I didn’t sleep well and spent most of the morning with a headache today, but that all seemed to magically go away by around 4PM, when Tom and I packed up and took off for the confines of Safeco Field on a nice, clear Seattle spring afternoon. We really could not have asked for nicer weather tonight. I was wearing a dress and a cotton jacket and never had to zip up or use my fleece!
We parked the car in the Safeco garage for free as advertised, and walked the skybridge to the Terrace Club to stand in line for about 40 minutes. Somewhere during this time, I got a text from Matt Pitman, and was told that I would not be needed to talk during the pre-game show, and that the station had decided to talk to Mariners VP of Marketing, Kevin Martinez. I was actually a little bummed about that, because I was prepared, but also kind of happy about it, so it all works out. Having Kevin on makes more sense anyway, given that he was actually involved in the planning of this thing, and I am merely a lowly fan. Maybe next time. As they say at the Oscars, it’s just an honor to be nominated.
Around 5.30, our bags had been checked and the doors opened, we had our paper tickets exchanged for STH lanyards, and were ushered down the first base line to get our t-shirts near the Hit It Here Cafe. There were tables upon tables of hot dogs, two or three different types of sausages, cookies, crudite’ and dip, peanuts, popcorn, and pizza. And veggie dogs! I haven’t really had cause to bring it up here, but I have been eating a more vegetarian diet, so these were particularly welcome. We had some quick dogs, and then wandered around back toward the third baseline, where we met up with Kevin and he gave us the information necessary to get hooked up to the internet at Safeco.
At first, it seemed like the season ticket holders had the rest of the public outnumbered. It was hard to move through the crowd down the hall, and outside the warning track was a little sparse with people who were doing the general admission thing:
So we got a few beers, and went to sit down. I have not been drinking much lately, but a free Guiness courtesy of the Mariners is too good to pass up. Since I’m writing this as we go tonight, I am not sure at this point in the post whether I will be able to make it to Edgar’s due to the crowds and such, but here are some pictures from section 233, where we wound up sitting:
By around 6.45, nearly game time, the field is starting to fill in with a lot more people:
People are still walking around the warning track when this picture was taken, but the seats were filling in fast. I’m going to beg any reader’s pardon for a loss or confusion of tenses while writing this. Just a warning…
The game started off with a typical 0-0 first inning. Josh Reddick stepped up to the plate without his trademark mouthpiece from last year, but sporting a beard that indicated that perhaps he’d be very good at wrasslin’ a bear. Felix took three up and three down with 7 pitches while sporting a new fashion choice of his own; a new neck tattoo.
People were watching from both dugouts. They were putting people’s tweets up with the hastag #OpenHouse on the screens in the stadium, and one fan noted that the dugout seats were heated. I think I might have known that from a stadium tour or some other event where I picked up the information, but it totally makes sense now why there were so many fans packed into the dugouts during the game – outside the novelty of being able to be there, of course.
The new bullpen area. Honestly, I know the fences have come in, but from where I was sitting for most of the night, you really can’t tell. Things are slightly different in the center and left outfields, but it still looks like the same old Safeco Field. With new bits added, but still the same amount of grass and dirt. I honestly thought it would be noticeably smaller.
People were allowed to walk around the warning track for the entire game. Every few innings rather than commercials, they had Jen Mueller interviewing Edgar Martinez about the new cafe’, or fans taking tee ball swings just over second base to win things. The two men in the first round got three tries (or four, really; possibly five?) to hit a ball on a tee from that point in the field to over the wall in center. Both succeeded.
The sun finally went down, and I was able to get a decent picture of the new screen. The advertisements being on the side are part of the new setup as well, and my only complaint is that I wish they’d been able to get rid of them for this event; but I understand advertiser relationships, and they probably had to be up in place during a public showing of a game. No worries. The board is still pretty massive. Later in the night, they did play a split screen of the action in the 9th inning and the crowd here at home, using the entire screen.
Since the HD is so very H, any picture taken of this thing on any unprofessional camera is probably not going to come out great. But if you can picture the entirety of the center field bleachers under this, then you have an idea of exactly how large a screen we are dealing with here. It’s great. I do hope in the future they might consider removing the ads to have the entire thing active, because it sort of seems like a waste of digital space if the ads are a permanent fixture. But I suppose that remains to be seen.
In the bottom of the 6th, Tom and I went down to the main concourse and met up with some friends sitting in section 133. We sat there and chatted for a bit, but they had to leave for home, so after a nice 7th inning stretch and the first-of-the-year playing of Louie Louie, we left that section in favor of taking a stroll around that lower level and taking some more pictures. So we were sitting about here:
The party deck is far more massive than it used to be. I believe the lower half there is what they are now referring to as The Power Alley, for groups and company parties. You can’t really see it well in this photo with everyone there, but there are chairs and tables and a long bar/table that runs along the front like before. More seating, more space, a really good overall improvement.
In addition to True to the Blue t-shirts, everyone was given red, white and blue K cards in honor of Felix’s start. I declined mine, having way too much to carry around with me anyway, but fans who had theirs used them enthusiastically. It was seriously just like we were at a game; very surreal, but very “normal” at the same time. It felt like home, even without the players on the field.
This is the top half of Edgar’s. It’s a secondary party deck – the bar part is downstairs underneath – but you can see the kitchen back there where you can get several different kinds of tacos. The deck area itself is larger than it looks here, and can hold quite a few people. I did not get to try the tacos. But I will. Very very soon.
The game, of course, was also great, though without the offense I might have hoped for going into it. Felix was awesome as always, and got the win. Charlie Furbush almost tossed that away for him by loading up the bases, but the Mariners were able to get the final out of the bottom of the 8th inning, after Furbush was replaced with Stephen Pryor. Tom Wilhelmsen came in to get the save, and everyone left Safeco Field happy, having had a lovely night of a strange kind of baseball on Opening Day.
I have to say, I am really impressed with how well everything was handled this evening. From the lanyard tags with the drink tickets attached to them, to the snazzy sponsor-free t-shirts, to the way fans were just sort of given the run of the place. How many other teams would organize an event like this for their fans? The Mariners went above and beyond the call of duty to give Seattle a night I don’t think anyone will soon forget. It was nothing too fancy, but they didn’t have to do any of this, and they did, and it freaking ROCKED. There was a very friendly and cheerful atmosphere there, and it was obvious that everyone was just happy to be at the ballpark. We all cheered when the Mariners did well, booed when ROOT Sports lost the feed a few times during the evening, and I could hear fans around me being full of either praise or critical of the game being played, as if there were a living breathing game in front of us. It was a lot like watching the game in your living room. With some 17,000 of your closest friends.
All of this, and I never got too cold! Good work, Mariners. Good work indeed. I hope they do it again, and that others have the opportunity to go. It was a great end to my weekend. Baseball season has now officially started. Hallelujah!