Updated Feb 22, 2013 - 11:07 am
Rick Rizzs gets ready for first broadcast of spring
And on Friday, there will be baseball.
The Mariners take the field at 12:05 for the annual charity game against the Padres. We will get our first look, and listen, at what will over the next 30 days sort itself out and turn into the 2013 Mariners.
For baseball fans everywhere there is at least a little bit of excitement to hear for the first time the crack of the bat and pop of the glove. Perhaps no one looks forward to this day more, however, than the broadcasters. For Rick Rizzs â€" who will be starting his 28th season with the Mariners, 31st in the big leagues and 39th in baseball â€" this day is always special.
"You are always excited for that first game of the spring," he said Thursday after watching the Mariners run drills in Peoria. "You have waited five months to get here. Last year is now history and you want to do better than you did before and it is just so exciting knowing that you can finally call a ballgame. You have watched these guys for the past week go through drills, you have stood around watching batting practice, now you want to see how they come together as a team. That's exciting.
"You can't wait to say, 'Hi, everybody! Welcome to Mariners baseball,' and talk about a new chapter in the history of the franchise, the 2013 season."
It never gets old, it never gets routine. It is a moment of the season Rizzs never takes for granted.
"You still get excited," he said. "It is not a nervousness, but an excitement an anticipation. Now you finally get to do something you really love to do. You haven't been able to do it for the last five months. You have enjoyed the time off with your family but now it's time to get back to work and do it all over again and hopefully have a great season."
Rizzs has great memories from springs past and didn't hesitate to answer when asked what his most fun memory he had from broadcasting spring games was.
"Just having Dave Niehaus around for all those years was just fun, period," he answered. "It was always great when we would bring in a Jerry Coleman or a Bob Uecker. Just to watch Dave and Uecker tell stories, that was just pure joy. If you were any kind of baseball fan it was just remarkable sitting there because Dave saw and broadcast it, Uecker played the game and lived it and broadcast it, and we just laughed like crazy. Those are the memories that really come to mind."
As for memorable moments on the field in Arizona, Rizzs pointed to an entire Cactus League season for the Mariners.
"In 2001 we really didn't know what type of ballclub we were going to have. We didn't know that they were going to be that good. It was a bunch of new guys coming over at that point," he said. "A-Rod was gone, Randy Johnson was gone, Ken Griffey Jr. was traded away. They were just trying to find their identity, find out who they were. Here comes John Olerud and a young man from Japan named Ichiro. Bret Boone came over, Mike Cameron's second year since the trade for Junior. It was just amazing to see that team come together to become one of the greatest clubs in baseball history.
"So that is one thing about spring training. You never know what you are looking at until the season gets underway."
The same holds true for this year. Rizzs has watched the team for the last few days and while it is impossible to say what they will be on the field, he likes what he see off of it.
"The first thing that I noticed was that there is a lot of confidence in the clubhouse," he said. "You have still a lot of young players who have been in the big leagues now for at least a year and they know now they belong in the big leagues. They are ready to add on to what they did last year. They still have a long ways to go, it is still a process, but I think that they feel like they belong here now and that is a good feeling to watch these kids progress like that."
He also feels that the veterans who were brought in could have a big impact on the club and help speed up the process of learning for the young players.
"To have Raul Ibanez back I think is huge for the ballclub. Here is a guy who is 40 years of age but he can still play, he can still hit, but he is going to make a great impact on the young players in the clubhouse, talking on the plane, talking at the hotel and showing these guys what it takes to be successful at the big leagues," he said.
While Ibanez will be helping with the young players, Rizzs will be helping with a young broadcaster. Having talked to Rizzs about this several times I can see that he clearly is looking forward to the opportunity of helping Aaron Goldsmith break into the bigs.
"I am going to try to do exactly with Aaron what Dave Niehaus did for me 30 years ago. I am going to make it as comfortable as possible for him. I have already told him we want you to ease into this. Don't feel like you are broadcasting the seventh game of the World Series. Do what you do your best and be yourself. Just relax and have fun," he said.
Rizzs and Goldsmith have been working on the technical aspects of the broadcast the last few days and have been in constant communication since the hiring. Rizzs understands just how big that moment will be when Goldsmith's mic with the Mariners is flipped on for the first time.
"There's going to be a lot of people tuning in to find out who the new guy is," he said. "I have been through that 30 years ago and when I was with the Tigers. He is going to be excited, he is going to be nervous, I told him just relax and be yourself. So my job is to make sure that I answer all the questions for him and to make him comfortable so he can do the best job he possibly can."
He couldn't be in better hands.
Tune in to 710 ESPN Friday at 11:55 to hear the Mariners take on the Padres in the annual charity game. Below is the Mariners' spring training schedule.
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