Left Umatilla Oregon at about 2:30 and headed towards Seattle. Turned on the local ESPN AM station to fill the time and heard about Manny’s forced retirement. Pretty unexpected – timing wise – but completely understandable. Got the usual huffing and puffing from the ESPN scribes but I was struck by the complete lack of talk about Manny’s time as an Indian. I guess if it doesn’t happen on one of the Coasts it just is not of any interest to ESPN.
Since this was more or less spur of the moment - wasn’t sure if I’d be going alone or not – I hadn’t completed my due diligence. Like, where’s the ball park? I punched "Safeco Field" in my Garmin and no joy. So I called my brother up – while I was driving - and he googled it for me. While we where on the phone together we got to talking about brother stuff and the conversation eventually rolled around to our childhood and our sainted mother and what a rock she was raising her idiot sons by herself. Somehow baseball tied it all together and I just remembered once again how much I miss my Mom, my Dad, my brothers and baseball. Which made seeing my first game in months – even if it was in Seattle – all the more important.
Outside the Park
Found a place to park for 12 bucks at a parking garage at 2nd and James. Got directions to Safeco from a couple headed to one of the night clubs. It was pretty clear to me that the boy was only going "clubbing" instead of the ball game cuz that’s what his squeeze wanted to do. Walked about two blocks looking for some tickets and got to talking to a couple of the fans. Talked to one guy for about three blocks and told him I was from Cleveland. He said that he had heard a lot of good things about Cleveland and that it sounded like a pretty cool city. Said he liked the Tribe and the Browns and the Cavs just not when they were playing the Mariners, the ‘Hawks or the Thunder nee Sonics. He said he thought LeBron was a jerk and that he hated the Yankees. Clearly a kindred spirit. Met two guys from Ohio – one with a OSU hoodie and one with an Indians jersey under his Mariners wind breaker (photo to follow)- did the O-H……I-O thing. All and all the Mariners fans were very, very friendly and made the game very, very enjoyable.
Fashion Alert!!! Evidently very, very tight, very, very, short skirts are in vogue in Seattle. Careful while driving.
Bought a field box ticket from a scalper riding a bike and shouting through an improvised megaphone made out of a Vende sized Starbucks cup and a coat hanger. He got me for $84 for a ticket he said cost 70 bucks. There wasn’t a price on the ticket but I thought "what the hell".
At the Park
Got to the stadium pretty quickly and you could feel the excitement. Folks where laughing and talking and just enjoying themselves. Got to my seat and found out I was sitting on the end – my preferred location – next to three Japanese guys. After a while I spoke to one of them and he replied to me in perfect American-English. I asked him – trying to demonstrate my Hawaiian learned command of Japanese culture – if he was Nisei or Sansei, he said, "neither, we’re all Issei". I complimented him on his English and he talked baseball – both Japanese baseball and American. The guy definitely knew his stuff and told me he’d been to over a dozen parks but had not yet seen his favorite team play in their park – Fenway. In order to further the cause of international relations I let that go.
Turned out the couple sitting right in front of me were from Cleveland. She from W45th and Fulton and he was from Painesville. Then I discovered that he graduated from CSU, joined the Navy, retired as an Admiral and was now working for the same company I do. Got his business card and will definitely be shooting him a resume. There were about two dozen Indians fans in the immediate sections but you had to look to find them.
My first thought was: Who the hell are these guys? Everybody – and I mean everybody – was stinging the ball. That shot Asdrubal hit? Low trajectory goner. And Hannahan? The boy was smackin’ ropes – and can field a little too. I’ll bet that you guys’ll start bitchin’ about him "blocking" Chiz in a month or two. Gotta luv you some Santana. A little shorter than I imagined – especially standing next to Sandy – but he doesn’t get cheated at the plate. And I can see what the scouts see in Brantley. Nice compact swing, great legs and smokin’ liners. If he bulks up a little he could smack 20+ dingers a year. LaPorta just crushed a fast ball from Vargas that was just barely foul. Looks like he’ll get his hits this year too. OCab is smooth as a Prom Queen’s thigh. Everything he does looks natural and not forced – including swing a bat. Choo was making decent contact; you can see that he’s coming around. And finally Hafner – I don’t dare call him Pronk yet – he looks like I remember him from’06. Compact swing, covers the entire plate and drives the ball hard every time he makes contact. I don’t see him starting his swing early or lunging at that outside pitch. What if?
And Carrasco – Holy Crap – Carrasco. Just flat bringin’ it. Commanded all of his pitches with good velocity and location. This kid doesn’t really look like the guy I saw last year. Confident, controlled and in command. Herrman was tossin’ seeds too, just got one up to Cust a little bit. He’ll be fine.
After the Game
All the fans – each and every one – were cordial to me after the game. Made my usual post-game pit stop. Some of the fans were – literally – pissing and moaning about the Mariners poor opener performance. I told one of ‘em, "you take that fourth inning out and you guys win 3 to 2". He laughed and said, "too bad we can’t but we’ll get you tomorrow".
And you know what? That’s one of the great things about baseball. You can always get them tomorrow.