Cheney Stadium Trip

Since the last time I wrote in this space, the Mariners are 10-8; so perhaps the rough start has been just a small bump in the road. It is tempting to remain skeptical – and my skepticism is still there, for I am a Mariners fan – but even as I sit here and type this, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have both hit dingers off Danny Salazar in Cleveland, and have gained a 3-0 lead in the first inning.*

Last night, I made a spur of the moment decision to go to a Rainiers game. It’s been several years- I believe the last time I was down there was for Jaimie Moyer’s start against Danny Hultzen (if I remember correctly it was indeed Hultzen), and they have made several changes around Cheney Stadium since then. Two really fantastic commons areas (party decks!), a fire pit, and another area you can reserve for parties under which is nestled the Rainiers’ bullpen out over left field. We were able to move from our seats to go check out the area over the third baseline, where there is a large bar with beer and liquor, an independent brewery cart, and three food trucks (Greek, barbecue, and cookies)! The other deck over the pen was rented out by three different groups, so we weren’t able to check it out last night. It almost feels like a tiny Safeco Field there now.

I went off my dietary restrictions (I didn’t have much of a choice; for as nice as Cheney is now, it’s still serving fairly typical baseball food) and gave the taco stand on the 3rd base side of the stadium a try. I recommend the taco plate; you have a choice of chicken or beef (I chose chicken, it has a bit of a red mole’ flavor to it) and the plate comes with beans and rice (which I cannot vouch for, as I declined that option) for around $9. They have a condiment stand with Valentina’s hot sauce, too, which made things even better. Cheney also features a Kidd Valley (with hand-dipped foot long corn dogs and garlic fries, of course), a place to get pizza that isn’t Little Caesar’s, a red hot stand, wings, and another option that I can’t recall off the top of my head. There are at least two places to get all variety of beer in cans or draft. This is a vast improvement since I was there a few years ago. They’ve done an excellent job with everything. Views of the field and game remain top notch, as always. I will definitely be trying to get down there more frequently, they have really and truly stepped up their game. The Rainiers beat the Sacramento River Cats a slim 2-1, but Leonys Martin was on the roster batting first, and it was fun to see some of the guys I was only able to hear about during spring training. Also met up with some of the good folks from Mariners Twitter/Lookout Landing. It was a fun night out. Everything was topped off with fireworks, and we had a really pleasant drive home. In any event, I highly recommend a visit to Cheney if you haven’t been lately. It’s a far more pleasant experience in a minor league stadium than it maybe used to be.

*The Indians then took the lead  in their half of the first on some horrible pitching and fielding by the Mariners. I have been writing this while the game is in progress, obviously. Seattle is currently struggling in the bottom of the 5th with a one run game in stormy Cleveland. Yovani Gallardo seems to be holding his own after a rough first, but we need more hits and runs, as per usual.

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A Small Bump In The Road?

This is going to be a short one. Tom lost his phone in Russia, which means I have to go sit inside SeaTac this morning for however long it takes him to get through customs. Fun, fun.

I knew from the moment he started talking that Jarrod Dyson would be a good fit for this team. When he took a seat on the dugout at FanFest and began fielding questions from Dave Sims and Aaron Goldsmith, he had a calm dignity to him, and spoke with the kind of authority you’d expect of someone who’s been playing the game at a major league level far longer than Dyson actually has. He had a way of engendering confidence; and the clips shown of his speed during his tenure with the Kansas City Royals didn’t hurt either. I was unaware, however, that his wit was one of the reasons Jerry Dipoto decided we needed him here.

Probably overstating a fact, but the Mariners have had a bad week. It’s early on, yes; and I am still very much on board here. But it’s difficult to parse things when you’re so excited for a team that has all the pieces to be a fantastic team (in Mariners terms) and they are falling so short of fantastic. It is funny, though, what a little objectivity from a player can do, so I will continue to be on board, because the ship has left the dock already and it’s a bit far to swim back at this point. We’re not sinking, the leaks are still repairable. Have a seat next to the pool, order a margarita; it’s going to be a long cruise.

I will be glad to be leaving work at 11 tomorrow. I love the feeling of being a little responsible and then packing up and heading out towards Pioneer Square. The atmosphere in the pubs is already electric with people who have taken the opportunity to do some day drinking, and Mariners gear is everywhere you look. The thing I like about sports that I never got out of my days as a musician is the cameraderie, and that feeling of a unified front. Especially here in Seattle, even fans of the opposing team are friendly and everyone plays well with others. It’s supposed to be partly sunny with thunderstorms tomorrow (topping out at around only 49F temperature-wise), and my friend and I may not last long at the top of the row in the left field bleachers because of that, but it won’t matter much because baseball will be back in Seattle. Go Ms!

