As the wind whips my hair around I let my senses take in the Safeco Field atmosphere: the red dirt looks like Oklahoma after a spring storm, the seagulls caw overhead as they circle looking for broken pretzel pieces or dropped popcorn, the sounds of fans leisurely strolling to their seats as the pregame festivities begin. I inhale, taking in the smell of sea air, fresh chalk, and ballpark hot dogs; a goofy grin breaks out across my face because I’m on the field at my first Mariners game.
The chalk was dropped, the lines were set, and we patiently waited as the children’s choir from Rachel Carson Elementary School lined up to lead us in the National Anthem. Next, an inspiring story about Ayden, a boy with dwarfism that deals with daily pain to play baseball in a Bothell little league; his story and his first pitch of the game brought the crowd to its feet. The pre-game action didn’t stop there, the young girl, Yanil, who was supposed to place the ball on the pitcher’s mound completely overshot and ran the entire span of the field before returning to the mound.
Seattle had won 5 of their last 6 games, shortstop Taylor Motter knocking a ball 350ft+ for a grand slam the night before, so tension was in the air as Gaviglio took to the mound. The atmosphere intensified when we closed the first inning down 0-1 but the pressure was soon released when Mike Zunino showed them whose town they were in by closing the 2nd inning 3-1. With line drives in the following innings, a ball hitting Gamel in the back & a broken bat by Heredia, by the bottom of the 5th The Mariners quickly dominated The Rays, 5-1. A solid bunt by Jarrod Dyson brought Mariners’ fans to their feet for an “all bases loaded” moment; pressure was on as Zunino took to the plate. The package was pitched and boy did Zunino deliver; a beautiful GRAND SLAM brought the noise to Safeco Field finishing the 5th inning 9-1. At the close of each inning, hopeful fans race to the concourse above the dugout, eager to catch a spare ball or snag a high-five.
A close call at the bottom of the 6th when Cruz hit a popped fly that tried to decapitate me in the press box, but thanks to quick reflexes I can now check “catching a foul ball” off of my bucket list. Top of the 9th brought a home run from Tampa Bay’s Logan Morrison but we still closed the game strong at 9-2. The locker room was full of quiet celebration, the players icing and smiling while reporters filed in. So all in all, despite my near-death-experience, this was the best first Seattle Mariners game I could have asked for.
**This post was originally written for The Barbershop Show**