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June 19, 2003

Breaking Balls

Kid Stuff

by Derek Zumsteg

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"The Mariners and Washington Mutual have teamed up to bring you Washington Mutual Kids' Inning..."
--Safeco Field announcement

My favorite kids' inning ever was where a girl (from Kent, Wa. I believe) was the PA announcer for a Mariners-Twins game and made the regular announcer (Tom Hutler) look like he was unfit to announce at a Skate King ("Lady's choice...lady's choice..."). She was professional, she didn't ham it up, and she was perfect on every one of the names--A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz--and if I owned the Mariners and it hadn't been a violation of child labor laws, I'd have fired Hutler on the spot and had the girl continue.

Today, the kids have mostly boring jobs: nausea-inducing camera operator, kid who presses a button to start the same dumb blooper reel, kid who presses the button to start the same dumb items-speed-around-course-on-video screen race...it's not particularly exciting. What many people don't realize is that the reason for this is that the Kids' Inning has been plagued by unfortunate incidents that have led to the dramatic curtailment of roles kids can take over. Looking through my game notes from the last few years:

2001 Season

Seven-year old kid manager Jessica Lamb of Vancouver is ejected by first-base umpire John Schulock after batter Carlos Guillen is thrown out in a close play at first. Lamb argues that not only was Guillen safe, but that because Guillen wasn't ready for the pitch, it's a do-over. After Schulock ejects Lamb, she verbally abuses Schulock, kicks him in the shin and runs away. She is later spotted in the dugout, making faces at Schulock and running into the clubhouse when he notices. Lamb is suspended for 15 games and fined $150,000 by the league for contact with the umpire and failure to honor an ejection.

Later that season, 8-year old kid Safeco Ballpark Operations Manager Michael Reilly of Redmond orders stadium personnel to eject his family, including his father, mother, grandfather, older brother and older sister, for "disruptive conduct." It's later discovered that Michael was still angry over an argument over what television show they would watch the previous night. The Mariners and StaffPro, the third-party event security firm, later settle out of court with the Reilly family.

2002 Season

When Edgar Martinez complains of a slightly sore hamstring, 9-year old kid trainer Colby McConnell of Wallingford offers an Otter Pop to the player, rather than recommend to manager Lou Piniella that Martinez be removed from the game. Edgar aggravates the hamstring in his next at-bat and ends up missing much of the season.

Ten-year old kid bench coach Brandon Clark from West Seattle annoys manager Lou Piniella by correctly predicting Piniella's tactical moves in a tie game.

"You're going to have Mark McLemore steal," Clark said, legs swinging, the moment captured by kid camerawoman Amanda Johnson of Bellevue. "Booooooring." Piniella repeatedly told the child to shut up as Clark continued to taunt Piniella.

"Look, he got thrown out. Surprise surprise," Clark said after McLemore was caught stealing. "I could be a manager. La la la la, everybody steal, la la la la, I'm so smart, I smell like cigarettes, la la la." Piniella stormed out of the dugout and his bench coach managed the remainder of the game, which the Mariners lost 5-4. This humiliating incident is frequently cited as one of the reasons Piniella asked to be released from his contract after the 2002 season.

Also in 2002, 7-year old kid general manager Ashley Raymond of Auburn claims left-hander Doug Creek off waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Devil Rays because "he has a funny name." Grownup GM Pat Gillick files a protest to the league, demanding the move be voided. The Commisioner's office rules that no takebacks can be allowed.

2003 Season

Before the season, the Mariners reviewed the successes and failures of the Kids' Inning and reduced the roles kids could play to only a few possibilities, and there were still a couple of incidents, proving the endless resourcefulness of those cute little ones when it comes to getting into trouble:

In the first homestand of the year, 10-year old kid vendor Joshua Hampton of Tacoma sits down, eats his entire rack of cotton candy, and begins to run high-speed laps around the Safeco Field concourse as stadium personnel try to corral him. Joshua escapes to the tunnel running under Safeco where he discovers the Mariner Moose's ATV, which he rides over the Moose, through the center-field wall, and onto the field, where Anaheim Angels right fielder Tim Salmon was attempting to run back to catch a Dan Wilson fly ball. Salmon, seeing Joshua, veers to his left, allowing the ball to drop. Joshua waves at Salmon and laughs as he drives by on his way to drive a King County squad car onto I-90 to start a two-hour car chase ending when Joshua pulls into a McDonald's in Ellensburg. After an extended conference with both managers and the umpiring crew, the batter is ruled out, the ball dead, and the runners return to their bases. A visibly shaken Tim Salmon goes 0-4.

Twelve-year old kid public address announcer Stephanie Chapman of Ballard announces that "now pitching for Jamie Moyer, ewwwww...Giovanni Carrara," and proceeds to lead the stadium in booing the beleaguered reliever as he walks in from the bullpen.

Kid video technician (I didn't write down his age) Brandon Crane of Tukwilla refuses to cue up a tired blooper reel and instead manages to patch in a Yu-Gi-Oh episode on the Real One Video Screen to the applause of many fans.

Related Content:  Lou Piniella,  Managers Of The Year,  Blooper

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