Lou Piniella started all of this.
And now it has grown to be quite a large player-to-player pipeline between the two clubs - the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays.
As Mariners’ outfielder Boog Powell proclaimed before the Sunday finale with the Rays, by now, “everyone knows everyone.”
There are a few former Rays farmhands now with Seattle: Powell spent one season with the organization. Infielder Taylor Motter had his major-league call-up last year with Tampa Bay before being traded in the offseason. Injured starting pitcher Drew Smyly was thought to be an ace-in-training with the Rays before coming to the Mariners. And utility man Shawn O’Malley, who is also out after shoulder surgery, grew up in the Rays’ franchise.
The number of former Seattle players now with the Rays is even greater: Pitchers Danny Farquhar, Kevin Gadea and Sunday starter Erasmo Ramirez; infielders Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Rickie Weeks, Jr.; and catcher Jesus Sucre.
“I have no problem facing them. It’s not hard,” Powell said. “My best friend is Daniel Robertson, who is over there.”
And Powell relayed the conversation he had with Robertson when he pinch-ran for outfielder Nelson Cruz on Friday, and stood next to him at third base.
“He said, ‘Five years ago, we never could have dreamed being on the same ballfield like we are now,’” Powell said. “It was pretty cool.”
Manager Scott Servais also knows the feeling. He started his big-league career as a catcher with the Houston Astros in 1991 when they were in the NL Central. Four years later, he was facing his old team as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
“Oh yeah, (it was weird) every time,” Servais said. “You have friends over there, and guys you spent a lot of time with. Most of the time, you came up with them in the minor leagues together.
“When you play against those guys, you want to do well. The people that traded you away, you want to show them, ‘Maybe I was better than you thought I was.’ But a lot of times, in most cases, trades are best things for players, because they get a chance to recharge and reset themselves.”