The motto “fear the beard” was all the rage during the Boston Red Sox’s run to the World Series championship last fall.
On Friday at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, the beards — worn by Seattle Mariners pitchers Charlie Furbush and Brandon Maurer — were certainly nothing to fear.
“People were telling me, ‘You finally got on the bandwagon,’ ” Furbush said in reference to his neatly-trimmed facial hair. “I said, ‘Hey, I’ve had this for the last two years.’ ”
The Seattle Mariners Caravan made its annual stop in the Tri-Cities on Friday, and Furbush and Maurer — along with Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers and the Mariner Moose — visited several patients at Kadlec, handing out autographed pictures, stuffed animals and Mariners team bags.
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At one point, the group posed for a picture with Kennewick resident Jessica Beck, 31, and her prematurely born son Ian during a stop in the Don and Lori Watts Pediatric Center. Furbush and Maurer, who both stand 6 feet, 5 inches tall, and the Mariner Moose, whose antlers top out at about 6-4, towered over the young mother as she cuddled her son.
Ian was delivered at 25 weeks and weighed just over a pound at the beginning of December, but he was looking strong in his mom’s arms at almost three pounds.
“You had the most exciting moments today,” Beck whispered to the infant. “I didn’t realize they were so tall. They just wanted to know Ian’s story. It’s fun that he gets special things like this.”
It was a special visit for the players as well. It was Furbush’s second visit to Kadlec, having been a part of last year’s Mariners Caravan. The fourth-year major leaguer was one of Seattle’s top long relievers in 2013, sporting a 3.74 ERA and a .199 opponent batting average. The former fourth-round draft pick out of LSU was tied for 10th in the American League with 71 appearances and 13th in the AL with 20 holds.
“I learned a lot last season, throwing quite a bit out of the bullpen,” said Furbush, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Mariners for $750,000. “I learned to keep things simple. I came into a lot of pressure situations, so I’m just going to refocus on that.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to face Robinson Cano anymore.”
Jesse Field, a 20-year-old Kennewick resident, stood watch over his 2-week-old son, Jesse Jr., as the Caravan stopped by his room. Jesse Jr. was fighting the effects of withdrawal from his mother’s chemotherapy but was scheduled to receive his last treatment Friday.
“My wife is going to like this,” said Field, a former high school cornerback who hopes to try out for the Tri-City Fever this year.
Maurer, in his first Caravan appearance, was moved by the joy he and the group brought to patients but also humbled by their strength in the face of pain.
“It’s great to come in and see people smile,” said Maurer, a 23rd-round draft pick of the Mariners in 2008 who made his professional debut last season, going 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA in 14 starts after a strong spring. “Being a baseball player, health is a No. 1 priority. It’s easy to take that for granted.”
The Caravan, which began on Jan. 8 in Lacey for an eight-city tour, also made a public appearance at Columbia Basin College, playing highlights and signing autographs for fans.
The Caravan will make one final appearance next Friday from 5-6 p.m. at the Southcenter Mall Mariners team store in Tukwila.
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org