Tonights game would be very special to Mariner fans and it would probably be a sold out show. I arrived as early as possible to secure first place in line and I was shocked to see this.
Yup. Someone actually beat me to the stadium. Her name is Carla and she is a loyal season ticket holder. She has been since 2001. There are quite a few season ticket holders that get to the stadium pretty early. One guy, his name is Steve, and he has been a season ticket holder since 1977. ( The inaugural season of the Mariners ) I wouldnt consider him a Ball Hawk but he does go after baseballs. He gives most of them away to kids. There is actually quite a bit of competition through the gates. So I had to be on my toes going in.
A lot has changed since my last visit to the Safe in 2006. Safeco now offers a place where fans can eat and drink. Its called the ‘Pen. Ive provided a link so you can read all about it. I never went down there during Fridays game but I plan to once the attendance starts to fall off.
From what some security guards say about the ‘Pen is that its usually full of drunk fans that want to trash talk and fight. Im not sure if thats really true but thats what Ive been hearing. They do serve hard alcohol down there so Im sure some of the rumors are true.
KIRO 710am set up an outside radio booth to cover some sports talk before the game. I snapped a few photographs when Jack Zduriencik made an appearance. It was really cool to see him outside and I heard he was a real approachable guy. But I didnt stick around long enough to hear the full broadcast. I wanted to take some more pictures and explore Safeco Field. I wandered down towards the CenterField gates to check out what was behind Safeco.
Thats pretty much what is behind Safeco Field. A whole lotta` nothing. Except there is this sign that stands out. Heres a better look at what it says.
Im wondering if players enter from somewhere over here. I really couldnt find an entry point for anyone except maybe the football players. Qwest Field is right next to Safeco Field so maybe its for them. But consider yourself cautioned. Also along the CenterField wall they have pictures of Mariner greats. Like this one.
Opening night at Safeco finally sold out after about an hour after I arrived. That was pretty cool. Not only was it the Mariners home opener but Dave Niehaus’s family was going to be in attendance. His wife, Marilyn, would be throwing out the first pitch. No Mariner fan would miss this for the world. But the first thing I had to do was get on the board with a baseball. It wouldnt come easy. Well, sorta.
This is the RightField entrance. The main thoroughfare to my ever continuing success in Major League stadiums of snagging baseballs. Tonight this stadium would see 47,000 people. Probably more since they do sell standing room only tickets. The biggest crowd that I ever faced was at The Ballpark in Arlington during the playoffs last season. The attendance topped out at nearly 55,000. So 47,000 would be a walk in the park. Before youre allowed to enter the stadium they play a little Mariners greatest plays over the loud speaker. And then they play a little jingle. And then the horn blows. Finally.
Once inside it was madness. People were pouring into the sections looking for baseballs. But since I was the first one inside I had first look through plenty of sections. There was a guy that kept telling me to look harder and look under the seats. It was a little annoying. He kept saying that there were baseballs inbetween the rows but a person just had to look hard and have a sharp eye. Soon enough he jetted off into the center field bleacher seats to set up for BP home runs. I soon followed and a little white orb caught my eye as I turned. My first one on the day. Sometimes those baseballs are hard to see.
I actually took my time through the left field, center field, and right field bleachers searching for another baseball. But the stadium was filling up with people so any lost baseballs would sure enough be scavenged by fans by now. I took some pictures on the way as I moved around the stadium.
I took this picture from center field. I also put a red box out there in the third base lower sections. I will tell you why in a minute. I continued around the stadium taking pictures.
Felix Hernandez was out shagging fly balls and as soon as I took this picture a ball was hit in my direction. Hernandez ran it down and a Mariner fan stepped in front of me and started calling for the baseball. I was wearing my Indians hat at the time so I didnt even bother calling for the ball. I didnt even think Felix would throw one anyway. But he did. I was a row back from the fan in front of me but I still made an attempt. Hernandez threw the ball wide left so I really had to extend for it. The ball bounced off my the end of my glove and dropped down into the seats. The chase was on. Unfortunatly since he was in the exact row the ball dropped into I had a very slim chance of getting to it first. I still made the attempt but I was beat from the start. So I moved on.
