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Seattle Mariners

Grippi: M’s need younger version of Piniella

Sun., Oct. 13, 2013

Friday: The local major league baseball franchise is like Kryptonite right now, slowly sapping the interest of even the most loyal fan.

Watching last night’s American League divisional series game, which the Tigers won over Oakland and advanced to face Boston in the A.L. championship, didn’t help. After all, watching playoff baseball just reminds one of how long it’s been since the Seattle Mariners were involved.

It also makes  Ken Rosenthal’s report Thursday for Fox Sports even more disturbing.

Rosenthal, one of Fox’s baseball writers, reported the  M’s asked Lou Piniella if he wanted to return as manager. Yep, that’s how you lay a foundation for the future, hiring a 70-year-old manager. One who last put on a uniform in 2010.

Sure, he was the last guy to get the M’s into the playoffs, but that was – seemingly – a lifetime ago.

Sure, the M’s have had 11 winning seasons in their history and Piniella managed seven of them, but past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, not on Wall Street and certainly not in the big leagues.

Even I, as big a fan of Sweet Lou as anyone reading this, know this would have been the wrong choice. And I guess even Lou knew it, as he reportedly turned them down. I hope he did it without laughing too much and, after composing himself, recommended a 35-year version of himself, whoever that may be.

Whoever the new guy is, I hope he can bring as much entertainment as Piniella. And at least as many wins.

Tuesday: There’s an autographed plaque hanging in my office at home. A gift from my thoughtful older sister. It includes a photograph of the first pitch of the World Series game held on Oct. 8, 1956. The photo is signed by the guy on the mound, Don Larsen. He went on to get that first batter – and the next 26, pitching the only perfect game in World Series history. A pretty big day for him. And for others.

Yep, it’s my birthday again. No. 57 in, what I hope, is a long line of them. I’m not sure how many of them I’ll get to share with Larsen, who just happens to live in North Idaho, but let’s hope many more as well.

I’ve never met the man, but I feel as if our lives have always been intertwined.

When I was younger, I felt destined to play in the big leagues. After all, with my birthday, why not? As I grew older and realized those dreams were just that, dreams, my birth date just became a way for me to stand out among other baseball fans.

I remember the day I realized I would never be a major league baseball player. It happened my freshman year in college in Tempe, Ariz. We were playing the Sun Devils and one of our guys drilled a ball to right-center. A sure triple. But  Kenny Landreaux, later to have an 11-year major league career, come out of nowhere, dove away from the plate, and caught the ball. I realized right then these guys were way, way better than I would ever be.

Still, it was a connection to baseball, big-time baseball, and I’ve always cherished it. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, there was only one guy born the same day who made it the major leagues, former Cardinals pitcher  Jeff Lahti, so I guess the date held no significance.

After all, there had to be thousands of boys born on that day in 1956 and to have only one reach the highest level, well, that shows you just how tough it is to get there.

I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in my childish thoughts, feeling as if the day I was born held special powers that would propel me into a baseball career.

But nothing, not the day you were born, not hard work, not coaching, none of it serves an athlete better than talent. And, I guess, that wasn’t a gift given to most of us born on this day 57 years ago.

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