First time for everything: A night at Safeco

Reporter Matthew Nash takes in the ‘Full Mariners Experience’


The Major League Baseball regular season is done and the postseason is on.

Long gone are the chances for the Mariners to vie for a pennant this year.

Thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays breaking their playoff drought (1993), local and national media have mentioned endlessly that the Mariners are now the placeholders of the MLB’s longest postseason drought.

But they’ll be back. How do I know? Because I witnessed “The Full Mariners Experience.”

When I went to Safeco Field last week — it was the 159th game of the regular season — which probably isn’t high on the list of memorable games for a sub-.500 team or its fans. But for me I’ll never forget it.

Sept. 30 was my first MLB game with the Mariners hosting the Houston Astros.

The Mariners lost 7-6. They were up twice but gave up some big hits, committed some costly errors on offense and defense, and used eight relief pitchers to fill-in for injured starter James Paxton.

The full Mariners experience, I’m told, starts when they grab you by the heartstrings with big plays,  only to end in failure.

In this case, it starts with back-to-back home runs by Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Then, they throw it aside, e.g. Franklin Gutiérrez popping up for the second out in the bottom of the ninth and pinch-runner James Jones is leading off so far that he’s thrown out at first base to end the game.

That is the Full Mariners Experience.

Oregon roots

Growing up in Oregon, our fandom for professional sports centered around the Portland Trailblazers. It wasn’t uncommon for friends and neighbors to travel to Mariners and Seahawks games but I’d say I knew more people going south for Beavers and Ducks games.

I’ve been to the Kingdome and Safeco Field for various events but never a Mariners game. The M’s games were broadcast in the Portland area and I’d watch and root for Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and company growing up. I even tried to mimic Edgar’s stance in Little League at one point, which as you can surmise, led to big things for opposing pitchers striking me out.

Anyway, I’ve found it’s fairly commonplace among people in town to have seen the Mariners in person. It’s almost sacrilegious to some, so I felt I was long overdue to see our national pastime on the big stage.

Bring it on

Your editor Mike Dashiell, and my friend, invited me to go with him, so we embarked in the late afternoon. Thanks to bad timing (I needed to refill my drink at the restaurant, OK!), we had to run to catch the ferry. Well, Mike ran. I shuffle-jogged but I’m not sure if that’s a good enough phrase for awkwardly running.

On the boat, we noticed the sky tinted majestically off the Seattle buildings. The setting felt perfect for a baseball game.

It didn’t matter to me the Mariners were 75-83. It didn’t matter that they were playing the Houston Astros either.

“Who goes to a game to see Jose Altuve or George Springer?” Mike joked before the game.

We did, apparently.

At one point, we went for a walk around the ballpark so I could look around and we were standing in the 300 level at center field for both of the Mariners home runs — one by Kyle Seager, the other by Nelson Cruz.

But in the next inning, we saw the Astros’ Chris Carter tie the game at 6 with a three-run-RBI home run.

The Astros went ahead for good in the top of the seventh as Cobly Rasmus singled in Jonathan Villar off ‘Lord’ Danny Farquhar.

It was definitely an emotional roller coaster.

A park, in truest sense

The accessibility was amazing though. As we continued our journey around the ballpark, we watched the game from left, center and right field and eventually settled on behind home plate from a concessions table. We stood there long enough that an usher offered us seats to finish out the game among a sea of empty seats.

Admittedly, it was a Wednesday night and at one point on our walk around the park, we were the only ones on one whole floor. We started talking our fears of a zombie apocalypse until a woman sweeping breezed by us.

Despite the dearth of fans, I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

While it’s a fairly random game to make my first, I’m sure there were a handful of others out there taking in the game for the first time.

At one point, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

On the 300 level, I ordered Mike a beer as a thank you for the game and I told the concession lady about this being my first MLB game.

“It’s my first game ever,” I said.

“Welcome. That will be $10,” she said.

She may have been going through the motions with me but I did get a free soda.

Lovable losing

At 159 games in, Mariners fans, (more than double the population of Sequim in attendance), seemed to still care. I noticed more people clenching beers and hot dogs than cell phones.

As a father of two, I tuned in more to the family fans more so than others. In front of our first seats was a family of four with two boys wearing M’s caps. Behind me, I heard a grandfather speaking to his grandson about the game.

“Be ready for a ball,” he said. “They can come at anytime. Get your glove up.”

Next to me was Mike, a long-time Mariners fan who knew details about the M’s only a true fan could know.

Despite his and many others’ frustration with the game’s end result, I still felt hope resonate.

Before we left the park, Mike showed me “The Double” mural depicting Edgar’s heroic double in 1995 bringing home Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr. to beat the New York Yankees and win their first postseason series.

In a way, it symbolizes the Mariners of today who once again are trying to break the odds. Going to this game helped me realize I want to share an experience like this with my boys many, many times.

The Full Mariners Experience is there win or lose — but who wouldn’t want to share hope with someone else?

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