind the times now. I honestly just saw highlights from the trick shot video during yesterday’s Gonzaga broadcast, and just watched the entire video for the first time this morning. Since I know I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen the video, I think it’s worth sharing — but not just for the incredible shots.

I think the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video showcases college basketball at it’s best. We often forget these are just kids when we watch these guys on game night. Pangos, Dranginis, Barham and Bakamus are only freshmen, sophomores and juniors, so they’re probably only 20 years old or younger. The Gonzaga basketball trick shot video gives us a much-needed reminder that these are simply college students — not multi-million dollar NBA stars — having a good time. It’s refreshing to see these guys cutting through all the pressure and just having a little fun.

Have you ever watched the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video? What’s your favorite shot? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out http://allaroundtim.com for the latest in the world of sports, music and travel!

Gonzaga Basketball Trick Shot Video

Drew Barham gets ready to fire away on the Gonzaga basketball trick shots video

High School Girl’s Wrestling Growing In Washington

Wrestling is king at Sedro-Woolley High School. The boy’s team has nine state titles, including six in a row from 2002 through 2007. The girl’s wrestling team wins titles too. Yes, you read that right — high school girl’s wrestling. The Cubs are currently four-time defending state champions.

“We have loggers,” said Sedro-Woolley girl’s wrestling coach Barb Morgan. “We have kids of loggers. We have farm kids. We have big, strong kids.”

High school girl’s wrestling isn’t a club sport, it’s actually governed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, just like the boys. Washington has its own girls classification, and it is one of only five states in the country to offer a girls-only state tournament (Texas, California, Massachusetts and Hawaii are the others).

High School Girls Wrestling

The Sedro-Woolley girl’s wrestling team at practice

That separation has opened the door for massive growth. The number of high school girl’s wrestlers in Washington jumped from 376 in 2007 to more than 1,200 this year. Sedro-Woolley has seen its turnout increase as well, going from four girls eight years ago to 32 this season.

“Wrestling is unique,” said Sedro-Woolley junior Tinerra Adams. “It’s only you out there on the mat. You can’t rely on someone else to help you out or show you a move. It’s all about what you know at that moment.”

Most high school girl’s wrestling programs across the state and the country are mixed with the boys. They have the same coach and the same practice schedule. That’s not the case at Sedro-Woolley. Instead of working out with the guys in the high school’s mat room, the girls choose to trek to an elementary school across town for their own space.

“When we wrestle with the boys, they’re rude,” said Sedro-Woolley junior Taylor Dawson. “They try to beat us up. In here, we get to wrestle each other instead of the boys wrestling us.”

The high school girl’s wrestling system isn’t perfect in Washington yet. There are still several issues to overcome, including scheduling conflicts and a problem with the uniforms.

“We go to tournaments and there are still girls wearing boys singlets,” Morgan said. “They’re wearing shirts underneath because they don’t cover enough.”

While there are issues, high school girl’s wrestling in Washington is clearly taking major strides in the right direction. Morgan believes the sport has improved “dramatically” over the last ten years.

“These girls have so many more opportunities than I had when I was in school,” Morgan said. “It’s because someone stood up and fought for them, so it’s my turn to stand up and fight for it.”

She’s fighting for them and they’re fighting for themselves. Sedro-Woolley goes for its fifth straight state crown at Mat Classic XXV in Tacoma. Even if the Cubs don’t win the crown, they’re helping pave the way for high school girl’s wrestling in Washington, and that’s a victory all in itself.

What do you think about the progress of high school girl’s wrestling in Washington? How about across the country? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you’d like to watch the story I put together for my television station, check out the video below. Thanks for visiting http://allaroundtim.com!

Behind The Scenes | Felix Hernandez’ New Contract

Felix Hernandez walked in Safeco Field on Wednesday knowing that he was about to become the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball. That’s because the day before, Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners officially agreed on a new seven-year, $175 million contract. What Felix Hernandez didn’t know is that he was about to be greeted by the Mariners front office staff dressed like the ‘King’s Court’ (Hernandez’ rowdy fan section at Safeco Field). They were all decked out in yellow, waving huge cutouts of Felix’s head, and ready to celebrate the arrival of their superstar.

