SEATTLE -- In celebration of Father's Day, Darrel Grad, a prostate cancer survivor from Renton, Wash., threw out Sunday's ceremonial first pitch.Grad was selected from among thousands of entries as the 2011 Seattle Mariners MVP Dad. Major League Baseball unveiled a new "My Dad, My MVP," contest this year to recognize extraordinary fathers and father figures. Grad's daughter, Samantha, nominated her father. Grad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, and in Samantha's nomination letter, she wrote that, "I never heard him say 'Why me? Even in that moment, his concern was for my sister, my mom and me." Grad coached his daughter from T-ball through high school.
Wedge gives state of address on his Mariners
SEATTLE -- Before every home game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge meets with local media in the home dugout three hours before the first pitch during batting practice.But Sundays are different. With the typical 1:10 p.m. PT start time, the first-year skipper conducts the interview session from the more casual confines of his clubhouse office, a spacious, clean room lined with John Wayne and Wichita State -- Wedge's alma mater -- memorabilia. He also generally speaks for nearly double the time on Sundays. With yet another lineup shuffle for Sunday's rubber game against the Phillies, Wedge addressed a number of topics, from Franklin Gutierrez's struggles to his first impressions of Dustin Ackley. Here's a run-down of what Wedge had to say on this Father's Day. Wedge has been impressed with recent call-up Ackley, who hit his first career home run in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Phillies. The second overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and North Carolina native arrived in Seattle on Thursday after hitting .303 with 82 hits at Triple-A Tacoma. "He looks like he has somewhat of an even temperament," Wedge said of his new second baseman. "He has a very professional approach for a young player. He's handled himself well here in the first couple of days." Ackley, who got a curtain call from the 35,829 at Safeco Field after his jack to right field on Saturday, says nearly everything has gone how he envisioned his first few days in the big leagues -- except for the homer. "As far as hitting the home run, that was kind of unexpected," he said. In terms of what he'd like to see in an offense, Wedge pointed to Philadelphia's ability to get timely hits when they matter the most. "What you like to see is the way you string at-bats together," the skipper said. "You want a lineup that can do it one through nine and you want contributions from everybody. You want to feel like regardless of what inning you are in, you're going to have potential to create an opportunity to score a run or multiple runs." The Phillies did just that in Saturday's 5-1 win over Seattle. Facing Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, the visitors broke open a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning after Shane Victorino's two-out, bases-loaded double down the left-field line scored two runs and proved to be the difference. Sunday's lineup saw another change, with Gutierrez and third baseman Chone Figgins back in action after both sat out Saturday's loss. Still absent was designated hitter Jack Cust, who hasn't played since going 0-for-4 in a June 14 loss to the Angels. Wedge says Cust has been working hard in batting practice and that his attitude has been "great." The skipper acknowledged the difficulty of balancing playing time for struggling veterans and up-and-coming youngsters. "It's tough. I respect all those guys in the locker room and all the players, but the veteran guys have been playing and doing it for a while that I think you have to have an even greater respect for them," Wedge said. "Obviously, they've done enough to play this game at this level for a while and that demands respect." "But ultimately, that's why you have to walk that line in regard to what's best for the individual versus what's best for the team, or the other way around." Gutierrez is hitting just .182 this season after missing the first 41 games with stomach gastritis. While Wedge likes the fact that Greg Halman, who was called up June 2, has been getting valuable experience in center field, he needs Gutierrez to bounce back. "It's been such a crazy path for [Gutierrez] in the last year, and you got to be respectful of that, and try to help him get back on track," Wedge said. "I just want to see baby steps in the right direction."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.