What a day we had. Saturday I took three of the kids to the Mariners game, and it was highly enjoyable (not just because they snapped a 7 game losing streaking). Sure, winning a game 7-0 is fun, watching Felix Hernandez pitch is fun, but those things wound up being icing on the proverbial cake.
I don’t think I need to go into everything that went on beforehand. There’s a lot of construction going on and I missed the turn off to the stadium, we were running late, a Sounders game was taking place in the stadium next door so I couldn’t find parking – suffice to say we were all a bit panicked about getting to Safeco Field on time, but we made it (if just barely). The kids were given their credentials to wear around their neck, we joined the group (of about 20 total kids and parents) and headed out.
Frankly, I had goosebumps. You may remember last year we were able to head out and walk around the field, but this was completely different. Sure we were not allowed to go on the grass and had to stay behind home plate and not talk to any of the players. Doesn’t matter. This was very cool, like walking out on stage at a concert cool. That walk out to the field was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had at the ballpark, and August really liked it too.
As we emerged, there were the Mariners conducting batting practice. How did we get here? I signed August, Déla and Ciárán up for the Mariners Kids Club. For a small fee the kids get a backpack, shirt, hat, some $1 ticket vouchers, and along with a few other trinkets, the opportunity to participate in a few special events. This was one of them. Space is limited, certain conditions apply, etc. Heck, just getting the ticket vouchers shirt and hat is worth the price.
You probably don’t recognize him from behind, but over August’s shoulder is Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
It didn’t take long for Ciárán to begin to get bored. I tried to get him excited, but I think he’s just too young. At 4 he is at the age where he has his own ideas of what to do and isn’t happy just being with everybody else in the group like a year ago.
Suddenly there was somebody talking to my kids. In a Mariners uniform. He was walking up the line saying hello to all the Kids Club members. Somehow he even got Ciárán to give him a high five (which is no small feat considering how grumpy and anti-social he can get). It took me a moment to gather the presence of mind to turn on my camera quicker – it happened so suddenly. When a ball player takes the time to come over and say “Hello” to the kids, well, as a father and a fan, my heart swells up a little. No, he doesn’t quite replace Ichiro, but Jesús Montero, you’ve quickly become “favorite player” material.
After about half hour or forty minutes, I’m not sure the Minnesota Twins took the field and were getting ready for their turn at batting practice. The gates of Safeco Field opened and the general populace came in. It was a bit weird being on the other side of the fence when the masses came swarming in.
We got our picture taken by our “handler” or whatever you want to call her. She was in charge of making sure we stayed within the confines of where we were supposed to be, kept us from breaking the rules, etc. The first shot has Ciárán looking down and the second has Déla closing her eyes. Oh well.
Among the various players we watched hit were Montero, Chone Figgins, and Munenori Kawasaki (seen here warming up).
After this we were all ushered out as a group back through the way we came, and the kids were given their Ackley t-shirts (the evening’s promotion – all kids 14 and under got one). We then went on to the playground and let them (especially Ciárán) run around for nearly an hour. On our way to our seats the kids entered a coloring contest (all picked Ichiro).
Since “King” Felix Hernandez was pitching, the King’s Court section of Safeco Field was open, and the throne was out. If you’re not familiar with the ritualization of a Hernandez home game, you should. It is one of those wonderfully quirky things that makes baseball so enjoyable.
We got some food (an issue I have that is the subject for another blog post) and found our seats in time for the first pitch.
And what a game it was. The Mariners played like a real baseball team. Oh, sure, they actually ARE a real baseball team, but let’s be honest, there are times when they don’t play like it. I may be a fan, but I’m not above being honest. It’s easy to root for the Mariners when they are doing well, and a lot of fans turn their back and say nothing when the team does poorly. At least we never turn our back on the Mariners.
Fortunately, the Mariners didn’t turn their back to the ball against the Twins. Felix Hernandez did a good job, and Ichiro generated some mystique when he stepped up to bat. My son asked why Ichiro does “that” (holding the bat out in front of himself vertically) before getting into position. I replied that he’s a bad-ass baseball samurai and can do whatever he wants to when he steps up to the plate.
The 7th inning especially was huge, and this may be one of my favorite images of a baseball game. Granted, I haven’t been to a lot (comparatively) but this one will stick with me. Bases loaded from a couple of hits and walks, one out, and the Twins all converge on the mound. They know they are in trouble.
We left for home after the game exhilarated. It was a great day at the ball park.
Thank you Mariners.