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02/05/10 5:43 PM EST

Spring cleaning: Mariners pack for camp

Seattle's dreams for 2010 begin with equipment truck trip

SEATTLE -- Friday morning in Seattle was pretty typical for early February: a brisk, damp feel to the air, gray skies, and probably some rain on the way. But in an otherwise nondescript loading dock behind Safeco Field, it wasn't hard to conjure thoughts of desert sunshine, fresh-cut grass and the sound of a bat smacking a baseball.

Mariners clubhouse staff members were busy packing up an 18-wheeler with 25,000 pounds of gear and getting ready to usher it off to the club's Spring Training home of Peoria, Ariz., where Seattle will prepare for the 2010 season.

It's a yearly ritual in baseball, the first sign of spring, with the truck rolling away and, in a sense, carrying the World Series hopes and dreams along with it.

"Beyond all the work that has to be done to get the truck going, you can definitely sense the excitement that it represents," Mariners clubhouse manager Ted Walsh said. "And on the heels of FanFest, which was a huge success, everybody seems to be very excited about the upcoming season."

The Mariners were as active as any other team this winter, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Brandon League, Eric Byrnes and Ryan Garko. They're reportedly closing in on a deal to bring back Erik Bedard and they still might not be done dealing.

After a Major League-best 24-game improvement from 2008 to 2009, fans are expecting the team to make a run at the American League West division title in 2010.

And it all starts here, with pallets full of everything you can think of: bats, balls, helmets, exercise equipment, Gatorade and all kinds of personal items moved into a 53-foot 18-wheeler that was slated for a 30-hour trip to the desert.

There are golf clubs, there's Ryan Rowland-Smith's electric guitar, and there's a treadmill, packed into a 10-foot box and carried onto the truck with a forklift.

"It's a lot of work, and it's a lot of work when we get to Arizona," Walsh said. "The real job is unloading everything and getting everything set up in Peoria. That's when we know everyone's ready for baseball."

Walsh said Rowland-Smith, Mark Lowe, Matt Tuiasosopo and Sean White were the only players who had personal belongings stuffed into the truck, but that will change after Spring Training, when the rig will carry an extra 5,000 pounds of accumulated gear for the more important trip back to Seattle.

But on Friday morning, within two hours the truck was full and on its way, with the driver ready for 1,450 miles in three 10-hour shifts down I-5, over two mountain passes, east on I-210 and catching I-10 near Palm Springs, Calif., motoring through the Mojave all the way to the Valley of the Sun.

Quietly and rather discreetly in the dark of a typical winter morning in the Emerald City, the truck pulled onto Edgar Martinez Drive, officially starting the 2010 season for the Seattle Mariners.

Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.