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Clubhouse manager Genzale retires after 37 years

Mariners' longest-tenured employee looks back on lifetime of baseball memories

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Henry Genzale will miss baseball. You don't spend 37 years in a Major League clubhouse and not miss the game.

But more than anything, he'll miss the people associated with those games.

Genzale, 64, spent his last day working as the Mariners' clubhouse manager on Thursday. When the team broke camp and headed to Salt Lake City on Friday for one final spring game before the start of the regular season, their longest-tenured worker watched them go for the last time.

Genzale, the last of the original Mariners employees, is now officially retired. And with him goes a family legacy that saw he and his father working first for the Seattle Rainiers, then the Pilots and finally the Mariners since 1963.

Genzale has stories to last a lifetime. Memories from Sicks Stadium, the Kingdome and Safeco Field. Friends who won't forget the guy who always had a smile and kind word while working largely in the background.

And it's those people that kept Genzale coming to work for 37 years. He was the guy doing the laundry, making sure players were fed, getting uniforms in lockers and keeping things in order for everyone else. But with that came relationships with baseball personalities big and small.

"It's all about them," Genzale said earlier this spring. "They make the whole baseball world go. Managers, coaches, trainers, front office, players, it's all about the people you're associated with and knowing you're a part of it. That's been the best part of the game of baseball.

"I'm a people person, so I fit into that mode, with all these different personalities and ethnic groups and everything that goes with it. If you're versatile enough to get along with people, you'll enjoy what you do. And that's what spurred me to stay in the game as many years as I have, because I enjoy talking to people and being your friend as best I can."

Genzale worked both the home and visiting clubhouses during his tenure. His fondest memories come from being the home "clubbie" in 1995.

"The '95 team was so dear to me," Genzale said. "That was by far the best time of my life at the Major League level. That will always be a piece of me."

His youngest son was a batboy for the 1995 team, and Genzale treasures a photo of the two of them dousing each other with champagne in the playoff-clinching celebration.

That wasn't the first time he saw the carpet drenched during the Lou Piniella era. When you're the clubhouse guy, you see and hear a lot of things. And Piniella naturally is the source of one of Genzale's funnier memories.

"Our boy Lou came in and went on a rage," Genzale recalled with a laugh. "And back in the Kingdome days, the [postgame meal] table was in the middle of the clubhouse. He came in and turned it over. And we had Sterno, because that's how you kept the food warm. And of course it landed on the carpet and started a fire.

"Chris Bosio runs over there and grabs a gallon of milk and starts pouring it on it. The next day, we couldn't figure out what was reeking in the clubhouse and here it was this burned milk that had spilled on the carpet."

In 1997, Genzale switched over to become the visiting clubhouse manager. From there, he saw a different side of the game ... and another memory he won't soon forget.

"Julio Lugo went into a rage one night after an at-bat," Genzale said. "He was downstairs in the visiting dugout, and over to the right side, there was a bucket with green paint in it. He didn't know and he went up and kicked that thing, and it went up off the wall and back on him.

"So here he has a Boston Red Sox uniform on, and he comes walking in and he looked like the Jolly Green Giant. He had green all over him, and he's trying to wipe his face and arms and everything and change his uniform to get back on the field. To me, that was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. He just said, 'I never do that again.'"

Genzale would do it all over again if he had another chance. He's loved life in baseball, something he started in 1963 when he became a batboy for the Rainiers while his dad was working as a part-time groundskeeper at Sicks Stadium.

Two years later, at 15, he was hired to run the visiting clubhouse for Rainiers games, which he did while attending Franklin High School in Seattle.

"Baseball today is a lot different," Genzale said. "At that time, I could go to school, get out and run to the ballpark and do what I had to do. Do the laundry, play our game, do the laundry again."

When the Pilots came to Seattle in 1969, Genzale and his father worked the visiting clubhouse until the club moved to Milwaukee the following year. He went to work for a time as an accountant for Pepsi-Cola, but even then, he kept his hand in baseball by working with the Rainiers' Minor League team.

When the Mariners arrived in 1977, he and his dad again took over the visiting clubhouse. While his father eventually retired in '86, Genzale continued on. Until now.

Ted Walsh now moves from the Mariners' home clubhouse to the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field. Ryan Stiles, the former Minor League equipment manager, replaces Walsh on the Mariners' side.

Communications director Randy Adamack now becomes the longest-tenured full-time Mariners employee, having started with the club in its second season. And for the first time since 1963, there will be no Genzale working in the Seattle baseball scene.

"I'll be 65 in May," Genzale said. "My health is good, I'm not on any medications or anything. So that's a big part of why I'm doing this. We never know what the future will bring us, and I just felt this was a perfect time."

His one piece of unfinished business?

"I told [team president Chuck Armstrong] I accomplished everything in baseball, but I've never been to a World Series game even as a fan," Genzale said. "I had plenty of opportunities to help some of our fellow guys, but I said, 'No, I'm going to reserve that special moment for when our team gets there.'

"So I told Chuck, I'm looking forward to the day I can sit in the stands for Game 1 of a World Series, wherever it's going to be, whether on the road or in Safeco Field. I hope that day comes real soon. I really do."

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.

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