Felix Hernandez Surprised By Mariners Staff

Felix Hernandez after he was surprised by the Mariners staff

When the elevator doors opened, the staff erupted. The cheers were nothing new to Felix Hernandez, but his reaction was. Hernandez walked into the crowd and immediately broke into tears. The audience started chanting “Felix! Felix!” and that only pushed the Mariners pitcher into more emotion. I think the Mariners staff hoped for good reaction from Felix, but they didn’t expect tears. When I asked someone if they thought Felix would cry, they smiled and told me no. All they wanted was Felix to feel welcome and there’d no doubt they accomplished that.

Hernandez’ emotions didn’t stop in the hallway. He couldn’t even make it through his opening statements on the podium without tearing up. He took a deep breath to gather himself and then thanked his agent, his family, the Seattle Mariners, M’s fans, and then he thanked everyone again and again. I’m pretty sure Hernandez said thank you 100 times yesterday. Right before he signed his record-setting contract, Felix even pointed out how much his hands were shaking. It was crazy. The guy who typically isn’t flustered by anything on the mound was having a tough time simply writing his name. That shows just how much Hernandez was captured by the moment.

If you weren’t there for the press conference, it would be easy to ask if Felix’s emotions were real. I’m here to tell you that they were. If they weren’t, Hernandez should be up for an Academy Award. Felix is usually fairly quiet and he mumbles through most of his postgame interviews. I remember even having a hard time picking out a good soundbite after Hernandez tossed the first perfect game in M’s history last year. He shared plenty of excitement after that game, but his answers were very quick and not good for television. Yesterday was different, because Felix’s voice boomed (I honestly think it was an adrenaline rush). You didn’t even need a microphone to hear him. He spoke clearly and straight from the heart.

Felix Hernandez 175 Million Dollar Contract

Felix Hernandez at the press conference for his new contract

A lot of athletes would be arrogant after becoming one of the highest paid players in their profession (*cough* Alex Rodriguez *cough*), but Hernandez was extremely humble. He promised the fans of Seattle that he would never change. He told them that he’ll be the same person walking into the ballpark every single day. Before he got too far, Felix realized that wasn’t totally true, so he corrected himself. Hernandez now guaranteed M’s fans that they’d see a difference, vouching to become a better pitcher every year.

That was relief to some fans’ ears, because there’s always the possibility of a let down after a player gets a massive contract. The player gets their millions and then they get complacent. San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum is a prime example. He signed his two-year, $40.5 million dollar contract with the Giants last year and his numbers dipped dramatically on the field. Lincecum went from 13 wins and a 2.74 earned run average in 2011 to 10 wins and a 5.18 ERA in 2012. He wasn’t even in San Francisco’s rotation in the postseason, instead he came out of the bullpen in five of his six outings. Felix Hernandez says that’s not going to happen to him, instead it’s going to be the opposite. Hernandez says he’s going to work harder than ever before and promised to “not disappoint anybody.”

The Mariners have seen a lot of star players leave over the years. Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson all made a name for themselves in Seattle and then bounced. They either wanted to go where they could win or where they could get more money, endorsements and fame (*cough* Alex Rodriguez *cough*). Felix Hernandez isn’t one of those guys. He actually wants to be in Seattle. He’s said that over and over for years, but I think it was hard for everyone to trust him. You can stop questioning him now. Felix is locked up in Seattle through the 2019 season, and he even joked that he’d like to talk about a contract extension after this year. In response, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “If you win the Cy Young, we can talk about anything you want.”

Felix Hernandez | Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez after he signed his $175 million contract

As a sportscaster, I long for the day athletes stop using the same old clichés. I want them to give real answers or just simply be themselves. What we saw on Wednesday was the real Felix Hernandez. He was quick to cry, provided plenty of laughs and told us exactly what he was thinking. The best part of the press conference happened before anyone asked him a question. Felix just started talking and talking. The words came out of his mouth as they came to his head. It was scattered. It was real. It was awesome.

Did you watch or listen to any of Felix Hernandez’ press conference (here’s a chunk of it if you haven’t)? What did you think? What do you think of his $175 million contract? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out the latest from the world of sports right now on http://allaroundtim.com.

High School Halfcourt Game-Winning Buzzer Beater

It’s not quite college basketball’s March Madness, but high school hoops provide plenty of excitement in February. State championships hang in the balance throughout district, regional and state tournaments all over the country. Sometimes an entire season comes down to the final seconds of a game. In this instance, Kentwood (Wash.) High School star Jackson Huerta kept his team’s dreams alive with an amazing overtime halfcourt game-winning buzzer beater against Emerald Ridge High School.

