The former Mariner is skipping spring training (and maybe his stints in the broadcast booth) to spend time with his family.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Mariners fans may be interested in knowing Buhner is back in right field. He is also catching, playing third, first and center.
Buhner also smacked a three-run homer in one game, doubled home two runs in another.
Fresh from a winter of playing hoops, Buhner is also looking for a team to play on.
And their proud papa is loving it all, to the point that he probably is not coming to Seattle training camp for the first time since he came to the Mariners in 1988.
“I guess you can say I’ve discovered life after baseball,” said Jay Buhner of Gunnar, the guy who plays all over; of Chase, who missed baseball signups and is now looking for a team; and of Brielle, who has been producing runs prodigiously in softball.
“Our daughter,” the former Seattle outfielder added, “is pretty much a stud.”
And this spring, at least, Jay is pretty much out of the Mariners picture, and very likely out of their TV broadcast team this season.
“I just have no time to get there,” Jay said, apologetically. “You reached me the only day in the past few weeks I haven’t been headed one way while Leah heads another, dropping kids off or picking them up at school or practices or games. We have baseball practice, basketball, softball, tournaments on a lot of weekends.”
Buhner’s only connection with baseball right now is coaching first base on the kids’ teams.
“Do I feel guilty, about not being in Peoria? You bet I do,” he said. “I have talked to Howard (Lincoln) and Chuck (Armstrong) and as always they’ve been great. They understand while I owe something to my team, it is the time in my life to pay back a big debt to Leah and my kids for all the years they supported me in my career.”
Still, being The Bone, he wants to, “give back to my team.”
He feels worst about seeing the troubles Shin-Soo Choo has had this spring, simply struggling to do what Buhner used to make look natural — and in right field yet.
“Choo is a good outfielder, he’s just trying too hard,” Buhner said.
But still, he added regretfully, he’s not coming down to camp.
Then, the former warhorse, the man who backboned Mariners lineups for so many seasons, paused. “OK, I might be able to come down for a day or two during the week sometime.”
He also has some mixed emotions about the TV color gig, which he has shared with Dave Valle and Dave Henderson in recent seasons.
Last year, with the Mariners playing too much of the kind of baseball that leads to 99 losses, Buhner had some less-than-pretty things to say about it.
Fox Sports Northwest apparently heard from viewers, and the club got some feedback, too. When this was passed on to Buhner, he simply decided that he would think long and hard before he did any more games.
“I’ve been 14 years in Seattle, people know by now I do things my way,” he said. “I understand where the TV people are coming from. So I think it’s in the best interests of everyone not to do it anymore.”
Buhner added that it’s not a definite no at this point.
“Right now my mind is not made up,” he said. “I told the Fox people and the Mariners, this has nothing to do with you, this is about family.”
As to the family’s athleticism, the three kids apparently are chips off the old block and their mom’s block, too.
“Brielle hit a three-run jack to win the first game of a doubleheader last week, and a two-run double in the second game,” Buhner said. “She plays several positions, but not right.”
Gunnar is the one who carries the Buhner legend to right field for his team, 9-year olds who play in a Pony League for 10-year olds, according to Jay. Chase finished his basketball season recently and is seeking a baseball team after missing signups.
“The kids are all quicker than I was,” Jay said. “I had some speed before I started playing all those games on turf, but they get it mostly from Leah. She was on the track team in high school.”
He added, “It’s just how it is for me right now. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get away to go to training camp. I don’t want to get away. I’m having a blast enjoying my family.”
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org