My Opening Night Was Not That Fun

Initially I wasn’t going to write about my experience on opening night. If anyone who reads this was following me on Twitter last night, you probably saw me unleash a multi-Tweet tirade about what happened, and really that should be enough. But I feel I would be remiss if I just glossed over it all. Plus, before that, I was having a pretty good time, and a lot of fun using the new camera, and if I don’t write about it, it just wouldn’t feel true to me. I have cooled down a lot by this morning, but this post will likely sound as if I haven’t. I’d like to make it clear that I am not upset at the people I know who work there. I don’t know what happened exactly or how it could have been prevented, but this was my opening night…

I got out of work around 3PM, after getting up at 5AM to make it to work an hour early so I could flex my schedule. The last two hours of work were torturous. I just wanted to be at the game, say hi to some folks I knew, and get down to baseball. I met Tom at Temple Billiards, grabbed a beer, and soon enough people started filing in. Fellow Mariners enthusiast Paul Marsh and his brother in law and another friend showed up; I believe some of the Lookout Landing crew had planned to meet there around 5; but I couldn’t wait, I was excited to get to the game. So Tom and I finished our beers, and walked down Occidental to the stadium. The crowds weren’t really opening day crowds. We didn’t even have to wait in a line to get into The Pen entrance. Once inside, there were more people, but it was easy enough to grab another beer before their happy hour ended, chat with the concessions girl who works there and always recognizes me, and just take in the atmosphere. Neither of us knew what we wanted to eat yet, so we took our time, figuring maybe somewhere in the middle of the game we’d be hungry and go grab a bite. It was a risk I’m sorry I took.

As The Pen started to get more crowded, and it drew closer to 6.30 (and opening ceremonies), we grabbed the elevator up to the 300 section, and took some pictures, and enjoyed the weather. It was the first home opener where the roof was open in years. The sun was out, people seemed in high spirits, and I got a patriotic shot from over center field.

See? Beautiful day for a baseball game.

We strolled around the top deck towards our seating section, and stopped at a concession stand so I could get a hot dog and one last beer. I had been thinking over the past few days that I’d give the new sushi bar a shot, but figured there would be other days, and I just wanted to keep things simple. Tom and I stood in line for a while before I started to notice that all the registers had a little red laser-light blinking on them. This had happened downstairs too, but I didn’t see any signs or hear any conversations in passing that anything was wrong, so I kept waiting. When we got to the front of the line, we were told that the registers could not accept debit or credit cards, and that they were now cash only. Tom fortunately had a $20 in his wallet, and paid for two beers. I put the dog off, thinking we’d wait a few innings and by that time their problems would be fixed.

We found our seats, got settled, and I started taking a bunch of photos to get used to the action of my camera. The opening ceremonies were similar to previous years, but it didn’t matter. I was at a baseball game, I was excited about it, and let’s play ball! They did their red carpet run, where the players come out of the center field gates with fireworks and, this year, a song I really love. This last bit is important, because sports venues rarely play music I like, so seeing all of this happen to a current favorite was starting to make for the perfect evening.

I couldn’t choose just one player to take photos of, and I wanted to add my voice and applause to the crowd as the boy were called out. The colors were marched out by the police and fire departments…

And this was the sight on the field, just prior to the National Anthem, which was sung by a very capable 12-year-old from Alaska.

Just prior to the National Anthem, though, there was a moment of silence for Frank Mattox and Greg Halman. In the moment, I had completely forgotten about this, and it took me by surprise. I stood there and sniffled for a few moments, and Tom put his arm around my shoulder, which only made it worse.Tom’s not a sports guy, but he knows how much it means to me.

If it is one thing the Mariners organization really does excel at, it’s pre-game program time flow. They followed up a sad moment with two happy ones; a young Make-A-Wish girl whose cancer is in remission taking her turn – in full Mariners gear – to run around the bases, and Mike Cameron’s return to Seattle to throw out the first pitch, and announce his retirement as a Mariner.

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown to Cameron’s teammate  – who else – Ichiro. After the pitch, the two gave each other a giant hug and had their pictures taken for posterity.

And then the Play Ball kid, and the King’s Court in full effect, and we have ourselves a ball game!

