Over the history of the Seattle Mariners, 2001 was the best of times, was the worst of times – a year in which the team won a remarkable 116 games – and failed to reach the World Series.
As the Mariners brought most of that team to Safeco Field for an anniversary celebration, it was clear the chemistry that helped make ’01 special remained in place.
More than 20 players and coaches – plus general manager Pat Gillick and manager Lou Piniella – exchanged man-sized man-hugs with one another hours before their on-field appearance.
“I spent five years with a close-knit team in St. Louis,” pirtcher Ryan Franklin said. “We were a close knit team, but nothing like this.”
Of the players on that 2001 roster, a handful are still playing Ichiro Suzuki, Mike Cameron, Carlos Guillen, Joel Pineiro, Brian Fuentes, Arthur Rhodes – and both Franklin and Jamie Moyer fully intend to pitch again.
“I’m throwing a ball 120 feet, and next month I’ll be up on a mound again,” said Moyer, trying to come back from ‘Tommy John’ elbow surgery at age 48.
Plenty of other Mariners from 2001 remain involved in baseball:
- Piniella consults with the San Francisco Giants, often viewing DVDs on players the team sends him to review. Any interest in returning to managing? “No, no, I’m through with that,” Piniella said.
- Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, Mark McLemore, Jeff Nelson and Moyer all do some broadcasting
- John McLaren scouts for the Nationals, John Moses is a coach in the Astros minor league system, Aaron Sele is a coach in the Dodgers organizaion and Paul Abbott is a pitching coach in the Red Sox system. “It’s hard to turn your back on baseball when it’s been what you’ve done your whole life,” Abbott said.
John Olerud and his wife help run the Jordan Foundation, named for their daughter, who was born with a rare genetic disorder. Al Martin helps run the BSMART Foundation in Arizona, founded after his son Brandon died of an accidental drug overdose in 2009.
“He was at a party, someone apparently put something in his drink, and he never woke up,” Martin said. “I live with that every morning when I wake up.”
Norm Charlton runs a one-man fishing-guide business in Corpus Christi, Tex. And lives with his dogs. Bret Boone insists he’s a soccer dad, but in typical Boone fashion allowed he was the ‘Soccer Dad of the Year’ in San Diego.
Edgar Martinez has sold his embroidery company and is now working with a tequila/mescal maker, El Zacatecano.
Coach Matt Sinatro and John Halama are in retirement and considering new directions. Outfielder Charles Gipson went back to college after his playing career, and is a behavorial specialist at a Texas high school.
Tom Lampkin is a construction contractor who coaches a high school baseball team in Vancouver, Wa.
Desi Relaford wasn’t on the 2001 team – he played for the Mariners in 2002 - but hitched a ride to the celebration with good friend Gipson. He’s now a Florida nutritionalist.
Like most of the returning Mariners, Relaford looked in great shape, and someone asked him how quickly he could get to first base.
“Before or after my ‘hammy’ blew out,” he said.
Similarly, Martinez was asked if he could serve as an honorary designated hitter Saturday night.
“I can’t see the pitch, any more,” he said. “My eyes are really bad.”
And Abbott, working with rookies, said he occasionally gets frustrated trying to explain something to a youngster, will grab a baseball in the bullpen, hop up on the mound and show him what he’s talking about.
“I can throw four or five pitches,” Abbott said. “But then I’m done for 15 days. My elbow is gone.”
When did Piniella know Gillick had put together a team capable of greatness?
“There was a game in Cleveland we led, 12-4, and then I started to manage and we lost, 14-12,” Piniella said. “On the walk back to the hotel, I worried how they might respond to that. The next day, we beat the Indians and I told my coaches, ‘Stay out of the way, these guys can play.’”