It’s not often a university sports team gets to team up with the Seattle Mariners, but for Western women’s softball team, it was a reality.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Western joined select Mariners players as they visited the Bellingham Boys & Girls Club to sign autographs, spread their message to the children and to help promote their upcoming season through the Mariners Caravan.
Many kids, some as young as 2 years old, came out with their parents and others to see former Mariners catcher Dave Valle, along with current players Steve Cishek and Charlie Furbush, who are both relief pitchers. Some kids brought their own gloves and miniature bats.
“It’s always nice to be able to see that there’s a younger generation that’s interested in the Mariners. That pulls more into our sport too, which is awesome,” said Vikings senior first baseman Jordan Walley.
Though there was no room to play ball in the gymnasium of the Boys & Girls Club clubhouse, both teams were able to bring two special guests: Victor E. Viking and the Mariner Moose. Both mascots were big hits with the kids and the Mariner Moose was able to show the kids his would-be pitching skills– though his antlers kept getting in the way.
Valle, Cishek and Furbush all spoke to the crowd, their speeches ranging from saying no to drugs to the importance of respecting others as well as yourself. Valle talked about how he was a school administrator for a period of time, how it gave him a newfound respect for teachers and that the kids should be considerate of their teachers.
After the speeches, both the Mariners as well as the Vikings gave out complimentary autographs for everyone and took pictures with anyone who asked. The Western team posters had information for their 2016 season printed on them. Several kids were excited to get theirs signed from the Vikings softball team.
Of Western’s partnership with the Mariners Caravan, head coach Amy Suiter said this year was the team’s first time, though they had done other types of meet-and-greets before. She also said that the event was made possible by Jeff Evans, Western’s sports information director. Evans had previously worked with the Mariners for nine years.
“I knew they were coming up to Bellingham and I thought ‘What a great opportunity for our softball team to kind of see some kids in the community and get out in the community,” he said.
A big Mariners fan herself, Walley said that it’s great being able to see the kids look up to the Mariners and that working in the community is important.
“It’s what you give back to the community that’s most important,” Walley said. “Playing the sport at a college level, it’s great and it’s exciting, but to be able to give back and to see the smiles on people’s faces … It’s almost a greater reward than winning.”
Western’s 2016 season will begin Friday Feb. 5 in Las Vegas, and their first home game will be Saturday Feb. 27.