I’m sitting here waiting for the NHL All-Star game to start (something I generally don’t care much about, but that is a story for another time), so let’s talk yesterday’s FanFest. I actually debating going again today, but I should stay home and get some things done around the house, watch some hockey, spend a little time relaxing before my work week kicks in.
I woke up at 7, maybe the earliest I’ve woken up on purpose on a Saturday morning for a while. For the past few years, the Mariners have offered a season ticket holder ‘fest prior to the main event at 11. While some folks go to that and leave before the gates open, I planned on staying the whole day; this is about more than just free breakfast and the ability to get in before the other 10,000+ people did for me. I grabbed a bus, got off at 2nd and Seneca, and had a nice peaceful downtown walk to the stadium, while talking to my mother on the phone for a bit. The city was quiet, and the buzz around the Seattle Boat Show and even Safeco was low and sleepy. I got to walk past the crowd of a few hundred people who had already started gathering in lines to get into the home plate side of the park, and joined what seemed like a terrifically long line to get into the right field entrance. I might have waited about 10 minutes or so, though; it went pretty quick. Daniel (Carroll, who writes here occasionally) and his mother were already inside up in the Terrace Club.
I got my ticket scanned, received a lanyard with an STH pass on it, and took some stairs to get to the Terrace Club, where everything was already underway. I snapped off a blurry photo with my phone while I was waiting in line for some continental breakfast.
I polished off my croissant, a piece of fruited bread, and a small cup of coffee just to take the edge off, and nabbed two bananas in case the places serving food downstairs took too long to open. I missed both a photo opportunity with Kyle Seager (which was apparently very short-lived), and an autograph from James Paxton and another player whose name I do not know. But that’s alright. I never go for that stuff anyway.
We wanted to take a walk around the main concourse, and my goal was to talk to the SABR guys; Daniel’s was to throw in the bullpen before it got too crowded. We stopped off at various booths along the way. The Ms put up a nice tribute to Dave Henderson over right field. Henderson was before my time, so I don’t have any emotional ties to him, but when he passed away, there was nothing but good and kindness from everyone who knew him. He seemed to be a man worthy of a much larger display than this, but I also liked the singular solemnity of it, too. Rest in peace, Dave.
Further down the line, there was this thing. I don’t know why, but I love stuff made of balloons; I don’t seek it out or anything, I just think it’s an interesting art. There was a giant Moose somewhere either last year or the year before, and there were also several giant baseball bats made this year, mainly standing by the activities geared more towards kids.
Down the road a bit more, there was a table with a ton of game-used or game-issued gear for, quite honestly, pretty cheap. Daniel looked at the batting helmets and discovered he fits nicely into one that Jesus Sucre wore. We also found Tom Wilhelmsen’s batting helmet. That cloudy bit isn’t glare from the lights; it’s dust!
I think it was $60. Kind of a steal, if you think about it. Now that I’m thinking about it, I completely spaced off going back to Mariners Care to pick up a ball or bat. Bugger. Next year, perhaps.
Continuing on, we stopped and spoke to the guys at the SABR table, and I finally found out what $60/year membership gets you; several different books on baseball, a yearly guide, four chapter meetings that are held on Saturdays at one of the Seattle colleges up around Capitol/First Hill, the big yearly meeting that is held every year in various cities, and a myriad other things that I can’t remember at the moment. It actually sounds like a pretty good deal, if you ask me. I signed their list and am expecting to get some details within the next week or so.
Next stop was the King’s Court area to vote on some t-shirts.
Then down to The Pen to check out the Edgar’s Cantina situation and so Daniel could go into the bullpen. Behold! Serious pitchface.
I have a terrible arm and forgot my glove, so I didn’t bother. There is always next year.
The Pen had this activity, an area to walk to center field to hit balls off tees, and then up on the party deck were a Root Sports green screen where you could have yourself ‘shopped into various interview scenarios. I debated it, but didn’t feel like having my picture taken, so I just watched other people get theirs done for a bit. The Hall of Fame was taking the space where the broadcasting deck usually is, and the guys manning it were trying to sell people on group travel for Ken Griffey Jr’s induction later this year. Daniel and his mom had already signed up online, and were talking to one of the gentlemen about it, and another guy walked up to me and handed me a trip package pricing sheet, and clearly if I want to see Ichiro or anyone else get inducted, I should probably start saving now. He started his sales spiel, and I just flat out told him I couldn’t afford it, and he lost interest in me immediately. They were playing Randy Johnson’s speech from last year, though, so I got to see a little bit of that.
