SECTION 331

Pushing a Giant Baseball Up a Hill and Watching It Roll Back Down Since 2008

My Stupid Back is Indifferent To the Mariners Rotation

I’m still suffering from a pinched sciatic nerve, and the only way to make it better is to sleep, so rather than writing – which I should be doing – I go home and sleep with pain meds and muscle relaxers. It’s hard to pay attention to baseball when your life revolves around pain meds and muscle relaxers, no matter how much you like baseball. Then again, right now I like pain meds and muscle relaxers too, and I can’t enjoy much of anything while I’m feeling like this, so they win.

Looks like Abraham Almonte got his roster spot, thankfully. Stefan Romero did, too, which is great. I am hoping that this is not another rush-too-soon situation, along the lines of what happened with Brandon Maurer last year. I liked Maurer, but I really like Almonte, and I would be kind of bent if he wound up needing more time at triple A a month into the season (which, knowing my luck, he might; I will prepare myself accordingly). Endy Chavez and Humberto Quintero were released yesterday, but per that link above, Chavez decided to stick around and play in Tacoma, so that’s nice. Endy’s good utility defensively, and he hits a ball every once in a while. We got a guy if we need a guy.

As for our rotation…I don’t even know where to start. Randy Wolf is gone per release due to a change in deal the Mariners offered that he felt was not worth it. Shannon Drayer has the full story with quotes and the whole deal here. After reading that, I kind of can’t blame Wolf for taking off, because he is right; once Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma are back and healthy, he would very likely have been the third wheel, as it were. Yet another case of the Mariners making friends and influencing people, it would seem, but this time I don’t blame either party for making the moves they did. Wolf wants to pitch, Zduriencik wants his rotation to be the best it can be all year long. It’s kind of a bad deal for Wolf, but it had to happen. Scott Baker also was released at his own request. Scott Weber at Lookout Landing feels that this is a shock, but I haven’t heard anything good (or really, anything at all) about Baker at all the past few weeks, so I can’t say I feel one way or the other about it. Not being able to listen to ST games this month due to radio issues, I have no opinion on Baker at all either way. Good luck to them both.

So now I guess we wait and see what happens with the roster finalizations, which absolutely have to happen in the next five or so days. Five days until Baseball That Counts. Can you dig it!

I will be at the Mariners Open House event this upcoming Monday. I know for sure that my friend Jessica is coming, and the other  ticket will likely go to Tom. One, the other, or both of them may have the “pleasure” of pushing my sad ass around Safeco Field in a wheelchair, unless some miracle happens in these next five days, and my back fixes itself or gets fixed. The fact of the matter is, I cannot stand up well and walk without a vast amount of burning pain shooting down my left leg, which is annoying in the least, and unbearable at the most. I will never ever again chalk up sciatica as mere “back pain”. It’s so much worse than that. The wheelchair thing is definitely not my preference, but it may have to be the way things are that day. I am hoping to be all or mostly better by the home opener, as I have no desire to have my friend pushing me around stadiums out east, the saddest go-cart in the world. Here’s to hoping my insurance covers durable medical equipment.

Additional note: I hope to grab some time to work on my Citizens Bank Park preview post this weekend, while Tom is down playing a show in Mexico. I can’t believe this trip is coming up so fast!

Fridays at Safeco, On The DL

Starting on a personal note, this has been an interesting week. Some of the vertebrae in my lower back have managed to twist themselves into doing this obnoxious thing where they press on my sciatic nerve. I have heard of this condition before, and while it sounded painful, I had no earthly clue exactly how painful it truly is. Until now. Last Saturday I was very happy to see Orioles, Mariners and Phillies games all in a row on TV, until I started cleaning the house and managed to get into my current predicament. So this week has been nothing but an endless slew of muscle relaxers, painkillers, physical  therapy, as much in-office work as I can tolerate, and as much rest and prescribed stretching as I can stay awake for, while taking muscle relaxers and painkillers. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, seriously. It has been a nightmare for me, as I am someone who values my freedom of movement and my ability to do what I want, when I want, how I want all the time.  Rather than writing up game recaps or talking about anything baseball-related, I’ve been hazily paying attention to anything that hovers into my field of vision, promptly forgetting it, and really really hoping I can get rid of this or at least make it tolerable over the course of the next two weeks.  I have places to go, things to do and people to see, and I would prefer to do it with my back and without its drunk friend Sciatica. Yuck. I tried to get up early this morning to write this, but the kittens got trapped in the bedroom, and my alarm clock got unplugged, and my life sounds like a really awful 1980s sit-com now here are some pictures…

One of my favorite yearly events the Mariners do is of course Turn Back the Clock Night. The further the clock goes back, the better. The 1980s one was alright, because they played some decent music, but I really enjoy decades prior, particularly the 40s, 30s or 20s. This last year I believe were the Aughts, between 1910 and 1920. The stadium was devoid of modern music or other distractions, there were no cues for the crowd to clap, and in between batters being called up was this kind of wonderful summery crowd murmur, with the breeze hitting the Terrace Club and making the 90-some-degree temperature tolerable. MarinersVision is still on, however, but with a bit of a difference with old-tymey-looking team photos and other tidbits of news about the time period being emulated. It’s a very different atmosphere at a game, and frankly I find it quite relaxing.

IMG_3170The “Seattles” and “Spokanes”…not really names that inspire fear in the heart of the opponent, but then again, nobody’s really all that worried about the “Mariners”, either, I suppose.

IMG_31781910s or not, The Ackley Boys were still there, hanging out in the 300 level with their assorted gold letters. I hope they have used the offseason wisely and managed to create an “N” for “Cano”. They’re going to need it.

IMG_3191Raul Ibanez talks with second baseman Darwin Barney during a lull. I love the old look uniforms, but they never seem to fit the modern players like they did the players from yesteryear. I love seeing old photos of these grown men that look like little kids wearing ill-fitting baggy wool uniforms running around the bases with hats that barely fit their heads. Given my bent towards fashion from that time period, my mother always says she thinks I was meant to be born in a different time. I think she’s right; but there is no way you could get sushi at a ballpark in 1922. I think I like it here better.

The Mariners play the Padres in another exhibition game tonight. I am going to try and stay up to watch for as long as my medication will allow me to. I do like a good challenge. Meanwhile, tomorrow night at 1AM PST, the Diamondbacks open up the baseball season in Australia with a game against the Dodgers in Sydney. I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that this started on the 31st of this month, but apparently things are getting underway sooner. I am actually glad about this, as it means that the Open House event at Safeco will not be attended on as much of a lack of sleep as I was thinking I was going to get. I am the winner!

 

EDIT: I am so very awful with time zones. Damn. Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers is actually on tonight. At this rate, it will be a miracle if I’m able to watch actual live games on the east coast when I’m actually there.

