Bernandez returns as Mariners release TV ads

Bernandez returns as Mariners release TV ads

Bernandez returns as Mariners release TV ads
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's not officially Mariners baseball season until the team's annual television commercials come out, so fans can get ready to play ball now as five TV spots were released Tuesday morning. The commercials feature 14 players, three coaches, manager Eric Wedge and, yes, a wooden version of Larry Bernandez.

The commercials will begin airing during the Mariners' first televised Cactus League game Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. PT against the Royals on ROOT Sports. But you can get a sneak preview here on Mariners.com, where you can also vote for your favorite among the five spots.

Bernandez figures to be popular again in his reincarnation as Felix Hernandez's ventriloquist dummy, but there's plenty of competition from a "lumbering" Justin Smoak, a Rocky rerun from Dustin Ackley, a fishy introduction to Seattle for Jesus Montero and an impressionable piece with Brendan Ryan getting upstaged after doing his best Robert De Niro by Ichiro Suzuki.

The Mariners' commercials have become a huge part of the team's marketing popularity over the years, and players love taking part in the 30-second spots, which were filmed this spring in Peoria during the first days of training camp.

"It was good. It was interesting," said Smoak. "But it kind of shows you that you don't want to be an actor or actress. What those guys go through is unbelievable. It was hard enough for us to say one line, let alone what they have to do."

Smoak said his commercial shoot took part over two days. The first day, he went out to a golf course and shot a scene where he punches a tree. On the following day, he went with fellow "actors" Casper Wells, Franklin Gutierrez and Miguel Olivo to finish the piece.

Smoak isn't going to compete with Ryan, his outgoing teammate, when it comes to comfort in front of the camera.

"I'm not much of a talker," said Smoak. "That's his deal. He's Beverly Hills all the way. He loves that stuff."

Montero, the newcomer from the Yankees, got his introduction both to some Seattle culture and the Mariners commercials when he was asked to catch a salmon tossed by teammates Jason Vargas and Brandon League.

"That was the first time I did that, you know?" Montero said. "It cut me right here on the [right] arm. I don't know what kind of fish it was, but it was a big one."

Montero said his part of the commercial took about an hour to shoot, but he only needed to catch the fish three times.

"Caught it every time," he said.

This year's campaign was again created jointly by the Mariners and Seattle agency Copacino+Fujikado, with the commercials shot and directed by Blue Goose Productions of Mercer Island, Wash.

Last year's commercial, titled "Encore, Encore," which featured Hernandez and Wedge and introduced the Bernandez character, received a Silver Award at the 2011 PromaxBDA Sports Media Marketing Awards for "Best TV Spot" by a sports team or league and was also a finalist in the "Best Use of Humor" category.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.