Saturday, April 17, 2004

Dad and Baseball by Sara Dierck

My dad, John Dierck, loves baseball more than about anyone I know. He spent countless hours when I was growing up playing catch, going to pitching and hitting clinics with me and attending my games. I think I broke his heart when I quit playing fastpitch softball when I was 16.  He even left the pitching rubber out in the field near my house where I used to practice. He’s also been a Mariners fan longer than I’ve been alive. He was very disappointed that while living in the Bay Area I switched allegiances and became an Oakland Athletics fan. He even joked that I would become a Yankees fan now that I live in New York, but that’s not the way my dad raised me. He wanted me to write that he's such a big fan, he bought my mom The Sporting News for Valentine’s Day instead of flowers. But she loves baseball too, and as long as there are fans like my dad, baseball will never die. I can always call my dad and talk baseball. I called him up one week in February, shortly before pitchers and catchers were to report to spring training. Here are some of his thoughts and feelings about the upcoming season and his beloved Seattle Mariners.

Sara: You’ve been checking the sports section everyday for Mariners news and you can't wait for spring training and the season to start. What is it about baseball season that separates it from the rest of the year?
Dad: Well, the rest of the year you just look forward to it starting, but during the season you can anticipate all the action that’s happening at the time and the onfield happenings. It's like they have their own life.
Sara: It’s pretty unpredictable, too.
Dad: Right. And every game means so much to how the outcome of the season is. It's not just “Oh well, that was a loss, tomorrow we can win.” Every game counts so much.
Sara: It’s crazy because there’s so many, but even when your team will lose one you're so upset about it. Even though it’s one out of 160 games.
Dad: Right. And you just try to analyze what could have happened to make it come out better or if it’s a certain player that’s causing this to happen repeatedly you start getting down on them (laughs) or hope that someone else will come and take over and make it better.
Sara: You’re always the most optimistic sports fan I know, especially at the beginning.
Dad: (Laughs) I’m optimistic every game. I try to listen to every game.
Sara: How do you think the Mariners are going to do this year? Do you think they’ll be able to keep going strong?
Dad: I think that they’re going to be a lot stronger this year because their everyday players have proven to be stable, you know, they’re consistent.
Sara: It seems like they do a nosedive at the end of the season...
Dad: They got rid of a lot of those players that were causing that to happen.
Sara: Like [Mike] Cameron?
Dad: Yeah.
Sara: Who else do you think was causing it?
Dad: I really think that we put a lot of hope in players like Arthur Rhodes, and Cameron...I hated to see him go, but if he could have performed like his potential everyday it would have been different.
Sara: It’s hard to see someone strike out a lot.
Dad: Especially when you’re not swinging the bat. That’s the hardest thing. I’d rather see him swinging and missing it than standing there and watching it go by thinking it should have been a ball, but there’s other players that left too like [Jeff] Cirillo. I mean, I felt a heartbreak every time he struck out or didn’t get a hit. You know, everyone was pulling for him the whole time. I don't think anyone was down on him because they didn't think he was good.
Sara: I was glad to see that guy go.
Dad: Well, yeah, and another one that was a heartbreak too was Carlos Guillen because the guy is a phenomenal defensive player and he has potential, but he also was injury-prone. They got rid of him and they now have the Giants shortstop...
Sara: Rich Aurilia.
Dad: I think he’s a really solid everyday player.
Sara: Yeah, I like him a lot.
Dad: I think he’s really going to stabilize that part of the field. And then [Scott] Spezio, too, and they've got some really good back-up with [Willie] Bloomquist and I don't know too much about this Ramon Santiago guy, they picked him up from Detroit.
Sara: Spezio’s a first baseman, usually.
Dad: Well, he's played third too. I haven’t read too much about Quentin McCracken, one of the new outfielders.
Sara: Was that guy on the Diamondbacks? Because that sounds like a Diamondback name. Those guys always have the worst names.
