SEATTLE -- Jarrod Dyson can't wait to get started with the Mariners, but the fleet-footed outfielder first had to take care of some difficult business with his former Royals club as he flew to the Dominican Republic this week to attend the funeral of former teammate Yordano Ventura.
Dyson was all smiles on Saturday as he helped kick off the 19th annual Mariners FanFest at Safeco Field, shaking hands and handing out autographs as the engaging 32-year-old greeted his new city. But that grin hid a heavy heart after the service for Ventura, who died in a car accident last Sunday.
"I watched this kid grow up," Dyson said. "He was like a brother to me. I'll think about him every day I take the field. He was a special guy, and it's a sad tragedy. To go visit his country and see all the love he had in his hometown, to see his mom tore down to pieces, it's a hurt feeling."
But Dyson said the chance to "meet and greet" with Seattle fans helped turn the page, and he's thrilled at the opportunity to play a bigger role with the Mariners, who want to put him in the leadoff role and take advantage of his blazing speed.
"I'm all for that," said the Mississippi native, who totaled a career-best 299 at-bats last year for the Royals. "I've been fighting for that for 10 years now. It's a new environment but the same game plan. I'll just go out there and try to do my job. Everything else will fall in line. If I'm going to be at the top of that lineup, then I've got to set the tone. I'm looking forward to doing that."
The Mariners are looking forward to it as well, as manager Scott Servais feels the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder adds a couple of ingredients that were missing from last year's team.
"Dyson brings a lot of things to our club, obviously athleticism and he can fly, one of the more prolific basestealers in the league," Servais said. "The other thing he brings is real personality. He'll bring some edge. He's a guy that will be chirping in the dugout, maybe at the umpire, maybe at the other team, maybe at some of his own teammates, and you need to have those guys."
Dyson figures to play left field against all right-handed pitchers as well as against some lefties and also gives Seattle a much-needed option behind center fielder Leonys Martin. Even in a part-time role with Kansas City, Dyson averaged 31 stolen bases over the past five seasons and hit .278 with a .340 on-base percentage last year.
With Dyson, Martin and new shortstop Jean Segura, the Mariners have three legitimate speed threats on the bases.
"We're looking forward to doing a lot of damage," Dyson said.
If it all comes together, he could be a catalyst in helping the Mariners end baseball's longest current playoff drought of 15 years. He was part of the Royals team that ended the franchise's 29-year postseason dry spell by reaching the World Series in 2014 and then winning it in '15, so he knows what is possible.
"When they turn the corner, it's a great feeling," he said. "And to be a part of it is a greater feeling. When you see a team that hasn't been there in a while, the fans know that, you know that. And it's almost like pressure on both sides. The fans want to see it as much as the players, and when you bring it together, it shows.
"You're going to have the stands packed out and fans showing their appreciation, day in and day out. When you get that, it makes you feel even better as player and want to go out and do your job for the city because you know the drought they've been through. Me, I'm over here and ready to help, ready to go. I want to see that same excitement we had in Kansas City brought to Seattle."
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.