The Seattle Mariners will meet later this week to discuss the possibility of replacing Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus in the 2011 season, and one of their options is the simplest - not to do it.
Without posting the position, the team has received between 50-100 applications from radio and television professionals around the country.
Out of respect for Niehaus, his family and fans, the team has not conducted a single interview – and may not.
Instead, one possibility the Mariners are considering is filling the airwaves with the presence of former players and broadcasters on a rotating basis, rather than hiring one voice to succeed Niehaus.
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“That’s something we’ve talked about,” team vice president Randy Adamack said. “There’s a line of thought that we could make 2011 a transitional season for our fans.”
Niehaus, who died in November, was at the microphone for the first game of the Mariners’ inaugural season in 1977 and the final game of 2010. As one producer said this week, “Anyone seen as replacing Dave in the booth opening day is going to take a pounding.”
In the next few days, Adamack and other team executives will sit down again with television and radio producers from the Mariners’ flagship stations and discuss the options for the upcoming season.
Broadcasters Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims and Mike Blowers are all under contract for 2011.
If the team decides not to name a successor to Niehaus, it could draw from it’s own past for color men such as Dave Henderson, Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson, among others. And when the need arises for play-by-play men, former Mariners broadcasters Ron Fairly, Ken Wilson and Ken Levine could be called in for a series or two.
There’s also the possibility the Mariners could give “guest appearances” to local sports broadcasters, including Mike Curto of the Tacoma Rainiers.
In Niehaus, Seattle lost more than a broadcaster – it lost an icon. As Ken Griffey Jr. said, Niehaus was the best-known member of the team, whether it was in the ’70s, the ’90s or last season.
Those who have applied to succeed him have done so with as much respect and sensitivity as possible, Adamack said, and the team has written to tell each that their inquiry has been received.
Beyond that, no one has been interviewed or promised one. The team could still decide to bring aboard a new broadcaster, though that seems a daunting task so soon after Neihaus’ death.
“No one wants to be the man who replaces John Wooden,” Adamack said. “You want to be the guy who replaces the man who replaced Wooden.”
The team will decide, probably before spring training begins next month, how it will proceed into the 2011 season – whether that means hiring a new broadcaster or creating a pool of former players and broadcasters.
Based on the sentiments of producers, it seems most likely Niehaus will be honored through the year by those who worked alongside him in Seattle or played the game while he described it.
Single-game tickets for all 17 Mariners spring training home dates at Peoria Stadium will be sold online (www.mariners.com/springtraining) and over the telephone (1-800-677-1227) beginning Saturday morning.
There’s a spring schedule on the team website: seattle.mariners.mlb.com.