Fridays at Safeco

I didn’t do a game recap the other day because I just wasn’t in the mood, but it was an interesting game to watch. The Mariners of course won in 10 against the Chicago Cubs, in spite of our best efforts to commit as many errors as possible and look all-around unpolished and disinterested, but there were definitely a lot of bright moments, too. Nick Franklin did a dugout interview with Dave Sims that got a little out of control, and Ty Kelly hit the walk off to get the win. If you watch the video clip there, there are a myriad ways the expression on Kelly’s face could be interpreted. It could be a look of nervousness, a look of confusion, or just wide-eyed determination helping him slap that ball down, but he probably walked away from that feeling pretty decent about himself and life in general. The M’s beat the Diamondbacks in a televised game yesterday that I would have loved to have watched, but work destroys everything, alas.

So one Sunday last year, my friend Eric shot me a text and asked if I wanted to go to a game as his guest for a suite. Apparently there was an extra ticket, everything was already paid for for the most part, and Felix was pitching. Normally, I’m not a fan of what I call “indoor baseball”. I won’t, for instance, sit inside the Hit It Here unless I’m cold, hungry, or both. The suites are not technically inside, but they are a level of comfort I am neither used to nor require to watch baseball. I like my bleachers, I like feeling like I’m really outside. That said? This was a pleasant experience, though I pretty much did it wrong because I was too hungry to wait for the food that was going to come to us and instead went and got sushi. After seeing the food  that was brought in eventually (if memory serves there was poached salmon and some sort of asparagus dish, with a bunch of other stuff I didn’t even see because I was too busy watching the game on a full stomach), I am kind of kicking myself for not waiting, but perhaps there will be other chances.

The weather that day was really nice and warm, and we had shade and a breeze up on the deck there. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.

IMG_3251Phil Niekro’s Braves jersey was framed and hanging in our room. That is of course me in the reflection wearing my Player to be Named Later shirt and carrying a Hello Kitty bag because that is how I roll.

IMG_3261The great thing about the suites is that they are a really good vantage point from which to take on-field photos. The net around the backstop is still a bit of a pain, but it’s always going to be if you’re trying to take a photo from behind the plate. The suite level at least allows you to get a really good view of the mound.

IMG_3322Look at that weather! I’m sitting indoors right now at 5AM, and it is pouring down rain and a bit windy. We have had  a few peeks into nicer weather this morning, I am just hoping the weather isn’t doing the March/April psyche out where it starts snowing or is nothing but rain over the next few weeks. As it is, I am becoming a bit nervous about the weather during my trip, since it is my understanding that NYC got more snow the other day. If you haven’t been already, feel free to follow me on Twitter, I will be posting pictures and observations as I travel. Like I said, this is a super big deal for me, so I’d like to share it with others.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s 1PM game on ROOT! Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

Mariners 2014 Commercials Are Here!

I know a lot of us wait every year for this, so here is a link you can find them all at, and they’ll autoplay them all in a row. I don’t have a favorite, I like them all, but I have noticed that other than the glorification of Robinson Cano and Felix (because how do you not glorify those two), they have sort of kept the hype down this year. I find it sort of ironic that the Justin Smoak commercial from last year might be brought back this year, given Smoak’s increased hitting, but I like that they didn’t go overboard on the praise for anyone this time around. Also, I love the not-so-subtle nod to Game of Thrones in the Felix commercial. Well played, marketing folks. Well played. Also, kudos with staying with the True to the Blue slogan. It’s a concept that doesn’t go out of its way to build any players or any expectations up, and describes a lot of Mariners fans to a T.

Speaking of Smoak, he has recently been flagged as the first baseman for the 2014 lineup, and I am A-OK with that. As much as it’s enticing to talk about Jesus Montero being “serviceable” at first base, and the bit of power he was showing over the weekend, it is clear that the Mariners aren’t in a hurry to change their minds about how Montero’s career is going to go this year. Don’t get me wrong, I would totally love to see him do well. In spite of my annoyance with players who do steroids, Montero at least didn’t pull an Alex Rodriguez or Lance Armstrong and try to cover it up. He took his suspension, came back and apologized, and, as a fan, I’d like to give him a second chance. People have also been concerned about his weight, but weight doesn’t necessarily deny power, and if all Montero is going to wind up as is a power hitter, who cares how pudgy he might or might not be? If his hitting improves and he can make 1B work for him in Tacoma, then that is just cake, because then we have a good backup if Smoak gets injured. It’s going to be weird getting used to him there and not behind the dish, but if it can extend the guy’s career, I’m all for it. I just hate seeing guys make it to a certain level only to find that they can’t keep up. I know a lot of people don’t even make it out of single A, but I don’t know those people. I know Montero. Good luck, man.

I am getting lost in work and MLBN programming lately, so this took me a bit by surprise (the next game I was planning on watching was going to be this Saturday on MLBN), but Dave Sims says that ROOT is broadcasting tonight’s game. This is great, as I’ve been literally crashing on the couch right after dinner the past few days after (very hard days at) work, then waking up with my neck in weird positions, depending on how I’m sleeping and how many cats are on me at any given time. This gives me something to look forward to today, and between this and the great sunny weather we are having at the moment, it will just drive home that spring and real baseball are coming very soon.

Speaking of which, I picked up tickets yesterday for the Open House the Ms are doing on  Monday, March 31st. I am hoping at the moment that I can stay awake for all of it, as I will have been up since 12.30AM to check out the Diamondbacks and Dodgers game in Australia. If it was any other team than the four I like, I wouldn’t bother; but I love an adventure, and currently getting up at midnight and going to work after a baseball game is about as adventurous as things get around here. If you see me, say hi; I might be delirious at that point, but I’ll definitely be happy about it. Am also hoping the weather stays nice for a bit so I can wear my soon-to-be-finished new jersey to the game.

Twenty seven more days until the Mariners home opener, twenty seven and a half/twenty eight more days until I fly out to Washington DC for my trip. I can’t put into words how excited I am, so I’m not even going to try. Looking forward to seeing the Ms play the Chicago Cubs tonight. Oh, happy day!

It Doesn’t Count, And I Don’t Care

I have watched a few Orioles games this last week, but haven’t been able to see the Mariners due to being at work. Tonight was the night! The Mariners played the Dodgers in the second game of a split-squad double header. I have only been to one proper major league double header, and it was glorious. Lucky people in AZ!

I don’t actually remember Josh Beckett coming to the Dodgers, yet there he was, pitching to Abraham Almonte, who sent a single into right field. Almonte eventually got picked off at first while trying to maintain a running lean while Beckett pitched to Kyle Seager. Seager also hit a single, on the second pitch thrown after Almonte was sent back to the dugout. I like the hitting, but the baserunning didn’t start out so well. Seager was out at first on a double play off the bat of Nick Franklin, not managing to get back to the bag in time. Blake Beavan was on the hill for the first inning, and gave up a single to Dee Gordon, who hit a hopper to Franklin at short. Franklin overthrew to first, and Gordon wound up safe. Gordon then stole second on a terrible catch by Carlos Triunfel, then things went completely bonkers with bad catching and bad throwing on the Mariners’ part, and Gordon stole third. Then Beavan walked Carl Crawford. With men on the corners, Beavan faced Scott VanSlyke. VanSlyke broke his bat driving Gordon in. Crawford got to second safely on yet another bad catch. So the throwing and catching might need some work. I can’t even describe the mess that followed, but the Dodgers came out of the first inning with a 3-0 lead.

