Sunday, May 11, 2008

Deathtour~!: SafeCo Field, Seattle


After a two week ‘rest’ period my tour continues with a 3 stadium weekend in Seattle and Los Angeles, which wraps up the remainder of the west coast stadiums (minus Oakland). Seattle, aside from hosting a Major League franchise, is also the birthplace of a particular coffee company that employees me. As such I decided to check out the original store in the Pike Place market. Aside from the name on the building, the Pike Place store shares almost no characteristics with any of the other Mermaid stores. While the company has been emphasizing a return to the basics, the signature store never ditched the basics to begin with. They’ve even kept the original logo and aside from a few snack items at the register, there’s no food in the store. No pastries. No sandwiches. Which was quite the surprise as I had walked down to the store specifically to buy breakfast. I bought a drink and a souvenir or two before walking to a second store for pastries. The one thing about downtown Seattle, there’s no short supply of the green apron. It’s impossible to stand in any one location and not see that mermaid logo. It’s amazing.

SafeCo Field

SafeCo Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, is the fifth ballpark on the tour. Although I hadn’t previously been to a game here I had been to the stadium. I was in Seattle during the opening weekend of the stadium on a family vacation. Going to a game was the only event on the trip I was interested in. As it was the opening of the ballpark I told my father to buy tickets ahead of time. He didn’t believe that would be necessary and put it off. Of course the game was sold out and we couldn’t get tickets at the box office. It’s something I’ll never forget and he’ll never be forgiven for it. It was one of the most disappointing moments in family vacation history it’s a major reason why I won’t travel with my family (there are many other reasons).

So 10 years later I finally get to go to the game. Despite staying with several buddies in town for the Emerald City ComiCon, none were interested in attending the game. So, for the first time on the Deathtour, I was flying solo. Additionally for the first time on the tour, my camera died, so, disappointedly there are no pictures of my visit to the stadium. The only evidence I have that I was ever there is my ticket, the program, my completed scorecard and the Mariners gym bag they were giving away as a promotion.

As I was entering the city on the bus, about three hours before game time, I could see the stadium to the left. The roof was closed and I was hoping it would stay that way for the game. Unfortunately the roof had been opened by the time I arrived at the ballpark from the hotel. I’ll have to wait until I get to Minnesota to watch a game under the comfort of a ceiling over head.

SafeCo is an enormous structure, lacking the intimacy of the Phone Booth or Busch and it has a decidedly modern feel, not the retro style of many of the other new ballparks. The scoreboard is electronic, the jumboscreen is bland and there’s a dining facility behind right field. For a weekend game I was surprised at how many empty seats there were. In a way I think it made SafeCo seem even bigger. Before I took my seat I made sure to grab a bite to eat. There was some mouthwatering barbeque dishes but I settled on something that seemed uniquely Washingtonian, an IvarDog, which is named so for the company that makes it and consists of Alaskan Cod and cole slaw on a hot dog bun. Suffice it to say, I’ll probably never have one again.

A few random thoughts during the game

When did we agree that every game was going to start with a 5 year old kid yelling “Play ball!” into a microphone? I don’t remember that meeting…San Diego had a breakdancing groundskeeper and Seattle had a groundkeeping quintet perform the Thriller dance to Bad which made me think, “shouldn’t they be playing Thriller?” For better or worse this performance got a bigger pop from the crowd than anything during the game…the train station behind the stadium in center field adds some nice character to the place. Having the occasional train blow its horn as it goes by is a nice identifying mark…The upper deck has a nice view of Qwest Field next door. Now that is a nice looking football stadium…Every game has that stupid hat dance where you have to keep track of the ball but Seattle has the Extreme hat dance. It goes twice as fast and midway through they introduce a 4th hat to the mix…Is proposing at a sports game really romantic? I ask this as a serious question and I ask this as a serious sports fan…I have to mention that I was impressed that most fans stayed until the final out. The Mariners were down 3 going into the final inning and in most places that equals an exodus to the parking lot…Also, how sad is it that staying to the final out impresses me now? What does that say about the state of our sports world?…I’m a National League fan through and through and I hate the DH, but I will say this about it. It certainly keeps the scorecard looking neat. You don’t have to worry about where you’re going to write all those substitutions, mostly because there are none…Of all the scorecard designs I’ve seen so far, Seattle has the best. Yes, I really think about these things at the game.

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