The Seattle Mariners have received their share of time on the big screen during their relatively brief existence. Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson and other real-life teammates played the villains to Billy Heywood’s feel-good Minnesota Twins in the kid classic Little Big League. Angelina Jolie’s character dated fictional Mariners right-handed star slugger(!) Cal Cooper in Life or Something Like It*. Leslie Nielsen called a Mariners-California Angels matchup during the Naked Gun climax. But the Mariners’ might have passed up their best shot at a starring role with their acquisition of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Eric Thames.
*A movie I endured only because I knew scenes were filmed at Safeco Field. Not worth it.
A light drizzle descends from the night onto the Safeco Field pitcher’s mound as the roof begins rolling overhead. Eric Wedge strides to the center of the infield and takes the ball from a pumped-but-gassed reliever who just retired his fifth Washington Nationals hitter in a row, fourth by way of strikeout, taking the Mariners to two outs in the ninth. He waits with his manager to greet his replacement as Bryce Harper paces about the on-deck circle.
The exiting hurler looks skyward, allowing droplets of water to cling to his scruff, and lets out a titter. “How did we get here?”
“Just floating through the breeze, amigo.”
Steve Delabar lowers his gaze to Tom Wilhelmsen, offers a fist bump, pauses, smiles, shakes his head, and retreats to the first base dugout.
Safeco Field is seen from overhead. As the camera zooms out from Wilhelmsen into the night sky, the roar of the crowd crescendos into an eruption. Fans storm the field. Fireworks block out the Seattle skyline.
Damn Jim Morris. Delabar and Wilhelmsen’s respective stories might have made it to the silver screen if it wasn’t for The Rookie’s success just a decade ago. Been there, done that-- their stories alone probably won’t get it done. But had they become the eighth and ninth inning one-two punch for a Mariners team that defied the odds and captured their first American League pennant... that’s gold, baby.
Delabar is the former minor league washout turned part-time teacher who thought his big league dreams had passed him by once he acquired an arm of steel (literally, NOT figuratively), only to get a second chance after finding an unorthodox training program that returned him his 95 MPH heat. Wilhelmsen turned away the promise of his physical gifts to freely smoke pot and live as a citizen of the world before winding up as a bartender in Arizona and eventually deciding to give pro ball another shot. Both made their long-awaited Major League debuts with the Mariners after hitting the ground running, ascending to key late-inning positions in the bullpen.
No, the Mariners probably wouldn’t have given them the postseason opportunity to be immortalized on screen, but it was a nice thought. Following the Delabar-for-Thames trade, the two relievers’ stories will be told but not intertwined.