Opening Day at Safeco Field
Opening Day in any normal city usually embodies excitement, nice weather and a somewhat stress free win for your ball club (20 of 26 teams have won their home opener so far). Unfortunately, Seattle doesn’t abide by these common circumstances though. Instead of excitement, skepticism filled Mariner fans’ minds. “Did you see yesterday’s fiasco?! What the hell were they doing??” This is just one of the many comments I heard walking around Safeco 40 minutes prior to first pitch that wasn’t laced with profanity. Most cities experience nice weather in early April, but Seattle’s forecast couldn’t be more unpredictable during Spring. As for a stress free win, all longtime M’s fans know there’s no such thing. Before we get to the game, let’s back up for a moment.
After the Mariner’s complete 180-turn, 7-run collapse in Sunday afternoons game, I woke up on opening day with an uneasy feeling and certain skepticism. Three and a half hours of morning traffic included uploading SoundCloud clips, booking a few guests, and eating a perfectly golden-brown jalapeño bagel with cream cheese while watching the sunrise over the Cascade Mountains. Any normal person would feed off this optimistic start, but something inside kept telling me, “Hold on. There’s still a lot of day left.” (It should be noted that the google temperature forecast predicted a 50% chance of late afternoon thundershowers) Following work, I strolled 2 blocks east to the conveniently located YMCA, where a few miles on the treadmill, 30 minutes in the dry sauna and 15 minutes in a hot shower can rejuvenate even the most lifeless body; however, the greater Seattle area had other plans. Rain started falling harder and harder as I pulled into Safeway’s gas station to grab some snacks and Gatorade while waiting for a full tank.
The dreaded trek into downtown Seattle, which no sane person enjoys, featured two multiple lane blocking accidents within the first three miles of highway, a state patrol officer flying down the carpool lane with lights on but no siren to make a u-turn at the next carpool exit and a brief five minute hail storm. Although this bad omen seemed set to inevitably inflict the already wooded Mariners, hope started to form. First, we noticed clear skies and sun breaks hovering over Safeco and downtown as we slowly made our way through the U-district. Second, a prime time parking spot close to the exit and stairwell in Safeco’s garage patiently waited for us. Third, the separate media entrance saved us at least ten minutes of waiting in line to enter the stadium. By now I’m optimistic for the game, but still have a dark cloud of skepticism above my head.
The first couple innings flew by as outs came like a premium and base runners almost nonexistent until the bottom of the third. Zunino led off with a single to right, Dyson followed by getting hit by a pitch and then Segura hit into a fielder’s choice. With runners at the corners, RF Mitch Haniger hit a screaming line drive, only for Houston to turn a double play and Jean Segura, Mariners best hitter so far (.313 batting average), leaving the game with a right hamstring strain. Doubt started flooding everyone’s mind as a big, “Ahhhhhh” roared through Safeco. The roller coaster ride continued into the fourth as Paxton managed to strand two base runners and another good opportunity for run support presented itself for the Mariners with loaded bases and no outs. Strikeout, strikeout and fly out to right field were the next three at-bats… Loud boos and some profanity swirled through the 45,000 strong crowd as an opening day win seemed like a distant dream.
The Mariners showed resiliency again though by coming right back in the fifth inning to score three runs, adding two more in the sixth and one in the seventh. With the score 6–0 and only two innings left, Paris and I debated leaving early to beat some of the northbound baseball traffic, but we knew better. James Paxton got pulled after seven strong innings highlighted by 103 pitches, 8 strikeouts and no runs. The bullpen, trying to redeem itself after Sunday’s meltdown, loaded the bases with one out and Carlos Correa, Houston’s clean up hitter, coming to the plate. The Skepticism that filled my brain all day long finally came to fruition and thoughts of another late game loss created a sickness deep in my stomach. More resiliency from the Mariners poured through Dan Altavilla as he struck out Correa and forced Carlos Beltran into a foul ball fly out to Kyle Seager. Genuine cheers and screams came from the packed crowd as a sign of relief and acknowledgement that an opening day win was now guaranteed.
With the game in hand, we left shortly after 5:30 to join the northsound rush hour traffic, which made Everett seem like an epic voyage (90 minutes in carpool lane) instead of a short 40 minute drive; thus proving that there’s no ordinary opening day in Seattle.