JD’s 2015 Ballpark Tour; Seattle, Washington

Part III: Doubleheader in Seattle

When I was planning this whole trip out, there was one stadium that was an obvious outlier as far as geography goes, and that ballpark is in Seattle, Washington. I knew I had to make a visit out there, and it would have to be a quick visit. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to plan for that trip because of hockey (the Ontario Reign had made a deep playoff run, and were still going) and not knowing when I’d have some free time. Luckily, there was a window I was tentatively targeting, and when the next round’s playoff schedule came out, I had that weekend off! My original plan was to attend the Friday game, but then I saw that the Saturday night game was “Turn Back the Clock” night. I heard that the Mariners do a great job during those games, and I wanted to see what one of these was like in person. Plus, this was my first visit to Safeco Field in a decade. I loved it back then, would I still love Safeco Field a decade later?

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Ballpark 17: Safeco Field, elevation 16 feet

First game: Red Sox @ Mariners on May 15, 2015

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As some of you know, I’m a guest of a podcast called “Touch ‘Em All” fairly frequently. When they heard of my baseball tour, they tossed around the idea of having a podcast meet-up with some of those I hadn’t met yet. One of those fellow podcasters agreed to meet up with me when I made my trek up to Seattle. His name is D.C. Lundberg, and he resides mostly in the Shoreline area. He thought May 15th would be a good night because it’s a Friday, and it was also Fedora Night!

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Ticket prices: He bought the tickets well in advance of the game in the right field seats. I normally don’t sit right in home run territory during a game, but these seats were too good to pass up because it was in the second row in the right field seats. Because this was a giveaway night on a Friday, tickets were at a premium and cost $40 advanced purchase. Oh, and the Red Sox were in town. However, being two rows from the field is always a thrill. Plus, at a ballpark like Safeco Field, the views are pretty spectacular. We met for lunch in his neighborhood to exchange tickets that way I could get there early enough for batting practice.

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I made sure to arrive in plenty of time to check out the concourse level. I also made sure to preview some of the restaurants down there, and saw some of the deals they had that night for College Night. I was able to purchase my $6 beer early on and a very early hot dog before everything. While in the right field area, I saw that J.A. Happ was warming up early; the fans in that bullpen area get an excellent view of pitchers warming up. As for batting practice, those right field bleachers are a landing zone for plenty of home runs when the Red Sox take the field. Most of those home runs went way over my head and landed about ten to fifteen rows behind me. After warm-ups, D.C. (who had just arrived) and I went to the Dave Niehaus statue just beyond right-center field bleachers. Niehaus was the Mariners’ long-time announcer who coined the phrases “swung on and belted” and “it is grand salami time!” The statue is neat because it shows a scorebook there from the first Mariners game, some of those catchphrases, and allows fans to sit in with the statue.

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The game: This one didn’t have a whole lot of offense. Happ allowed one run on a Xander Bogaerts RBI triple in the 2nd inning. That was the only run the Mariners would allow. Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz was dealing some serious heat throughout the game. Finally, with two outs in the 6th inning, Seth Smith got a hold of one and launched a deep solo home run to tie the game at one. The crowd came alive and the pitcher’s duel kept going! Happ went seven innings, but Buchholz went eight innings striking out eleven batters; both very strong performances. However, a Nelson Cruz RBI single would be the difference in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Mariners a walk-off win.

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At this point, DC and I noticed something really awesome. Immediately after the walk-off victory, the lights began to dim a little bit and I thought the lights were already going off or something. No, the lights dimmed, and then started blinking like crazy to denote a walk-off win. The alternating blinking lights were a surprising touch. I found out the following day that the light stanchions use super LED lights. That is to say, they are super bright and powerful enough to illuminate an entire field. Because they are super LED lights, they can blink in patterns if need be, illuminate with different intensities, and be quickly turned on or off while saving energy. Furthermore, they are non-traditional square panels that are angled directly towards the field for better lighting through the game.

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Finally, we went to the impressive team shop along third base, and we focused our time to the memorabilia section where a very kind gentleman named Monte told us about everything in the store. His knowledge was fantastic and he loved my story about visiting all the parks. They were selling a couple jerseys from the Civil Rights Game that I talked about in the previous post, and also some other rare jerseys from games over the years. The prices were not too bad compared to other parks. Another item of interest is an old scorebook replica highlighting some of the most meaningful games in the history of the Seattle Mariners.