The lineup was announced again as they took their places on the field to the strains of (if I remember correctly) Nirvana, everyone cheers and freaks out over Felix, we take our seats and it’s game on.

That would be Josh Reddick, he of the mouth guard, taking a single out of the King.

After the second inning, I realized that hunger was starting to get the best of me, and what I really wanted was just some good old-fashioned stadium junk food. A dog, maybe a soft pretzel or a corn dog or something. So we left our seats, and this was the last picture I took from them, thinking that I would be able to get more shots from elsewhere in the field…right?

So we wandered around the top deck towards left field and the Lookout Landing. The lines and crowds seemed strange. People didn’t look particularly happy, for being at a ball park, and the lines were long, like really long, with big crowds of people blocking the walking traffic flow. But still, there was nothing out of the ordinary, really, not that I noticed. We made it to the Lookout Landing Lounge, a new feature of the park. I noticed a girl with a little cardboard bowl of corn dog bites. Perfect! I would eat my baby corn dogs, and take some pictures of the field and the sunset – everything was going to be just fine.

And we waited in line. And waited. And waited. After a good 10 minutes of not really moving much, I realized that the cashiers were just standing behind their machines, looking at the crowd, and that only one person was taking money from anyone. So I decided to ask “Is everyone cash only?” The girl nodded at me, explaining that the machines were down. At this point in time, this was not a problem; I would simply go down to the BECU machine on the main concourse over left center field, take out some cash and go get food. Right? Tom followed me down the stairs, and we pushed our way through an increasingly large and irate crowd, past the King’s Court section (which I hear was just terrible when people who were sitting there were trying to get their shirts), and to the BECU machine. In back of at least 30 other people. We stood there and listened to the drunk guys in front of us talk about it like it was some kind of conspiracy (“This is how they make their money, man!”  *insert straight face from me* The school system and simple economics has failed you, sir), before deciding that maybe the ATMs outside would be a better option. We went down the stairs, and tried to get out the door at the bottom of the stairs, but were stopped by an older gentleman in a Mariners NW green jacket, who told us that we couldn’t leave through that door. The open door he was just standing next to. He instructed us to go towards the entrance to The Pen, so we pushed our way slowly through more people…and found it locked, with no guards or any indication that we could leave. I attempted to talk to a fellow who was letting a couple of police officers, and told him we just wanted out, that was it. He apologized and said he couldn’t let us out. A man in charge of a door couldn’t let us out of a ball park.

Growing increasingly frustrated, we went back up the stairs, and back towards through the mess of people waiting in line for Grounders and to get back to the King’s Court seats, trying to cross an impossible crowd of people. I am probably not conveying exactly how bad the crowd situation was. I have been to less crowded mosh pits at sold out Henry Rollins shows than the group of people I was in last night. If there had been a fire or emergency of any kind, people would have been trampled to death – and I don’t say stuff like that lightly. It was a disaster.

Still, I was not giving up. I had waited through winter for this night, and I wasn’t going to let the failings of a few registers mess things up for me. So we were patient – or rather, I was patient, Tom had just about had enough of everything – and figured we’d go out of the building via another set of stairs in the left field area. We walked down these stairs, and were confronted by two NW green-jacketed employees, who told us we couldn’t get out of those doors, either…

I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that nowhere, NOWHERE, were there any signs or indications that this was the case. I also want to make it clear that these two employees treated us as if we were idiots for even thinking we could walk out of that door of the stadium.

By now, I had the start of a headache related to both stress and a lack of dinner, and I looked at Tom and said “Let’s go.” He stopped me and asked if I was sure, and I said yes. Even if we were able to get money, or food, we would miss the entire game in the time it would take us to acquire both of these things. It was then that Tom noticed a cardboard, handwritten sign on a nearby coffee stand, mentioning that the registers were down. This is where I make another thing completely clear – this was the ONLY sign we saw regarding the register situation. There were no signs anywhere, no announcement made over the PA (which would have been the smart thing to do, if you’re becoming a cash-only establishment for a few hours, quite suddenly), no alerts or notices about anything. And people were leaving the left field entrance in droves. I was one of them. My one last thought as we left was trying to get some cash out of the ATM outside and maybe go grab a dog from one of the street vendors; but the line outside was also growing in length, and I had to draw a line somewhere.

