Wow. Where do I even start here? I guess the best thing to do is just start typing, and I apologize in advance if I forgot to mention anyone I may have met…
I did not get the free street parking that I initially sought when I left home around 10am, and instead figured I’d take the hit and just fork over $10 being advertised to park in the SafeCo garage. I hadn’t bothered to get cash, and there was a man out front collecting money, so the following exchange occurred…Me: “Are you only taking cash for this?” Him: “Well, let me ask you, what are you here for?” Me (pointing at SafeCo across the street): “The Seattle Mariners thing.” Him: “FanFest, huh? Weeeeell…let’s just say that today, it’s on me.” Turns out the $10 fee was for the people who were going to the Seattle Boat Show. Someone was also pulling out on the main level as I was coming in, so I snagged their spot. Me=1, Luck=0.
I walked across the street and gave my friend Rob a call. He had just bought his ticket and was walking along the massive (I’m not kidding) line to get to its end. We met on 1st, and strolled down toward what we thought was the end of the line – keep in mind that at this point in the day, it was only 10.15, a full 45 minutes before doors opened – but the line just kept going. It went around the block down Royal Brougham, towards the center field entrance. We made the decision to cut our losses and go across the street to Jimmy’s to have a cocktail and wait for things to die down. We drank slowly, one drink apiece, then a pint of ice water each. We were there for a good hour and change…and the line situation did not improve. Since neither of us wanted to continue to pay over $6 a pop for beer or another cocktail, we wandered back out onto the street, and pondered the line, which now curved almost to the left field entrance, but still wound back on itself along 1st Ave S. So we did what any logical person would do; we went to the Team Store. At first, my plan was just to browse – but we quickly figured out that people were being let in through the upper level, so we had the nice man at the door scan our tickets, and walked right on in! Me=2, Luck=0.
We walked the “SafeCo 500” on the main concourse, looking for the AquaSox booth to talk to broadcaster Pat Dillon there, and this is where it gets fun, and where my “big news” comes in (drum roll, please)….Mr Dillon has made me the Happiest Little Baseball Fan in America by inviting me to sit in the press booth for an upcoming AquaSox game, in order to write about the experience -which I most definitely will; I’ll even show up with my laptop! So though I need to check in with school first to find out about my externship, I am shooting for the ‘Sox home opener on Monday, June 21st. I wish there were some explosions or something that I could put up for this, but suffice to say, “Wooooooooooooooo!” More about that when it happens – the Sox short season gives me plenty of time to figure it out, and gives Mr Dillon plenty of time to change his mind when he realizes he’s invited a crazy person into his booth!
After departing the AquaSox kiosk, Rob and I wandered down to the Q&A area over the first base dugout just in time to see Dave Niehaus and Don Wakamatsu wrapping up their part of the show:
Sadly, I missed Chone Figgins and Ryan Rowland-Smith by about 10-15 minutes. I am hoping to catch them tomorrow. We camped out in some seats off to the side, and just sat and listened and chatted about what everyone was saying. Rob then decided that he needed season seats, and after trying to get me to cave in and go in on them with him (dude, I don’t have a job!), went to check out the left field bleachers. Shortly thereafter, fellow Mariners Tweeter Jason Simon tracked me down, and we sat and chatted about Mariners new and old between Q&A guests. Su (aka “msb” on Lookout Landing) found us, and when the scouting department came out, we all moved down closer to listen to them talk.
That’s Dave Sims with Carmen Fusco and Pedro Grifol. I neglected to take a note pad with me, which was a mistake. They didn’t talk about anything earth-shattering (though Su informed me later that during the talk with Tony Blengino, they gave the impression that they were not done with the search for the big right-handed bat), but it would have been nice to have had something to jot down notes on, rather than having to rely on my memory during what was indeed a very busy day today. I also neglected to bring my Teixeira baseball for autographs, another big mistake.
Next, Mark Lowe, Rob Johnson, David Aardsma, and Eric Byrnes showed up and took questions from the crowd. I liked Byrnes immediately. He is easy-going, quick to smile, and seems really stoked to be here. He was asked what he’d first like to do upon getting settled in Seattle. He said he wasn’t sure, but that he’d already been taken to the original Starbucks, and thought it was really cool. He had a vast amount of praise for all he’d heard about the way the club was run, and was very grateful for the opportunity. I love him already.
One woman in the audience asked Johnson if he was concerned at all about having to catch the first pitch on Opening Day, coming out of Randy Johnson’s arm-cannon. RJ said he was hoping to see Mr Snappy, because he’d heard so much about it from Dan Wilson that he wanted to see it for himself. Having never seen Mr Snappy before myself, I think I’d like to see that, too. This particular part of the Q&A ended with Dave Sims telling Eric Byrnes that he had a “special fan” who wanted to meet him, and that turned out to be none other than:
Because of the kickback on the mics, I didn’t catch why Wak is such a fan of Byrnes, but they both seemed happy about the meeting, and if they’re happy, I’m happy. It was also around this point in time (or so) that Jason introduced me to Gregg Greene, the Mariners Director of Marketing. If you’ve been to FanFests before, Gregg is often standing on the dugout off to the side, wearing a pair of headphones and running a tight ship.
Jay Buhner was the next up with Dave Valle, and Bone took a lot of questions about the 1995 season. At one point, he was asked if he would come out of retirement, and before he had a chance to respond, the people in the sound tech booth decided to have a bit of fun at his expense by playing George Thoroughgood’s “Bad to the Bone”, his old at-bat song. A rather large crowd had formed at this point, and everyone got a good laugh out of it.
After Buhner and Valle were done, Su and Jason and I decided that going downstairs to get out of the cold for a while was a good idea. On the way up the stairs, I met and chatted briefly with Erik (Bart’s Evil Twin, here – nice to meet you!), and then the three of us took the elevator down to Last Fan Standing, which was being hosted by Matt Pitman from ESPN Seattle. LFS is a trivia contest – there is a category given, and 5 fans are picked via lottery (ie; out of a hat) to respond. The categories are list-style, so something like “Name the Mariners RBI leaders for 2009”, for example. Each contestant gets 30 seconds to respond, and it’s round-robin until someone guesses an incorrect name (ala’ Family Feud), or runs out of time, eliminating themselves. I am not brave enough to participate -nor should I be, with my sad limited knowledge of Mariners past- but it was fun to watch. Jason and Su departed shortly after we got downstairs to get food and listen to the last of the Q&A respectively, but I stayed downstairs to watch the contest and try and warm up a little. Su came back down later, and we said hello to Pitman during a break, when suddenly, awesome photographer, fellow Batista-hater, and Twitter friend Paul Marsh appeared out of nowhere with his son and another kid whose name/relation I did not catch (sorry, guys!), and Shannon Drayer also materialized! It was like I was having some weird dream after eating too much pizza, which was driven even further home when an iPhone light saber battle broke out between Matt and Paul.
We bid farewell to everyone, as everyone had somewhere else to be, and Su and I finished off the day by grabbing a Major League Mariner Dog, and talking about road trips, camping, and of course, the Mariners.
That was definitely worth my $10.
EDIT; I did forget someone, but I didn’t mean to! I was briefly (very briefly, sadly) able to meet Moira Koskey, who used to write the Mariner Housewife blog for the Seattle Times. Unfortunately, there was not time to chat, and she was rocking a mean case of laryngitis, but it was her first FanFest, and I do hope she had fun, since she drove all the way up from Portland for it.