Like the beginning of the video explains, Kentwood trailed Emerald Ridge 51-50 with 2.5 seconds left in a loser-out South Puget Sound League tournament game. Jeremy Harris calmly pushed the Emerald Ridge advantage to 52-50 after he made his free throw, but Kentwood wasn’t done. They gave the ball to Jackson Huerta, who quickly sprinted up the left side of the court. With two guys on him, Huerta fired off a halfcourt prayer before the buzzer. After a lucky bounce off the backboard, the front of the rim and the backboard again, the ball fell into the hoop for an unbelievable game-winning buzzer beater.

After his game-winner, Huerta told the Tacoma News Tribune that he felt good about his halfcourt shot the moment it left his hand:

“I am comfortable from the left (side),” Huerta said. “I spin it a little bit.”

That spin (or whatever it was Huerta did to make the game-winning buzzer beater) means Kentwood earned the final seed to the district tournament, while the miraculous shot ended the season for Emerald Ridge. It was a heartbreaking demise for the Jaguars and a thrilling victory for the Conquerors, and it shows just how much 2.5 seconds can actually mean in the game of basketball. I guess that’s why they call it madness.

What do you think of the halfcourt game-winning buzzer beater by Jackson Huerta? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also check out more from the world of sports, music and food right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

Jackson Huerta Game-Winning Buzzer Beater

Jackson Huerta just moments before he launched his game-winning buzzer beater.

Story Time With Lou Piniella | Ichiro

Ichiro is one of the most recognizable names in Seattle sports history. The star outfielder spent more than 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, setting the Major League Baseball single-season hits record, playing in ten All-Star Games, winning the American League Most Valuable Player and becoming loved all around the world. Before Ichiro could accomplish any of that though, he first needed to earn the respect of Mariners manager Lou Piniella.

Welcome to the third and final installment of Story Time with Lou Piniella. In the first installment, Piniella shared his hilarious meeting with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. In the second installment, “Sweet Lou” talked about one of his most memorable ejections, and now Piniella’s shares a funny story about his first spring training with Ichiro:

Lou Piniella and Ichiro Suzuki

Lou Piniella and Ichiro
Courtesy: NYDailyNews.com

Ichiro came to the Seattle Mariners in 2001 after a nine-year career with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan. He was the first Japanese position player in the big leagues, and he came to America as one of the most hyped rookies ever. I actually saw Ichiro during his first Spring Training with the M’s. I don’t remember who the Mariners were playing that day, but Ichiro swatted a ball into the gap. I can still see Ichiro blazing around the bases with his long stride and incredible speed. I was instantly sold on Ichiro from that moment on. Lou Piniella was a little harder to impress.

Piniella says Ichiro wasn’t pulling the ball at all when Spring Training started. He was just hitting the ball to left field over and over again. Opponents were on to Ichiro by the fourth or fifth game of the spring. Piniella says the left fielder started playing down the line and the third baseman was so far over “he was almost shaking hands with the third base coach.”

To mix things up, Piniella called Ichiro’s interpreter over and asked if he could have Ichiro pull the ball. Piniella says he wanted to “check his bat speed a little bit.” So, the interpreter walked over to Ichiro, they huddled for a while and both nodded to Piniella after their conversation.

Two innings later, Ichiro led off for the Mariners. On the very first pitch of his at-bat, Ichiro smacked the ball into the right field bullpen for a home run. Piniella says, “He rounds the bases, comes over to me, shakes my hand and says, ‘Are you happy now?’”

Ichiro went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year, MVP and batting title that season. He hit .350 with eight home runs and 69 runs batted in, while also stealing a league-leading 56 bases and winning a Gold Glove for his play in right field that year. Ichiro was an instant superstar, exceeding all of his lofty expectations. Aside from his individual accolades, Ichiro was also one of the main reasons the Mariners tied the Major League record with 116 wins in 2001.