We stormed out of the stadium, with me vocalizing my frustration all the way back to the car (and Tom listening, bless him). We wound up coming home and ordering pizza (not nearly as delicious as corn dog bites), and watching the Mariners on TV, lose 4-0 to the Oakland A’s. I’m not even going to go into what looked like some really miserable concessions people, who I also felt sorry for, having to deal with what was undoubtedly a furious crowd. But not one of those concessions people thought to make a sign or use the talking microphone method of getting the word out – and that is just bad.

I don’t know what happened here. I vaguely remember something similar happening last year, but it didn’t last long. And I know I’m not the only one who had this experience. I was just the most vocal, and I have a Twitter account. What I do know is that it will make me think twice about going next year. Why subject myself to that kind of madness when I can invite a few friends over, grill my own hot dogs, and get food from my own kitchen and walk out my own door if I need to without being given the kind of attitude that I got, I feel I need to reiterate, for trying to leave the stadium? And if the Mariners keep playing 4-0 games I might have to think twice about my season ticket holder status, which completely bums me out.

I am normally the biggest pro-Mariners person you know. I defend my team, I love my team, I want to see them and the organization that puts them in front of me succeed, absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably. But this experience and the game it hovered around was just awful.

It is now time for me to go to work. I hope others had a better night last night than I did. I will be watching tonight’s game from the safety and comfort of my own living room, with concessions from our grill and refrigerator. And I hope my next post will be happier than this one.

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24 Responses to My Opening Night Was Not That Fun

  1. It sounds as though things finally came back online just after you finally got someone to let you leave the building…

    • Megan Shear says:

      Yeah – by the time they tweeted that things were back online, I was already home eating pizza. :/ I did get that schedule for you, though, and shall keep it nice until next we meet. 😀

      • Blaine Wright says:

        After all that beer and no food they’re lucky you didn’t rip the registers off the counter and throw them on the field. If this happened in New York or Philly I hate to think of what could have happened. (OK, my West Coast bias there)

        Watching the game on TV I didn’t have a clue any of that was going on. The Mariners players looked pretty clueless, too. My only comment on the new, more capable offense is to quote a great player of the past: “This is like deja vu all over again.” I know Felix says he likes being in Seattle, but if I were him I’d do anything to go play for a team that could score a few runs for me. I know it was only one game, but I ended up with a feeling of “well, there goes another season down the toilet!”

        Thanks for the pictures and the coments.

  2. Bart's Evil Twin says:

    Ugh. Sorry to hear about your experience, and to have it on the home opener really bites. Cindy and I had been thinking about going, but ended up watching it on TV instead. Thanks for posting the pictures, and hopefully next game will be better. 🙂

    • Megan Shear says:

      Eventually I will get better photos this year. There will be other games. I’m still kinda tweeked about the experience, but I’m not as angry as I was last night. I feel kind of bad because I know one of the people who runs the Twitter account, and I felt like I was taking it out on him specifically. I just didn’t know what else to do. 😦

  3. You hit on most of the frustration that I felt as well, but I’ll add a few more gems.

    Being that I’m vegetarian, I feel a bit limited in what I can — and or want — to eat at the ballpark. The Creperie down in the ‘Pen is one of my favorite places to grab a bite within the stadium. Sadly, I have to trudge through the absolute clusterfuck that is that portion of Safeco Field. Since the Mariners have dedicated that area to the “experience off the field” rather than on it, you get hordes of drunken tom-foolery. Couple that with the extended lines from Credit Card machines being down, this quite obviously was about to become a riot. As Megan pointed out, there were no signs indicating that the system was down. All we saw as fans, were mammoth lines that kept growing and growing with no signs of forward movement. At first, I chalked it up to opening night jitters, but even then I was frustrated at that explanation. It’s as if the Mariners were in their first rodeo and hadn’t any idea how to properly train their staff before the big event. I find this ironic, since likely it will be the most attended game of the season.

