Really, this weekend could not have gone any better. I will be finishing it up by going out to play Pokemon GO! with some friends this afternoon while the Mariners finish up their series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. When you make plans and look forward to something for months, you envision certain things and maybe expect certain things out of what you’re going to do. We all do that to an extent, I think. Outside of waiting in super long lines both days (which wasn’t even really a burden, considering), these past 48 hours have gone pretty much exactly how I wanted them to, which is no small feat when your expectations are high. This weekend has met my expectations and them some. This may seem overreaching, but I honestly can’t thank either the Mariners organization or the residents of our fine city enough for making my weekend something I’ll remeber for the rest of my life. I could not have asked for anything more.
So yesterday, with thoughts that there would be no parking left because of a massive influx of early-arriving fans, I left the house a little too early. I managed to get free parking in the spot I use for work, and there were of course still plenty of other spaces around, so while I felt silly, I also felt smart. I walked north on 1st towards the stadium, where people were trickling into position in front of the gates. Not a lot of people, but enough that at 10.45AM it seems a little excessive; but I can’t blame anyone for their day. I went into the team store and purchased both commerative patches with what should have been more reservation, given the cost of $15 apiece, but I was having a good day and didn’t care.
I walked to FX McRory’s, thinking maybe I’d have some coffee and breakfast while waiting for other people, but it turns out they’re not open until noon, so I went up the street to Cafe Umbria, got a cold brew and sat outside checking Twitter, where I found out that the Mariners had made some moves and had gotten none other than switch pitcher Pat Venditte! So I was stuck there, by myself, being extremely happy about this news and having nobody to share it with! Obnoxious, right? Ah well. At noon, I went to FX, pushed some tables together, and waited until people showed up. We didn’t get a lot of people, but we had more than I’d been able to claim table space for, and managed to fit everyone in still, eat and drink and talk, and in spite of a busy restaurant, got our checks and were able to leave to get in line on time. Meanwhile, Gregg Greene Tweeted this:
The Ms were wearing 24 while taking batting practice; it was the last time that number will be worn by anyone anywhere within the Mariners organization. During actual BP, a lot of them were wearing their hats backwards also. I kind of wish I would have gone into the early entry for season ticket holders, but I’m OK with what we did, too.
Myself, Su, and our friends James and Tiffany waited in line to get in for around 45 minutes again, but this time we spent most of our time in the shade of Century Link, rather than on the sidewalk on Occidental. Again, the line stretched out far behind us as fans poured in from every direction. Again, Seattle was on its best behavior. Well done, all. Once inside, we hung around in The Pen underneath the new spot for retired numbers, where Jackie Robinson’s new plaque was already out and shiny new in the afternoon sun, and Griffey’s was veiled under a large Mariners insignia. We chatted with some other folks we knew, watched the Root Sports NW crew get ready, and when they closed the roof partially for jumbotron visibility, we went upstairs to find our seats before the ceremony started.
The field was all done up for the occasion:
They even got the plane that usually flies the Geico ads around before the game to just knock it off for the day and fly a different banner:
The Mariners big whigs and Griffey’s wife and daughter came and sat in their chairs on the field. The Griffey sons were not on hand for the ceremony, and neither was Griffey Sr. The kids had football practice for their respective schools.
Then they started the presentation and whoa the star power! Baseball players both old and young, singing the praises of the guy they played with or the guy they grew up emulating. Other athletes who’d worn the number 24. Hall of Famers and soon-to-be Hall of Famers. Randy Johnson. Jamie Moyer. Alvin Davis. Edgar Martinez. After the initial presentation, Rick Rizzs stepped to the podium and said “Myyyyyy oh my!” to a thunderous roar from the crowd. He introduced Griffey, and I thought he was going to come out on the red carpet, but should have known better; they let him out of the center field gate, and all 45,000+ people in the crowd were on their feet. He walked across the field towards the dais area, waving at everyone.
When he got to the corner of the 2 there, he kissed his fingers and bent down for a moment to touch the grass. Crowd went wild, of course.
Griffey greeted everyone on the dais and then Rizzs announced the guys you knew were going to be there, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer, and Edgar Martinez (in uniform, who came out of the dugout but didn’t stay on the field).
I think my white balance was a little off for yesterday’s cloudy sun glare, but you get the idea.
Rizzs then announced that Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray had proclaimed that yesterday would be Ken Griffey Jr day in Seattle. It was not clarified if this would be a yearly situation or not, but the thought was nice. The Space Needle has been decked out appropriately for the weekend, anyway.
To complete the group on the dais, retired Hall of Fame Seahawks Cortes Kennedy and Steve Largent joined in, along with Seattle Sonics Spencer Haywood and Gary Payton.