So things are starting out here very Mariners.

But it didn’t last long. The Mariners came back in the top of the second to tie the game, courtesy of a Justin Smoak walk (walk!), and two home runs from Jesus Montero and Stefan Romero. I don’t believe in relying on power for runs, but they came at a very good time. In the bottom of the second, Alex Guerrero managed a single with one out. The single went right past a diving Jesus Montero, who, frankly, was really nowhere near the ball’s trajectory, but at least he gave it a shot. Montero is still looking pretty heavy, and I don’t know how his other games have gone, but it appears that he may have lost usage of his hands. I don’t mean that in any serious way other than to describe that he just can’t seem to get a glove on the ball. He did make a nice catch on a foul, but if this is the Mariners hope for first base, we might really want to look elsewhere. Yes, this is only one game, but it’s my first of the year, and seeing stuff like this a bit depressing. I want to give Montero a second chance, I really would like to see him do well.

In the third inning, Justin Smoak took a chunk out of a Beckett fastball with two outs and Nick Franlin on, and sent it over the right field wall. There was a brief chat between Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Beckett, but Mattingly left him on the bump to get his last out. Blake Beavan was still on the mound for the bottom of the third, and pitched center field flies to Abraham Almonte, who I am really starting to like based on this game alone (not to mention everything I’ve heard). Jesus Montero caught the final pop up over the foul line at first to end things for the Dodgers.

In the fourth, ex-M Jamey Wright took over for Josh Beckett. He gave a run to Stefan Romero, hit by Carlos Triunfel to make a three-run gap for the Dodgers. Logan Kensing took over for Beavan in the bottom of the fourth, and almost got beaned by a comebacker from Juan Uribe. Had he not been able to get his glove up in front of his face in time, he would be on his way to an emergency room visit. Uribe hits hard. The deflection also made it possible for Nick Franklin to get some leather on it and get Uribe out at first. Joc Pederson hit a massive long ball out to center, and it hit the top of the fence by the batter’s eye. There was a umpire meeting to discuss what the call would be, and it was determined that it was a double. A massive hail of booing from the Dodgers fans present followed, I think they were hoping for a home run. The fifth inning was oddly uneventful and run-free from both sides, unless you count Jesus Montero once again failing to catch something (on a possible terrible throw from Kensing – I looked away for just a moment and didn’t see it) and giving Dee Gordon a double. And Carl Crawford advancing Gordon with a single. And the inning being ended with a Stefan Romero throw from left field to get Gordon out at the plate. Replay shows a very questionable out, but since it’s to our advantage, I’ll take it.

Jose Dominguez had the mound for the top of the sixth and took down Stefan Romero, James Jones, and Carlos Triunfel in quick order. Five pitches worth, to be exact. The Mariners had some kid named Andrew Carraway pitching for the bottom of the sixth. Carraway has a very natural throwing motion, not the typical high-kick or windups you usually see. Unfortunately, Joc Pederson put all he had on a pitch and sent it over the right center field into the crowd, scoring Scott VanSlyke. GameDay currently has it listed as Juan Uribe’s doing. Silly GameDay. In the seventh, the Dodgers made a ton of lineup changes, keeping Jose Dominguez in to pitch. So did the Ms. Tyler Marlette took a walk, and Xavier Avery grounded to right field, sending Marlette to second. The two advanced on a passed ball from the Dodgers’ catcher, Nick Franklin at the plate. Franklin grounded out at first, and then Justin Smoak stepped up. Smoak looks more confident, more relaxed than last year. From what I understand, he has been getting some hitting coaching from Robinson Cano. Hopefully, it helps improve him. He left Marlette and Avery stranded though, swinging himself out. Carraway pitched the bottom of the seventh, getting Alex Guerrero out on strikes, giving Dee Gordon a single, and getting Carl Crawford to fly out to right fielder Cole Gillespie (who? Seriously, this is starting to become like an Aquasox or Astros game for me, I don’t recognize any of these names). Dee Gordon stole second (he’s clearly very good at that), and Brendan Harris took a walk. A one-run game with an untested pitcher, who was replaced with another untested pitcher in Jonathan Arias, and a commercial break. Arias issued a walk, to load them up. Arias had to face rookie first baseman Aaron Bates, and took him down, saving our one-run lead. Yay!

I took a break during the 8th inning to eat dinner and was in the kitchen when Jesus Montero hit his homer, and due to the fans clapping and this being a generally slow day for me, I cursed from the kitchen. Tom told me from the living room that it was a Mariners hit, and that made me a little more comfortable. As I spent some time away from the laptop consuming said dinner, Cole Gillespie crossed the plate, 8-5 Mariners. Jonathan Arias gave the Dodgers a walk in the bottom of the eighth, but nothing else. Dodger pitcher Paco Rodriguez and labored through the top of the ninth, having a little bit of trouble with Mariner Chris Taylor, but ultimately, three outs were had, and no runs. The Mariners would rest securely at 8. A certain Danny Farquhar was sent in to close, but it wasn’t pretty. Catcher Tyler Marlette didn’t help much either, but it was really Farquhar’s wild pitches that made things a little tight and scary. Ultimately, though, Farquhar got Aaron Bates to smack one to right field that was fairly easily caught. Game over, 8-5 Mariners.

So it was kind of a weird game. Some idiot ran out onto the field (behavior I will surely never understand) in the last inning, and during a break in the seventh, there was a little fellow, maybe about three, fully dressed in a tiny Dodgers uniform and wearing a blue glove bigger than his head, who found his way onto the field; the announcers made a crack that maybe he wanted to play. He was gently escorted back to his family. I wish I could find a photo of him, he was ridiculously cute.

 

 

Fridays at Safeco

I have been working on a Citizens Bank Park preview this week, but again, I have been busy. For those who are unaware, my job is doing administrative work for a company that handles the tobacco quitlines for about 25 states, and multiple corporate contracts. The CDC launches a campaign at the beginning of each year to help encourage people to quit smoking. Last year it lasted until March; this year it won’t end until June or July. This week has been particularly difficult, so at the end of 8 hours of work, I really am too brain dead to do much writing or research. This weekly post I have been getting up an hour earlier to do when I can; otherwise, it’s posted on Saturdays. I don’t talk about my life outside baseball much, but felt I needed to explain the continued lack of activity here. Citizens Bank has quite a few interesting features to it, and the MLB.com site for the Phillies is Inception-like in it’s links to this or that, so it’s taking me longer than “normal”. Whatever that means. Anyway, on to the pictures…

IMG_2254A wee little Instagram picture I took last year, mid-season. One thing I absolutely love about our park is the view of the downtown area. When I chose section 331 for my first season, I picked it specifically because it was behind the plate and up high enough to get a view of downtown, the scoreboard, and the game. I like the closer view I have been experiencing with tickets in left field over the past few years, but there is something about the 300 level that is just wonderful. Every now and then, I’ll go up to the area over right or right center, and sit in those seats by myself and just take everything in. It’s especially nice on hotter days, because the breeze from the Sound kind of rolls around up there.

