Mariners open annual Caravan

Altavilla and Gamel among players slated to appear during three-week tour

Mariners open annual Caravan

SEATTLE -- Reliever Dan Altavilla and outfielder Ben Gamel, two key youngsters in Seattle's plans this season, were part of the Mariners Caravan as it hit the road Monday and made its first stop in Yakima, Wash.

The Caravan will visit about two dozen communities across the Pacific Northwest over the next three weeks, with current and former Mariners players, broadcasters and the Mariners Moose attending school assemblies, visiting Boys & Girls Clubs and hospitals and hosting several free public autograph and photo sessions as well.

Altavilla and Gamel will open the tour along with broadcaster Mike Blowers on first-day stops at Ahtanum Valley Elementary in Yakima, as well as a free public autograph session at the Yakima Valley SunDome from 4:30-6 p.m. PT.

The group will be available at another open autograph session on Tuesday at the Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee from 4-5:15 p.m. Further autograph sessions are slated for Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Longview, Lacey, Lynnwood, Spokane and Vancouver, Wash. A full schedule of public events can be seen at mariners.com/caravan.

Altavilla -- ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Mariners' No. 22 prospect -- joined the big league club in late August after being promoted from Double-A Jackson and posted an 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings over 15 appearances. Gamel (No. 16) was acquired by trade from the Yankees about the same time and hit .200 in 40 at-bats with Seattle. After several outstanding seasons in Triple-A, including being named International League MVP last season, he's expected to challenge for the starting job in left field.

Mariners utility standout Shawn O'Malley will join the Caravan on Wednesday for stops in Spokane, Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. A native of the Tri-Cities, O'Malley appeared in a career-high 89 games last year while playing nearly every defensive position and posting a .229/.299/.319 line with 24 runs and six stolen bases.

Other Mariners tentatively scheduled to appear on the Caravan are pitchers James Paxton and Cody Martin, first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and broadcasters Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims and Aaron Goldsmith.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.