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Rizzs adjusts to Mariners’ games without Niehaus

PEORIA, Ariz. – Rick Rizzs sat at a picnic table at the Seattle Mariners’ spring-training complex Friday morning and looked toward the clubhouse.

“I still think he’s going to walk through that door,” he said.

Nearly four months since longtime Mariners play-by-play broadcaster Dave Niehaus died, there’s still a sense of disbelief.

“There are times when I don’t really think he’s gone,” said Rizzs, who was Niehaus’ play-by-play partner for 25 years. “There are times when I want to pick up the phone and say, ‘Let’s go to breakfast.’ ”

Friday was one of the tougher days.

Rizzs, play-by-play man Dave Sims and producer-engineer Kevin Cremin spent their first day at spring training as they prepare for 20 spring training broadcasts. The first will be the exhibition opener Sunday against San Diego.

“It’s time to play some baseball,” Rizzs said.

Then he paused and his voice got a little weak as he thought of Niehaus.

“It’s going to be strange,” Rizzs said. “His stamp is on everything. He was the best at what he did. He breathed life into this organization from Day 1. It’s such a huge loss.”