05/08/12 8:38 PM ET
Mariners spread D.R.E.A.M. to school children
By Taylor Soper / MLB.com
With hundreds of kids packed into the cafeteria at Gatewood Elementary in West Seattle, Mariners lefty Jason Vargas paced across the floor and described -- in simple terms -- how Seattle came back from a 2-0, ninth-inning deficit to defeat the Tigers on Monday night.
"How many of you think we would have won the game if we had a bad attitude?" Vargas asked the beaming children, none of whom raised their hands. "Whether we won or lost, we were going to have a good attitude about what was going to happen. We were able to come back and win because of that attitude."
"Attitude," represents one letter of the acronym "D.R.E.A.M." The D.R.E.A.M. Team is part of an assembly program that stresses the importance of five values: Drug-Free, Respect yourself and others, Education through reading, Attitude and Motivation to achieve your dreams.
Mariners players and coaches split up into groups on Tuesday and spoke to an estimated 2,500 students at five different elementary schools around the greater Seattle area, instilling the principles of D.R.E.A.M.
"I learned about motivation, I learned about respect, I learned about staying drug-free and learned to stay out of trouble," said 10-year-old Jibrio Mohamed Mula. "And now, I want to go to the game tonight."
With a view of Puget Sound outside the cafeteria windows, Gatewood students that ranged from four to 12 years old quickly arrived in a cafeteria with six empty seats positioned at the front. None of the children knew who the special guests were, but as each Mariner donning green uniforms was introduced one by one, bright-smiling faces and ear-piercing cheers filled the room.
"The kids get a really cool opportunity with leaders in the community talking about how important it is to work hard in school," Gatewood principal Rhonda Claytor said. "It makes a big impression on these little guys."
Dustin Ackley was first, speaking about being drug-free.
"There's a reason it's the first letter -- it's the most important," he said.
The second baseman repeated that being drug-free can help students achieve their dreams.
Next up was Kyle Seager, who preached respect and told the kids to "try and be as good to people as you can." Then John Jaso touched on education and said that without education giving him an opportunity to play baseball, he wouldn't be playing baseball today.
In between the speakers, ace Felix Hernandez stood up, held two fingers in the air and challenged everyone to read two extra books per week. Every single student cheered in agreement.
Vargas then talked about having a good attitude and provided the baseball comeback analogy.
"They get excited to see the faces that they get to watch on TV, and it's an opportunity to do some positive community service," Vargas said. "It gives them a chance to hear what we really think."
Manager Eric Wedge finished off with something he does every day in the Mariners' clubhouse: motivate people. Whether you're having a good day or a bad day, a positive attitude is necessary to be motivated to excel at anything, he said.
"The most important thing you can do is listen to the people that care about you and get motivated to be the best you can be," the skipper said. "Can we do it?"
Judging by yet another raucous cheer, it certainly seems like it.
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.