Lou Piniella and Ichiro

Lou Piniella and Ichiro at the reunion of 2001 team

Piniella only spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons with Ichiro in Seattle, but that was more than enough time to make an impact on “Sweet Lou”. Piniella has since told MLB.com that Ichiro should be in the Hall of Fame:

“He is one of the greatest leadoff hitters in the history of the major leagues,” Piniella said. ”He’s a great hitter, a great base runner, a great fielder with a great arm, a game breaker. All of those qualities add up to me as a Hall of Fame player.”

If Ichiro makes it to the Hall of Fame (he has to retire first), Piniella will more than likely meet him there. “Sweet Lou” has 1,835 career wins as a manager, ranking 14th in Major League Baseball history. 18 managers with fewer wins than Piniella have been enshrined in the hall, so it’s only a matter of time before Piniella gets his call to Cooperstown. There’s no doubt he deserves it.

What’s your favorite memory of Ichiro or Lou Piniella? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Faceook, Twitter and Google+. You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Don’t forget to also check out more from the world of sports right now on http://allaroundtim.com!

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Story Time With Lou Piniella | Ejections
Story Time With Lou Piniella | George Steinbrenner

Story Time With Lou Piniella | Ejections

Lou Piniella accumulated more than 1,800 wins in a 23-year career as a big league manager. He won a World Series title with the Cincinnati Reds, and was even named Manager of the Year three times. Those are incredible accolades, but Piniella is remembered more for his fiery antics with umpires than anything else. Former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and ex-Baltimore Orioles skipper Earl Weaver have more all-time ejections, but no one put on a show quite like Lou Piniella.

Lou Piniella Ejections

Lou Piniella doing what he did best

In the first installment of Story Time with Lou Piniella, I told you about Piniella’s uncomfortable introduction to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. It’s actually Steinbrenner who turned around and gave Piniella his first managerial job in 1986. Before the season started, Steinbrenner called Piniella into his office and said, “You’re first job is to win a World Series, but your second job, and almost just as important, is to help put fannys in the seats. So when you get kicked out of a ball game, put on a good show. I’ll pay your fine.”

Piniella clearly took Steinbrenner’s message to heart. The stats back it up: Piniella was ejected from 65 ball games as a manager. Piniella knows he has a reputation for getting ejected, and he says he’ll never dispute that. In fact, he tells old umpire war stories with pride. Welcome to the second installment of Story Time with Lou Piniella:

One of Piniella’s most memorable ejections happened with the Seattle Mariners. Bob Wolcott was pitching for the M’s at the time (so it happened sometime between 1995 and 1997) and he held a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning. Piniella says that’s when home plate umpire Durwood Merrill started “squeezing” Wolcott. That’s also when things got chippy.

Piniella says Wolcott was clearly getting frustrated by Merrill’s calls. In an attempt to help his young pitcher, Piniella yelled at Merrill from the dugout, “C’mon Durwood, you’re squeezing him!” That didn’t help anything, so Piniella went out to the mound “not to talk to Wolcott, but to wait for Durwood to come out.” Piniella wanted to chat with Merrill about the strike zone.

Lou Piniella Mariners Ejections

A classic “Sweet Lou” moment

Piniella describes Durwood Merrill as a character, and it sounds like he had that reputation all over baseball. Wikipedia describes Merrill as “friendly and outgoing.” After he retired in 1999, Merrill even wrote a book called You’re Out and You’re Ugly, Too! It was a humorous collection of the umpire’s stories from 23-years in the big leagues.

So, Merrill finally came out to the mound to break up Piniella and Wolcott. Piniella asked Merrill, “Where are those pitches at?” Merrill just looked at Piniella and didn’t say a word. He finally broke the silence a few seconds later with a question for Piniella: “Did you ever go to college?” Piniella, who went to the University of Tampa, told Merrill that he did go to college. Merrill responded back, “Didn’t you learn in college that you don’t end a sentence with a preposition?” Piniella was a little stunned by the back-and-forth, but he quickly asked Merrill if he could rephrase his original question. Merrill told him, “You sure can.” Piniella then asked, “Where were those pitches at, Durwood? You no good, blind, [bleep], [bleep], [bleep]!”

It wasn’t long after that Piniella says he was watching the rest of the game with a cold beer in the clubhouse.

