NOTE: It will likely be Tuesday when anyone is reading this, as it’s about 2AM Tuesday mornng as I’m posting it.
That’s right! Today was the Mariners home opener. You may remember (or have experienced yourself) my awful home opener last year, when the cash registers broke and a lot of us were all left out in the cold for food and drinks, the team lost, and I had to leave early. That sucked. Today? Today was the exact polar opposite of that, and my experience could not have been better if it had tried.
My friend Kevin came over around 1PM today, and after a check and double check of my camera bag, I determined that I had everything I needed; my season tickets that I needed to exchange (Tigers and Pirates afternoon games needed to be switched out for evening games so that friends can go with me), a gift card I was given last year that I planned to use for a new jersey, my camera, car keys, and wallet – so far so good, right? We hopped in the car and made it all the way across the West Seattle bridge to the 1st Ave S exit, when it occurred to me that I had in fact left my camera battery in its charger at home. And that’s why I show up to places early. A loop back around and quick run into the house to retrieve the battery, and we were back on our way.
My idea was to get down to SoDo, get free parking, and spend the rest of the day just kind of hanging out and doing whatever before the game. Unfortunately, between the regular work crowd and the fact that it was the home opener, a lot of other people had the same idea, and all the spots I would use normally were full. After driving up and down the service road that runs parallel with 1st, Kevin suggested a place he had gone before, thus keeping my streak of not paying for parking prior to games solid. No, I’m not giving away my secret!
We did the ticket exchange thing, and there were already fans migrating to Safeco Field and around the area. Moose Man was already there, and I saw the Ichi-Meter lady Amy Franz and her family talking to some cameras just down the sidewalk from the team store. We stopped in the team store and I picked up a new blue jersey that I plan to have lettered eventually. I was going to give the women’s sizes a shot (my Putz jersey is a size 52 so I can wear hoodies and layers under it; I can also wear it like a dress now, so I wanted something that fit), but there are no women’s jerseys in the navy color; only white and “northwest green”, and all of them appeared to have player names on them already. So I settled for a men’s medium.
We figured we’d take a walk down Occidental and see what the food trucks had to offer, and encountered ESPN doing a loud live broadcast outside the left field gates.
There were not a whole lot of food trucks set up at that hour, so we wound up at Elysian for a little bit, then went to Temple Billiards to hang out and meet a few more friends. Around 5.30 or so, it was time to go back to the stadium, so Kevin and Su (who had met us at Temple) and I took off back down the way we had come, where there were more food trucks including my current favorite, Taco GOL. Three pork, chicken or beef tacos for $5, with onion and cilantro, and some verde hot sauce of some sort, pickled jalepenos, lime, and some red spicy sauces as options. I cannot recommend this place enough. If you go to Sounders games, they are often parked outside the main gate. Yellow truck, you can’t miss it.
The three of us wandered into the bullpen entrance, and found ourselves being funneled upstairs with the crowd. Rather than fight it, we just continued on up the stairs, and broke out of the pack to walk around the main concourse over center field. At that point, Kevin and I parted ways with Su, and took the elevator upstairs to the 300 level. A Kidd Valley cheeseburger later, and we were in our seats watching a local band called Pickwick. I believe they had been playing for a while by the time we sat down, but they ended their set with a rendition of John Fogarty’s “Centerfield”. Not really my cup of tea in general, but they looked like they were having fun. They will also be playing the Capitol Hill Block Party this year, so if you want to check them out or are already a fan, that would be a good place to catch them again.
I thought maybe we might go see if we could check out Edgar’s at some point during the evening, but after taking the following picture, decided that I didn’t need more tacos that badly.
The JUMBOtron (because it is seriously massive) was on and glitch-free all night, just like it had been there forever. My camera cannot at all capture the magnificence of this thing, but I tried.
At least you get an idea of how big it it, if not how crisp the actual picture is. Seriously, it’s like staring into the clearest lake you’ve ever seen. But at the bottom of that lake is baseball. Amazing.
Then came the lineup introductions and pre-game fireworks. The Houston Astros were announced first; the rest of the roster including a very amused Erik Bedard, who just grinned and laughed a little as his name elicited both cheers and boos from the crowd on hand; this was followed by the Houston starters for tonight’s game. Then, fireworks and our own roster, which I’ll just post pictures of here rather than go into any description. There is a red carpet, things explode, guys run out, everybody gets on their feet to applaud and cheer…they have done this every year that I have been a fan just about (maybe not in 2008, I cannot remember), and year to year it’s kind of the same. But there was something about this year’s ceremony that I can’t quite put my finger on. Guys were getting cheered mercilessly; even the relief pitchers, even Jason Bay,and former Angel Kendrys Morales. There was an excitement and this swell of noise in the crowd, a different kind of energy than in previous years. Maybe it was just the mood I was in, maybe it was the people around us, I don’t know. Whatever the case, something was different. Something…hopeful? Maybe?
Apologies for not getting closer shots; I was trying to cheer, take pictures, and make sure I wasn’t in anyone’s way all at the same time. Plus, they were moving pretty quickly. Oh, I nearly forgot. Explosions!