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True Opening Day Is Nigh!

There’s north, and then there’s true north; and we haven’t had an Opening Day in years. Home openers, yes; but there is a difference, and I miss when “opening day” meant Opening Day. Maybe some day we’ll get back on whomever’s bad side we landed to be so badly scheduled over the past few years. I enjoyed the meetup at Mollusk this past Monday; a viewing party is always a good chance to socialize with other fans – and Mariners Twitter was certainly out and ready to see some baseball. Unfortunately, baseball is not ready to see us, it doesn’t seem, as the Ms currently have a record of 1-4. I am hoping it will be more ready by Monday to come out and play.

The organization has made some changes, it seems, and The Pen is getting a bit of a culinary overhaul. Well, not just The Pen; the big news – for me, at least – is the fact that Rita’s Water Ices will be featured at five stands around Safeco this year. I have some ties to Philly and have been there a few times, so this is wonderful news. If you’ve never had a water ice, it’s sort of difficult to explain. The redundancy of the name doesn’t help much either, but just imagine the best slushy you’ve ever had, then it’s better than that, and the consistency is such that you have to eat it with a spoon. The other comparison would be Hawaiian shave ice, but even that isn’t really quite how a water ice works. I don’t normally eat sugar, but this summer I will definitely be making some exceptions; Rita’s is just about the most refreshing thing you can have on a hot summer day, and after this wet and very cold winter we have had, I am looking forward to a lot of hot summer days.

The other thing that seems to have the online world in a twist is the chapulines that will soon be featured at Edgar’s Cantina. At first look, I am guessing that this Central American treat will probably not last more than one season. I’m not sure we Northwesterners are adventurous enough to make this dish a ballpark staple, but I’ve been wrong about a lot of things before. Chapulines are, of course, fried and seasoned grasshoppers. I have not had a grasshopper before, but I have had a cricket, and it wasn’t terrible. But there isn’t a lot to a cricket, they’re mostly exoskeleton and legs, so what I got was sort of like a crunchy chip that tasted heavily of salt and Old Bay. Grasshoppers would be more meaty (for lack of a better word), and are rumored to have a pecan-like consistency. I feel like there will be a lot of college kids taking dares after their fifth beer this year.

Other notables are a complete overhaul of Edgar’s (different restaurant taking over the food), different pizza, Great State Burgers (rumored to be quite good) and hot wing-style fried oysters that are being referred to as “Seattle wings”. I’m not sure we’re known for our oysters, but I’m also not an oyster fan.  Complete info about all new additions at the link above, of course.

We have today’s game and tomorrow’s game for things to improve down in Anaheim. Last Wednesday’s 13-inning game was a crusher, and while I’m glad I stayed up for the whole thing, it’s really disheartening to see the Astros have your number that badly. I will be checking out as much of tonight’s and tomorrow’s games as possible (dinner with a friend tonight and picking Tom up at the airport tomorrow may interfere with all of this a bit), and just hoping for the best when James Paxton takes the hill for us around 2pm on Monday. I’ll be leaving work early, and definitely ready for some live baseball. Hoping to have some photos and whatnot up later Tuesday afternoon. GoMs!

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A Word On The King

I’ve had a terrible day at work and in general, but I was just gripped by the sudden urge to say some things after seeing this tweet by the most excellent John Trupin from Lookout Landing:

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Because we do; and he does. But the reasons are much different than it might appear on the surface, and I felt compelled to think out loud here for a few moments. Don’t worry, it’ll be short and to the point.

When Felix Hernandez was coming up through the minors, Twitter wasn’t a thing yet. The (at the time pretty small) blogosphere was already seeing him for what he was: El Rey. In his still-little-kid chubbiness, his hat falling off when he threw to the plate up in Everett with the Aquasox, his near-mullet dark curly hair sticking out of his hat, I remember hearing about this guy under all the Ichiro greatness that was advertised on TV. Ichiro was The Face of the Mariners, but there was this other kid, this pitcher…when I took the plunge into the baseball world in 2007-2008, Felix was still losing more games in a year than he was winning, having only just gotten up to the majors in 2005. He was still young, still working off that  little kid pudge, still figuring out his stuff and his style, and of course had a lot less tattoos. But he was already easily on his way to being the A Pretty Big Deal.

So much time has passed between now and then that I honestly don’t remember the first time I heard the title “King Felix”. But I remember one of the first times I ever heard it used by 710 ESPN, back in 2010-or’11-ish when I used to listen to the original Brock and Salk show at my engineering job on Harbor Island, and it hit me; this means something. Something the fans have laid claim to and created was just mentioned on a local branch of a national radio channel, and that is important. They would play “Sunshine and Lollipops” before an on-air interview with Jeff Sullivan or Dave Cameron. Other shows on the station eventually made it part of their everyday vernacular; King Felix Hernandez. King Felix. The King is starting tonight at Safeco Field. That’s what the fans called him, and the fans made believers out of the local radio, out of the national media, even maybe out of Felix himself (I mean, not to get too big a head about it, but you know we helped).

