Mariners' clubhouse now features a pool table

February 27th, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- New manager Scott Servais has made a point of getting to know his players in the first week of Spring Training, and one of the results -- a brand-spanking-new pool table -- was sitting in the middle of the team's clubhouse on Saturday morning.

Servais likes to have players stand up and share things about themselves in the daily morning meetings at camp. And when he discovered reliever Tony Zych is a pretty competitive pool player, he told the hard-throwing right-hander he had three days to get a table and have it delivered to the team's facility.

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"At first I was like, well, that's going to be an expensive buy, just to run out," said Zych, a 25-year-old who cracked the Major League roster last September for the first time. "But I was excited. It's a fun thing to have in here. I think we're going to get a little tournament going. It should be fun."

Servais told Zych he wouldn't need to pay for the table and, indeed, veteran second baseman Robinson Cano stepped up and said he'd take care of the cost.

Servais has been pushing his new squad with some long days early on, going with extended work on fundamentals and situational hitting, but the former big league catcher clearly has a lighter side as well, and he has been encouraging players to be themselves and have fun.

The pool table will be off-limits during games and workout times, but otherwise, it is open to players as well as coaches and staff.

"We're not going to get consumed by it, but it does create some competition and fun around the clubhouse," Servais said. "And Tony Zych is awesome. I played the first game with him last night, and I made one ball, and he ran the table. He's a very good pool player. He's a shark."

For the record, Zych says his dad introduced him to pool when he was 3 or 4, and he grew up with a table at his house. Zych competed on a pool team at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, and he says he still frequently hooks up in tournaments against high-caliber foes.

So, yes, smoking Servais -- his big league boss -- in the first game in the clubhouse was a little interesting.

"I felt bad at first," Zych said with a smile. "I don't know. It was an awkward situation. I tanked one shot to let him get one shot, and then he missed. I was like, 'Alright. I'll see what happens here.' But yeah."

Zych takes his pool seriously, as evidenced by his purchase of a quality table at nearby Prestige Billiards in Phoenix.

"I got a mid-range house table, but I upgraded the felt and rails, so it's going to play a little better," he said. "It's got to break in a little bit in the pockets, but other than that it's playing pretty good right away."

As for the price tag?

"Cano said he'll take care of it," said Zych. "So that's a little weight off my hands."

A few Mariners players tested out the table after Saturday's workout, with Felix Hernandez among the interested onlookers.

"I've played a little bit," Hernandez said. "I have a table in my house. I can play a little."

Hernandez was glad Servais treated the team.

"That's awesome," said Hernandez. "If we can do that, it's pretty good. [Servais] said we're going to have fun, and that's one thing."