Sweet 116: Mariners honor historic ballclub

Sweet 116: Mariners honor historic ballclub

Sweet 116: Mariners honor historic ballclub
SEATTLE -- One by one, members of the 2001 Mariners ballclub made their way from the home dugout, down a red carpet and onto the Safeco Field infield, each honored for being a part of one of the best teams to ever play the game.

Eighteen players and four coaches from the 116-win team reunited prior to Saturday's tilt against Texas in a pregame ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of that magical season.

It began with bullpen coach Matt Sinatro, continued with players like Bret Boone, Jamie Moyer and Ichiro Suzuki, and ended with former skipper Lou Piniella, who received the classic "Louuuuuu" cheers from the home crowd.

Piniella, who managed the Mariners for 10 years beginning in 1993, offered a few remarks about the special season to the crowd before then-general manager Pat Gillick -- the mastermind of the 2001 season -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

A few hours earlier, Piniella and the rest of the 2001 squad bumped fists and shared big bear hugs in a reunion of a group that finished 70 games above .500. The former manager, who is now a consultant for the Giants, says he always loves making a trip back to the Emerald City, where he won the American League Manager of the Year award in 1995.

"Every time I come back to Seattle, I get a nice warm feeling," Piniella said. "I was here a long time and I really enjoyed it. We have wonderful fans and this is a wonderful city. The people I worked with and for in the front office, the ownership group, the players -- we had a nice situation here for a long time."

It sure must have been nice in 2001, when Seattle finished 14 games ahead of Oakland in the AL West -- the A's won 102 games -- and led the league in nearly every statistical category.

"We were secure in pitching, fielding, running and hitting," said Edgar Martinez, who received one of the loudest ovations. "Everything was coming through and players were having great seasons. When it's going like that, you just expect to win. It's contagious. We were able to keep that going through the whole season."

Gillick said that before the season started, he just wanted to see his team get back into the playoffs after winning the AL Wild Card one year prior. With Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez departing from Seattle in 1999 and 2000, respectively, the '01 team was left without a "big" star.

Many of the players said that ended up improving team chemistry on and off the field. With Piniella as the orchestrator, the team seemed to do no wrong.

"Lou put these guys in the right spots, where they could be happy about coming to work every day," said Gillick, who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on July 24.

"To me, Pat put together a perfect team for a guy like myself to manage," Piniella said. "I'm aggressive -- I like putting the game in motion, I like guys who can run some, I like guys who can handle the bat and have power. We had all those ingredients."

Those ingredients meshed together in a tremendous season that may never be repeated.

Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.