So when Felix Hernandez refers to himself as “The King”, it’s because he knows we know. It’s not ego, it’s not false bravado; it’s because he knows we love him, he knows we accept it; he loves us just as much as we love him. That’s a rarity in this game where there are so many players and so many fans; that level of acknowledgement and humility and respect; and if that’s not a wonderful fantastic thing, then I don’t know what is. All Rise.  Larga Vida El Rey!

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Mariners Commercials Are Here!

And you can find all four of them and a blooper reel at this link here, which I have to post because my job still uses IE 10 as a browser and will not allow me to hyperlink for some reason:

In any event, I think the clear winners are Bat Flip and Felix Day, with nods to Kyle Seager for the treadmill line in Nelson Cruz’s workout commerical and Mike Zunino for handing out a balloon to an A’s player for striking out. Your mileage may vary, of course. It’s great that what started out as a blogger wish to fans from Lookout Landing has turned into a marketable slogan for the team, and has become a widespread greeting now for anyone who loves the Mariners on any day Felix pitches. Perhaps the good folks in marketing should look into a way to purchase some rights for “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” and work that in somehow. Commercials, a King’s Court shirt (or other, non-yellow apparel), something on the PA system at some point on days that Felix starts…just a thought.

Because I may not get another chance to write this week, just a reminder that there is still a Spring Training viewing planned for this Saturday at 1pm, at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle. Details for anyone who might not have already seen it here (again, no hyperlink):  The more the merrier, and seating should be plentiful at that hour. I will be arriving a bit early to secure the same spot in front of the TVs that we had last year.

In non-Mariners news, and just because I haven’t discussed it recently, planet tickets to Chicago have been purchased, as well as Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers tickets. Stadium previews will be forthcoming as soon as I have time to do some research. I’ll be headed to two Cubs games at Wrigley Field, one at Miller Park, and at least one game at what is now being called Guaranteed Rate Field which has to be one of the worst corporate ballpark names in the history of the game; not that US Cellular was any better (or Safeco, for that matter, place should be called Griffey Park or something if you ask me). You would think that a team as rife with history as the Chicago White Sox could do a bit better than that, but I am one of those people who isn’t terrifically fond of the ridiculous lengths corporations will go to in order to cram themselves down all of our throats. But let’s not walk down that particular road at the moment…my point is, I’M GOING TO CHICAGO! And I’m going to Cubs games the year after the Cubs made baseball history. Can’t wait!

Other than that, minor league cuts have already started to shape the roster, the photo windows on the west side of Safeco are being replaced maybe even as I write this, and I have my left field tickets in hand for the home opener on April 10th, a friend to go with, and time requested to ditch work early. Only 26 more days!


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Meaningless Post About Meaningless Baseball

Lineup today against the Oakland A’s:


I was able to catch four out of the five games streamed on the ESPN app this week at work, and while I love listening to the sounds of the stadium and the crack of the bat over the radio, there is nothing quite like being able to watch it unfold in front of you. Today was that day.

An interview with Felix recorded sometime prior to the game featured a pretty confident and calmly fired up pitcher talking about the chip on his shoulder and feeling like he had to prove himself after a 2016 spending so much time on the DL. Regardless, he still allowed two runs in the top of the first inning courtesy of Oakland’s Ryan Healy and Mark Canha. In the bottom of that inning, Leonys Martin and Guillermo Heredia both caught outs before Kyle Seager managed to plate himself with a left field single. Daniel Vogelbach took four pitches before a swinging strike sent him back to the dugout. Felix had better luck in the second inning, though a pickoff attempt went awry at the glove of Vogelbach; but Vogelbach had the chance to redeem himself for the final out of the inning, with the help of Mike Freeman, who took a dive and tossed the ball to first.

Boog Powell gave the Mariners an advantage in the bottom of the second, hitting a nice stand up triple off the back wall of the field that the A’s fielders just couldn’t get a hand on. Shawn O’Malley took one for the team to plate Powell with an out at first. Minor leaguer James Ramsey showed some plate patience and managed a walk to first with two out, but Leonys Martin hopped out to second on the first pitch, probably thinking he had more of a handle on it than he did, and that was the end of that.

