I am wiped out. Shuffling slowly in a crowd of people is far more tiring than a brisk walk. I think perhaps in the future a one-day Q&A is definitely on the agenda, since it’s genuinely entertaining, and maybe a visit to Last Fan Standing (I like trivia, I’m just not good at it) and the cooking demos, and that’ll have to be it…I say that now, knowing full well that I’ll likely go both days in 2011. All that aside, this is far more an experience post, and a lot less a baseball post.
I’m not going to go into much detail about the complete and utter failure of a human being we had the displeasure of “meeting” while waiting in line today. Long story short, a man who had been waiting in line for “several hours” got uppity at us for simply standing in front of him while waiting to get Jessica and her wheelchair into the wheelchair line. We weren’t “cutting”, as he accused us of doing, we were merely standing in front of him while waiting for the other line because there was no place else to stand, and that was what we were told to do by the staff. The other people around us were kind enough to realize this, and there was a lot of “Can you believe that guy?” murmurs. Further adding to what I hope was a massive amount of embarrassment for him was the fact that he still got into the event sooner than we did, after berating us for holding him up in line. I would wish negativity on him, but I have the feeling that things are already bad enough for someone who would freak out like that on someone in a wheelchair.
Anyway…we got inside, and while Brandon took Jessica to the elevator in her chair, their 10-year-old son Orion and I were guided by the staff to go up the escalator because it would be faster for traffic flow. We planned to meet up at the Q&A area. O and I took off up the moving stairs and took up residence in some seats near the dugout. Brandon and Jessica joined us later. Jess’s injuries are getting better, so she was able to leave the chair at the top of the stairs and walk down with Brandon’s help. Standing or walking for long periods of time is still not an option, sadly. We sat and chatted and watched a clip on the jumbotron of Jack Zduriencik thanking everyone for showing up, and apologizing for not being able to be there while he was in Kansas accepting the award for Executive of the Year (His intro line, “Unfortunately, I’m in Kansas City right now…” got a laugh from Brandon, who is from that area), and then, the first Q&A segment began, and suddenly a ton of people and photographers swarmed the area.
Mark Lowe, Chone Figgins, and Casey Kotchman showed up on the dais to take questions and talk about their respective positions here. A kid who was maybe 7 asked Figgins about being a member of the “haaaaated Angels”. Casey Kotchman looked a little cold and like he had just woken up, and Mark Lowe still looks like your stoner neighbor next door.
I have the feeling it’s going to take a Griffey-load of tickling to get Kotchman to smile. At one point as Lowe was attempting to answer another question about the bullpen’s gladiator helmets (some of which are still in his possession), a train went by (it was a fairly heavy train morning). Several minutes after that when Figgins was attempting to answer a question, another train went by. It almost appeared timed, and seemed to throw everyone off a little. Laughter occurred, more Mariners love-fest stuff, and all around, a good way to start off the day.
After I got the photos I wanted and the talking was over, we headed back up the stairs to get some food. I ran into Twitterer Cary Murphy, and brief greetings were exchanged, but the family and I were desperately hungry, so we couldn’t chat long, apologies. There were no lines that early, and for some reason today’s hot dog was much better than yesterday’s – they got the char on it just right. Delicious! We stood and ate and chatted about the upcoming weeks (Tom’s going to be leaving for Europe this Tuesday, and I’m trying to plan things with friends to keep myself out of trouble), and then walked over to the roof control room tour. This isn’t as much of a tour as it is an information session – not much touring to do in an 8×8 booth with a giant green button and two stacks of server/computery things. But it does afford a great view of the stadium from the center field vantage point, and also gets you up close and personal with the wheels in their tracks, along with some words of encouragement from the Seahawks organization:
I also got a picture of the current street work that is being done to extend a bridge over Royal Brougham to get people onto 4th Avenue and onto the freeway and ease a little of the post-game traffic congestion. I made a crack to Brandon that it figures that Washington state highways were built out of Styrofoam:
We loaded back onto the elevator, took the walk back around the north side of the main concourse, and found another elevator on the northwest side of the field that took us downstairs. Brandon has actually been on a game show before (on the Game Show Network, even!) called “I’ve Got A Secret”. Brandon’s secret is that he has a GI Joe modeled after him – and unfortunately, the panel guessed, so he did not win. But his family does like game shows, so I figured I’d take them down to see Last Fan Standing.
We were each handed raffle tickets (again, I had no intention of using mine, because I’m a giant chicken), and had a seat to watch. The first round none of us got called, but during the second round, Matt Pitman called Orion’s number. Completely taking me by surprise (Orion, like his father before him, is into comic books and video games, and doesn’t really do the sports thing), O popped up and ran to the front, procured his free batting practice hat (“It’s official” he reminded us later), put it on his head, and stood up on the stage with the other contestants. Apologies for the awful photo – I thought it had come out better, so didn’t bother taking another:
The category this round was “Mariners RBI leaders in 2009”. I’m not sure Orion even knows what a “ribbi” is, but the other three people who responded in front of him did not guess Ichiro, so O took it – no matter who you are, if you live in Seattle and you’ve even heard of baseball, you know who Ichiro is. So far so good. Suddenly, the next two guesses were eliminated, leaving three people up on the stage, including O. When his turn came again, he stood there, not knowing what to say. Pitman gave him a little bit longer, and O blurted out the only other name he knew in baseball, if only because of me: JJ Putz. This got a giggle out of the audience, but O was unfazed. Pitman asked the scoreboard if it had JJ Putz, and was met, of course, with a giant buzzing noise. This was when Orion got embarrassed, pulling the brim of his hat down over his face, and, admitting defeat, stepping off the stage and running back towards where we were sitting. The rest of the round ended with a winner of some game tickets, and we decided to go check out the cooking demo. As we were wading through people to get out of the room, we passed by Pitman, who slipped Orion a voucher for 4 view reserved passes to a game before May 31st! I’d like to put that sentence into multi-colored all-caps and have some glitter shooting out of it. I can’t even get over how cool that was, and it immediately took away all of O’s anxiety about what had just happened. So even though I’ve thanked Mr Pitman via Twitter, thank you again, so much; that made the family’s day, for sure, and you made a little boy very proud!
We got into the Diamond Club area to watch the upcoming cooking demo with the D-Club chef, and today it was 3-berry cobbler. It was an amazingly simple recipe to make (everyone got samples and recipe cards), and the demo was over much more quickly than in the past, and we found out why; apparently, SafeCo has partnered with a company called Centerplate to enhance dining experiences at the ballpark, for all ticket levels. There was a representative from this company to answer questions from the audience, but basically what it boils down to is this – there are going to be a LOT more dining options at SafeCo for 2010. Of particular interest to me personally is the fact that there will be a Greek food kiosk up on the 300 level (hummus and gyro at a baseball game? Yes, please!). The rep also mentioned a vegetarian (and fruit smoothie!) booth down on the main concourse, and several other options on various floors (including a prime rib nacho dish at the Club level). This is still in the test run stages – based on fan surveys from past years – and more elaborate food options will or won’t be made available as they dip their toes in the market this year. So bon appetite at SafeCo in 2010!
At this point, I had done all that I wanted to do, and so had my friends, so we escaped down through the Team Store elevator, checked and saw that no, there were no Aardsma t-shirts available yet, and wandered back to the car. All in all, despite the somewhat rough start, it was a good day.
And I am SO READY FOR BASEBALL SEASON TO START!