By Ian Waldron
I grew up watching the Mariners every night as if there was nothing else on television. Naturally, I became a huge fan of Randy Johnson, my favorite Mariners pitcher of all time.
So every year, around the beginning of April, I get excited that the Mariners are beginning to make regular appearances in my living room. When I turned on the television Sunday night, however, I didn’t realize it meant I was going to get to watch my favorite Royals pitcher of all time.
Lefty Bruce Chen started the April Fool’s Day exhibition game for the Royals in Peoria, and got his squad off to a good start with four scoreless innings and six strikeouts. Kelvin Herrera followed with a scoreless fifth inning and the Royals led 1-0.
Kansas City scored three runs in the top of the sixth, putting them up 4-0. The hard-throwing Tim Collins took over for the Royals in the bottom of the sixth, but the Mariners hit him hard and after six runs on five hits the Royals were going back to the bullpen.
At the commercial break, I went to the kitchen to get a drink from the fridge. Upon returning to the couch, I glanced at the television screen and was thrilled to see a familiar face.
Blaine Hardy was a good friend of mine in high school, mainly because we played together for Edmonds-Woodway High School (he graduated a year ahead of me in 2005) and on a summer travel team. So although I knew I was looking at a guy who could be coming out of the pen for a Major League Baseball team in the very near future, all I could see was the buddy who drove me to practice before I had my license.
Blaine struck out his first batter in Chone Figgins, but then gave up a chip-shot single into left field to Munenori Kawasaki. A run scored on the play, but it was charged to Tim Collins.
Next up to bat was Ichiro, who likely toed into the batter’s box as usual without realizing that the 25-year-old pitcher had, like myself, been watching him tug on his shirt sleeve since he was in middle school
Blaine made some good pitches down in the zone and got the Mariners’ all-time hit leader to hit a weak ground ball to first to end the sixth inning. Two-thirds of an inning, one hit – a bloop single to left – no walks, one strikeout. Not a bad afternoon.
I always thought it would be cool to get to pitch in a professional game against someone I had grown up watching. I never got to experience that feeling, but I sure am glad Blaine did.