Sidelines: Mariners making a difference in Federal Way

Mirror Lake Elementary first grader Keilian Butts reads a book while former Seattle Mariner catcher Dan Wilson looks on Tuesday morning. Wilson was at the school to promote literacy.  - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Mirror Lake Elementary first grader Keilian Butts reads a book while former Seattle Mariner catcher Dan Wilson looks on Tuesday morning. Wilson was at the school to promote literacy.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

Dan Wilson is one of the most beloved Seattle Mariners in the history of the Major League franchise. His 12-year-career lasted through the heyday of the Mariners.

Wilson played alongside Mariner royalty like Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez, among others. Wilson helped Seattle to its first-ever postseason appearance in 1995 and was the starting catcher on the team that won 116 games in 2001.

In fact, Wilson will be inducted, along with Johnson, into the Mariners Hall of Fame July 28, which currently includes Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Buhner and Martinez.

But Wilson was just another dude in a Mariners jacket Tuesday morning at Mirror Lake Elementary School. As far as the students knew, Wilson was either a parent, teacher or newspaper reporter.

The former all-star catcher took a back seat to an animal who has never even stepped into a Major League batter’s box. The Mariners Moose was the real star of the show during a visit to Mirror Lake by Wilson and some Mariners’ staff promoting literacy.

Wilson gathered around 30 students inside the Mirror Lake library and read a pair of books, which were written by Decatur High School graduate Jarrett Mentink.

“I like coming to the schools because of the kids’ energy,” Wilson said. “I like to bring a smile to their faces. I think it’s important for them to see what they are learning.”

Wilson and the Moose were in Federal Way promoting the Washington Commission for National and Community Service’s Salute to Volunteers Night at Safeco Field. Dozens of volunteers from the Pacific Northwest were honored during Seattle’s game with the Cleveland Indians Tuesday.

“The Mariners are so big in the community and we have a stage to have an impact on kids,” Wilson said. “Stuff like this is invaluable. Kids look up to the players and see what they are doing.”

Although the Mariners have been very easy to blast in recent years for their play on the field, the team has been doing great things off the field.

Mariners Care, the team’s non-profit foundation, raised over $1 million last season.

In the past 12 years, Mariners Care has helped raise $12.5 million for primarily youth-oriented community service programs.

Additionally, every Mariners player participated in and supported various community programs and causes last year.

“We always look for opportunities to help our community,” said Gregg Greene, the team’s director of marketing.

The team takes its role as a leader very seriously. As a professional franchise, the ballclub is in a unique position to connect the team with worthwhile endeavors, community partners and fundraising activities that make significant contributions to the Pacific Northwest.

But the Mariners aren’t alone in providing volunteer hours and money into the local economy. The region’s other three “professional” franchises are also huge in the community. The Seahawks, Sounders FC and Storm are also dedicated to make a positive impact on the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, Seahawk wide receiver and Stanford graduate Doug Baldwin showed up at Sacajawea Middle School to speak to AVID students about the importance of getting an education.

Also, last week Sounders FC forward Roger Levesque signed autographs at Safeway in Federal Way and Storm players have also made appearances at schools around the city.

Although things like Wilson, the Moose, Baldwin and Levesque coming to Federal Way seem pretty mundane, it’s just an illustration of what it means to have professional sports franchises in the community.

No matter if you love sports or not, there’s no arguing that professional teams and professioinal athletes in a city can’t hurt the local economy and community.

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