IMG_3113Hisashi Iwakuma, going in for the strike. One of the mysteries of pitchers, for me, is how they can throw so fast while winding up like this. If you’ve tried it (I have), you would notice that it is a completely unnatural motion for a human being to make to merely throw things. I get the concept of putting all your power behind the ball, but the coordination of lifting your lead foot while getting ready to throw in a straight line boggles me. I can either throw in a straight line like a person would normally throw something, or I can do something like this and the ball does whatever it wants. A friend of mine once tried to teach me how to pitch (he played in school), and he would instruct me from the plate on what to do. He is lucky to be alive, though I’m pretty sure a 30MPH pitch (and I’m probably being generous) wouldn’t have really hurt anyone. What I lack in pitching ability I make up for in gripping the ball. That, too, is unnatural, but if you need a grip on a forkball or a knuckler, I’m your gal.

IMG_2257I tend to overlook a lot of art in the park, as over the years, it has just become more of the scenery. This year, I want to get good photos of all of these, as they are everywhere. This one, in case you can’t tell, is behind center field. I was waiting for someone back there on a warm day and noticed that the fence separating Safeco from the rest of the world features these little plaques. Similar plaques can also be found on the front of the home plate entrance, along the gates. I am hoping I have the time and wherewithal to notice small pieces of art like this in the parks I will be visiting in a month (seriously, it’s in a month!), but I have the feeling I might be a little overwhelmed.

I have been watching a few Spring Training games here and there on TV when I can. Sunday and Tuesday I managed to catch the Orioles playing the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively. Tomorrow, the Mariners are playing the Dodgers (I think?) at around noon or 1PM, which will be broadcast on ROOTSports NW. Since work has been taking it out of me this week, I have not been able to get to the store to grab batteries for my little sport radio to listen, so I have been keeping a general eye on Ms scores, but nothing in depth just yet. I guess Fernando Rodney allowed a run and two hits the other day, not really something you want to see from your closer, but it’s still early. We had a four-run advantage prior to that, so I’ll cut him some slack, but given the Mariners propensity for creating 1-run games up until the 9th, I’d feel a lot better if Rodney was more stable.

Looking forward to actually seeing the Mariners tomorrow; I will be trying to get that Citizens Bank post up over the weekend as well. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Fridays at Safeco

I did manage to listen to yesterday’s game, and loved everything about it. Hearing the mysterious trumpet guy in the background of the broadcast for the first time every year is always a treat. It may grind on the nerves after a full month, but it is always a hard and fast reminder of the fact that baseball is nearly here. I am not of the impression that the game will be broadcast today, but will look into it later today while at work. Our firewall blocks a lot of stuff, and some websites work oddly because of it; I should have been able to use the link from Shannon’s page with no problem, but the link I would up using was from the ESPN site directly. I never claimed to be good with IT.  Anyway, I digress. We beat the most hated Padres (sigh) 7-1, and oh, it does my heart good to be able to see this again.

Jack Zduriencik was in the booth for an inning or two, talking about how the guys were looking. Apparently, there were some intersquad games on Wednesday, and the fact that nobody had been hitting home runs pleased him greatly. He acknowledged that the fans like the long ball, but said that moving guys around the bags was what matters fundamentally. I don’t care how they do it, I just want them to do it. Home runs are exciting, sure, but I’m not a proponent of them by any stretch. Small ball does just fine by me. I’d rather have a tiny victory than a glorious defeat.

With that, here are your three photos this week!

IMG_3030Ichiro sizing up Felix in a Yankees uniform. I think my heart died a little typing that sentence. I know it’s super uncool in a lot of circles to admit this, but I still and will always love Ichiro. Along with JJ Putz, he helped cultivate my love of the game. The more I found out about the way Ichi plays the game, the more I loved the game itself. Very few players today exude the kind of calm and concentration that Suzuki does at the plate. Infield singles for everyone!

IMG_3100Mike McCready of Pearl Jam plays the National Anthem before a game. I believe this might have been at one of the games vs the Cubs that I went to; I wound up at two last year because fireworks night was on a Friday, and it was followed by Turn Back the Clock Night on Sunday, which I try always to go to, particularly if it’s throwback to like the 20s or 30s.

IMG_3154One of my favorite pictures from fireworks night. I went with friends Gray and Ethel, and we had gotten left field seats, but of course had to leave them prior to the game ending so we didn’t incur the wrath of sparks. We wound up at the top of section 315 and had an excellent view. I have it on my calendar at work, but there are at least three of these nights again this year. An excellent move by the marketing folks, in my humble opinion.

And bonus material for today, a video!

Mike Zunino, on fireworks night, hitting the walkoff for the Ms. I remember feeling happy that we won because last year was so dismal, but being simultaneously sad for the Cubs. The poor Cubs. I have made a personal promise to myself that if the Cubs ever make it to the playoffs and the Mariners are not a factor in that, I will very much root for the Cubs. But let’s get the Mariners on top, first; I can only handle so much at once.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

No Radio, No Dice

My mother  got me this nice iPod bench with an AM/FM radio switch and an antenna that should have allowed me to listen to games without having to fight the numerous electronic devices in this building that kept me from being able to listen clearly a few years ago. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do what it should and I still cannot hear the games in this building. Either that or I’m doing something really wrong by turning the thing on; I literally cannot figure out why it would not be working. But whatever; as soon as I get some triple A batteries, we’re going to do this the old fashioned way again and hope that the fact that I no longer sit near a server room helps. What a mess.

In order to play catch up this week, since no amount of trying to sneak around The Times’ privacy filters seems to be helping me to actually read the articles there (and I have not yet gotten around to paying them, I swear I will), I have been checking out Shannon Drayer’s blog for the first time in a long time. I’m a bad fan, I know. She has today’s lineup as this:

Abraham Almonte, 8
Kyle Seager, 5
Robinson Cano, 4
Logan Morrison, DH
Justin Smoak, 3
Michael Saunders, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
Brad Miller, 6
Mike Zunino, 2

Honestly, I only vaguely remember Almonte from last year. You can’t really forget a name like that, but then he just sort of disappeared. I am going to try to make sure I get the game tomorrow at noon. I am glad to see Cano further down in the lineup than 2. Might actually like to see him at 4 or 5, but that’s only going to be helpful if the others are hitting, so as McClendon says in the article linked above, they have a month to figure this out. Hopefully they do. I really want this to be a big year; at least, bigger than others so far in the past 6 years.

OK, off to harass someone on Twitter to keep me up on how everyone is looking today. Go Mariners!

 

EDIT: Twitter success! For whatever reason, the link on Shannon’s blog didn’t work, but the one I was just given from ESPN does! Baseball! IN MY EARS!!!

Fridays at Safeco, Saturday Edition

Yeah, I’m late. Again.