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Overall, DC and I bought a couple hats including their alternate hat from the mid-1990s and the Seattle Steelheads hat from their brief stint in the Negro Leagues. Getting to meet a friend from the podcast was a great time, especially at a ballpark as cool as Safeco Field. Of course, we hung out after the game and had some great food and karaoke. Thank you for the great hospitality, DC! I wasn’t done yet… I bought that Steelheads hat for a good reason…

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Ballpark 17 (again): Safeco Field, elevation still 16 feet

Second game: Royal Giants (Sawx) @ Steelheads (M’s) on May 16, 2015

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When I saw this game on the schedule, I originally was going to attend just this game, but when my schedule ended up working out to where I could attend two games, I knew I had to make this one the second game just to see the differences between a regular game and this one. I had heard that the Seattle Mariners do an excellent job on some of these major promotional days. Their “Turn Back the Clock” nights are the stuff of legend and I had to see one for myself. I knew this was going to be a great day just based on their Twitter feed.

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When I arrived at Safeco Field, I was greeted by friendly staff wearing vintage hats, and saw several banners that said “Go Steelheads” and “Sick’s Seattle Stadium.” I decided to play along and talk in an old-school voice. I just wanted to have fun with this! Yes, several banners were either replaced or covered up to give the feel and atmosphere of being in the 1940’s. All the music being played was from that era which meant… swing music! As a former professional swing dancer, I greatly appreciated and approved of the music choices. Benny Goodman was played frequently, and that was a very good thing in my book. Another additional nod to the old days that I loved was that they even included old-school advertising. Best off, they took some of their current sponsors and gave them a vintage twist, like this “Pepsi-Cola” advertisement.

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The fans: Keeping this short, they were great all the way around. This is a very knowledgeable fan base that loves their team. They are a bit louder than most stadiums, and will crowd around the bullpens just to cheer on their favorite pitcher. During the Saturday game, they were ALL out for Felix Hernandez, who has his own “King’s Court” in left field. However, on this particular day, the King’s Court were all decked out in black and white. There were a few people there that dressed up in vintage! For this game only, the “K” cards were in cream and white, and the “King’s Court” banners were also in cream and white. I loved that the fans embraced this special day so much.

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The food: For this game, I finally got to eat at a place I hadn’t been to in years with one of the best restaurant names ever: The Intentional Wok. I love a good pun, especially baseball puns. This one ranks high up there. On top of that, they have excellent cashew chicken bowls that are more filling than you think. The price tag on this large bowl was around ten bucks, and highly worth it.

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This game was much more about the atmosphere. The public address announcer talked in an old-school radio voice, and even said such phrases as “Twitter? What’s a twitter?” Apparently, they didn’t have a thing called the internet or world wide web back in the 1940s…

As for the rest of the atmosphere, I decided to dress dapper once again with my bright teal shirt and wooden bow-tie. Yes, I own a wooden bow-tie… be jealous. I was happy that so many fans were eager to dress up, or at least dress dapper like I did. The fans weren’t the only ones that dressed up, though! Even the grounds crew dressed up in vintage clothing and got into it! Once the game began, it was full swing mode as the organist played almost entirely songs from the 20s to the 40s.

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The game itself was full of one-run innings that went back and forth. The Red Sox… er… Royal Giants got off to a quick 2-1 lead early in the game off a couple home runs. Yes, the announcers were calling both teams by their old-school nicknames, the Boston Royal Giants and the Seattle Steelheads. I will say this, everyone was deeply committed to their roles as far as this game was concerned and it was a real treat. Also, the scoreboards went back in time as it got a nice retro treatment. Anyway, the Steelheads tied the game in the 5th inning… but ended up giving up two runs late in the game to give Boston a 4-2 win. Felix Hernandez didn’t have the most dominating game, and it showed in this start.

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The jerseys looked really good, though, and the whole experience of being at Safeco Field for a “Turn Back the Clock” night was beyond my wildest dreams. After the game, I went to the often-stocked team store, and saw those very same jerseys the Steelheads wore for over $200 ($220 to be exact). They were nice-looking duds, and even had my size! However, I thought the jerseys were a bit too much money for my blood! Instead, I got a Seattle Rainiers red jersey for cheaper, and I love it. That team store has so much stuff that it’s beyond difficult to have any will power in there because one is likely to buy something. It’s that good.

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After that trip, it was time to head home because I still had work in a couple days. I knew this would be a quick trip because Seattle is so remote from the rest of the country, as far as ballparks are concerned. Safeco Field is still one of the best out there and should be visited by all baseball fans. Thank you all for reading this, and see you at the ballpark!

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-JD

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