The ball on the hill behind Moyer was left there by the family of a member of the organization who passed away recently. I am feeling terribly inadequate that I cannot remember the man’s name, especially given that the stadium had a moment of silence for him, and two other people. I did not see what happened to the ball after Moyer threw out the pitch, but I thought it was a nice gesture.
And who else do you have catch Jamie Moyer’s pitch? Dan Wilson, of course.
The new screen and the reader boards that have been there for a few years now, plus the digital scoreboard over center field were all synched up as the Mariners took the field, and the whole place lit up like a candle to the strains of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”. If the Mariners goal with this thing was shock and awe, they more than accomplished it.
Joe Saunders took the hill and proceeded to pitch a lovely six innings and change. I had hoped for seven solid, but I’ll take what I can get. His performance was much better tonight than it was down in Oakland last week. He seemed to work more evenly. It could have been a difference between the Astros and the A’s offense, but that being the case, as Matt Pitman said on the post game show as I was driving home, “This is the kind of team you’re supposed to beat.”
Michael Saunders, attempting to steal. I kept waiting for Humber to try and pick him off so I could get him face first in the dirt, and missed every opportunity, trying to get pictures of other things.
This is Ronny Cedeno, hitting the ball that went past Brendan Ryan in the top of the 5th inning. There is nothing really significant about the fact that Ronny Cedeno hit a ball (or is there?), but getting a ball past Brendan Ryan is kind of a rare thing. Kudos to Cedeno.
After two mound conferences and six innings pitched, Phil Humber had to come out of the game. The damage was already pretty much done at that point, but after loading up the bases in the 5th inning for Michael Morse and then finally managing to get Morse to GIDP, Humber’s day was done anyway.
I can tell you, from where I was sitting, there was not a group of people who wanted a baseball player to hit what would have been a grand slam on Morse’s part more in the whole universe. If that had happened, Safeco Field might have actually spontaneously combusted. Alas.
During the 7th inning stretch, some guy who apparently doesn’t like baseball very much decided that it was his turn to…shine? I don’t know what running onto the field accomplishes, other than being charged with a crime and being barred from the field for a lengthy period of time (Kevin and I had a brief discussion over whether or not it was for the entire season, or for life; we’re still not sure). It does let some 42,000 people know that you’re an idiot. You don’t get on TV, and frankly, I don’t know why anyone has any interest in being thrown onto the ground and dogpiled on by a bunch of security guards. Have a little respect for the game; then again, I guess if you had respect for the game, you wouldn’t do something like this to begin with. I didn’t take pictures of this guy’s face, but I did take a picture of the inevitable conclusion of running onto a baseball field during a live game.
Joe Saunders tossed his 6 and 1/3 innings, and was spelled to rousing applause by Carter Capps. I stood up for him, as did a lot of other people. The Joe Saunders we sort of expected was not the Joe Saunders we got, and that is a positive as far as I am concerned. The man pitched 6+ innings of scoreless baseball. Not too shabby. Capps came in and it was then I discovered that Capps does this weird thing in his windup. It took me a while to get the timing on it, so you’re getting both the successful pictures I took because I worked at it an entire half inning.
When he’s in the set, he drops the ball below his butt. Then he brings it up to his glove like just about everyone else does, then swings his arm back down behind him again. I have no idea how he gets it back up in time, but he surely does. There were two guys in back of us keeping score, who were as fascinated with this as I was. Baseball players are funny sometimes. Carter Capps is funny in this way. Carter Capps also throws a 96MPH four-seamer on the regular, so I’m not complaining. Charlie Furbush was brought in to face Rick Ankiel in the top of the 8th, and that was all she wrote. We were done scoring, and it was time for the Bartender to come in and work his magic.
Again, my camera cannot possibly do justice to the light show they’re giving the closer this year. I can’t get pumped up for Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” like I could for “Thunderstruck” and, to a lesser extent, “Ladies and Gentlemen” or whatever that awful mess was that Brandon League used to come in to, but if there is a closer on the field, and he’s yours, don’t complain. I attempted to photograph bits of Wilhelmsen’s arrival.
I am hoping that the team can take strides this year to truly earn the awesomeness of the field the organization has created for them to play on. I honestly can’t think of any more improvements that could be made to a structure I consider my home away from home. I love it and I am so excited to be able to spend my summer there.
And with a pop-up sandwiched between two groundouts, Wilhelmsen gets the save, the Mariners get the 3-0 win, there are high-fives all around, and a lot of happy Mariners fans leave the field in droves.
All in all, my day could not have gone more smoothly if it had tried. I always want to do far too much on Opening Day, and I was able to strike a nice balance between what I wanted to do, and what I could do, so I spent zero time stressed out about not being able to get this or that picture, eat this or that food, or whatever else it is that I try and cram into a night at the ballpark. The Mariners themselves put on an offensive show, the fans we were sitting around were super pleasant and polite and chatty, and I don’t know how much more I could have possibly enjoyed myself.
Tomorrow night is my first season ticket game, and I’m taking my Red Sox buddy Eric. I want to check out all the stuff I didn’t get to see today, and will be back in my regular haunt in left field, the comfortable, comfortable bleachers (I’m not being glib, I really like it out there). Erik Bedard will be starting, and I’m going to check out the new spot below Edgar’s and see what kind of pictures I can grab of the action in the visitor’s bullpen.
Baseball is back!