Seattle’s E.M.P. – Experience Mariners Project
Contrary to what most of you likely assume, the Pacific Northwest is not the dynamic sports metropolis it is often made out to be. Boring teams, bland stadiums and unintelligible fans, complimented by deer-in-the-headlights sports talk radio hosts, equal underwhelming experiences by those of us who as transient residents have experienced more joyous sports cultures.
Still, you have to get your fan-fix somewhere. Even if that means a mid-August weeknight trip to Safeco field.
Fellow Not in HD writer and my good pal Dan Miller, called me this past Monday, extending an invitation to join him and some friends at a Mariners/ White Sox game that evening. Three things sold me on tagging along:
1.) I hadn’t been to a Major League game all season, due to the neutering sports culture aforementioned above.
2.) Tickets at half-price would cost me only eleven bucks, leaving room in my wallet to gorge myself with sub par, far too expensive ballpark food.
3.) It would make a great blog. Hence what you are reading now.
So pocket notebook and pencil in hand, I journeyed to Seattle – the least inspiring big city I’ve ever been to.
(Oh come now Seattle lovers, put the keyboard down. Stop violently pecking hate mail with your index fingers… I was only kidding.)
Upon arrival to our first stop, the Jack in the Box adjacent to Safeco, I immediately noticed familiar sights, leading to some serious déjà vu. Was I in the gloomy Northwest or sunny So Cal? Because greeting me with a chorus of cheers and head nods were several L.A. Dodgers fans, head-to-toe in Think Blue attire. This might be a good time to mention I was donning my No. 99 authentic home white, Manny Ramirez jersey.
A quick tally of team apparell in the restaraunt was as such:
Dodgers – 4
White Sox – 3
Angels – 1
Mariners – 1
Not exactly a glowing portrayal of fan support from the home crowd. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, I’ll cover that more in depth later.
Have you ever wondered how much it costs to hitch a ride in a bicycle taxi? Well apparently they work on tips alone. Three people in our group flagged one down once we parked. As they “sped” by us down the road we asked if any of them had money – They were high schoolers, it was a legitimate question. – one girl shrugged her shoulders while another replied, “I have five dollars.” It was at that moment the guy pedaled past me and the way his face scrunched up into a shape I’ve never even heard of before, was priceless. He was ticked. Good times.
Did I mention it was only about a five minute walk to the front gates from where we parked our car for free? Chalk one up for the M’s. Can’t argue with saving $15-20. You win this round Safeco.
After arriving at the box office and waiting about 20 minutes for our friend Jonathan to haggle with the employee to lower the price of our tickets to the, umm… advertised price, we made our way to security.
Now I’m a pretty moral guy. My wife would tell you that morailty leads to being obsessed with paying for soft drinks at restaurants. She’s right. If I order a water and she gets a Coke, I will not have one sip of her drink if it comes with free refills. But for some reason, even though I nearly always purchase ballpark food and drinks, I love seeing how many snacks I can sneak into each game. I’m a wild, unstoppable force.
Every park has different rules. In San Diego gate agents will literally let fans bring in entire pizzas, but a bottle of Gatorade? Not on your life. In Oakland — and forgive me if I’m off since it’s been a while — I’m pretty sure they don’t care what you put in your pockets, even extra human beings, just so long as live bodies arrive to fill the stands. In Tacoma, the Triple-A Rainiers take a harder line, you aren’t allowed to bring in anything. No problem, just take six paces to your right, casually toss your bag of peanuts over the fence and you’re good.
In Seattle? Let’s just say I felt so awkward when the security guard did nothing but crack a, “Can’t be a game without a fifth of Jack” joke, I raised my arms above my head, exposing my ribs to show I unfortunately did not have any Jack Daniels to share with him, or hand grenades for that matter and strolled inside with two bags of seeds in my back pocket.
So what have we learned? Seattle doesn’t care about food, or safety. Definitely not a good thing.
We then climbed about 30 flights of stairs making our way to the quadruple nosebleeds. Surprisingly, though we couldn’t see the far corner of left field, fair or foul, our seats weren’t terrible. Especially since we only paid $11. Not a bad deal at all.
Wait a minute… what that you say? The M’s typically charge $22 for those seats? Wow. That’s a steal. As in, they are stealing your money.
Though we had been at the park for about 45 minutes, we sat down just as the Mariners took the field. Our pitching match up was breathtaking – Luke French vs. Gavin Floyd. Ok, maybe not.
This seems like a good time to tell you upon introduction, every Mariner player received a relatively warm round of scattered cheers- except the newcomer French, who was making only his second start with the club. I guess Seattle fans don’t like rookies. The places went crickets when his name was announced.
After a quick top of the first, fans were lucky enough to see history in the making, as yours truly made the jumbotron for the first time in 25 years on this earth. I have to hand it to the game producer who chose to broadcast us on the screen, Dan in his Clayton Kershaw jersey and me in my Manny. Good choice. You have a sea of fans in your own gear to choose from yet you pick two guys decked out in Dodger blue. In the first inning, mind you. Classy.
On the other hand, I saw tons of jerseys, jackets and hats from other teams all around us, so perhaps the pickings were slimmer than one might think.
After two and a half innings and an uninspiring trip through the heart of Seattle’s order, featuring one .240 hitter after another, Dan and I decided to put the madness on hold, explore the park and get some grub.