I’m sure Piniella was firy as a manager, but he seems like an extremely nice guy now that he’s retired. Piniella shared his stories at the Hutch Award Luncheon in Seattle last week, and he stayed after the event for more than a half hour signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone who asked. Piniella shared hugs with old Seattle media members and even shook my hand before our interview. I wasn’t expecting Piniella to be a jerk, but I was surprised at how pleasant he actually was. I realize now that Piniella isn’t full of rage (like I thought he was when I was a youngster growing up in Seattle), instead the base throwing and dirt kicking was all just an act. Piniella was simply the ultimate showman.

Do you have a favorite Lou Piniella ejection? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Stay tuned to http://allaroundtim.com for the final installment of Story Time with Lou Piniella. In the third part of the series, “Sweet Lou” shares a great story about Ichiro from his first Spring Training with the M’s in 2001. I’ll have that posted soon!

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Story Time With Lou Piniella | George Steinbrenner

I’m convinced that athletes are the best storytellers on the planet. I feel like they remember every detail of every moment from their career. I can hardly remember what I ate for dinner yesterday, but these dudes can flashback to games they played decades ago without a problem. As I found out yesterday, former Major League Baseball player and manager Lou Piniella fits that same “great storyteller” mold.

Lou Piniella | Hutch Award Luncheon

Lou Piniella speaking at the Hutch Award Luncheon

Piniella was the keynote speaker at the Hutch Award Luncheon in Seattle. The award is given to a Major League Baseball player that excels on and off the field every year. San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito received the honor this year, and for good reason: the guy is amazing when it comes to giving back. We should all applaud the work Zito does for charity.

Lou Piniella closed the event with a fabulous speech. I never realized the guy was so funny. He told three hilarious stories during his speech, and all made the audience (including me) burst into laughter. I’m going to share all three stories with you, but I have to put them in different posts (otherwise a single post with all three stories would be too long). Are you ready for this? The fun starts now!

I’m calling the series Story Time with Lou Piniella:

Lou Piniella was traded by the Kansas City Royals with Ken Wright to the New York Yankees for Lindy McDaniel on December 7, 1973. Piniella says that trade turned out to be the greatest moment of his 18-year playing career. After he was dealt, Piniella couldn’t wait to get to Spring Training with the Yankees.

Lou Piniella arrived at camp with the Yankees in Ft. Lauderdale in 1974. He walked into the clubhouse on his first day and quickly realized there wasn’t a uniform in his locker. Anxious to get on the field and get started, Piniella asked Yankees equipment manager Pete Sheehy what was going on. Sheehy told Piniella that George Steinbrenner saw him walking in from the parking lot and said that Steinbrenner wanted to talk to Piniella in his office.

Piniella did as he was ordered and walked into Steinbrenner’s office. He introduced himself as one of the new players from Kansas City, and he told Steinbrenner how excited he was to be with the Yankees. There was a problem though. Steinbrenner told Piniella, “We’re happy to have you here, but your hair is too long.” The Yankees had a strict hair policy under George Steinbrenner, a policy that existed until Steinbrenner’s death in 2010. Piniella didn’t see the problem with long hair, so he decided to debate (no surprise, right?). He told Steinbrenner, “Our Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest person who ever lived and he had long hair.” Steinbrenner didn’t say a word, instead he just grabbed Piniella by the hand and walked him across the street to the Ft. Lauderdale swimming pool. Steinbrenner pointed at the pool and told Piniella, “If you can walk across that water, you can wear your hair any way you want to.”

Let’s just say Piniella lost the argument…

Lou Piniella Royals Yankees

Lou Piniella in Kansas City compared to Lou Piniella in New York

Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner built a strong relationship after that. Piniella never played for another team, suiting up for the Yankees from 1974-1984. Two years after he retired as a player, Steinbrenner introduced Lou Piniella as the Yankees manager. ”Sweet Lou” was the manager in New York for the 1986 and 1987 seasons, and then was promoted to general manager in 1988. Piniella jumped back into the Yankees dugout after Billy Martin was fired 69 games into the ’88 season. Piniella, who is now 69-years-old, respects George Steinbrenner so much that he still refers to him as Mr. Steinbrenner.

That’s it for this version of Story Time with Lou Piniella. I hope you enjoyed it! Stay tuned for more of Piniella’s stories, including his hilarious encounter with umpire Durwood Merrill, and a classic exchange between ”Sweet Lou” and Ichiro. I’ll post those stories soon! In the meantime, check out http://allaroundtim.com for more on the world of sports, music and travel. You can also connect with me right now on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook!

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