Listening to a Seattle sports radio show on Thursday morning, a caller talked about attending Mariners’ Opening Day with her father. It would be the third time since the pandemic they had been together.
That call brought back memories of my first MLB game. My dad won two tickets to a Mariners’ game through a radio promotion. I was beyond ecstatic when he picked me — his elementary-aged son — to accompany him to the Kingdome.
It would be our first and last time attending an MLB game together. I’ve attended many more through the years, while that was the only game my dad went to before passing in 2018.
I wore a Ken Griffey Jr. shirt and had a sharpie in my right hand and a baseball glove on my left hand.
The Mariners were playing the White Sox. Or was it the Tigers? Maybe it was the Royals. I wish I had documented the outing, but at the time, the Mariners were the only team that mattered. Griffey, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez (with three hall of famers, how did the Mariners of the 1990s not win a World Series?).
I remember I had a blast, and I would like to think that led to baseball being my favorite sport to play, watch, coach, and now cover as a reporter.
That is why Opening Day is my favorite day on the calendar. Fans and players all optimistic.
The 2021 season brings back spectators to stadiums. However, seeing cardboard cutouts of dogs and cats fill seats during last year’s 60-game sprint was enjoyable and was often a distraction from another sub-par Mariners season.
This season could be different. That is what I keep telling myself.
Here are my predictions:
Team to watch out for — Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays finished eight games back in the AL East last season but reached the postseason as a wild card.
The Jays are loaded with second-generation talent — Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr — and snagged AL West players George Springer and Marcus Semien in the offseason. The lineup will lite up the scoreboard. The question is can the pitching staff keep opposing teams from also lighting up the scoreboard.
Rookie watch — too many to list.
This year’s rookie class is solid. A few that I am high on are Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles), Alec Bohm (Phillies), Cristian Pache (Braves), Ke’bryan Hayes (Pirates), Randy Arozarena (Rays) and Nick Madrigal (White Sox). This really is a good year for rookies.
AL MVP — Mike Trout.
Shocking pick, I know. Trout is the best player in baseball. Enough said.
NL MVP — Fernando Tatis Jr.
I’ve been high on the Padres for several years, and Tatis is one reason why. Tatis is must-watch-television and very seldom disappoints.
AL Cy Young — Marco Gonzalez.
This is a homer pick, I suppose. Gonzalez, Seattle’s ace, posted a 7-2 record and a 3.10 ERA last season. He pitched for Gonzaga, and he is a bulldog on the mound. This is the year of the Zags, after all.
NL Cy Young — Jacob DeGrom.
DeGrom already has two Cy Young awards on his mantle. Why not make it three. The Mets’ flamethrower is as good as they get.
AL champion — Seattle Mariners.
Did you think I was going to pick a different team? The Mariners are always my AL pick to get to the World Series. Someday it will happen.
Could it be this year? Probably not. However, the Mariners have the best farm system in baseball, and those players will be reaching the bigs at some point. Possible this year with Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert.
If the young guys play well, the Mariners could reach the postseason for the first time since 2001.
NL champion — San Diego Padres
Yep, I know, the Padres play in the NL West with the Dodgers. L.A. can have the division title. The Padres will win the pennant. Newcomers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to the rotation will pay dividends San Diego in a short seven-game series. I will ride the Padres all the way to the World Series title. Now that is not a boring pick.