Sports

A night at the ballpark with the undead

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Watch Port Angeles High School Vocal Unlimited sing the national anthem
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While vampires lurked on the third deck, the Wizards of Whiff were at it again.

Saturday night the Seattle Mariners promised Olympic Peninsula fans a special treat: a major league baseball game.

What the “Twilight” series-obsessed visitors got was quite different.

Instead, the hapless M’s — as they have for much of this season — put on a clinic of epically dispiriting proportions. Mariner batters slugged their way to a gaudy total of five hits and a single run, losing in grandly uninspired fashion, 2-1.

The Royals, gleeful in their fortune to play the third-worst baseball club in America, didn’t show much more life but managed to scrape across two runs in the second inning against tough luck loser David Pauley.

Other than Mariner DH Russell Branyan, who slugged a Bruce Chen offering 400 feet that nearly woke up fans in the center field bleachers, the Mariner batters used a different tactic, trying to set Royal infielders asleep with their lethargic grounders and lazy fly balls.

It was enough to make fans want to get up and leave — if their legs weren’t asleep.

The vampires, however didn’t seem to mind.

The most energy in that disquietingly empty ballpark were the bloodsuckers up in Section 321, who went nuts when they saw their group’s name or a reference to “Twilight” on the big screen (and that was often).

And while their series still has at least one more movie to look forward to, Mariners fans don’t have that kind of luck. Instead, it’s another 50 games to an unmerciful ending to a painfully unforgettable season.

The party starts early
I wondered if I’d see a big contingent from the area fill the stands on this, the “Olympic Peninsula Appreciation Night.” Given the worldwide acclaim the “Twilight” books and movies, the Mariners offered reduced tickets and pre-game swag as an enticement.

Rebecca Hale, director of public information for the Mariners, says the ball club hosts more than 70 event-in-event productions like this one — but that it’s the first she’s seen involving vampires.

A small gaggle of journalists from our fair region joined the “Twilight” legion in a pre-game party at a closed-off, uncovered section of the 300-level concourse a couple of hours before the first pitch.

Fittingly for Forks residents and series adorers, it was raining.

While Mariners workers handed out red punch or wine and vampire-inspired T-shirts — yes, I got one, thank you very much — fans flocked to “Twilight” character impersonators.
Apparently, some guy named Edward is a big deal around here.

Only a few fans of this large gathering were from Forks; I got the feeling most of those were parents or siblings of the Forks High School cheerleading crew, who further confused the bizarre fan festivities with cheer routines. I was going to wonder aloud what that had to do with the “Twilight” series, but I didn’t want to get bitten on the neck by some crazed fan. Silence seemed to be the best strategy.

No, the bulk of the crowd was part of a “Twilight” travel package, one that sent them to the Olympic Peninsula, then to Seattle for the ball game, and finally on a cruise to Alaska.

Again, I nearly wondered aloud what marine vessels and the undead had to do with each other — but then I covered up my neck and moved along.

First pitch and anthem
Hale led the somewhat soaked writers and photographers down to Safeco’s field. We stood around and shuffled dirt next to the Kansas City Royal dugout while pre-game festivities carried on.

While I tried not to look like a total moron hanging out next to Troy Hillman, the Royals manager, and a hi-fivin’ Mariner Moose, the creepy dude who sort of looked like Edward and his cohort, the faux Alice, went out to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Like a good vampire, “Edward” held back his true undead powers and short-armed a throw that earned a smattering of guffaws and a few cheers (thanks to Section 321).

Then, in what turned out to be the highlight of the night for Olympic Peninsula folks, the Port Angeles select choir harmonized the national anthem for a crowd of 24,520.

Nice job, Roughriders. Well done.

Unfortunately, the sweet music didn’t last.

All downhill from here
John McKay is known in sports circles as a former coach and four-time college football champion at the University of Southern California, but perhaps most known for his sound byte gold quote after a dreadful loss by his Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A reporter asked about his team’s execution.

“I’m all in favor of it,” McKay astutely quipped.

As if awaiting their own execution, the Mariners spent Saturday night encouraging Northwest sports fans to daydream of football season. At one point, with seagulls sneaking into Safeco in the eighth inning, a cheer of “Let’s go Seahawks!” erupted from the dozing crowd.

Besides Branyan’s homer and some deft pitching by reliever Sean White, the most excitement on the field for the M’s came in the bottom of the ninth, when Chone Figgins hit a leadoff single and took second on a Casey Kotchman grounder.

Seattle fans weren’t fooled. Neither were the Royals.

Not wanting to send their friendly visitors from Kansas City away with two losses in a row, Seattle’s Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez promptly swung through six pitches without success.

While Royal players slapped each other hi-fives and thumbed their iPhones for directions to the Space Needle, the Mariners slumped off into the dugout with their 70th loss of the season.

Despite taking two of three from the Royals after a 3-2 win on Sunday, the overwhelming feeling of underwhelming success has the Mariners mired, encouraging the Seattle Times to plaster a “Bummed out?” message to M’s fans across their sports page cover.

There was a particularly nasty rumor that one or more of the visiting undead may attack our Seattle players this weekend, sucking away their energy and vitality.

Turns out the vampires were a few months late.

Purchase photos here.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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