So things for the trip east are slowly but surely shaping up. I managed to find a decently-priced battery case for my phone the other day and that is on its way. It will be great for games here, too, since stadiums really tend to suck the juice out of the phone and often I find myself unable to take pictures or text due to the phone dying. Not normally a huge deal, but if I need a ride home, texting/calling is sort of necessary. The only thing I really have to do (but really don’t have to do) is get my jersey lettered. I’m not sure if I’m going to take it on the trip with me or not, but I would like it for the home opener here. This is all precariously dependent upon money right now, and weather; unlike my Putz jersey, my new one actually fits me, and there is no room under it for hoodies or other warm clothing. Doesn’t seem like much of a point to rush to get it lettered if the lettering can’t be seen.  And if it seems like I’m nitpicking on any details, it’s because I am. This trip is a pretty big deal for me, and even seven weeks away, I’m really sweating the small stuff.

Well, since I’m headed off to Birds territory soon, let’s kick it off with everyone’s favorite MarinerOriole:

IMG_2833As odd as it may seem, Adam Jones still feels like a major loss for us. I don’t know if others have had any benefit of time healing some wounds, but I’m still feeling it. If Chad Bradford started my interest the the Orioles, the Adam Jones/Erik Bedard trade was what cemented that interest, and part of what keeps it alive today is Jones’ continued presence on the team. That and after 5-6 years, you just don’t abandon what you love, even if it’s far away and you don’t get to see it but only a few times a year.  I am looking forward to seeing him play on his home grass.

IMG_2913The blurry, delicate ballet dancer that is Hisashi Iwakuma. This is not a good photo, but I love everything about the way he pitches. As everyone is aware by now, Iwakuma’s not going to be ready for the start of the season. This seems like a very Mariners thing to me by now, but I am concerned because starting pitching has really dried up in the free agent market, and I don’t know how I feel about our other current in-house options for the remainder of the rotation. Between this, Taijuan Walker’s “shoulder soreness”, and a look at our 40-man, my hopes for the beginning of this year are not terribly high. I’m not really complaining though. I miss baseball so much that even bad baseball is better than no baseball at all at this point. I’m not try to cast any aspersions, just being realistic.

IMG_3049This is the last photo I took of Mariano Rivera, outside of some really bad pitching shots from left field. It was the last time I saw him in person, and when he came out of the bullpen, my friend Jesse and I stood up and cheered. I was looked at by Mariners fans who likely thought I was a Yankees fan, but no, of course not. Just a fan of the game where things like retirement and awesome players are concerned. I like to pay respect where respect is due; and it was definitely due. I kind of wish we had played Enter Sandman, but at the same time realize that would have totally gone against all of baseball’s codes regarding, y’know, the home team. Ah well. You will be missed, sir.

Sometime between when I started writing this post and, well, now, the Seattle Times started requiring a payment of $0.99 a week to read their sports articles (the articles I posted above in links were easily read with a click earlier this morning, and I took some time out to eat lunch and such before I continued writing here). Since this is pretty much all I read from their paper, this is very disappointing to me. I will debate paying because it’s a small amount and I like our sports beat guys, but frankly, I don’t read stuff every day, and sometimes the articles that come into my inbox aren’t even about baseball or Seattle sports, so it will have to be something I think about. It’s probably more of an option after April and May, when I will be done with my current financial obligations.

One of the reasons this change is disappointing to me (outside of being so abrupt), is that there is an article here talking about Jesus Montero’s weight that I had hoped to read today and now can’t as easily. Quoted in the daily email is the tagline: “It’s up to him,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.” Ouuuuuch. Ouch. That stings. As much as I feel badly for Jesus Montero, and having things like this said about your performance and general being out in public for the world to see must surely be disheartening, Montero has nobody to blame for his present condition other than himself. I understand that there was also a recent sad press conference regarding his links to the whole ARod/steroids thing and his suspension. Unfortunately, this is the price you pay. The price we pay is Jesus Montero on the Mariners. I hope for all our sakes that he gets it together and surprises everyone, but I guess this is why we have John Buck now.

Last weekend, we had a party and a friend of mine and I were discussing the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez making it to Seattle, and some of the gossip surrounding Mariners’ interest in Nelson Cruz. Well, all of that was for naught, because both players wound up in Baltimore, and now we have come full circle to April’s trip!  I think the O’s paid probably about $3-$4M too much for Cruz for the time (I am cheap, cheap, cheap! and therefore, probably unrealistic about money), but that is neither here nor there; he’s not going to be Seattle’s issue, and it seems like a lot of people are happy about that. Jimenez, on the other hand, I would have loved to have here. Oh well. The Orioles’ roster is now chock full of players I like, which will make watching them more fun. A few days ago we were rumored to have been looking at Chris Capuano.  Now we’re not anymore. Ervin Santana is still up for grabs, but there is not much left for free agents anymore. Due to Robinson Cano being here, it looks like Nick Franklin is likely mostly out of a job, so perhaps he can be used to trade for an arm while the remainder of the pitching is sorted out. I don’t really want to lose Nick Franklin (yet another case of “wow, look at this guy!” turned into “well, now we trade him.”), but I also don’t want to compromise our SP, and Cano’s contract sort of wins here, I’m guessing.

So that’s it for today. Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

 

Catching Up on Mariners Email

So a few weeks ago after seeing the headline of this article, I made a snarky comment on Twitter about it taking longer to get into Safeco now than it normally does due to having to wait not only for bag checks, but also to get through and possibly be rejected from metal detectors. At least at the left field gate, there were detectors being used during FanFest, and while I cannot vouch for whether or not they were responsible for holding anyone up (since the lines were so long, it could also have been the numbers of people, of course), I can say that they did not hinder me. My main worry is that there are very few pieces of outerwear that I own that don’t have some sort of buckle, chain, or some other bit of metal on them; I almost always get stopped in airports because I left a belt or something else on, and I am accustomed to that level of metal detection because I really have nothing else to compare it to. But if FanFest was any indication, it should be rather smooth. I anticipate Opening Day to be a bit of a mess, but it usually is anyway, so I’m not too concerned.

I don’t really think I said much about this when it happened because I wasn’t sure what to think (it all seemed so surreal), but I am glad we rid ourselves of Carlos Peguero. He (and his wife) can be the Royals’ problem now. I don’t know from Scott Baker, but hopefully there won’t be any members of Baker’s family willing to take advantage of any members of the rest of the players families on this team. I wasn’t shocked when it was announced Peguero was being DFA’d, and I never once assumed we’d attempt to assign him to Tacoma or anywhere else within the organization. Outside of the problems it could have potentially caused in the clubhouse to have him here, I’d like to think that fan backlash would have been outrageous. I’m sure he has his own issues to deal with at home, but after the Josh Lueke situation, the last thing we need here is a mediocre position player whose wife has stolen from our most beloved pitcher’s family. I’m not blaming Peguero for his wife’s transgressions, certainly, but it’s negativity and drama I just don’t want on my baseball team. Personally, I have no tolerance for people who steal from others, or who take advantage of other people in such an underhanded and cruel way. She has plead guilty recently, and will be sentenced in May.