    I waited for about 20 minutes before finally giving up. From there, I walked upstairs and waited another 30 minutes in line for a $6.75 “slice” of pizza for my son and some easy cheese and tortilla chips AKA “nachos” for myself. Those were also $7. Thankfully, I had stashed 3 $5 bills in my wallet earlier or else I might have climbed over the register and beat someone to a pulp. I have one of the shorter tempers in the world and by that point, I was ready to unload. I got my food, ate it, then left the game. I’ve never missed a home opener in my entire time of living near Seattle. I’ve grown up here for 31 years.

    For all their talk of celebrating the 35th year of the franchise, the Mariners organization from nearly the top, down makes me think that it is their first year in business. Outside of Jack Z. and his vision (and the clever marketing people), the remainder of the people in power seem to be doing everything else they can to alienate what is left of the fan base.

    But HEY! There’s a DJ down in the bullpen!

    • Megan Shear says:

      Oh, Jake – I didn’t know Christian was with you. 😦 Poor kid.

      I should have known something was going to go horribly awry when that DJ you mentioned jacked his sound and for a few terrifying moments, I thought that we were going to get a repeat of last year, where I heard that the sound was so loud people couldn’t even really talk to each other.

      I don’t know why the org feels that they need to pimp The Pen. It’s a wonderful area of the park; it doesn’t need to be heavily advertised, it’s a great place to take photos, socialize before the game, and get out of the sun if you need to. It’s not great for watching the game, but that’s what I pay for my spot in the bleachers for. The Miami Marlins put a swimming pool and a nightclub in their park. That’s ridiculous. You’re at a ball game, act like it. I don’t need fluffy nonsense, I need some food, a drink, and a game of baseball – that’s the only damn reason I’m there! I don’t fault them for stuff like singles night, or any of the other things they do to try and get people into the park. I know to avoid the downstairs like the plague after the game starts, and that’s it.

      Oooo, now I’m getting all huffed up again. I’m gonna stop and get back to work. 😦

  4. Megan Shear says:

    Blaine – I noticed once we got home and turned the TV on that for what was touted as a sell out, the seats looked terribly empty; this would have been because everyone was doing the same thing I was. I am starting to realize now how many other people I knew that were there had similar things happen to them. And yeah, I have often wondered about Felix. I am glad he is here, and I am glad that he likes being here, but I wouldn’t blame him if he went somewhere else. I was so excited about the offense at the outset of this season; they seemed to be taking more, seemed to be choosing the right pitches to swing at; and maybe it’s just a matter of waiting for things to key up this year. It’s still super early. I’m not looking for a reason to bolt just yet, but I am approaching everything about this season with a lot of caution all of a sudden, and it’s something I don’t really care for. 😦

  5. … and you described the crush of people near the King’s Court adequately. I thought the exact same thing. If there were any sort of an emergency — hell, if the Mariners actually hit a home run or something of that sort — there would have been people trampled to death.

  6. jared says:

    I had won a VIP experience from 710 for the game so my worst experiences last night were. That I was made a little later than I would of been to meet the nice gal who was escorting us because the safeco garage where I normally park (like everytime for the past couple years) was closed and I had to drive all the way around through traffic to the clink garage. Then things were really good I was the first fan in for 2012 and got the park to myself (and girlfriend) for 15 mins or so. But we were constantly bugged by the jacketed people you refer to. Your not suppose to be down here. What are you doing you can’t be here yet come on up here. The poor girl escorting us had to explain so many times its ok. Then we got on the field which will be one of those memories you never forget. Sucks cause I got to see 2 mins of mariners BP (cause of having to drive around the stadium, then walk around it for the meeting place) but still got to watch MLBers take BP in the A’s. Then it was time for us to find our seats, first get food then seats….. Mistake. My GF is gluten free so at fanfest we talked to a chef who said they would start having gluten free options this year. I thought the stand was in “the pen” so went down there HUGE HUGE mistake, like you said if there is a emergency that would of been the worst place to be. I remember remarking to my girlfriend just wait two weeks and half these people will be gone… Sad but true unfortunately. So I look up on my phone where the gf option stand is turns out its closer to our seats (o BTW if people need to know its in the jumble of concessions @ 132). Get her Hotdog nice and easy, ok my turn. I will just start with a dog and fries and beer easy enough. Go looking for that all in one stand, did you know its impossible to find a stand with fries that is not out of the way. So I stop at holy smoke stand cause its right by our seats and its 20 mins to the start of the introductions. We end up being 5 or so mins late to introductions. The service was extremely slow and it was the time people were figuring out cash only. Lucky for me I always bring cash w/my debit card. After that got to our seats and enjoyed the game, but the people around us who got up to go to concessions would disappear for really really ling times. We didn’t need to get up but I wish more than beer would of been brought down to our section no peanuts or anything. Besides those little things we had an experience at safeco field last night that I don’t think we will get again and It’s because of 710 ESPN thank you, Contemplating going back tonight. What can I say I am a glutton for punishment and die hard M’s fan. Some might say the two go hand in hand. GO MARINERS!