Dad: (Laughs) I can look him up. I have who’s gone on all the teams, in today’s paper. That's really fun. I was figurin’ out where they came from. (Laughs) There’s so much movement.
Sara: One bad thing about losing Cameron was that he was a really good outfielder.
Dad: He was a good mix between Ichiro and [Randy] Winn. That really helped, having his speed.
Sara: A lot of people said that was the best outfield.
Dad: That was a pretty good outfield. We’ll see how this one goes. [Raul] Ibanez has a lot to prove. He wants to come back and be a hero.
Sara: So who’s in center then?
Dad: They moved Winn to center. And Ichiro’s in right. Ichiro needs to go after the ball more, too. Every single time he needs to go for it. I’ll be happy with that effort.
Sara: Do you think he was starting to slack a little bit?
Dad: I thought maybe last year a little bit, yeah.
Sara: It doesn’t seem fair that the Mariners could win 93 games and not go to the postseason. It seems like they should have gone in the Twins spot...
Dad: Well, that’s not the way it’s set up. You gotta do what it takes and there’s some games they should have won. And most of them were the games that [Ryan] Franklin lost one or two to nothing. And he would have been a 20-game winner probably, with a little more offense.
Sara: I always root for Edgar [Martinez]. Are they going to let him run this year?
Dad: If he’s healthy. He’s anticipating being healthier, but he knows his legs are failing. All the speed he did have isn’t there anymore. (Laughs)
Sara: That’s crazy that he’s that powerful of a hitter that—
Dad: I know. His doubles are now singles. And that’s the way they know it. They just hold him up. That’s a telling factor right there. And he knows it. I think this is his last year. But he wants one more try at a World Series.
Sara: And that’s why it would be a nice story. Mom was telling me about the other players that it might be their last year. Who were the other players?
Dad: [John] Olerud. I guess Olerud’s son is going to start school this year. Before then he was traveling with them.
Sara: He’s not that old, is he?
Dad:  He's 35 or 36. But it’s his final year in his contract so he’s throwing out rumors that this might be it. Plus his offense wasn't as good last year. If he has a good offensive year that might make the difference.
Sara: And how about Freddy [Garcia]?
Dad: I think Freddy’s going to rebound. I didn’t know, and I don’t think many people knew that he had such bad ear problems. He’s had operations on his ears. He was off balance. It's hard not to throw a ball without having a balance problem. It looked like he was off balance, but they didn’t put it out. Everyone thought he was wearing earplugs because he didn’t want to hear the boos. (Laughs) But the earplugs were special plugs that helped him with his balance.
Sara: They have a couple of younger pitchers that did a pretty good job last year. Do you see them stepping up more this year and making a name for themselves?
Dad: You mean like Franklin?
Sara: Yeah. He did pretty well but hardly anyone knows that guy.
Dad: Well, they’re going to. I listened to an interview on the Hot Stove last Thursday night and they interviewed Franklin and he was so excited because last year he was trying to get a spot on the roster, this year he’s pretty much guaranteed it. And he has another pitch (laughs) that they haven’t let him throw yet. And it’s the knuckleball.
Sara: Wow.
Dad: (Laughs) And he can throw it well. But he was explaining it that if you throw knuckleballs a lot it does something to your wrist so that your other pitches aren’t as good so they don't want him to throw it.
Sara: That’s going to freak people out.
Dad: No kidding. If they let him throw it. They’re really strict with what they let those guys throw. They don't want him to mess up his other pitches. And he's so deceptive because he’s small. But that’s a pitch that we can look forward to seeing. And as he gets older he could be a knuckleballer. Anyway, yeah, him and there’s another, [Rafael] Soriano, who's really good. He’s got the high heat that’ll blow you away.
Sara: And it’s cool they have “Everyday” Eddie, Eddie Guardado.
Dad: I know. (Laughs) That’s really good. I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch.
Sara: Are they going to have him as a closer, then?
Dad: Yeah.
Sara: Because [Kazuhiro] Sasaki didn't resign.