I took the next picture from the right field seats. The new ‘Pen area was renovated over the offseason and it looks pretty inviting. The fans can now have a clear view of the bullpens without a fence to obstuct their view. It has its pros and cons. Heres a picture. You can see fans already standing there as an Indian pitcher starts his warmup.
Once I got done taking awesome pictures of the bullpens I turned around and saw a baseball sitting between some rows. Now remember that picture I took of Felix Hernandez with the cute little red box around some seats? Thats where the ball was. I saw it from the right field bleachers. To get to it would take some time. But as soon as I saw it I bolted for it. When I got to the baseball there was a security guard ten feet from it practically in the same row. She saw me scoop it up and sort of smiled to me. She kind of gave me the impression that she wanted someone else to get it, like a kid, instead of a guy in an Indians hat. But finders keepers.
I found my third baseball of the day nearly the same way. I was just poking around through the rows when I caught a glimpse of another baseball neatly tucked away under some seats. No one was really around to claim it and people were walking by it. Someone even brushed it with their foot as they were climbing over some seats. So I wandered over near it waiting for someone to come looking for it or turn around to claim it. But no one did. So I picked it up and stood there. Another few minutes went by. Still no one came over to get it. So I walked away with it.
I spent the majority of my time on the foul line. Playing the outfield was way too crowded for my blood. I didnt want to push and shove or be pushed or shoved around when incoming baseballs reached the seats. It was tough getting any handouts from the Indians. They were tossing a lot of baseballs to kids and parents with babies. Which that was fine with me. It was all in good fun. I had three on the day anyway. So I was good with that.
Heres a picture of how crowded the baseline was.
Everyone brought their gloves. And there were plenty of foul liners that came out towards me but nothing within reach. I was trying to get Chris Perez to toss me a baseball but he was totally focused with getting warmed up and prepared for todays game. But I felt grateful today anyway. Safeco Field let everyone in nearly 30 minutes earlier so fans could watch the Mariners take some cuts in the cage. Bravo to them. Ichiro is always fun to watch. Plus he provides lots of home run balls into the seats.
Heres another picture I took from behind home plate. I also made my route in the right field bleachers to the baseball I saw from there. As you can see its quite a distance. Its even longer when youre running towards the area searching for a baseball inbetween a row of seats.
Here are some pictures from the opening night ceremony. The groundskeepers put “My Oh My” in the infield. I thought that was pretty awesome.
This next picture was from the area I was supposed to be sitting in. But TicketMaster somehow screwed up my seating and put me right in the middle of the row. I think they thought that seat 10 was an aisle seat. I requested an aisle seat over the phone. Mariners.com didnt have a problem getting me aisle seating. Looks like TicketMaster lost a customer. So I stood behind the section for a few innings until I told the security guard what had happened and he hooked me up with a seat right at the top. So I watched the game like this.
Sold out crowd. Here is a picture to show how many people showed up for this game. And the sad part is by the fourth inning the Mariners were getting blown out. People actually started to leave in the middle of the fifth inning when the Indians had a 6-0 lead. I felt kind of bad but Seattle fans should be used to this torture! C`mon! Its the Mariners! Remember those days when the Mariners had like, an eight run lead and Norm Charlton would come in to try and close the game? All of a sudden the other team would load the bases and start hitting singles and doubles like it was going out of style? Nothing has changed except now it happens in Safeco Field!
But the characters still came out to support the Mariners.
The Mariners ended up losing by a score of 12-2. It was pretty embarrasing. Especially on opening night. To end the night I raced down behind home plate to catch the Umpires leaving the field. And let me tell you something about Safeco Field security. They dont mess around. But they do get a little loose on their rules around the seventh or eight inning. ( Depending on which security guard you talk to ) Every aisle has one of these guys standing in front of it.
When the game ended I waved my glove to get Sam Holbrooks attention. He lifted his chin at me as if he acknowledged my request and tossed me a gem. But I bobbled it. I somehow closed my glove entirely too soon and the ball threatened to get away from me. I quickly secured it with my free hand and placed it firmly in my glove. Wow. It wouldnt be the first time I bobbled one. But dropping one here would be costly.
Game; April 8th 2011 Cleveland Indians vs Seattle Mariners