We headed over to Edgar’s to get a drink and some tacos, and waiting for my friend Mike – a Mets fan – to arrive so we could all find each other in one place. After tacos were consumed, Daniel and his mother went downstairs to check out the locker room and Mariners Melee for a bit, and Mike and I wandered around the center and right field area to get to Dugout Dialogue and to meet my friend Su. We got to see Boog Powell and Drew Jackson take some questions from the audience. That’s a King Felix scarf that Aaron Goldsmith is wearing, and it is fantastic.
What I really wanted to hear this year was Jerry Dipoto. I’ve seen pictures of him at press conferences but I have not yet heard him speak, and hearing him speak to fans and watching how he deals with questions is important. Jack Zduriencik was good at this, and was very accommodating when it came to fan questions, and while the questions are sort of pre-screened by the people with the microphones working the crowd, a fan with a microphone can still be a dangerous thing.
Dipoto fielded questions as well as you’d expect someone in his job to be able to, but there is something less guarded about him than there was with Zduriencik. One thing that stuck out in particular was his fandom. He noted that,”I’m just like you guys, I’m a fan. When I wake up in the morning, I’m a fan.” I don’t know that Zduriencik ever said that (out loud, anyway), and I’m not sure how many GMs feel that way. Surely there must be a degree of it, because you’d have to love that job. But Dipoto really does seem to love this job, and his opportunity here. He smiled a lot, even after Brad Adam hit him up to buy Adam’s daughter’s Girl Scout Cookies. He has an extremely easy demeanor about him, and it wasn’t all business; there’s a regular guy in there with a sense of humor and a love of the game, and I really hope it works out for everyone. I ran into marketing VP Kevin Martinez later after this interview, and he said Dipoto has been great to work with so far, at several different levels of the organization. It all helped reinforce some positivity. Dipoto also briefly addressed the situation in LA with Mike Scioscia – so briefly that I missed it – but anyone willing to be honest about their hardships with a previous employer without trying to candy coat things is going into this right. There are about two or so minutes of yesterday’s interview located here. I didn’t tape anything, but I should have gotten a Christmas Carol with lyrics arranged to pay tribute to Dipoto’s new start here, and sung by members of the Seattle Mariners Women’s Club. They got a huge ovation, and Dipoto seemed to really appreciate it.
After this interview, we all went our separate ways, and Mike and I took a walk around the bases. I do this every year, and it never gets old. You’d think that the ropes and attendants keeping you from running amok would detract from the experience, but they just don’t.
We walked into the visitor’s dugout a bit just so Mike could say he’d done it, and then wandered downstairs to check out some things. Mariners Melee – a quiz style show where you team up with total strangers (or friends, if you like) and answer questions about statistics and other baseball trivia. The team on the right, who called themselves The Legion of Boomstick won, if memory serves.
We checked out the Eskenazi collection of the history of baseball, and then got in line to go visit the team locker room. An attendant saw my STH lanyard and urged us to go to the front. I protested that Mike didn’t have a lanyard, and she shoo’d us into the other line anyway. Well, OK then, why not?
When we got back up to the main concourse, Charlie Furbush and Steve Clevenger had taken over, but they were nearly done, so I snapped off a shot and we continued so Mike could see the roof control room.
We figured that the control room would not be a huge attraction, being it’s a tiny room that only a handful of people can fit in, and while the operator does have some interesting facts and figures about the roof, it’s not as if you can touch anything or move the roof around. We were wrong! There was a huge line when we got up there. After a very short moment of debate, Mike decided against it, and we stood in the bleachers for a bit, looking at the view.
And what a view it is!
The remaining hour and a half were spent in Edgar’s, meeting up with my friend Tom and shortly thereafter Su joined us, and I kept an eye on the monitor while Scott Servais was interviewed. We just chatted about baseball and hockey and whatever else, and around 3.30 decided it was time to leave. It’s just about 1PM right now, and I would love to go back down there, but it’s an awful lot of effort just for a hot dog and some atmosphere. Plus, it looks like some rain is rolling in, so I’ll just stay indoors where it’s warm.
My hopes are not exagerated for this year. No amount of discussion or analyis will prove a winning season or determine the future of a baseball team. But I feel like we are in good hands. Dipoto says he feels that one of the most crucial moves he’s made so far is the acquisition of Leonys Martin. Only time will tell if that’s the case, and I disagree with the Wilhelmen and Carter Smith moves, but finding out if they were the right thing to do is what will make this season fun. We have a fresh start, and this FanFest weekend is only the beginning. Stay warm out there today!