Dad: And that’s understandable. His wife doesn’t want to live here. And that was really upsetting to him because he’s a real family man. He didn’t want to be away from her and he’d give up all that money just stay with his wife and that’s really cool. Everybody’s happy that that was the reason. You could tell it in his whole demeanor. He wasn’t there like he was the first couple seasons.
Sara: Do you think that [Shigetoshi] Hasegowa would be a better closer?
Dad: No, I think he’s a better set-up guy. It's nice to have him, he can finish out games, and save the closer for the next game, but I think he’s better in the 7th, 8th.
Sara: What about the possibility that Omar [Vizquel] was going to come back? Were you excited about that?
Dad: No, I didn’t want Omar back. You’s nostalgic, but I don’t think it would have worked.
Sara: Kind of like the rumor that Ken Griffey, Jr. wanted to come back?
Dad: Now that one I could handle better, because he hasn’t done well since he’s left and if he came back he’d have something to prove. And that’s what everyone wants Ken Griffey to do, is prove it. You know? The heartbreak would go away if he could prove it. Because it was a heartbreak. Losing all those quality players, you know...I wouldn’t take Alex [Rodriguez] back. But I would take Ken Griffey back.
Sara: (Laughs) Yeah, I think I feel the same way.
Dad: I think that if Alex gets booed the rest of his career whenever he comes here, that’s fine. Especially if he goes to New York, because he said he would never play for New York. I remember him saying it.
Sara: That’s awful.
Dad: I know. And I know it’s going to happen.
Sara: Matt [Sara’s boyfriend] said there’s no God when he heard that. (Laughs)
Dad: There is, but it’s not George Steinbrenner. (Both laugh) And I just think that, you know, you can try to buy every player in the whole league and what good is it going to do you? You’re still going to get beat, because they won’t get along. (Laughs) And it’ll just make us hate the Yankees even more.
Sara: Do you miss Lou [Piniella] at all?
Dad: I’m enjoying hearing Lou’s exploits. I don’t miss him.
Sara: It seems like when he left he took away a lot of the energy. Is there anyone that has as much energy as him?
Dad: No, I don’t think he took the energy. I think he took a little enthusiasm, but not all the energy. They still won 93 games without him. They have the energy. But the enthusiasm, to win when you’re an underdog, it’s gone. But they’re not underdogs. We don’t need that. Tampa Bay needs it. But I enjoy hearing the tales of Lou. And he’s got some players from the Mariners that he likes. He’s trying to build the team up. He’s got Tino back. He loved Tino. So that’s kinda cool.
Sara: Does it seem like some kind of reward for being a loyal fan that the Mariners have become a consistent contender? Because you’re been a fan from the beginning.
Dad: Well, I don’t know...
Sara: Does it make it more enjoyable to watch?
Dad: It’s always been enjoyable. But as far as a reward goes, I don’t know if I need to be rewarded. I just like the chance of being able to win.
Sara: It’s like the opposite of being a Yankees fan. They feel like they need to be rewarded.
Dad: Well, I don’t boo my team. Never have. And I don’t think I would. I would be sad for them if they didn’t do well. And I don’t think I need to be rewarded.
Sara: The ’95 season, I still remember that. Have you started that book that mom got you? [Out of Left Field: How the Mariners Made Baseball Fly in Seattle by Art Thiel]
Dad: No. I haven’t. I've looked at it. I don’t want to get stuck in that. I have my own feelings about why they won and this is somebody else’s idea. I'm not sure about it.
Sara: What are your feelings about how they started to win?
Dad: I think it was that they were playing with Lou’s enthusiasm. He got them to play as hard as they could and probably they did better then they should have.
Sara: They did have some amazing players.
Dad: They did. And he used them wisely. He got to really manage that team. And that was the whole thing. He showed everybody what a good manager he was. And even though he had prior success, that was when it was really evident. I think it was mostly Lou that did it. But that book says stuff like they bought it.
