PEORIA, Ariz. – Bryan Price never circled this date on his calendar.
He didn’t write notes to himself saying, “Beat Mariners!”
Today brings just another spring training game meant to get his pitchers in shape for the regular season. It’s not a revenge match.
That’s because there’s no revenge to get, no feeling that he must show something to his former team.
Price, the Seattle Mariners’ pitching coach from 2000-2005, faces the M’s today for the first time since he decided to leave the team after last season.
“It will be good to see everybody,” said Price, now the pitching coach for former M’s manager Bob Melvin’s Arizona Diamondbacks. “But it’s not like I feel like kicking their butts or anything.”
If Price has feelings for anything, it’s the satisfaction of spending 18 years with an organization and taking part in the transformation from one of baseball’s bottom-dwellers to a playoff contender.
Those are the memories Price has now, and they came flooding back this week.
He returned to the Peoria Sports Complex, the Mariners’ spring training home, on Thursday when the Diamondbacks played there against the San Diego Padres. The Mariners were playing in Tucson and the Diamondbacks used one of the Mariners’ practice fields for their pregame work.
Price called it a surreal trip, especially the long walk from the visitors’ clubhouse at Peoria Stadium to the practice field at the Mariners facility.
Grounds crew members stopped him to say hello. So did minor league coaches, trainers and clubhouse workers with the Mariners.
When Price rounded the corner next to a field where several Mariners pitchers were shagging balls in the outfield, he received well-wishes, catcalls and general harassing.
Price dished it out, too, chiding closer Eddie Guardado before he hugged him. Guardado then said something about Price’s purple-and-black Diamondbacks uniform.
“Hey, these are my slimming pants, with the pinstripes,” Price told him.
Price walked on, toward the field where the Diamondbacks were working out, but not without being stopped by several others who’d known him over the years, including former Mariners catcher Dan Wilson.
It truly was memory lane.
“Remember the day you were married and there were anywhere from 25 to 250 people at the ceremony, and it felt like every pair of eyes was focused on you?” Price asked. “That’s what this is like walking through here. It’s a very surreal feeling.”