Mariner blue filled Volcanoes Stadium on Wednesday when former Major Leaguer Jay Buhner made an appearance, signing autographs and taking photos with fans before and during the game between the Senators and Campesinos.
The former Seattle right fielder known for his bald head and pine tar on his hip met with fans for more than two and a half hours signing memorabilia and sharing stories from his time in the big leagues.
“There’s a lot of diehard fans here and that’s what it’s all about,” Buhner said. “It’s all about them, and I haven’t been up here in a while. It’s been five years removed from the area.”
Those diehard fans were lined up outside of the stadium waiting for the gates to open. Once inside, the line stretched across the concourse behind home plate all the way down the third baseline.
For the first few innings, the line seemed to stay at the same size as more fans arrived and took their place. And despite fears that Buhner would have to leave before signing for everyone, he made it through the line with 30 minutes to spare before leaving to catch a flight.
Buhner was in the area for the MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle where he coached one of the teams in the Futures Game, and caught one of the ceremonial first pitches from former teammate Ken Griffey Jr.
And while Buhner might not have played for the Volcanoes, his story and path to the bigs began in a similar situation in Watertown, NY, in a Class A short season league similar to what the Volcanoes were once a part of in the Northwest League.
“This is the grassroots, this is where it started for me,” Buhner said. “So yeah, it circles all the way back. And I remember I was that kid wanting to get an autograph. So it’s pretty cool. It’s always nice to give back. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right?”
In its third year of existence, the Mavericks League came about out of Major League Baseball’s decision to not include the Volcanoes in the 120 minor league teams when MLB took over the reins.
“This is what hurts me as an ex-player and my love for the game is to see when baseball decided to start pulling away teams and everything. And this was one of those teams that basically got the shaft quite frankly,” Buhner said. “But you know what? I will tell you, indie ball now is amazing. I mean, there is some great talent.