Sara: Yeah, I didn’t like hearing that.
Dad: No, I don’t think they bought it. They did it with the talent. And they were all in the right frame of mind, they were all in sync at the right time and that’s why they did it.
Sara: You don’t really like crowds, but Safeco Field is a really amazing place to see a game, especially compared with the Kingdome. How many games do you think you’ll try to get to this year? Do you think you’ll go to more than one?
Dad: I don’t know. I enjoy seeing it in my mind, listening to the radio.
Sara: Do you listen to the games at work?
Dad: Yes. I usually have my little radio with me at all times. Sometimes I have to turn it off if I’m busy with something. I tune in and try to catch up, because the game lasts quite a while. I don't know how many games I’ll try to go to. We thought about getting season tickets and sharing them, but I don’t think anyone can agree on where to get the seats. Because there are seats that I don’t like. And different angles...there’s some seats that I don’t even care if they’re in the 300-level, as long as there’s nobody sitting in front of me. Like on the top edge, that would be a good place for me. I just don’t like the crowds moving so much. If you’re there to see the game, I like to sit and watch the game. I don’t want to dodge people going in front of me.
Sara: (Laughs) Which you don’t have to do with the radio.
Dad: Right. And I can visualize what’s going on. Because I’ve played a lot of these positions myself, not at that level, but I can envision what's going on. It’s a good feeling being there, at the games, and feeling that emotion from the fans. You can’t get that on the radio, but you can hear it.
Sara: I know in the past you’ve done some superstitious things to help the Mariners win. Do you remember some of them?
Dad: Yeah. I always touch my Mariners’ logo on my hat before I go to work. I don't wear my hat to work. I touch the “S.”
Sara: Didn't mom buy you a hat once and you quit wearing it because they weren’t winning?
Dad: No, it was a T-shirt. I’ve been breaking it in this winter when there’s no games and I’m trying to get her to wash it so it feels older, and I’m hoping that this season I’ll be able to wear it during the games. I’ll have to see how it goes. Maybe I’ll wear it during pre-season. I got to break things in. And there’s one more thing I do too. I have an old Cheney stud emblem off one of my uniforms and I touch it too. [Ben Cheney was a sponsor of a team in the Boys Club youth league that existed in Tacoma when my father was growing up.] And then the year that they won 116 games every time it appeared they might not be in a winning position at the end of the game, if I held my water bottle and drank water from home when I was at work, they usually came back.
Sara: Wow.
Dad: But I don’t have that water bottle anymore. It got pretty old. It was actually one of those bottles of water you buy, and I couldn’t wash it in the dishwasher.
Sara: I know that you're upset with me for becoming an A’s fan; you said you were going to disown me. Are you still upset at me? Is it because they’re division rivals?
Dad: Well, I just keep hoping you’ll come back to your senses. And I won’t disown you, but I do have a picture of you in a Mariners T-shirt screaming at a game that I look at a lot.
Sara: I still like them, they’re like my number two team.
Dad: Well that’s not good enough.
Sara: You’re really loyal to the team, but are there any players outside of the Mariners that you like?
Dad: Well, I enjoy seeing them play when they play the Mariners. I don’t necessarily root for them. I like to see good plays. I don't want to see them hit well. But if they do good defense and get the Mariners out that’s okay, I like to see that. But I don’t root for anybody else.
Sara: The fans are really loyal there.
Dad: Yeah, except when you take a lot of money and leave the team. If he stayed for less money, and with the team, they’d be even more loyal. He could do no wrong when he was here. Really. I’m talking about Alex.
Sara: I know. It makes more sense that people are upset with him and not Ken Griffey or even Randy Johnson.
Dad: I feel bad about Randy Johnson. But I understood more because the ownership was bad.
Sara: Do you like the ownership more now?
Dad: I like how they’re willing to spend money.
Sara: He doesn’t even live in the country.
Dad: He doesn’t even know anything about baseball. It's a business for him. And that’s why they are spending the money.
