So because we live in a 24-hour news cycle and I am always late to the party, by now anyone who has been paying attention to Mariners baseball has been told or at the very least might be lightly aware of the Maple Grove. We did it on Monday night when Paxton and company shut out the Red Sox 4-0, and then a group of us were offered game tickets and a visit with Mr Paxton on the field for batting practice yesterday, an event that I sadly could not attend due to a financial meeting in Tukwila I had to leave work early for. It looked like everyone had a fantastic time at a 13(?) inning game that the Mariners pulled out at the last minute, and they put our group in the King’s Court, too; which seems only appropriate, because for as much as we love James Paxton, we know where our roots are. Pardon the pun. No, wait, don’t. I’m sad to have missed out on maple bars and other fun, but have been told that a signed ball was procured for me, and while that was not really necessary, my friends came through. I may have the best friends in baseball.
The ‘Grove was featured all over TV Monday night. I saw some super unflattering pictures of myself in national and local sports sites (but we’re all our own worst critics, right?) I have no idea if we made it to print or not, I haven’t had the time to check. But it was fun, and because I’m not a weirdo who wants people to think we have magical powers (or the freaking patience!) I have to specify that we did not bring the tree in. Gregg Greene, the Senior Director of Marketing for the team kindly brought us up a nice potted Japanese maple with a poster Fathead-style, of Paxton’s face attached to it. I am hoping the tree will make further appearances as necessary. It actually provided us with a bit of shade from the west as the sun took its time setting, so it provides several functions!
After listening to some discussion about it both online and on radio, I feel the need to point out that this group is not a Mariners marketing gimmick. I don’t push things I’m involved in often at all, but in this case I need to give credit where credit is due, and this is a specifically fan-driven thing that a bunch of us thought would be a lark during the last game of the Jays series, and then suddenly snowballed on us. This past Monday was the third game we’ve done it at. This upcoming Sunday will be the fourth (I was in Chicago for one a few weeks back, of course), and we’ll continue doing it as long as the front office will let us and as long as Paxton keeps starting baseball games. The Mariners people are definitely in contact with us (social media at its best), and Paxton himself seems to really like it; but we are not – at the risk of another pun – plants for the stadium. Nobody is on a payroll; we’re doing this because we’re all about Team Fun. Anyone is welcome to join us, we will use social media to get out the section or sections that we think we’ll be in for upcoming Paxton starts, and if we can’t make it work, we’ll try and take over a section that is out of the way of other fans so that we’re not inundating people with signs and general craziness. So far, this plan has worked well. I hope it continues to work well, as it has already really amped up the fun for 2017’s baseball season. I will say that there is a base group of about 15 or so people who were brainstorming things for the first time we showed up at the Sunday Jays game, and that all the planning has been done on Twitter; it just seems to keep gathering speed via word of mouth.
There aren’t really any leaders for the Grove; there are certainly some of us more involved in the planning and sign printing (Hillary Kirby is a saint!) than others, but that’s not really the point. The point is that anyone can join us, we’re there for James Paxton, the Mariners, and Seattle baseball. Hillary’s graphic design skills have even paid off in shirts that you can find at this link here: https://www.zazzle.com/themaplegrove . If you tell the site you’ve been referred, too, I think Hillary gets a little cash for her troubles. It’s maybe $1-2, so nobody is making a ton of cash off of this here. You can even make your own shirt at that site (I have actually made a few for this website to wear on my own), though be wary of possible copyright infringements like Mariners logos or trademarks, because Zazzle will reject the design and refuse to print them for you. I found that out the hard way trying to make a Hawt Corner shirt a few years back.
It has been suggested that a Canadian flag be flown somewhere among us, but c’mon, we’re not Jays fans, right? We’re not even Canadian. Unless one of you is. *looks around* Are you? We have Canadian “flags” with Mariners colors on them in the form of posters, so I hope that will be acceptable for any new folks that might want to join. And if you are Canadian, then I hope you find that the teal and blue is a nice twist on your national banner.
I don’t know where any of this goes at this point, I just know that I am looking forward to this weekend; a Mets game on Saturday followed by a haul up to Everett for the Aquasox Star Wars night, then back to Safeco on Sunday in section 182 with a to-be-determined number of people who just keep adding themselves to our pile. I hope that this results in a lot of good baseball friends and social media account sharing, at the very least. I have waited nearly 10 years to run into so many level headed and kind fans, and it was worth the wait, you all are amazing. See you Sunday, Go Mariners, and massive thanks to all the people, original Grovers and newbies, who are making this baseball season one of the best I’ve ever had.