3/4/2014 9:56 P.M. ET
Like Seahawks, Mariners look to thrill Seattle fans
By Ben Haber / Special to MLB.com
Following the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl victory in February will be difficult, but the Seattle Mariners don't believe the success at CenturyLink Field affects much within their clubhouse.
Seahawks fans, known as the "12th Man," garnered a lot of recognition for record-setting noise levels. The Mariners hope the city gives them the same support after finishing No. 25 in attendance in 2013.
"The 12th Man up there is a force to be reckoned with. And it was a huge part of the [Seahawks'] success," utility man Willie Bloomquist said. "We got to have an upbeat exciting atmosphere. Baseball can be a slow-moving sport, so you need to be creative in ways to keeping fans involved."
The connections between the Seahawks and Mariners go beyond sharing the Emerald City. Catcher John Hicks played Little League on the same team as Russell Wilson. Pitcher James Gillheeney took the diamond with Wilson at North Carolina State.
Wilson slipped to the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft mainly because of his perceived lack of size at 5-foot-11. However, at 12 and 13 years old, it was Wilson who possessed the size advantage over his competition.
"Strangely enough, he was bigger than everyone else at that age. He hit his growth spurt early," Hicks said. "You could definitely tell he was a step above everyone at that age."
Hicks remembers Wilson moving from position to position and doing well at every spot. Wiilson was selected by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft, and on Monday he went to Surprise, Ariz., to speak to the team.
Gillheeney marvels at Wilson's football and baseball abilities. Above all of the incredible performances, Gillheeney thinks Wilson's willingness to help others stands out most.
"He did a lot off the field for the community," Gillheeney said. "He was a great teammate. It showed how good of an athlete he was that he could play football and baseball."
Wilson went to Gillheeney for weekly haircuts. Gillheeney doesn't remember how Wilson liked his hair cut, but thinks it was a simple trim. Gillheeney vividly recalls Wilson being ultra-competitive.
"I think his will to win is unparallel. There is no stop, there is no breaks," Gillheeney said. "The odds weren't in his favor in Seattle, and he took that team and won the Super Bowl. No matter how big the hill is to climb, I don't think it ever scares him. He always sees a goal being attainable, no matter how big it is."
Among the millions of fans celebrating the Seahawks' triumph was Felix Hernandez. The 12th Man flag goes up before the Seahawks kick off at home games, representing their consistent crowd presence. Back in 2011, Hernandez raised the 12th Man flag and called the feeling "unbelievable, crazy and the best." Hernandez remains proud of the Seahawks' accomplishment, but he refuses to compare their situation to the Mariners.
"We got to do our own thing. We have a lot of talent here." Hernandez said.
Bloomquist shares the deep love of the Seahawks with Hernandez. Bloomquist is the only Mariners player born in Washington. Watching the streets of Seattle celebrate hit home for Bloomquist.
"It's just pretty gratifying because it has been a long time since anyone won a world championship," Bloomquist said. "People up there in the Northwest deserve it. They have been through some hard times with teams over the years."
Without the leadership of Pete Carroll, the Seahawks may not have won it all. Hernandez firmly believes new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon provides a similar effect. McClendon stood up for Robinson Cano valiantly after Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long criticized Cano's supposed lack of hustle. Hernandez said McClendon gained confidence and trust within the team by backing Cano up.
McClendon concurred with his players, stating the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory has no impact on the Mariners.
"We can't make any tackles," said McClendon. "And we can't run anybody over at [home] plate anymore."
Ben Haber is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.