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).

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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?

(Photo courtesy Seattle Mariners)


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.

What is your favorite band that you’re listening to?
Oh, man. It’s so tough. I like a lot of Alt J right now, some Milky Chance…the staples of Rage Against the Machine are always there.

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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.

What are some beers outside of Seattle you like?
I guess my go-to would probably be Deschutes’ Mirror Pond. Or, when I’m in Arizona, Four Peaks Brewing’s Kilt Lifter.

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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