Follow the leader
PEORIA, Ariz. – Eddie Guardado knows all the tricks. One minute, he’ll be dumping baby powder over an unsuspecting rookie and laughing at the sight. The next, he’ll be serious with the kid, teaching him how to be a big leaguer. Whether it’s through trickery or teaching, Guardado feels a responsibility to be a leader on the Seattle Mariners.
“You can have different types of leaders,” Guardado said. “They can be vocal and they can be quiet and lead by example. I’m a little vocal, but I try to lead by example, too.”
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, who in six weeks of spring training has instilled his demand of discipline and hard work, said a team needs a few veteran players to mentor the others.
“You make your expectations known to the players, but they have to make their expectations known to each other,” Hargrove said. “In any good situation, the players police themselves. I think we have that here.”
Hargrove likes the presence Jamie Moyer has in the clubhouse, and he said new third baseman Adrian Beltre is showing leadership qualities in a quiet way with his hard work on and off the field. Then there’s Bret Boone.
“Boonie’s the type of guy who likes to bust people’s chops,” Hargrove said. “But he’s done it in the right way. It hasn’t been in a negative context.”
Without naming names, Hargrove said he spoke with some of his veterans early in spring training to urge them to step up in the clubhouse.
“There are some personalities you can go up to and say, ‘I want you to do this,’ ” Hargrove said. “Coming into camp, I wanted to empower people to be able to do that. But I don’t think it’s something you cram down their throats.”
Guardado said he learned the value of clubhouse leadership through those who mentored him when he was a young player with Minnesota.
“I had Kirby Puckett, Rick Aguilera, Kent Hrbek and Dave Winfield,” Guardado said. “I was taught by some good guys.”
He learned lessons from all, but Puckett and Aguilera were special.
“Rick really took me under his wing when I first moved into the bullpen, and he showed me how to prepare every day, on the field and off the field,” Guardado said. “He taught me that when you come to the clubhouse as a rookie, you keep quiet, respect the older guys and stay out of their way.
“Puckett taught me to have fun and keep a smile on my face, that we’re very lucky to put this uniform on every day. I took that to heart. That’s what I try to show these guys around here.”
Guardado does that in a variety of ways, most of the time with humor.
He went through a lot of baby power at spring training, often sidling up to an unsuspecting teammate for “How ya doin’, bro,” and a pat on the head, back, shoulder, rump, anywhere he could leave an imprint of white residue.
Guardado isn’t all giggles and pranks. He said there’s a time to clown and a time to take a kid aside and have a serious talk.
“If I have something on my mind, I’m going to say it,” he said. “I don’t want to jump on somebody’s butt, but if you have to, sometimes you have to. If you don’t do it in the right way, they might take offense at that.”
That’s exactly what Hargrove wants in his veterans.
“I’ve been with a lot of clubs, good ones and bad ones, and on the good ones the players police themselves,” Hargrove said. “I can sit here and tell somebody something 15 times and they just don’t quite get it. And another player can do the same thing to him once and they get it. I don’t have a problem with that.”