AL HAMNIK: Gary's Lloyd McClendon ready to join Seattle's Best

2014-02-04T18:00:00Z 2014-07-22T17:51:06Z AL HAMNIK: Gary's Lloyd McClendon ready to join Seattle's BestAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 04, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

New Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was shivering alongside team broadcaster Rick Rizzs and general manager Jack Zduriencik during last month's FanFest at Safeco Field.

They were seated near the home team dugout, and it was cold. Mr. Broadcast Guy took questions from the more than 10,000 fans who came out that day, and would pass the microphone to Jack and Lloyd.

The burly Zduriencik, who is quite a character, opened the event by unzipping his coat, unbottoning his shirt, and revealing a Seattle Seahawks T-shirt as the crowd cheered.

McClendon was then asked what he was wearing.

The Gary native and Roosevelt grad unzipped his Mariners jacket, then another jacket underneath, and then another jacket underneath that, before pulling out the letter 'S' from his baseball shirt.

Zduriencik doubled up with laughter. The crowd loved it.

"And the guy lives in Indiana, where they had like 12 inches of snow a while back," Zduriencik chuckled. "The guy looks like a snowman."

This is a beautiful, enduring relationship between Jack Z and his long-time buddy who played for the Pirates and Cubs, later managed the Pirates, and was Jim Leyland's right-hand man with the Tigers.

"Growing up as a kid, Lloyd was always one of the guys I looked up to," kidded the older Zduriencik.

"Great guy. Great demeanor. Great baseball mind. You're going to like that."

I spoke with Mac the other day and he was still under the weather (the three coats didn't help), but chomping at the bit as spring training and a new season, a new chapter in his life, was about to unfold.

These are good times in Seattle, with the Seahawks last Sunday giving the city its first major men's sports championship since the SuperSonics won the NBA title in 1979.

That franchise then left for Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder. The young Seahawks have filled that void, and McClendon's Mariners are joining the fun.

The upgrade of their spring training facility in Peoria (Az.), the opening of a new baseball academy in the Dominican, the hiring of McClendon, the acquisitions of Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, John Buck and Willie Bloomquist and the presence of dominating pitcher Felix Hernandez have fans giddy with excitement.

"Now is the process of changing the culture," McClendon said. "The building is done. It's time to win some games.

"When I took the job, I didn't do it to lose. I've come here to win. I want to be in the playoffs, the World Series. I tell my guys 'Take your eyes off the shore. It's time to cross the ocean.'"

Following the Seahawks' Super Bowl win, quarterback Russell Wilson on Monday tweeted "Why not the Mariners? Why can't they find a Northwest Passage to late October?"

Corny? Bite your tongue. McClendon doesn't think so.

"There's nothing wrong with asking our baseball team 'Why not us?' We won 71 games last season and drew 1.8 million. Our fans are dying for a winner," he said.

"I don't know how many games we'll win. What I do know is we'll be prepared to go out there every night and win."

We'll have a better idea about his team when it visits U.S. Cellular Field July 4-5-6. Knowing Lloyd, I got a good feeling.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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