Late January, MLB approved of protective headgear for pitchers, some of whom may be wearing it as early as this year (though I haven’t heard anything further on it since this article was posted). You can see a picture of the prototype at that link. Yeah, it looks about as ridiculous as you might expect. What I’m wondering about (and what is not really addressed in the article), is why, if there was really a call for such a thing, are pitchers not opting instead for wearing double-sided batters helmets? More protection would be afforded, certainly, and it is a product that has already proven itself in the line of duty. This thing is heavy, and it makes the wearer look like a little kid wearing an adult’s hat. I realize appearance isn’t everything, and am well aware that the game has a history of criticism over its safety wear every time something new was introduced – the first catcher’s glove was not looked upon kindly at its inception – but this seems a bit of overkill, when we already have batter’s helmets, an item that most pitchers are already more than familiar with wearing. I am sure I must be missing something, it just seems like a horrible waste of money and research.

The Ms recently gave Fernando Rodney a two year contract for closing duties. Rodney is a veteran but he has been pretty much lights-out for the past two years. I don’t know a whole lot about Rodney, who spent the bulk of his career in Detroit, but I remember playing close games against him and realizing that we were screwed when he came out onto the hill. I think I might have been confusing him with Francisco Rodriguez due to his time in Anaheim, but the photo in that link above made me remember all the times I’d stayed up late for games, only to have that sinking feeling as Rodney took the hill, dusted himself with rosin, and faced our sad little offense with that hat crooked to the side. I’m glad he’s with us now. I love Tom Wilhelmsen and always will, but it was breaking my heart to see so many games just slip out of our fingers when Wilhelmsen threw a handful of decent fastballs then immediately gave up his command. Rodney’s numbers may have gone down over 2013, but 37 saves in 45 chances is nothing to shake a stick at. Am looking forward to seeing what his walkout song will be; at 9.55PM, after a full day of work and full of beer and tacos, I found it really difficult to get jacked up over Jimi Hendrix. I appreciate Wilhelmsen staying true to himself, though, and I’m glad he’s still here.

February is killing me. The weather in Seattle has been the awful windy and rainy weather that we normally get during the month, and it’s been dark a lot. If I think about it, I can sort of smell grass and see the sun and taste the Mac & Jack’s Amber (my default, until they start carrying Newcastle; I won’t hold my breath)…but then I look out the window behind my desk at work and see the dark and gloomy and realize that even though we’re closer to baseball than we were yesterday, we still have a bit of time to go. My main concern right now is being rained out of the east coast games I am planning on attending; if nothing else, it will make me far more appreciative of Safeco Field.

Fridays at Safeco

I need to get on the ball soon and start listening to sports radio again. It is difficult at work because my radio is stationary, and I have to be up from my desk a lot, but I’ll figure out a way to make it work. So far, I hear that Spring Training isn’t going so great for the Mariners; we’ve got an injured Hishashi Iwakuma who will miss pretty much all of Spring Training with an injured tendon in his throwing hand, a slightly overweight and profusely apologetic Jesus Montero who has only a fraction of a chance at even making the team out of spring, a Franklin Gutierrez who is feeling so awful that he has already let the team know he just can’t play at all this season (hail to our Canadian overlord Michael Saunders), and from what I understand Taijuan Walker has some issues as well, though I have not been as up on the news lately as I’d like to be. EDIT: a bad shoulder that is “nothing major“. Oh, boy…deep breaths, deep breaths…

In any event, pitchers and catchers have reported, the rest of the team is not far behind, and I am currently planning on attending what will be my first baseball “event” of the season, with a few folks from Lookout Landing at a little joint called Gastropod in March. I have actually been wanting to try this place, since my bus goes past it just about daily, so what better opportunity? I hope to find some good beer, some great food, and some excellent baseball conversation. Or at the very least, a group of people with whom to yell at the TV when everything goes horribly, horribly awry.

Now for the good stuff, pictures!

IMG_2932Brad Adam and Dave Valle get ready for a little pre-game broadcast shenanigans on a nice sunny day. Valle has recently been appointed to take over as manager up in Everett for the Aquasox, and I could not love that news harder if I tried. Now that I have a better work schedule that allows for things like Friday night games and easy travel up north Saturday, I will have to see about going more frequently. Lead them to single A short season victory, Dave!

IMG_2209The view from my “normal” perch in section 182 over left field. I am going to miss these seats specifically, but I will still be there, every Friday that I can.

IMG_2971Tom Wilhelmsen, doing a bit of pre-game (not pre-9th) warm-up. I have recently started collecting MacFarlane baseball figures here and there when I find one I like particularly, and have a few extra dollars. They sit on the corner of my desk at work. One of them is Cliff Lee in a Phillies uniform, and it is posed almost exactly like this. Planted foot twisted inward, back foot up in the air, arm flexed across the body, leaned forward. Lee leans much more forward than Wilhelmsen does, and Lee’s throwing arm is bent at the elbow, but that front foot is what I love about the figure (all the ones I own have a specific feature to them that makes me think the manufacturer really got it right), and it’s what I love about this photo. That and the fact that it’s Tom Wilhelmsen, who I hope to see plenty of this year. I also hope to see plenty of Fernando Rodney, who passed his physical and is coming in to help the bullpen this year.

Words cannot express how much sadness I have over Franklin Gutierrez’s health issues. I feel tremendously awful for him and for his family (he will not be paid this year for having to opt out, of course), and I feel just horrible for What Might Have Been. To see such a light stomped out so soon is heartbreaking. He is 30 now, and sadly I have known people with IBS and Crohn’s Disease. It doesn’t go away, and it doesn’t get better. It can be managed, but Gutz will probably never be the same as he was in 2009, when the late great Dave Niehaus named him Death to Flying Things. I wish him much health and healing this year, and do hope he can play again; preferably in Seattle.

Other than all of this, my plans to head out east are still shaping up nicely. I plan to make the jump to the three-hours-ahead future with purple hair, and am still trying to scrape up the money to have my jersey lettered at STT Sports in SoDo. I am hoping to stop by their office next Friday after work and see what they can do for my plain navy blue. Baseball starts in only a few weeks, folks! Time feels like it’s dragging, but we’ll be there before we know it. Have a great weekend!

Thoughts on The Double

Forgive me for re-hashing the past. A lot of Mariners fans on the Internet I know feel tired of the reminders of the Mariners glory seasons of 1995 and 2001, perhaps in part because while both teams were incredible, they didn’t win the big prize at the end. That said, I keep thinking about The Double, and just how remarkable an event it was in the scope of baseball. Let’s set aside some of the items that people always note: I’m not going to spend much time here to talk about how it was the Hit That Saved Baseball In Seattle, and I’m not going to talk much about Chris Donnelly’s book about the whole thing, titled “Baseball’s Greatest Series.” I’m just going to talk about The Double itself.

Well, that’s not exactly correct. I want to talk about how unlikely The Double was in the first place. I mean really, why on earth would you pitch to Edgar Martinez with the game on the line?

Martinez was having an absolutely monster series, hitting 11-for-20 with two doubles, two homers, and nine RBI, and if you’re not a fan of the small sample, just take a look at his regular season: his .356 Batting Average, .479 On Base Percentage, and 52 Doubles all led the American League.

