PEORIA, Ariz. (CBS Seattle) — If you don’t know the back story on Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, you’re missing out on quite a tale.
In short, the hard-throwing righty walked away from the game in 2004 over a lack of excitement for baseball. Following his departure from the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system, the Tucson High Magnet High School graduate did some extensive traveling in Europe and Mexico — and eventually returned to Tucson to begin bartending at a tiki bar called The Hut. (The occupation of slinging drinks would earn him the nickname “The Bartender ” with Seattle).
Mariners’ General Manager Jack Zduriencik was part of the Brewers front office in 2002 that drafted Wilhelmsen, who was an 18-year-old at the time. After hearing from Wilhelmsen’s agent that his client was training to return to the game, Zduriencik gave The Bartender a shot at redemption with a minor league contract.
Fast-forward to Spring Training ahead of the 2015 campaign; the 31-year-old has proven that his comeback four years ago was no fluke. He’s been one of the most reliable arms in Seattle’s bullpen since 2011, posting a 2.91 ERA with a 1.146 WHIP. As part of the best ‘pen in baseball last year, he had a ridiculous August allowing just one earned run on six hits over the course of 11 games (13.2 innings) — that’s on top of 15 strikeouts.
But most importantly, Wilhelmsen has become one of the key personalities inside the Mariners’ locker room. The well-spoken hurler has an infectious sense of humor that his teammates gravitate towards.
….So what better way to test his patience than with a surprise Q&A (interview) at 7:30 am ahead of team workouts in Peoria?
Have you started filming any of the commercials yet?
Yes. There is one that I am in with Charlie Furbush and it’s about an ’80s band singing “Hot Corner” for Kyle [Seager]. Charlie and I are the groupies of this thing.
Would you say that ’80s music is your forte?
I wouldn’t say that it’s my forte. But, I was around then, so I’m familiar with ’80s music.
I’m sure you’re aware of the infamous video of you dancing to “Turn Down For What” at the end of 2014’s final game. What will be your go-to song this year?
I don’t know….I don’t know how that ended up being what it is. I certainly didn’t ask for it. It’s not something I think about. I don’t think, “Hmmm….what song can I dance to now?”
Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar in Seattle?
All of ’em! [Laughs] Whichever ones don’t run out of beer.
Do you have a favorite beer from Seattle?
Fremont [Brewing] does some pretty good stuff. But off the top of my head, no. I try to pick a different beer every time I’m out getting them.
IPA, pale ale?
Preferably…I’m an IPA kinda guy.
I saw that Four Peaks has a whole setup here at [Peoria Sports Complex]…
Yeah. Groovy, groovy…..groovy brewery.
Your goal for the upcoming season?
Just to stay healthy. That’s the number one goal, that’s the number one mindset for everybody.
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