Chat Transcript: Aqua Sox announcer Pat Dillon

Everett AquaSox play-by-play announcer Pat Dillon joined us in the chat room on Wednesday afternoon, taking an hour to field all of your questions about the Mariners' Class-A affiliate. Dillon had nothing but glowing remarks to say about Felix Hernandez, the club's 17-year-old pitching phenom.

Does the ballpark in Everett lean towards hitters or pitchers?

Pat Dillon: I'd say it's a hitter's park specifically. Depending upon weather conditions, it can be a pitcher's park at times. After the sun goes down the air gets a little thicker and the ball doesn't travel as well.

What is your opinion of Felix Hernandez having seen him throw in person? Can he be as good as advertised?

Dillon: He certainly got off to a terrific start. I think it's a bit early to say he is a top prospect in the system, however. I'd like to see what he can do once he faces better competition. At age 17, he had a phenomenal season facing primarily college hitters.

Have you ever seen anyone better in their time at Everett, especially considering his age?

Dillon: No pitchers but Chris Snelling was every bit as good in the NWL as a hitter as Felix is as a pitcher, and they were the same age.

Who, besides Felix, impressed you most last year?

Dillon: Josh Womack is a terrific guy coming from a great family. Lots of natural skills and should stay the course with a lot of potential. Chris Colton is another guy with all the tools to make it but has underachieved a little bit.

Pat, where do you see Josh Womack playing in the outfield as he moves through the system?

Dillon: Right now with his arm and speed and instincts he can play all three spots. He could very easily play LF of course, but he could very well play CF or RF. Once he gets to Double-A his position will be more specifically defined.

What prospect coming to Everett this year are you most anticipating to see?

Dillon: I had a chance to see Adam Jones last season and was impressed with his arm and instincts at SS. He also hit well there. His future is likely on the mound so it will be interesting to see where he is in a few years.

You ever seen him pitch?

Dillon: I've never seen him pitch. Saw him play three games for Everett at the tail end of last season. His arm is legit.

Back to Felix. What makes him so special?

Dillon: His natural gifts and his makeup. Never visibly over his 11 or so games was he rattled. Seems to be very mature for his age and takes everything in stride.

What were your impressions of Oz Navarro, and do you think he will ever hit at the higher levels?

Dillon: Good question. The thing about Oz is that he is comparable with Jose Lopez when Jose was in Everett in 2001. Completely different hitters, however. I don't see Oz showing much power due to his stature. Very savvy offensively, good contact.

Where could you envision Navarro batting in the lineup in the future?

Dillon: He could be a No. 2 hitter at Wisconsin with his ability to make a lot of contact. If he makes it to the bigs he would likely be in the 8 or 9 hole at that point.

I have heard some reports that the radar guns were a little high on Felix and his fastball might be in the low to mid 90s. Do you believe his fastball is in the high 90s?

Dillon: Absolutely. One thing to remember is that during a game when the radar gun is fixed on a pitcher after 10 pitches he could fluctuate all over the radar range so it doesn't mean he throws 97 on every pitch.

What other pitches does Felix have in his repertoire? And how good are they?

Dillon: Right now he effectively has two, a fastball and a curve. Both are tremendous. He will throw a change and did last season at Everett. He will need a third pitch to be successful at the MLB level.

Does he throw a hard curve or a slow curve and how fast does the curve and change usually register on the radar gun?

Dillon: It's a hard curve for sure. Low 80s with the curve most likely.

Who was the most prominent hitter in the AquaSox lineup last year?

Dillon: There wasnt a lot of offense last season but it'd be a tossup between outfielder Chris Colton and Josh Womack. Both have quick bats and a ton of talent. Colton needs the lightbulb to go on and to start having better things result from his play.

Brandon Moorhead put up crazy numbers last year as the team's closer. How high is his "ceiling"?

Dillon: It's difficult to say based on his age and injury problems at the University of Georgia. He throws up into the mid-90s with a nice breaking ball. He likes being the closer and could develop nicely but will likely have to prove himself every step of the way and could start 2004 at Wisconsin or Inland Empire.

Justin Ruchti is said to be one of the best defensive catchers around. Is that going to be all he will bring to the table or can he develop as a solid hitter as well?

Dillon: I think it is certainly possible. He had shoulder/arm trouble after the College World Series as he joined the team and wasnt 100 percent. Reminds me a lot of a little Dan Wilson with his demeanor around the plate. He will be an interesting case.

Sam Hays was a top pick by the M's a few years back before getting injured. How'd he look in his return last season?

Dillon: I think Sam has to be encouraged by the way he pitched at times last year, however, he has a long way to go to be ever considered a legit prospect again. I think the shoulder injury may have robbed him of his velocity. It's too bad, he is a good guy. You have to hope he does well.

Surprise, another Felix question. Where do you believe he'll start in 2004?

Dillon: I think they have to start him at Inland. Most guys there are in their third year and the competition will be better. He has always been a strike-thrower and will be challenged. He would have to be dominating the Cal League by mid-season for them to consider that move up to AA, but by the end of the year if the 66ers aren't in the playoffs, I'd say its almost a certainty he would go there. The M's don't like to break the confidence and continuity of the players and send them back down, so they will be careful when they do send him up.

We've seen too many top flight pitching prospects never make it because of arm troubles. See; Ryan Anderson. How would you rate Felix's mechanics? Is he a potential injury risk or is his deliver smooth enough to help him avoid injuries?

Dillon: I haven't spoken to the M's about his mechanics but I know they were fine according to Everett pitching coach Gary Wheelock last season. Mechanics are vital in keeping pitchers healthy at a young age.

If this chat is any indication, I think I know the answer. When you are asked questions about the team, do you get more Felix questions or non-Felix? It seems like he is all anyone wants to talk about.

Dillon: He is a very good subject to discuss because he is so young and has so much in front of him. It's exciting for M's fans to think someday he could be in the rotation.

What is your opinion of the steroid testing thats going to go down, and the fact that people that are on them will be known?

Dillon: I think it is something that needs to happen. As a fan I'm most concerned of the welfare of the players and making sure they keep themselves healthy. With steroids being so dangerous, it is definitely in the best interest of baseball.

Where do you expect Wladimir Balentien to start the 2004 season?

Dillon: I certainly hope we'll see him in Everett. I'd like to see him try and break the franchise record for homers, which is 19. Jon Nelson had 17 a few years back. It is possible that Balentien is older than he claims and he could have issues.

Speaking of age issues, do you think Felix really was 17? The majority believe his listed age but some have their doubts.

Dillon: I have been asked about a number of players. Felix was the subject of that question last year and seeing him up close and personal he is probably the age he claims he is. If he is older it isn't likely much older.

I'd like to do play-by play-one day, what college class would be most vital for me to take?

Dillon: I am a UW alum and I was an economics major. That was before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. You're lucky to be young enough to make that decision now. Before you make the final decision to go to UW, maybe look around for a school with a broadcast journalism program or just a journalism major. Syracuse University and Washington State are two good examples. Hopefully that helps.

What are AquaSox?

Dillon: They are like Red Sox and White Sox, except different.

Would you like to progress through the levels of baseball beyond the Everett AquaSox?

Dillon: I am set where I am. I have a family and like the area and wouldn't be inclined to move across the country for a Double-A job. For now I enjoy what I've been doing for the last nine seasons.

Pat Dillon can be heard broadcasting the Everett AquaSox throughout the summer months on KSER 90.7 FM.

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