First stop, the club store. The weirdest find? An authentic Richie Sexson jersey, slashed down to an everything-must-go price of just $99! Dan soon informed me the jersey had been on the rack since April… of 2008. We also found a St. Louis Cardinals World Series Champions hat from 2006. What a coincidence, just what I was hoping to find!
Being a mid-twenties male with a healthy appetite, I had several food excursions planned for the evening. Before the first course was hand picked, I forced Dan to walk the entire stadium to be properly educated on the menu items; twice.
Burgers and hot dogs, everyone has those. Garlic fries, the same, although they typically prove to be my undoing. Garlic Jim’s Pizza, a tasty option to be sure. BBQ… in Seattle? The Pacific North West: the BBQ capital of the world… (snicker).
The front runner appeared to be sushi, Seattle’s true specialty, well at least until I caved and ordered a heaping pile of garlic fries. Hey… a man knows what he likes. Total cost: $6. Ehhh…
One food trip down, two to go.
We got back in the fifth, just in time for a rousing jumbotron game of safe or out. Just tedious. And it got worse… the hat game was next. You were killing me Safeco. Killing me.
Fast forward one inning. In the midst of a pitching change, I decided to start a Dan streaking across the outfield pot. I convinced our group to combine forces for a guaranteed $50 with potential incentives. Unfortunately/ fortunately Miller didn’t bite. It could have been great/ horrifying.
After polishing off as many of the fries as I could muster and donating the rest to my new little eleven-year-old friend, who helped get me on the jumbotron, I decided it was time for round two. I turned to Dan and had this exchange:
“I’m thinking about getting a Dingleberry.”
“I’ve been suspecting that.”
Hilarious my friend.
So I went and got one, for $5.75. For the record, Safeco’s version of the Dingleberry consists of slightly dried strawberries dipped in milk chocolate on a stick. It was far more fun to order than it was to eat. I do not recommend it. Let’s be honest, I spent nearly six bucks just so I could joke about dingleberries in this blog. I’m well aware that I act like a ten-year-old.
I turned the corner with my treat in hand, just in view of the field, as Russell Branyan swatted one deep into the right field bleachers. Kenji Johjima followed with one of his own just a couple of batters later.
They say home runs are exciting. The savior of a dull game. In most circumstances they would be right. This time, not so much. Looking back, I’m still not quite sure if the fans, the excruciatingly overwhelming roaring train just past the outfield, or the overall atmosphere, or lack there of was the cause. But if you ask me if I was having a good time up to then, I would have to let you in on a little secret: once the seventh inning had concluded, Dan and I turned the Dodgers/ Giants game on his iPhone. So0o you tell me.
We then bailed on the top of the eighth for one last round of refreshments. Dan for a Pepsi and I for a vanilla shake. I was told it would be the best $4.50 I ever spent on a shake. Absolutely incorrect. How hard can it be to make a good vanilla shake? Must be tougher than you’d think, because this one was slightly below average.
My total food costs: $16.25.
My enjoyment levels: Garlic fries – very good, Dingleberry – not good, vanilla shake – below average.
While slurping down my so-so shake, I couldn’t help but notice for the first time all day — and believe me, I was as surprised as you are that it took until the bottom of the eighth — a group in the center field bleachers was attempting to start the wave. Thankfully they were unsuccessful, as it didn’t catch on. Though to be fair, it is tough to spread the wave with roughly only 65 fans spread out among the outfield seats.
With the home team up headed into the ninth up a run, we all had the pleasure of watching closer David Aardsma jog out to the mound accompanied by some ear-splitting song by the band Saliva. I only know that nugget because Dan proceeded to look up the song on his phone, and recite the lyrics in the manor one would read a bedtime story to their child.
“Boom, do you want it? Boom, do you need it? Boom, let me hear it. Ladies and gentlemen.”
It sounded pretty much as it reads.
It was with Aardsma on the mound in the ninth, attempting to record the save that the game finally got interesting…
Seagulls began swooping above us in preparation for their post game feast, prompting several of us to plead, “Don’t poop, don’t poop, don’t poop, don’t poop, don’t poop!”
While our eyes were in the air, apparently Aardsma went one-two-three, finished the game. Whoo-hoo.
This was not my first trip to Safeco, but it reinforced the idea that the park is terribly overrated. It has a roof, we get it. Sweet.
The fans just do not create an exciting game atmosphere.
Wearing a Manny jersey, I did not receive a single legitimately negative
comment from M’s fans. The closest I came to getting insulted was by a guy in Mariners garb, in line for a shake with me. He asked if I take much flack for the threads. I told him no and he continued the conversation saying Manny served his time and it really wasn’t a big deal. As it turned out, he was from L.A. and a big Dodgers fan to boot.
Even the Mariners own fans like watching other teams more. Go figure.
So what came of my E.M.P.? Not much, I guess. I had some laughs, ate some average food, talked Dodgers with a Seattle “fan”, watched some uninspired baseball and this you won’t believe, actually saw the Mariners win.
I know. Crazy isn’t it? I swear it happened, though if I hadn’t been there I wouldn’t believe it either.
Safeco Field, I would say you let me down, but honestly, I wasn’t really expecting much. You get a passing grade, but by the skin of your teeth.