Maybe then-Yankees Manager Buck Showalter believed in his pitcher’s ability to go get Martinez out? Personally I’m not a big fan of individual player splits, but Martinez was 10-for-33 against Jack McDowell in his career before he came up in the bottom of the 11th with Joey Cora on third base and Ken Griffey Jr. on first. It’s certainly not like McDowell owned Gar, and it’s not like the Yankees hadn’t considered putting him on before – in the 6th inning of Game 3, McDowell gave Martinez four wide ones to load the bases with the Yankees down one, opting to face Tino Martinez instead.

That plan had backfired. Tino led a string of three Mariner singles capped with a Luis Sojo sacrifice fly for a four-run inning to give the M’s a 6-1 lead. In this game, however, Tino had been lifted for a rookie pinch runner by the name of Alex Rodriguez.

The question remains to Showalter: You did it before, why not do it again?

Seattle had already used their entire bench, so it was a sure thing Rodriguez (who had a .232 BA in 149 AB that season) would be the next batter. Behind Rodriguez was Jay Buhner and backup catcher Chris Widger. Clearly Buhner was the biggest threat of the three at the time; and he was having a great series as well (11-for-24 with 1 HR), but he’d just wrapped a season where he posted a slash line of .262/.343/.566, with the BA and OBP both being down from the previous two years. He also had the 9th most strikeouts in baseball with 120. At that point in the game you wouldn’t be worried about his power, you’d be hoping to strike him out or double him off if you got through young A-Rod.

It strikes me as a special thing that Edgar that not only was given the chance to hit by the Yankees, but that he happened to be the batter coming up with the winning run aboard in the first place. One of the unique things about baseball is that you don’t get to put the ball in your playmaker’s hands. There is no baseball equivalent to a Two-Minute Drill led by your star quarterback or letting your team’s leading scorer put up a buzzer-beater for the win. Even when you do get your guy up there in a key situation, he’s liable to be walked like Barry Bonds in the 2002 World Series (where he was intentionally put on seven times, including twice in the first inning!). David Ortiz and Derek Jeter have created reputations out of making it happen at key moments, but for every one of them there’s a Cody Ross or a Doug Strange or a Sid Bream who comes out of nowhere to deliver. Suffice it to say, the Mariners could have won the series in other ways.

The M’s had two on and two out for Vince Coleman in the bottom of the 10th. The Win Probability at that moment was 62% for Seattle, just a few percentage points lower than the 68% it was when Martinez came to the dish in the 11th. If Coleman had collected a hit, Strange would have been the winning run and Rick Rizzs would have done the play-by-play of the action. Aren’t you glad we got The Double instead?

Alternatively, A-Rod could have done it. A walk to Edgar would have put the series-deciding run in scoring position and put the Mariners at something like an 80% Win Probability. If Rodriguez had broke through with a hit to win the series instead, would the Mariners front office have paid him the $252 million to stay in Seattle after the 2000 season so he didn’t go to Texas? Would he have gone to Texas anyway and changed our entire perception of Mariners history? Would he have become a better human being? Well, let’s not get carried away.

What we got instead was something special. A series delivered by a clutch hit from a career-long Mariner. It was the defining moment of a career and a franchise, from a guy you want to go out and name a street after.

Another Delayed Fridays at Safeco, Not At Safeco At All

Actually, this may take on a whole new meaning this year; since it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to afford a lump sum for season tickets like normal, I hatched a different plan, to possibly go to every Friday home game; spreading out the expense, and giving myself something to look forward to several times a month. We’ll see if it works with money and such, but that is the current plan for now. I can’t spend a summer not going to the park.

Today, I’m going to take a different approach. I know I haven’t acknowledged the SuperBowl like at all, and I don’t mean to let it go unrecognized. I know very little about football; I have actually probably forgotten more about baseball than I know about football. But the Seahawks did an amazing thing this year, and I watched it on TV and watched it on the streets below while I was 20 floors up this last Wednesday. Fair warning, these photos were taken on a camera phone through a window, so they may not be the greatest. But this is what I saw on Wednesday.

IMG_1080The sunrise that morning. Yes, it’s an Instagram photo. I love Instagram. Shut it.

IMG_1081This is Marion Street at 3rd Ave, about an hour or so before the parade started.

IMG_1082A small plane flies the 12th Man flag around the city. It had to change its flight pattern quite a few times, due to news helicopters and police helicopters flying around the area, taking pictures and keeping an eye on things.

IMG_1083Closer to the time the caravan came to our area. I had to rotate the photo, I was trying to get as much of a shot of the people on 4th as possible from my vantage point.

IMG_1084One of the buses at the start of the caravan. The sun was starting to descend west, and created shadows on everything.

IMG_1085These people must have been freezing! They were not the only ones, however; pretty much every building within my line of sight had at least a couple of people on the roof. Our building is 44 stories tall, so attempting the roof (if I’m even allowed to get up there) would have set me back a lot farther from the scene than I already was.

IMG_1088The reroute of traffic caused quite a mess on 3rd Ave. Drivers didn’t seem quite sure what to do with themselves, and the weird street angles near Yesler and Jackson probably didn’t help a whole lot, especially as the parade was nearly at the stadiums.

I got off work at 3.30PM, just in time for a lot of the fans who had been at Century Link and Safeco to be swarming the bus mall looking for transportation home. I was able to grab my bus before an onslaught of fans followed me, and got a seat. By the time my route got to its last two stops in SODO, the driver had to tell people waiting that she didn’t have any more room. We were standing room only all the way up to the driver’s cab. I heard stories of people missing up to five buses trying to get to work in the morning because of people coming into town. Early estimates placed the crowd at 700,00, but later this week, they were guessing it was actually around 450,000 on the street. Some of my co-workers went out to brave the elements and take pictures, but I was not in the mood for such shenanigans. It’s been cold in Seattle the past two weeks, and the more I can limit my time out in the weather the better.

Congratulations, though, Seahawks. Ya done good!

Washington Nationals Park Preview

Monday, I found out quite abruptly that single game tickets for the Baltimore Orioles had gone on sale. I thought I was subscribed to their mailing list, but now that I’m thinking about it, I may have unsubbed due to too many emails. Figures. Lower deck tickets were mostly sold out for the April 12th game I am planning on attending, but StubHub came to the rescue, and I now have some pretty decent seats. I probably won’t be completely relaxed about it until I am able to print them (the seller has not yet placed the actual tickets on the site yet, I only have the section and row I am sitting in), but I have gotten them and that is a step closer to being there.  Coincidentally, my Mariners home opener tickets arrived in the mail the same day. We still have some days until pitchers and catchers report, but we’re getting closer and closer to the beginning of the 2014 baseball season.

Part of my trip, of course, involves a 4PM game at Nationals Stadium on Thursday April 10th. The game is against the Marlins, so I’m not sure how excited about it I can be, but neither the opponent nor the home team are the whole point of this journey; I just really want to go see a ball game in DC, and investigate a new park. To this end, I’ve been doing a bit of research online to find out what I need to know about Nationals Park and its surroundings.