Tony Perez and Rickey Henderson also joined the party. Then (and I should really start taking note pads for this stuff, but I thought I’d remember), Griffey was given a bronze glove by an athlete I do not know. I feel poorly about this, but my grasp on the history of the Mariners before I got into baseball is still being filled in, let alone any knowledge I might have of the Sonics or Seahawks. I believe it’s Gary Payton. The woman on the players’ side is of course Marilyn Neihaus. I have only met Marilyn once, and she was a very sweet lady. It makes me happy to have her around and still active with the organization.
Interspersed with everything were more recorded accolades on the jumbotron, including Willie Mays, who was giving Junior hassle for not calling him when he got elected to go to the Hall of Fame. As the clips were still rolling, Griffey took his phone out and – you guessed it – dailed Mays. He left a message, according to multiple reports, but he did in fact call.
Mariners president Kevin Mathers took just a bit of time to announce that next year, there will be a Griffey statue outside the stadium. I’m not sure where, I think the home plate entrance. This is fantastic, as every other stadium I have been to has a statue or multiple statues of ball players from the team’s past. If we’re going to start with anyone, it should be Griffey; and how amazingly appropriate that the other statue will also be Dave Niehaus, of course.
Then it was time. Griffey’s daughter Taryn had somehow snuck out without notice to the deck in center field for the unveiling of the number. You can see her in the white right above it.
And just like that, it was done.
Griffey took the podium to say some words, and while all of this drama was going on, Taijuan Walker still had to continue warming up in the outfield.
This speech seemed a little more polished and a little more smooth than the one he gave at the Hall of Fame, but it was still tremendously emotional. Maybe it was that he was speaking at “home”, and that a number retirement is a little less harrowing than the actual induction ceremony, I don’t know. And there were thanks, of course, but the most important thing he might have said is (paraphrased, regarding the players waiting in the dugout) ‘These guys are playing for you, for the city.’ Then “Keep supportin’ these guys.” This of course set of a roar from the audience. Then he said, in regards to Henderson’s frequent self-referential comportment; “Lastly, Rickey, you were the greatest. Today, I’m the greatest. Thank you.”
After his speech was over, the whole team came out to congratulate, and have their photo taken:
And after all of that, we still had a game to play!
Taijuan Walker took the hill against Tyler Skaggs and things started off on a bad foot, with another three-run homer by who else but Mike freaking Trout.
That’s not Trout, but it is Chris Iannetta, who was so miserable at the bat yesterday that they replaced him with Mike Zunino in around the 6th or 7th inning. I like Iannetta well enough, I guess; I mean, I certainly did at one point in time. But he’s had some hard games since just before the All Star break, and is sort of following down the line of a lot of other catchers we’ve had. I am hoping his issues are just temporary.
Shawn O’Malley was truly the big deal of the game last night, hitting the HR that would put us over the Angels for the rest of the game, and making a fantastic play on the field to get an out at first. I didn’t see this latter bit as I was on Twitter for a moment. Twitter is both fantastic and detrimental for me this way. The crowd erupted multiple times in “Shawn O-Mal-ley! *clap clap clapclapclap* chants for the remainder of the game. Franklin Gutierrez was a triple away from hitting a cycle (those triples are so difficult to get), and Guillermo Heredia hit his first major league home run EVER. It was a crazy night. We also got some relief from Tom Wilhelmsen and of course Edwin Diaz to close it all out again.
The final out of the game was a double play to gun out the runner at first, and it was clearly and easily called by the first base umpire, but Mike Scioscia – in what has to be one of the most ludicrous moves I’ve seen in a while by a manager – decided he wanted to challenge the play. I don’t know how easily managers are embarrassed (probably not easily), but the review took almost no time at all, as the replay showed the runner out at first by a mile. The guys waited on the hill with the home plate ump while the call was maintained.
And of course it was, and we all went nuts at the win.
Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki was called in to pinch hit in a game in Colorado, and got hit 2,999. You can see a .gif of the hit at Angie Mentink’s Twitter feed from last night. He was up anothe time in that game, but did not get number 3,000. The press was ready, however. He is in the lineup for the Marlins in Denver today, and may get his hit while I am out and about.
Shawn O’Malley was interviewed for the post game, and got a giant tub of orange Gatorade dumped on him, and the crowd was so loud with cheers and chanting his name that the interview was barely audible over it all. O’Malley said he’d never had anything like that done for him before, and couldn’t stop smiling. He said he could hear us all during the game, so that answers a question I had over whether or not that might be true.
I’ve probably missed a bunch of stuff that I should have taken notes on to remember, but the past two days have been amazing, and an event I think a lot of us will be talking about for years to come. As I’m posting this, James Paxton is pitching in the top of the 3rd inning, with a 1-0 score in the Angels favor. I would love a sweep, but won’t be able to finish watching this game due to prior obligations. That’s OK. There are 162 games in a season, and every once in a while I could use a break. We’ll get back on the train tomorrow evening.
Oh, and lest I forget…a lot of teams have retired player numbers. But do those numbers light up? I think not. Congratulations, Kid. Enjoy your retirement.