Kaminski, known to Seattle fans as simply "The Peanut Man," passed away Wednesday at the Evergreen Medical Center due to a large brain hemorrhage, said his partner, Candi Mindt-Keener. He was 67 years old.
"On behalf of everyone at the Seattle Mariners, our deepest sympathies go out to Rick Kaminski's partner, Candi, his family, his many friends, and fans," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said in a statement. "Rick loved what he did and the fans loved him for it. He will be sorely missed at Safeco Field as well as Peoria, Ariz., where he got in his Spring Training along with everyone else."
"The Peanut Man" was famous among the Mariners faithful for his lovable personality and for having perfected the art of tossing peanut bags. Whether it was behind his back, over the shoulder or line drives, Kaminski had it down to a science.
And it wasn't just his throwing skills that made him a fan favorite since 1977. Kaminski always seemed to have that smile on his face, and being a vendor was more than just a job.
"It was all about making the people enjoy being there in the stadium and having fun," Mindt-Keener said.
Kaminski, who was also an avid golfer and caddied on the LPGA Tour, was a fixture in the stands from the beginning. The Seattle native was in the printing business and was also studying to be a lawyer, but when jobs became available at the Kingdome in 1977 -- Seattle's first season in the Major Leagues -- he thought being a vendor would be a nice part-time job.
Funny how things work out. Kaminski loved the job from the start -- so much so, in fact, that he decided to keep doing it for 33 more years. Simply put, Mariners games were where Kaminski wanted to be.
For more than three decades, he got to know many fans and eventually had moms and dads come to the park that knew "The Peanut Man," when they were kids growing up.
"He found his love," said Mindt-Keener, who met Kaminski seven years ago in Peoria, Ariz. "He loved going to work each and every day and going down in the stands before the game and seeing all the season-ticket holders and chatting with each one of them. He knew them all by name and they all knew him. He was their biggest fan."
Soon enough, Kaminski's nickname was born because he seemed to master the art of throwing peanut bags to fans and took pride in his accuracy.
"He knew exactly how to line-drive it into someone or how to lob it and have it drop into their lap," Mindt-Keener said. "He knew exactly how to make it work."
His talents became so well known around the Mariners community that during one Spring Training in Peoria, Ariz., a fan took stats of how many throws Kaminski had and how many misses. The end result was a 98-percent accuracy mark.
With the tossing talents came a big smile and a love for mentoring. Kaminski would often take the younger vendors under his wing, teaching them how to make the fans feel welcome and enjoy the game, even if it was a blowout.
Fellow vendors weren't the only ones learning lessons from "The Peanut Man." Kaminski had youngsters who had trouble handling his throws and would take the bag back and throw it again until the kids made a successful grab.
"The kids were a big part of it, teaching them how to catch," Mindt-Keener said.
Kaminski had been working at Safeco Field until two weeks ago and "was not going to retire until the Mariners made it to the World Series," Mindt-Kenner said. By Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of fans shared their memories of Kaminski on the "Rick The Peanut Guy" Facebook fan page and ideas such as a Peanut Man bobblehead have already surfaced."
Hundreds of fans shared their memories of Kaminski on the page and ideas such as a Peanut Man bobblehead have already surfaced.
"That's something he always talked about wanting," Mindt-Keener said of the bobblehead.
The Mariners will honor Kaminski with a moment of silence before the national anthem at 6:35 p.m. PT on Friday.
-- Taylor Soper