Everything I have heard or read so far from various sources says that the best way to get there is a public train line that arrives near or at the stadium. I am not sure how we will accomplish this, but am relying on my friend to know more of his way around the area than I currently do (my knowledge of DC is limited to driving mostly in the dark, and mostly in the worse areas of town, where nightclubs I have played exist or existed. I have zero directional knowledge of the city). My goal is to take in a museum somewhere in the city earlier in the day, though I have not decided which one. I am anticipating a bit of jet lag given my early morning departure time the day before, so I am guessing that will impact whether I actually make it to a museum, or spend the whole day eating everything at Nando’s. As it is, I plan on grabbing dinner there the night before, if GPS and my friend’s driving are both successful in getting us there. In any event, I’d far rather just drive to the stadium and find parking if possible, but if not, I’ll hop on a train, sure, why not? Nothing quite as comforting as taking public transportation in an unfamiliar city. Parking, however, is a bit expensive.  That train looks slightly more appealing now!

I will also be in DC just as the cherry trees are blooming, by happy coincidence. The Stadium has “fourteen Kwanzan Japanese Cherry Blossom Trees” within the stadium; eight in the Center Field Plaza, and six more on the main concourse in left field. I find myself wondering if the field is kept free of pink “snow”, and looking forward to how beautiful the city will be at this time of year.

Nationals Park also has statues:

World renowned husband and wife artists Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt along with Jody Rotblatt, Sean Bell and Oscar Leon, worked hundreds of hours to bestow on Nationals Park the likes of Josh Gibson, Frank Howard and Walter Johnson in white bronze. These Negro League Baseball, Major League Baseball and D.C. sports icons have now staked claim to the Center Field Plaza where they can be seen, admired, discussed and argued over by all who enter the gates of Nationals Park. Known for many types of art mediums, the team from the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highwood, Illinois has created such artistic immortalizations as Michael Jordan, “Magic” Johnson, Gordie Howe, Ty Cobb and – Mr. Take Me Out to the Ballgame himself – Harry Caray.

You would think that the MLB.com team websites would all be set up quite similarly to each other, but unfortunately that is not the case. While the Orioles and Mariners sites have A-Z guides that are pretty inclusive of all the things to see and do in both parks, other teams’ sites are not as cut and dried.  The Red Loft and Red Porch are mentioned in their A-Z guide. These sound very similar to the Hit It Here Café and Lookout Landing, though the Loft and Porch are above and below each other. I have posted a picture of the field below, and indeed, there they are in center field. A little more poking around and you have an absolutely insane list of concessions. If you click on that link, your head might explode, and you will definitely be hungry. The options are wide, and unlike things we have here in Seattle. Of particular interest to me:

Dolci Gelati
Features traditional Italian gelato in a variety of flavors

Gluten Free
Features an assortment of gluten free food items as well as beer

Field of Greens
Featuring some healthier options at the ballpark, including salads, wraps, sushi and fresh fruit and vegetables

Kosher Grill
Features Kosher Hot Dogs, Knishes, Falafel and Shwarma. Under the Supervision of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington

Hawaiian Shaved Ice
Features sno cones in a variety of different flavors and sizes

Curly W Pretzels
Featuring the “Curly W Pretzel”, slushy puppies, and pretzel dogs

Samuel Adams Brewhouse
Featuring an assortment of Sam Adams Brews

Are you kidding me with all of this?! I’ll never make it out of there alive! Or, at the very least, I’ll gain an additional 10 pounds! This is totally nuts. I think I may be shooting for a falafel and Curly W pretzel, with a battle between shave ice and gelato to top it off. If you’ve never had proper Hawaiian shave ice (and there is a massive difference between that and sno cones, so I’m hoping that the Nats do it right), it’s just wonderful. If you’re in the city here, you can try it out at the Marination Mobile in West Seattle, and there is a cart that shows up to some of our local street festivals that also has it. Get it with ice cream, you won’t regret!

nats parkI have been told by a few people now that the park is just beautiful, and everything I have seen online makes it look very clean and pleasant. The seating chart may take some studying. Whereas Safeco has three levels, and a few sections that are pretty easy to figure out, Nationals Park has more sections at a bunch of different price points. I generally think of Safeco as having three levels with price points that aren’t all that different from each other, but I think that’s mainly because it’s so familiar. Nationals Stadium looks like this:

nats2The main concourse seating area is divided up around the middle, making the more choice seats behind the plate a little more roomy than it is here at Safeco. It will depend greatly on my finances over the next few weeks (holy cats it’s a matter of weeks now!), but the nicer seats might be fun to check out. I am still waiting for single game tickets to go on sale.

So I know literally nothing about the Nationals as a team except that Mike Morse did pretty well there, Doug Fister was sent over recently, and they’ve got Bryce Harper.  And, of course, Stephen Strasburg, Mariners fans’ favorite thing to moan over a few years ago, when we were battling the Nats to the bottom of the barrel for a first draft pick. I would love to see either Strasburg or Fister start, but I’ll take what I can get. The gates open two and a half hours prior to game time, so I am hoping to have a lot of time to check things out, take pictures, and walk around. And yes, I will be rooting for the Nats to win. I might even buy a shirt.

Fridays at Safeco

It’s going to be a busy day for me, so trying to squeeze this in before heading to work. Our building is going to be a mess of Seahawks partying today; we have a giant “12″ in green and blue projected on the wall downstairs so big you can see it from the street, and Fatheads Seahawks figures on the wall. This is the first time I have worked in a building that has supported a sports team to this extent, even the last time the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl in 2005, and even when the Mariners made it to the playoffs in 2001. I am but a tourist here. Will try to enjoy the ride.

So let’s start off with the best thing (or one of the best things) the Mariners have to offer the world of sports:

IMG_2728Yay, Felix!

IMG_2689In my mind, I keep referring to this as a “hubcap”, though I don’t know why, as it is clearly made of license plates and bottle caps. I love it. As I mentioned last week, I don’t go through the right field entrance usually, so this was one of my big discoveries early last season. I’m sure it is old news to everyone else.

IMG_2117This is center field. Or more accurately, the stairs leading up to and the underside of the bleachers in center field. When I was doing a lot of art back in college (mainly painting and sculpture), lines of things fascinated me. There is just something about the juxtaposition of green on gray in this area of the park that I love. Plus, it’s nice and quiet back there, and if I’m waiting for someone, I’ll often head over to this area and make a phone call or just chill with my beer and people- (and sometimes Moose) watch. It’s especially nice when it’s hot outside, as there is a breeze that often blows through this part of the park.

Daniel told me he might have a slightly controversial post coming up, so I am waiting for him to submit it for my approval; not that he needs my approval, really, he is an excellent writer, but I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say. Until then, I guess I’m going to do the Seahawks thing this weekend. I am not a Seahawks fan particularly (certainly nobody would accuse me of bandwagoning, I save that for end-of-season baseball), but seeing how excited the whole city is really makes me happy, and it’s been a lot of fun. So for my friends, go Seahawks!

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