11,696 Days Later
The last time I went to a Mariners game – in Seattle – was September 20, 1986. Mike Trujillo, a journeyman who over seven seasons has an exactly .500 record and a lifetime 5.02 ERA, had the night of his career pitching a complete game 1 hitter against the defending champion Royals.
In the early 80’s, I attended a lot of games at the Kingdome. Not just the M’s. I went to see my beloved Broncos and I even caught a Utah Jazz game there as well as Oklahoma in the Sweet 16. Mariner games were my staple. I live and died with a team that had almost nothing to offer except for cheap tickets and Alvin Davis.
To be sure, there were some fun times. The first week of 1985 was like heaven. Gorman Thomas was as cool a thing as there could be. Add in a work schedule change and I made it to five of the first six games that year.
I learned to love the Mariners. While “My Team,” the wife of my youth, the Dodgers, continued to be important to me, they were in the NL. So I had no real issues with slowly becoming a passionate Mariners fan.
In 1987 I was transferred to Virginia. One of my first weekends off, I went to Baltimore and watched Jim Presley crush a ball into the thick night air that – for all I know – is still flying. In 1988 I again made a trip to Baltimore and watched my M’s crush the hapless Orioles.
Then it was on to Atlanta, and by then the Mariners had receded into baseball irrelevance, until one magic season and month in September of 1995. None of my friends, or my then wife, could believe that I cared about them. The Braves, you know… But I did. On that fateful day against the Angels, I sat in my den watching and chewing on my fingernails until Joey Cora gave me a reason to leap for joy. And we all know what happened in the playoffs. Oddly enough, I was at Game 6 of the World series and I just kept wondering what it would have felt like had it been the M’s instead of the Indians.
Now, 11, 696 days later, I was back in Seattle for an M’s game. As fate would have it, the Mariners got off to a big lead, slowly choked it back and then ran away with it at the end. Everything that a Mariners game has come to be for me.
The “new” stadium is amazing. The term “Baseball Cathedral” is thrown about, but that was the feel for me. It was beautiful and wonderful and full of sights and sounds that overwhelmed my senses. Our seats were in the second row just behind third base and to the left of the dugouts. As one gal next to us proclaimed, “You can see each individual blade of grass from here!”
After the 4th Inning, we decided to go walk-about, ending up in the Hit-It-Here Cafe where we had a beer and some snackage. The Beer was expensive – obviously – but a vast improvement in quality since 1986. The food was what you would expect, although I would say that the portions were larger than I have seen in other Ballparks, making the “Theme Park Pricing” seem a better value than
We hung out up there watching the game for a couple of innings, then headed back down to the 100 level.
Overall the experience was marvelous. There was one particular moment that resonated with me, and I am actually glad that I was not able to get my camera out in time to catch it.
I love baseball. Above all, I love the game. Yes, I prefer a world where the Mariners and Dodgers meet for a seven-game World Series every year, but the game is what matters. I love people who love the game, regardless of for whom they root. My favorite current Mariner is Ryon Healey – because I have followed his career since I was producing the Stockton Ports radio and he was hitting bombs out of Banner Island. I love Dee Gordon’s smile, Jean Segura’s passion, Wade’s curveball and who could not fall in baseball love with Guillermo Heredia?
The Rangers have a player who is at the end of his career. A guy we’ve watched pitch for twenty-one years. A guy who makes us laugh and smile and enjoy the game. Bartolo Colon, “Big Sexy,” is everything that I love about this game. As the top of the 1st ended, the Rangers Bullpen pitchers left the dugout to make their way to the left field pen. Colon, wrapped in a hoodie, paused by the stands right in front of us, that big smile easily recognizable. I said, “Hey! Big Sexy!” He smiles and reached into his pockets, pulled out three signed baseballs and handed them to the kids in the row ahead of us. He smiled and shook hands with one of the dads, and then left for the Bullpen.
The Mariners won the game, but baseball won the night.
So happy to be back, so ready for next season already, and happy to be a Mariners fan.