By Kirby Arnold Herald Writer
Grass skirts and coconuts
The trio of Matt Tuiasosopo, Kanekoa Texeira and Steven Baron _ known in entertainment circles as Hawaiian Punch — won the Seattle Mariners’ American Idol-like competition Sunday morning.
According to reports (media wasn’t allowed to watch), they performed a near-perfect Haka dance. Mike Sweeney, who played the role of host Ryan Seacrest, said Baron was an absolute doll in his grass skirt and coconuts, although he lost the coconuts by the end of the performance.
“If I was in Samoa and I paid 100 bucks for a Luau, the only thing that would be missing was a big pig. They were awesome,” Sweeney said. “The tattoos and the cute woman — Steven Baron — they had it all.”
The competition didn’t end without dispute.
The group known as El Cantando Batteria de Venezuela (Guillermo Quiroz, Mauricio Robles and Luis Oliveros) lost by one vote, apparently because catcher Eliezer Alfonzo’s wife broke his cell phone Saturday night and he couldn’t submit a text vote. Alfonzo was visibly steamed afterward, claiming his vote should have counted anyway.
Yes, the team had a high-tech way of voting. Bullpen catcher Jason Phillips stayed in the clubhouse and accepted text voting — and only text voting — from players.
The judges were Ken Griffey Jr. (Randy Jackson), Eric Byrnes (Ellen DeGeneres) and Ryan Rowland-Smith (Simon Cowell), with guest judge Ichiro Suzuki (Posh Spice?).
Ichiro would hold up signs with such words as “Fantastic” or “Brutal” and would speak to the contestants in Japanese. Griffey then would translate into English, although “I think it broke down in the process,” manager Don Wakamatsu said.
In order to assume the Cowell persona, Rowland-Smith pulled on a too-tight V-neck shirt and tried to be a perfect jerk. He chided pitcher Ricky Orta (a member of The Caribbean Connection) for the shirt he wore.
“It looked like he decorated it with a BeDazzler,” Rowland-Smith said.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the performance by Bad Bodies Swinging Big Bats (beefy first basemen Brad Nelson, Tommy Everidge and Mike Carp).
In a routine they put together about an hour before the competition began, they flung bagels into the audience and, at one point, Carp pulled a Burger King Whopper out of his pants. Sweeney called it the most disgusting part of the entire show, although the team liked it enough to vote the Bad Bodies into third place.
Carp thought his guys should have fared better.
“I thought we had the most energy,” Carp said. “I think it was the best performance. But they said they couldn’t hear the lyrics.”
Dancing, but not playing, in the rain
Rain throughout the morning wiped out the Mariners’ game against the Padres and limited them to work in their covered areas. Pitchers were able to throw and hitters take their hacks in the cages, and afterward all the position players met to review signs.
Most of the Mariners’ regulars will play against the White Sox in Glendale, including center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who’ll make his first spring training start after being slowed with a sore right shoulder. Third baseman Jose Lopez and left fielder Milton Bradley will play against the Brewers in Maryvale, where manager Wakamatsu will be.
“I want to watch Milwaukee because it’s the only time we play them (at spring training) and we play them during the year,” Wakamatsu said.
Sunday’s game, the Mariners’ first spring training cancelation in Peoria since March 11, 2006, won’t be made up. Fans with tickets can exchange them for any remaining home spring training game at the Peoria Stadium box office. Tickets purchased at the box office can be mailed back for a refund by sending them to the Peoria Sports Complex, Attn: Ticket Refunds, 16101 N. 83rd Ave., Suite 2, Peoria, AZ, 85382. Tickets bought online or by phone should be mailed to Tickets.com, Attn: Ticket Refunds, P.O. Box 272127, Concord, CA 94527-2127. Fans should include the original tickets, their name, address and daytime phone number.
Today in camp
The Mariners play two split-squad games, against the White Sox at Glendale and the Brewers at Maryvale, both at 12:05 p.m. (PST) and neither will be aired on radio. Left-hander Rowland-Smith will start against the White Sox with left-handers Ryan Feierabend and Garrett Olson and right-hander Josh Fields among others scheduled to pitch for the Mariners. Right-hander Gavin Floyd will start for the White Sox, with former Mariners closer J.J. Putz also on the White Sox pitching list. Right-hander Doug Fister will start against the Brewers, with right-hander Brandon League among Mariners pitchers. Right-hander David Bush will start for the Brewers.
Shortstop Jack Wilson, who came out of Friday’s game because of a tight right hamstring, probably will start today against the White Sox, Wakamatsu said. … Closer David Aardsma, who felt tightness in his right groin last week, is scheduled to pitch in the bullpen this morning. … Wakamatsu used his regulars on an every-other-day schedule the first week of exhibition games, although he said Gutierrez probably will start today and Tuesday.
Kirby Arnold, The Herald