Q&A: AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff

Tetzlaff chats about the new Funko partnership, the new video board and the managerial change.

Danny Tetzlaff, in his fifth season as the Everett AquaSox general manager, sat down with The Herald to discuss what has been a busy first half of the season thus far for the Seattle Mariners’ Short Season-A affiliate.

The Herald: At the halfway point of the season, how do you guys think things are going in terms of an operational standpoint, on the field and on the business side?

Danny Tetzlaff: We’re doing probably better than we’ve ever done in my five years. I got a staff that I really, really like. Actually, I love the staff we have right now.

(We have) the best staff I’ve had in my five years here … (We’re) working hard together. Behind the scenes, they got each other’s back. And everybody’s helpful. We got to wear a lot of hats. … So everybody gets to pick up and help out and they’re all doing a great job, operationally.

From a business standpoint, too, it has been great. I’ve been waiting on summer to get here. It seems to have finally arrived. … (On the) business side, we’re doing great. The partnership with Funko has been everything we can wish for. And you see some 16-foot statue in right field and (that) pretty much cements the deal.

TH: You mentioned the partnership, how has the partnership with Funko helped the bottom line?

DT: It’s helped it. We always had good crowds on Friday nights. We’re probably getting some fans in that have never been here that are fans of Funko. We’re making them hopefully fans of the AquaSox. … The partnership with them is great. It’s a benefit not only for us, but part of the proceeds will go to the school district as well. It’s a privilege to have them at the ballpark. It helps our bottom line, but it’s going to help everybody in the long run, the fans are going to see that it helps.

Last year, I made a lot of improvements around the park, just simple things like painting the doors. So hopefully the next thing on the list is a bunch of new seats. The 20-year-old seats out in the bleachers are starting to fail. We’ve got a few new ones here below from the press box, but we got a few hundred more to get to the next level.

And then there’s a couple other things (we’re hoping to get done). My ultimate goal is having the lights changed to LED lights. (It is a) pretty good financial undertaking, so we’ll have to see how we pull that off. … LED lights are the best; they get the best lighting, you don’t have to replace bulbs every year, which we do every year.

TH: How have the Funko partnership and the new video board improved the experience in your opinion?

DT: I think the video board (helps) quite a bit. I hope the fans have seen how much that changes their enjoyment of the game. I want the fan experience to be the best we can give them and that video board helps. We’re using all the capabilities more and more and more each game, like a new toy. We have a piece of equipment that’s coming that’ll help us to create more highlight packages and show replays from more than just one camera. So once we get that in, it will get even better.

TH: Any plans on getting on MiLB.tv? (Minor-league baseball’s online streaming service)

DT: I’d like to do that. It’s just there’s an investment to do that. As much as we like to reinvest in the ballpark and invest in our fan experience, we’ve got to also make sure we do stuff (that) is fiscally responsible. … So we were looking at that, we definitely want to do it. … But yeah, we definitely want to be a part of (MiLB.tv). It’s a no-brainer. We’ve got two cameras now, we really just need a couple more cameras. And then there’s more. There’s more equipment on the backside, too. So it’s not just a $500 camera to get that.

TH: With the whole manager situation, first of all, Jose (Moreno) was here for so long and was a figurehead of the organization, this affiliate, for a long time — he led a Northwest League champion in 2010. What was it like seeing him go?

DT: I know Jose pretty well. I’ve been here five years, so this would have been the third year we worked together. And Jose, I respect the heck out of him. He’s a baseball guy, 19 years in the Mariners organization. So it was difficult. First he got suspended, then they made the decision to move on entirely. That was tough to deal with. It’s not my place to question it. So I tried to treat Jose with as much respect (as possible). It’s not my decision one way or the other. So I just worked with him to provide the best opportunity for him to win here. … He flew back after suspension from Vancouver. I went down to Sea-Tac to pick him up to come to dinner that night. We just chatted because he was pretty upset that he got suspended for one week. I ended up taking him back there when it was over. … It was tough. But things happen and, unfortunately, that’s what happened.

TH: On the flip side of it, you have a 25-year old manager and that’s kind of a novelty, a spectacle in baseball.

DT: You know, if you took away that number assigned to his name, 25, you wouldn’t know his age, you’d say he’s a great manager. The first time I talked to him, I thought the same thing. I was like, ‘Man, this guy should still be playing.’ I was joking with him that all the fans are excited you’re coming back, your career in Everett was so great. Six games, 20 at-bats. I said ‘I wish you stole three bases in a game or something.’ He said, ‘If I did that, he’d still be playing.’

But, his age will probably be a benefit. He can relate to what these guys are going through. Like, hey, this is what it’s gonna take to go to the next level. It’s a long climb to get from the Northwest League to the major leagues. How many people make it? Not that many. Louis has got a great support system to back him up. You look at our dugout and you see Mariner great Dan Wilson. Louis got to spend a couple games before he was officially named manager with Carson Vitale manning the ship, and Carson is a true, true baseball guy. I got know him more and more. He knows what he’s doing and he’s trying to get the players to be the best they can be and do whatever they can to help them out.

I think Louis will be great with the guys. I think the fact he wasn’t named manager right away helped him get relationships built with the players, and when he was named manager they were like, ‘Cool, I know this guy.’ So they were ready for him. You take away the 25 thing and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

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