Sara: Do you have any closing thoughts?
Dad: Closing thoughts...I think that players should know when to retire.
Sara: Who are you thinking of?
Dad: Dan Wilson.
Sara: Do you think that Edgar should have already retired?
Dad: I think that Edgar should retire when he feels like he needs to. They’re not going to tell him because they're loyal to him. But he’ll know.
Sara: When you said that I thought you were talking about Roger Clemens.
Dad: Well I just think that’s a joke. I mean, if they didn’t want to play for the Boss, they should have just quit.
Sara: You don't think it’s funny?
Dad: I think it’s a joke. Those guys...well, we’re still on tape. (Laughs) I don’t want to see them play. Either one of ’em. I don’t like either one of them. They sell themselves out. I don’t like that.
Sara: How do you sell yourself out if you go to a different team? It seems like you sell yourself out if you go to the Yankees.
Dad: They did it time and again. But I suppose you have to sell yourself...
Sara: I mean, do you like Tino Martinez now?
Dad: I’ve always liked Tino.
Sara: Even when he was a Yankee?
Dad: Yeah. I liked him when he was a Yankee. Because he didn’t change.
Sara: I felt bad for him. It seems like they totally just threw him out so they could get Jason Giambi.
Dad: Yeah. I felt bad about that, too. That kind of shows you the type of management they have.
Sara: And I felt like they took Aaron Boone because they didn’t want him to go to the Mariners.
Dad: I know. And now I hear that Alex is going to play third. That’s a joke too. Especially when their fans are on Jeter because he doesn't have the range. Jeter needs to move to third.
Sara: I think Jeter needs to move to second. I don’t think he can make the throw from third.
Dad: Oh. I don’t watch him play enough to know that.
Sara: I think it’s a joke to not put A-Rod at short.
Dad: What is A-Rod going to do, cover half of Jeter’s area? How's that going to look? Okay, let’s move Jeter right behind second. Alex can cover the rest of it.
Sara: Do you think that’s going to go through?
Dad: Yeah, he’s already made the statement that he wants to be there. He wants out of Texas really bad.
Sara: He shouldn’t have gone there.
Dad: That’s true. Anyway, I just think that’s a big farce. And it’s not going to work well. Did you see the commercial with Jeter and Alex playing wiffle ball in someone’s living room?
Sara: No.
Dad: It was terrible. Let’s put them all together so we can really laugh at all of ’em. Especially when they start fighting amongst themselves. Joe Torre, look out!
Sara: Do you have any predictions for the season?
Dad: I think that there’s going to be a lot of surprises this year. They’re already coming out with the predictions and I've seen them. Sporting News is predicting the Mariners to come in third—
Sara: Not behind the Angels.
Dad: They have the Angels first, A’s second.
Sara: Give me a break.
Dad: That's what they’re predicting. You know, it’s not all pitching. But the Mariners have a good pitching staff, too. I don’t know how many other teams have had five starting pitchers go the whole season and never miss a start.
Sara: Wow.
Dad: I don't know if that’s a record. But it is for the Mariners. And they’ve got the same five guys coming back and Freddy has a lot to prove. I hate to predict them doing well and then be unhappy with my predictions, so I tend not to predict. I just like to see them play well. I know this might sound sacrilegious, but winning the World Series is important, but it’s not the most important thing. You can play in it and it’s still important. You can play up until the divisional series and it’s all important. Baseball is important. It’s not just who wins the Series.
Sara: You look at some of the division games and they were better than any in the World Series.
Dad: Right. And it’s how they play that seven games. You can insert different teams in that position and they’ll play better. So, the whole season’s important, not just the Series. That’s the way I feel about it. If they could play baseball all year round, I’d be happy.

Sara Dierck is a photographer and A’s fan who moved from San Francisco to New York City in time to see the Yankees lose the World Series. She spends a considerable amount of time telling people why the Yankees suck and trying to convince her hockey-loving boyfriend that baseball is still great.

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