    • Megan Shear says:

      Jared – it sounds like even with the VIP situation there was still a little trouble. I expect some hitches on opening day; you can’t really deal with that many people without a few things going wrong, and honestly, most of my opening day experiences have been fantastic.
      I expect that the green jackets are doing their best – a lot of them are long-timers at the stadium, and I get that they are security there, I have no problem with that – but not allowing people to walk through a doorway just seems…kind of dumb. :/
      I do love that there is a gluten free stand; I may have to try that this year, too. 🙂

  7. Pat Dillon says:

    Hi Megan – It’s nice to be able to commiserate with someone else about last night’s logistical disaster. It was my worst Mariners experience too. Oy vey!! BTW, it looks like you got the attention of – check this out (you’re quoted) if you haven’t seen it already:

    After all, it WAS Friday the 13th as well as being two days shy of the 100th anniversary of Titanic. Taryn, Aleeta and I brought Subway into the ballpark for our dinner, thank goodness; and, thankfully, we had enough cash on hand for a couple of beers each (Taryn drank water, of course). The stand I visited just before the first pitch had run out of quarters – good thing I had exact change. Speaking of beer, beer vendors were conspicuous by their absence – I didn’t see one. The closing-the-exits thing was dubious indeed; we left in the eighth inning and had to go well out of our way through the mosh pit to leave.

    • Megan Shear says:

      Yeah, Tom found that and emailed it to me this morning, and it was kind of what made me write this post; I thought this morning after a night’s sleep that maybe I was just blowing things out of proportion, but I’ve been hearing from people everywhere all day long about their bad experience, too, so I guess I’m not alone.

      I did not have fun writing this post, but this blog is about my experiences with and at Mariners games, and this was what happened to me last night, sad to say. And I really was happy for the first few hours of the day after work. :/

      • Pat Dillon says:

        I spoke with a former colleague, today; he’s in middle management with Centerplate. He said that the credit card server crash happened because the system couldn’t handle the massive flow of transactions. That said, I feel bad for those guys as well as the Mariners. The front office sales and marketing folks work extremely hard getting ready for the season, and even though this is an isolated incident, it’s too bad that it had happen on Opening Night with a sellout crowd. I’m sure you’d agree that just about every other Mariners’ game day experience is very good – it certainly has been for me. Now, if they could just go out there and mix-in a few runs … 🙂

  8. MartyP says:

    I’m glad I found your website. I’ve been a big fan of the Mariners since I moved here, and I go to about 20 games a year, including–always–opening day. After last night, I just wanted to commiserate with someone else about how bad I felt. You are helping me do that.
    Last year opening day was pretty silly when the vendors near me ran out of buns (I love a 7th inning dog), and then when I circled to the next vendor, found out they had buns but were out of hot dogs. Seriously. Not making it up. And, no, you can’t just have one of their buns and bring it to the hot dog place.
    But last night? I was home late from work, so I didn’t snack. I raced to the stadium, pretty much starving. I don’t know why I stopped at the ATM before going in, but I took out $40 “just in case.” Turned out to be a smart decision, but $40 doesn’t go far when you see old friends and offer to buy the first round.
    When the food/beer vendor told me she couldn’t accept a credit card, she gave me no inkling this was a system-wide problem. I gave her the only cash I had, took the beer, and figured that in a couple of innings I’d return to one of the bigger vendors and buy dinner with a credit card.
    Of course, it didn’t go that way. I was one of the horde waiting on the BECU ATM machines. My wait was 45 minutes. And then I went to a stand to get a dog, but they only had hamburgers. Okay, I’ll deal. Got my order. Went to the condiment table: No ketchup. No mustard. No napkins. Went back to Grounders. Very nice person listened to me. Went in the back. Came back only with a paper towel–which I thought she was going to give me–but she couldn’t even give me that, she said, as she wiped the counter.
    I went to my seat, tried to enjoy the rest of the game. But I couldn’t quite shake the funk I was in. I’m better now. I went with 5 friends. We’re thinking of going to the 2nd game next year, and just making it our own personal Home Opener. Let the folks at Safeco have a day to get systems operational.

