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Originally published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 6:14 PM

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Mariners apologize to season-ticket holders for not telling them of price increase

Team sends message to season-ticket holders expressing regret for not making it clear in renewal notices that prices would be going up for most packages.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Acknowledging they mishandled the communication of season-ticket increases for next year, a contrite Mariners organization has apologized to affected fans.

Bob Aylward, the Mariners' executive vice president of business operations, sent out an email titled "Message to Season Ticket Holders" on Tuesday expressing regret for not making it clear in renewal notices that the team was raising prices for many 2013 packages.

The email said, in part, "We recognize the financial and emotional investment you have made in Mariners Baseball. We are sorry for our miscommunication. And we pledge to do better."

Reached Wednesday, Aylward reiterated the Mariners' regret for their handling of renewals, which was detailed in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

"The need for the apology is that we clearly disappointed and negatively impacted the trust that is so important for the ballclub to have with our fan base," Aylward said. "When we do something to negatively impact that, we have to let them know we are genuinely sorry, and wish we had handled it differently."

Aylward said the Mariners intended to let people know individually that some packages were increasing in cost, but weren't able to reach everyone in time.

"In hindsight, I would say our mistake was overconfidence we would be able to reach all these individuals on a personal basis; in essence, trying to go beyond just a cold letter or cold email," he said. "In hindsight, we should have done both.

"We recognize that increasing prices in this environment is not an easy thing to do, but after five years (without an increase) we felt, hey, certain seats warrant this. We need to increase some revenue. We should have said that and followed with the personal touch."

Aylward said that he is hopeful that most fans will still renew their season tickets.

"To date, the number of people who have said, 'I'm canceling,' I can count on two hands," he said. "Yes, this will hurt us, but we don't have a mass exodus as a result."

Aylward said it's far too early to accurately compare sales to last year, when the Mariners sold between 8,000 and 8,500 season tickets. That's the lowest since Safeco Field opened, down from a peak of about 22,000 in 2002.

He said the Mariners' current challenge is to "get the pick and shovel and start contacting people. We just made the job a lot harder for our sales reps and what they have to do to try to earn back the trust of fans who feel like we didn't treat them right.

"That takes time and effort. We get it, and we also understand how important this trust between the team and its fan base is. We have to do whatever we can to earn back that trust."

Mariners cut loose

Olivo, Kawasaki

The Mariners on Wednesday announced they have declined to pick up the 2013 club option on catcher Miguel Olivo, which means he will become a free agent the day after the World Series. The option was for $3 million.

Also, infielder Munenori Kawasaki was released from his major-league contract, meaning he, too, will become a free agent if he isn't claimed by another team by Friday. Kawasaki's agent, Tony Attanasio — who also represents Ichiro — was dismayed by the decision.

"To have as good a kid as him, as versatile, and to lose him from the organization, quite frankly, in my estimation, is an absolutely disgusting travesty," Attanasio said.

Attanasio said Kawasaki wanted to return to the Mariners, even with the departure of his idol, Ichiro. Kawasaki was willing to accept a minor-league contract, but the Mariners weren't interested, the agent said.

"He would jump off a building to stay in Seattle," Attanasio said.

Reached Wednesday night, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik called Kawasaki "a wonderful teammate, and a very, very good person ... right now, we're facing 40-man roster issues, and we have to make organizational decisions for the immediate as well as the longterm best interests of the ballclub."

If Kawasaki is not claimed, or rejects the claim, he could theoretically re-sign with the Mariners on a minor-league contract, but wouldn't be eligible to play for them in the major leagues until May 15.

Zduriencik wouldn't say if the Mariners had interest in doing that.

"We'll go one step at a time," he said. "Right now, we've put him on release waivers and we'll see what happens."

Kawasaki, 31, was very popular with fans and teammates. Coming over from Japan as a nonroster free agent, Kawasaki made the team by leading all of spring training with a .455 average. Once the season started, however, he played sporadically, hitting just .192 with one extra-base-hit in 62 games. Brendan Ryan, the Mariners' regular shortstop, hit .194.

In his second stint with Seattle, Olivo, 34, led the Mariners in home runs (19) and runs batted in (62) in 2011, but hit .224 and .222 the past two years, with an on-base percentage of .239 last year in 87 games.

The Mariners have catching depth with Jesus Montero and John Jaso on their roster, as well as top draft pick Mike Zunino rising rapidly through the minors.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry

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