‘It's a blast' for M's, fans in Walla Walla

M's pitchers Doug Fister and Garrett Olson, along with broadcaster Dave Sims and the M's Moose, greet 150 fans at Sherwood Center.

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Kenny Gabel, age 3, high-fives Mariners pitcher Garrett Olson after receiving Olson's autograph on his baseball at the Mariner's Caravan event at Whitman College's Sherwood Center Wednesday.

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Seattle Mariners fan Payton Graham, 6, bides his time with a baseball while flashing adoring looks in the direction of Mariners pitchers Doug Fister and Garrett Olson as they talk to the crowd along with Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims at the Mariner's Caravan event Wednesday afternoon. Graham added to his jersey collection when his raffle number was called and he was given an official Mariner's jersey later in the event.

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Payton Graham, 6, admires new autographs from Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims and pitchers Doug Fister and Olson while wearing his new jersey at the event.

WALLA WALLA — Some 150 baseball fans, both young and old, made their way to Whitman College’s George Ball Court in Sherwood Center on Wednesday evening to greet the Seattle Mariners’ caravan that commenced a three-week excursion through the Pacific Northwest just days earlier.

Previous stops for the caravan included Wenatchee, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

The Mariners were represented by, among others, pitchers Doug Fister and Garrett Olson, and radio and television play-by-play announcer Dave Sims. The 90-minute event was spiced by questions, photo opportunities, autographs, a raffle for team merchandise and an appearance by the Mariner Moose.

Fister, who made 10 starts and a relief appearance for the Mariners last season after being called up on Aug. 7, stated the trip is off to a good start.

"It’s a blast," Fister said. "This gives the fans a personal feeling and puts (things) more on a personal level."

One of the more memorable moments of the trip thus far, according to Fister, was visiting youngsters in a Spokane hospital.

"We were fortunate to stop (and) put smiles on the kids’ faces," Fister said. "That’s what it’s about. It puts us in perspective."

Olson participated in 31 games a season ago, 11 as a starter. He said the initial leg of the caravan has been successful.

"It’s a chance to open up to the communities," Olson said. "It’s great being able to do this, interact, see the kids’ faces and help them (communities) out any way we can. We get to see different parts of Washington. These people (in Walla Walla, for instance) are just as important as people in downtown Seattle."

Sims, a broadcast veteran who is in his fourth year with the Mariners, echoed the sentiments of Fister and Olson.

"It’s great," Sims said of the caravan. "This is a promotional thing we like doing.

"Our reach with radio and television is as big as there is in the major leagues," Sims said. "We get to see — far and wide — the reach of Mariners’ baseball."

Among topics addressed by Sims were the M’s acquisition of Milton Bradley and Mark McGwire’s recent admission that he used performance-enhancing substances.

Sims noted Ken Griffey Jr.’s reaction to discussion about a possible clubhouse rift due to Bradley’s fiery nature.

"He (Griffey) said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it covered,’" Sims said.

As for the McGwire situation, Sims opined, "I’m glad he came clean, but I’ve moved on. I don’t worry about it. I’m not going to play judge and jury."

Among those on hand to witness the festivities was first-year Whitman baseball coach Jared Holowaty.

"This is good for us," Holowaty said. "Bringing baseball, the Mariner caravan and the Walla Walla Sweets, to the community helps us out. It helps having a baseball-conscious town. It’s a great time to be in Whitman baseball because of all these things. I’m glad to be a part of the whole thing."

Numerous youths attended, like brothers Brian and Peter Warinner.

"I was here to listen to them talk and get autographs," said Brian, 8. "It was a lot of fun. I’ve been to a few games."

"It was fun to come out and listen to what they had to say," 14-year-old Peter said. "It was real fun. You never know what could happen. You might end up like one of these guys."

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