    • Megan Shear says:

      Oh dear. 😦
      I may give it another shot next year, depending on how the Mariners do on the field this year, but I cannot say it’s without trepidation. I’m sure some day I will look back and maybe laugh at how hot I was, running around the stadium and grumbling about everything, but some day is not today.
      I’m glad you got back to your seat and at least got something to eat. I am planning on having a better game next time I set foot inside Safeco, with fingers crossed.

  9. Megan Shear says:

    Pat- I can understand the overload; like I’m sure I’ve mentioned, it happened for a short time last year as well, and they managed to get everything back online pretty quickly. But handling large amounts is their job, right? It’s a sports arena. If it was truly Center Plate’s system, maybe they need to take a look at it. It seems more and more like the Ms are getting a terrible reputation not only for bad play, but now for things the organization does, like opposing the privately-funded hockey/NBA stadium, and having Schultz/Lincoln/Nintendo anywhere near management. It makes me tremendously sad as a fan and as someone who really cares about the team and the game, to watch this happen.

    • Katy says:

      I find it hard to believe that credit card systems couldn’t handle the traffic. The crowd last night was by no means the biggest the stadiums ever seen. It might be a partial problem but those credit and debit machines have seen that sort of transaction log before! If that was the only reason, they are in need of a complete upgrade before too many more fans are alienated by terrible experiences.
      We emailed Centerplate and were emailed a phone number to give them a call. We went last night with our three children under 4 years old and thankfully didn’t deal with the crowd situation as we were in Terrace Club but it was still our worst Safeco experience ever!

  10. Mariner Mandy says:

    I don’t feel so bad about not being able to go last night now. For a team that’s so concerned about the traffic outside the stadium, them seemed remarkably unconcerned about the traffic inside. How there was no announcement in the stadium about what was going on and how there wasn’t better crowd control is beyond me. Bush League stuff, but it’s serving as motivation for me to bring my own food today, which will save quite a bit of money!

  11. Compass Rosy says:

    Megan ~

    So sorry for your much less than happy Opening Day 😦
    Luckily, my date (my dad) and I had cash, so we were oblivious to any trouble.
    It may not have made a difference but, in case you didn’t know, there are BECU ATM’s on the third level concourse (you mentioned you went down to the main level).

    So glad you decided to make a game post. Your photos are superb! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Here’s to better baseball experiences ahead – on and off the field of play 🙂


    • Megan Shear says:

      I didn’t see any machines upstairs, but I wonder if the reason for that was due to the high amount of people. Next time, I hope to have a happier post. 🙂 Glad you had a good evening. Next year, I will likely come prepared, for sure. 🙂

      • Compass Rosy says:

        Check me on the ‘exact’ location but, I believe the ATM’s are just south of the Silver Slugger store, right across from the Guest Services booth (and, come to think of it, when I went for hot chocolate sometime in the middle innings last night, I did notice a huge line at those ATM’s – and wondered what the heck was going on).

  12. Megan Shear says:

    Yeah, that area we had to walk around, and I wouldn’t have been able to see an ATM if it walked up and hit me in the face because of all the people. 😦 We were in 320 originally, the crowds just got worse as we walked around – and we had passed that section of the field before we knew what was going on anyway. This little adventure was all about timing and being unaware of the problem, unfortunately. :/

  13. Pingback: 4-13-2012 Safeco Field « Collection of Baseball

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