Veterans talk up the game of baseball and teammates even through losses
Another game Wednesday, another loss for the Mariners, this one 3-2 to Detroit.
They sit in chairs on the north side of the clubhouse, Cust in front of his locker, Ryan in front of his locker and Kennedy, whose locker is on the south side, pulls up a chair and sits in front of the empty locker between the other two.
They talk in quiet tones. Teammates occasionally file by. When reliever David Pauley, who threw four shutout innings, or starter Erik Bedard, who took the loss after an adequate start No. 4 of the season, walks by, the conversation stops and they salute each for his efforts.
Then the quiet talks continue.
Just watching this triangle of men, uniforms half off, kicking back after a game and talking in such low tones is intriguing. Most of their teammates have places to go and people to see. These three may, too, but for now each seems to be in no hurry to leave their private scrum.
What is it that they are talking about that is so compelling each is reluctant to leave?
The answer, it turns out, is simple. Theyre talking baseball.
“Were all fans of the game, Kennedy said once things finally broke up. “Were not the kind who can stop thinking about the game 10 minutes after its over. We really enjoy talking about the game.
Hmmm. You enjoy talking about a 3-2 loss or a 6-13 start to the Seattle season?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
“We talk about today, we talk about the season, we talk about situations that come up, Kennedy said. “And we enjoy it.
“Weve all been around a while, Cust said. “We know that things are going to turn around. Thats why its enjoyable. Were going through a tough stretch now. But we know it can turn. And talking about the game and understanding the game is important.
It doesnt seem like much, but this triumvirate has a chance to be the anchor of the 2011 team. They set examples in being available to the media, true, but thats only part of their clubhouse contribution.
They talk the game, they talk up their teammates. They set examples of how players should carry themselves. In the Seattle clubhouse, like in all others, theres a tendency to hit the iPad, the cell phone or the computer after the game to catch up on the rest of the world and leave baseball in the dust after a game, particularly after a loss.
What these three are suggesting is that the game is bigger than the 2½ hours it takes to play. The game doesnt end. Theyll be back at in the next day and the next day, and it doesnt hurt to sit and talk about the way things have gone and the way things need to go. There will be plenty of time for catching up on texts and voicemails and social media after leaving the clubhouse.
“You try to set an example with the stuff you do, Cust said. “Are we team leaders? I dont know about that. But we enjoy talking about the game, playing the game and being part of the game. Thats the example wed like to set.
“Most of us, individually and as a team, are off to slow starts this year. We havent started as we would have liked. But we know enough that we just have to grind it out. The fact that we have a losing record doesnt change the fact that we care what we do and how we do it.
“Baseball is a game that you find can turn around in a hurry.
All three are baseball orphans in a fashion. Cust wasnt wanted by the As after hed hit 101 homers for Oakland the last four seasons. Ryan had the worst year of his career (.223) in 2010 after playing hurt most of the year, and the St. Louis Cardinals couldnt wait to trade him. Kennedy didnt have a job until the Mariners signed him on Jan. 10, long after most of the coveted free agents on the market had been snapped up.
Between them, theyve played 36 years coming into this season and have played in 31 different major and minor league cities. Theyve seen about all there is to see. And they seem to believe that a season isnt defined by the first three weeks or what happened yesterday.
“You have to come to the park every day expecting success if youre going to help the team, Cust said. “Thats just the game of baseball.
And Cust, Kennedy and Ryan expect to be talking again Thursday. And Friday and Saturday. And beyond.
Talking baseball. Maybe theyll set an example their teammates will be able to follow.