Mariners all in as Seahawks get ready for Super Bowl
SEATTLE -- Spring Training is less than two weeks away and free-agent discussions are still under way, but there's something else buzzing at Safeco Field's offices this week.
The 12th Man fever gripping sports fans in Seattle is fully evident at Mariners headquarters as well in anticipation of Sunday's Super Bowl appearance by the Seahawks.
As an organization, the Mariners have left no doubt that they're all in with their Northwest neighbors. Two weeks ago, 12th Man banners proudly flew on each of the flagpoles atop Safeco Field prior to the NFC championship game at Century Link Field, which sits just across the street in Seattle's SoDo District.
Now the Mariners have taken out a full-page ad in Friday's Seattle Times Super Bowl section showing jerseys of nine of their top players -- from newcomer Robinson Cano to Felix Hernandez to Kyle Seager to Hisashi Iwakuma -- all with the No. 12 replacing their usual number and a message to "Bring it home, Hawks."
Mariners' front-office employees all wore Seahawks gear on Friday and posed in the ballpark with a huge 12th Man flag for a photo that will be sent to the Seahawks, along with a giant postcard signed by fans at last weekend's FanFest.
General manager Jack Zduriencik ended a recent pre-Spring Training news conference at Safeco Field by putting on a Seahawks hat and tossing out a "Go Hawks," and new manager Lloyd McClendon visited a Seahawks practice last week at the team's facility across Lake Washington, in Renton.
The Mariners are embracing the Seahawks' success, knowing what their Super Bowl appearance means to a fan base hungry for a championship. And yes, they clearly know their own supporters are hoping for a winning team to rally behind as well.
"It is unbelievable how the Hawks have pulled this town together," said new team president Kevin Mather. "The 12th Man has taken over every corner of the Northwest. We know firsthand that Seattle is filled with sports fans, and like the Seahawks did, we just need to give those fans something to cheer about."
Kevin Martinez, the Mariners' vice president of marketing, has had his staff put together social media messaging, and the advertising campaign, in support of their NFL brethren.
"The Hawks' season has been an incredible ride for our entire region," Martinez said. "Sports bring a community together in a way nothing else can. There is so much passion and pride throughout the Northwest. You get goose bumps walking down the street and seeing all the displays of support. It's fantastic."
Mariners and Seahawks players have long supported one another. Richard Sherman and other Seahawks were frequent visitors at Safeco Field last season, Mariners Hall of Famer Jay Buhner raised the 12th Man flag at Century Link prior to a Seahawks game this year, and Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Jamie Moyer did the same in previous seasons.
Even while living in Denver, in the heart of Broncos territory, this offseason, outfielders Michael Saunders and Logan Morrison have made no mistake about their rooting allegiance.
"I'm getting asked that a lot," Saunders said of living behind "enemy" lines. "But I was a big Seahawks fan growing up [in Victoria, British Columbia]. Now, obviously, living in Denver, I'm not going to lie. I'm a big Broncos fan as well. They're a lot of fun to watch. Who wouldn't want to watch Peyton Manning on a daily basis?
"But I have to stay true to my hometown team. Go Seahawks," he added with a grin. "It was a win-win for me, but I want to see the Seahawks take it home. It's going to be a heck of a game, best offense against the best defense. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch."
Morrison, acquired via trade from the Marlins this offseason, has no Seattle ties yet, but his 12th Man card this week comes courtesy of his own hometown roots, having grown up in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are a heated foe of the AFC West-rival Broncos.
"I'm the opposite of a Broncos fan," Morrison said. "I just can't bring myself to root for them, since they're in the same division. So I'll definitely be pulling for the Seahawks."
Cano is just getting to know Seattle after signing his $240 million deal this winter, but he's well aware of the Seahawks' rousing support and is eager to bring some of that excitement to the Mariners as well.
"This city is about sports," Cano said. "You can see how the Seahawks are playing and how packed the stadium gets. Even soccer. It's all about winning. I know if I'm a fan, I want to go see a good team. I want to go see a team that really performs and does really good. This is a sports city, and I just can't wait for our season to get going."
McClendon has yet to manage his first game in Seattle, but he's already found himself drawn to the calm and confident charisma displayed by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll during the heat of a game.
"I thought it was absolutely phenomenal when the Seahawks were playing the 49ers and the 49ers were up and taking it to us pretty good," McClendon said. "And they showed the picture of Pete Carroll [on TV], and he was very confident, just a very quiet confidence. He put a stick of gum in his mouth and was just very relaxed.
"I thought that was a very important moment, because you could just sense that his players were feeding off his confidence. Being a leader, that's what it's all about. You want your players to take on your personality and how you go about your business and how you prepare."
That's the sort of culture McClendon wants to instill in a Mariners team that hasn't made the postseason since 2001. And his players know that Seattle sports fans will embrace them eagerly as well if they can bring winning baseball back to Safeco Field.
"I truly believe this is going to be a different year for us," said Saunders, who feels the signing of Cano sent a signal to both the team and all of baseball. "I've bought into the atmosphere here. There's a buzz, obviously, with the Seahawks. The Sounders [of Major League Soccer] had a great year. It's a great sports city, and we want to be a part of that as the Mariners. So I'm all in."
And he's not alone.