Thursday, August 23, 2012

Magical night at Safeco Field

By Kshell

Seattle proved that those who say Seattle is not a great sports city are dead wrong. On a Tuesday night game in August between the Cleveland Indians(54-68) and the Seattle Mariners(59-64) the house was packed. Over 39,000 fans came out to show support for our ace Felix Hernandez who was making his first start since throwing a perfect game. Two teams below .500 and you would have never known it while at Safeco Field. It was magical to be in that ball park that night as the Mariners of course won 5-1. Felix Hernandez didn't disappoint as he went 7.2 innings allowing only one run while striking out five. The crowd for the first time since I was in high school(graduated in June of 2004) was rocking. Every two strikes the crowd would stand up chanting "K" over and over. It was very hard leaving the ball park that night feeling negative. In fact I couldn't go to bed I was on a Mariners high for the first time in forever. You would have thought the Mariners were playoff bound with that win. That game proved that if the Mariners can build a team yes Safeco Field can be magical again. This game proved that despite many of us being annoyed with Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln we still have that passion burning inside us. This game proved more importantly the fans still care about this ball club.

To honor Felix Hernandez the Seattle Mariners decided to have the greatest promotion they've had since the Buhner Buzz cut night. They extended the "Kings Court" to have the "Supreme Court" where the first 34,000 fans received a yellow "King perfection" T-Shirt while everyone got a "K" card. You knew it was going to be a special day when parking was full and instead of parking at the McDonalds for free I actually had to pay $25 for parking. I paid $80 to sit behind home plate and the place was rocking before an official pitch had even been thrown. Fredy Montero of the Seattle Sounders threw out the first pitch then took off his Mariners jersey as he had the King of Perfection shirt on then did the "Felixing" pose. Felix then took the mound as Safeco blasted Zombie Nation as the crowd started to go nuts. The place was alive and going crazy. I was taking the moment all in and hadn't planned on going to the game. Then I read Dave Cameron's column, then several other big time media guys going to the game. I decided this game was going to be more than a game so I bought my ticket at 4:55 p.m. online something I haven't had to do in forever.

The game got interesting in the 7th inning as the Mariners led 1-0. Due to a tricky hop Brendan Ryan couldn't field the ground ball for a double play as the Indians tied it up. Thankfully they ran themselves out at the plate on a failed suicide squeeze play. Hernandez then got out of the jam. In the bottom of the 7th with the game tied at one John Jaso delivered a clutch RBI double to give us the lead 2-1. Jesus Montero who Jack Zduriencik acquired in the offseason by trading away Michael Pineda blew the roof off as he belted an upper deck home run to deep left field to give the Mariners a 5-1 lead which they would win. When Hernandez got in a jam in the 8th he was pulled but not before the crowd gave him one last standing ovation. Then the crowd stayed and supported Lucas Luetge a guy Zduriencik acquired via the rule 5 draft. Luetge got out of the jam and finished the game picking up the save. We learned a lot about Hernandez this week at least I did watching him at the game in person.

When Eric Wedge came to pull Hernandez, Jaso spiked the ball as he and Hernandez have grown close. As Wedge pulled Hernandez he went over to Ryan who is having a gold glove season but made two defensive mistakes in the game to show it was all right. He gently tapped Ryan  on the cheek to cheer him up then tipped his cap to him. Then as he walked off he tipped his hate to the crowd but turned around so he tipped to everyone in the crowd showing his appreciation. The Mariners have had great players before in the past but it is very rare to have a super star who is also the leader of the team. He is the heart and soul of the team while still being one of the guys. When I went to a game in April on a Friday night they couldn't even draw 20,000 fans for a bobble head game while the dugout had no life. The dugout was alive like this was a playoff game. You take on the personality of your leader and when your leader is stoic and only about himself that reflects. Now with Hernandez here is a guy who is all about team why he never complains about all those tough losses. Hernandez is one of the guys and he also picked up his teammate Ryan so everyone in the crowd will realize Ryan has had a good year defensively.

The Mariners closed the home stand on an eight game winning streak. This will eventually end like all streaks but hopefully the passion for this team doesn't go away. Although it's more convenient to park at McDonalds for free then walk up at 6:45 p.m. for a 7:05 p.m. start time buy a $7 ticket then snipe some kickass seat cause the stadium has less than 20,000. I'd be willing to give that up for good baseball as going to games in recent years has been depressing. The team sucks and there is no energy at the games. The team in the dugout looks like they don't give a shit. This was only the second game all year I had gone to. I can support this team as they are winning with youth and good role guys. Finally Ichiro is gone, Miguel Olivo and Chone Figgins never play anymore this is a team I can back. The crowd was into it too like I said, hell I lost my voice at an August game between two losing teams. Typically you look around the stands nobody is there and the few who are aren't even paying attention or on their smart phones. I'm addicted to my phone and I left my phone in my coat pocket the whole game. I don't recall anyone trying to get on their phone too much and those who did couldn't get service cause the place was so damn packed! I loved that after the game the fans were hooting and hollering like we had won something important. For so many of us this was the one day we finally got to let out our emotions and be fans again!

This was a magical night in Safeco Field. The best game I've ever gone to. I was 10 in 1995 so I grew up with the Mariners always packing the house and being good. Sometimes you have to be humbled to appreciate things and that is what has happened. Many say I'm negative on Seattle sports but we haven't exactly had good teams in the last several years. For one night there was no being negative the Mariners atmosphere was amazing. I hope Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln realize that we do still care. I hope they realize if they give Jack Z some freedom with the payroll which in turn gives us more wins we'll show up. If the team is halfway decent every fifth start with Hernandez the place should be rocking. I think it's safe to say we are no longer a crappy ball club. Is this game going to be playing in the postseason anytime soon? Who knows? One thing I do know is the passion in this city is still alive for this team.

I would love to see Felix Hernandez throw a playoff game and I would pay $1,000 if I had to just to see him pitch in the playoffs. I never thought back in 2001 when the Mariners won 116 games that would be our final playoffs. I miss caring about whether we win or lose, I miss scoreboard watching where I get excited if a team we are chasing loses or upset when they win. I miss giving a shit about this team more importantly! I really do hope Jack Z is the guy that would make life so much easier as he has proven he can find great values in guys. Eventually he will need to prove he can land that big time guy(something he has yet to prove he can do) via trade. I don't think free agency is the way to go and possibly Jack Z pulls a Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero type of trade where he trades one of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, or Taijuan Walker for a young first baseman/elite first base prospect. This team is knocking on the door for the playoffs and should have the best starting pitching and bullpen in about two seasons for over a few years after that. The Mariners were the talk of the city in the middle of football talk and I'm proud to have been at the game. Hopefully this game is the start of something big as the fans start to come back to Safeco and we return to the days where we sell out every game regardless of the opponent or who our pitcher is. I can't wait! I'm so jacked up on the Mariners and Safeco Field was magical that Tuesday night. I can't wait until every home game is like that as that is going to be a treat especially for those younger fans who missed the 2000-2003 run at Safeco Field.

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