Felix’s third was super swift and easy; two strikeouts and a flyout. The second swinging strikeout was at Stephen Vogt, a fastball right at the outside corner that Vogt tried desperately to get some wood on. While the broadcasters talked more about Felix and the camera showed him in the dugout joking around with his teammates and watching the game, Guillermo Heredia chopped one out to left field for a double with no outs. A’s starter Jharel Cotton had been replaced with Daniel Coulombe, and I guess Heredia just liked what was being flung at him. While Vogelbach took a couple of pitches, Heredia stole third. Vogelbach slapped one to center so hard it bounced off the wall and landed him at second. Vogelbach is a big dude, but he can apparently rake and run, giving us our own sort of tiny Prince Fielder. I don’t know that I’d trust him to steal, but I also feel like we may see some surprises out of him this year. The Cubs got Mike Montgomery (and Montgomery got the chance to help win the World Series, which was just fantastic and must have been great for him), but I am liking our end of the deal more and more lately. Vogelbach’s hit gave Heredia home, and provided a tied game, but then Mariners catcher Carlos Ruiz sent Vogelbach home and put us ahead by one.

RH Evan Scribner took over for Felix in the fourth and took down his batters almost before I had the chance to sit back down again (I have been trying to do some chores between innings). Chase DeJong (pronounced “dee-yung”), a very recent acquisition from the Dodgers (they got some prospects from us in exchange) took over for Scribner in the 5th, after a scoreless bottom 4 from the Mariners. DeJong allowed a run while I was briefly out of the room, and then another one to give the A’s the upper hand, via a grounder that went right between Mike Freeman’s feet and into shallow right behind him. Heredia caught the final out of that inning in right. DeJong’s 6th was better, no runs were allowed.

More chores, some tea, and clipping all three cats’ claws later, and it was the top of the 8th inning, the A’s were up by two, and Thyago Vieira  was pitching for the Mariners. I haven’t had the time to read up on this guy, but from what I am hearing via Twitter and the occasional bit of news article I’m able to read (sometimes people bring papers in to work), Vieira is quite the firecracker, throwing around 100+. I remember when Edwin Diaz did that last year and we were all a-flutter about it. It’s funny to me, we see guys throwing mid-90s all the time, and that is a pretty normal speed for fastballs; but ratchet that up a few MPH, and it makes all the difference, so long as the control is there too. I’m not sure the control was quite there today, as Vieira loaded up the bases with two outs and seemed to struggle in the windy conditions there in Peoria today. He got A’s Franklin Barreto to strike out swinging and therefore got himself out of the jam, which is great, but it would have been nice to not allow any men on at all, of course. There is always more work to be done, always room for improvement.

DJ Peterson did what DJ Peterson seems to do in the bottom of the 8th, and took new arm AJ Puk yard against the wind. I am really hoping Peterson makes good progress this year. Puk walked Rayder Ascanio, who was behind Tuffy Gosewich at second. Everett Aquaso(ck) Donnie Walton, and this is the point in the game where we’re getting to guys I haven’t really heard of due a severe lack of knowledged of our farm system. Walton struck out, a 5’10” swing against a 6’7″ pitch (AJ Puk is very tall). James Ramsey took a hack to short for a force out at second, and that was the end of that. Casey Fien pitched a clean 9th, and the Mariners batting lineup of Braden Bishop, Eric Filia and Joe DeCarlo (what is happening?!) Bishop slapped out a single against pitcher Ben Bracewell. Filia flew out to center field, and DeCarlo popped up to shallow right, but the A’s fielder who put the glove on it couldn’t keep the glove on it, and two men were on. DJ Peterson struck out, which put Tuffy Gosewich on to get nearly-beaned by the A’s before being called out on strikes by the ump, even though Gosewich clearly thought he had the walk. Gosewich got called out and that was the game, 5-4 Oakland.

A lot of people don’t get excited about spring training games because they don’t count towards the regular season, and some fans just feel like why bother investing themselves in “meaningless” baseball. And I get it, I do; you want to save that energy for Opening Day, you have things to do on the weekends that don’t involve watching 3-4 innings of our guys and the bulk of the game played by prospects. I understand. But I didn’t spend the last few months of wind and cold and rain in this ridiculous wonderful city to NOT watch these games when I can. It may be meaningless baseball, but it means something to me; and I’ll be back on the couch this Wednesday at 6 when they do it again against the Cleveland Indians.

Also, reminder, we are still on for the 18th over here at Beveridge Place for Mariners v Giants! The more the merrier!

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Wuv, Twoooo (Mariners) Wuv…

Pitchers and catchers report to Peoria today, it’s a cool but sunny morning in our fair city of Seattle, and it’s Valentine’s Day! Looking forward to getting the first strains of news from camp, and envious of all of those who get to go to Spring Training this year. Send some of that sunshine up here, won’t you?
Have a great day, everyone!


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