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FIELD TRIP OF DREAMS

AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES IN 49 DAYS


Safeco Field
Seattle, WA
San Diego Padres at Seattle Mariners
June 27, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

The trip from Minnesota to Seattle was the longest drive between 2 games on this amazin (spelled that way for the 1962 Mets) journey.  It's approximately 1,600 miles straight from Minneapolis to Seattle, but just to keep my brain alive, I added an extra 200-250 miles to the journey to see Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, and Devil's Tower.  It was worth the extra drive.

I don't want to bore the baseball fans too much with the sightseeing stuff. Therefore, I'll just mention that if you get the chance to see Mount Rushmore, that you should go for it, and make sure you stay for the ceremony at night time when they light up the mountain.  But Crazy Horse Mountain is only a few miles away and was much more interesting even though it is much less known.  This monument of Chief Crazy Horse is much bigger than Mount Rushmore and is not yet complete.  One man started building this monument by himself and worked on it for over 30 years until his death, when his many children took over the task for him and are still working to this day.

My drive to Mount Rushmore on the 25th was about 600 miles, but on the 26th I drove 940 miles to Spokane, Washington.  I didn't have a hotel reservation this night because I just planned to drive until I got tired.  I only made a pit stop to see Devil's Tower in Wyoming because I remembered my brother telling me how interesting it was.  I'm glad I did stop to see this giant thimble-like mountain in the middle of nowhere (historical note - this was the first national monument dedicated in the US), to break the monotony of driving on I-90 for hours on end.  I thought Montana would never end!  I drove from the Central Time zone and into the Pacific Time zone before seeing the appropriate sign that made me stop and rest for the night.  It was the Home Plate Bar and Grill in Spokane, which was located right next to a hotel.  I figured that the baseball gods were telling me to stop, so I did.  I had a really good burger and a few beers and watched the Mariners game while sitting at the bar, which was actually shaped like Home Plate. If you see a sign for this bar on I-90 stop in and relax, I know I needed it.

OK, time to get back to baseball now!  My first stop in Seattle was to visit the former sight of Sicks Stadium.  This was mostly the home of the minor league Rainers between 1938 and 1976.  However, the Seattle Pilots played their games here in 1969 during their one season in the Major Leagues before moving to Milwaukee and being renamed the Brewers.  A Loews department store now resides where the Stadium used to be, but they have not forgotten the old stadium.  In front of the main entrance to the store, you will find home plate painted on the floor with a cardboard cut-out-like wooden batter indicating that this is the sight where home plate used to be.  Then I found Fred, an employee at the store and a fan that saw many games at this stadium.  This was the best thing that could have happened to me, because he took me around the store to point out all the old stadium facts and memorabilia.  First, we went to see the Pitcher's Mound, which is painted on the floor right next to the cash register's (I assume that most of the customers have no idea what this white stripe is there for!).  Then we went to see the room in the store with a display case that displays pictures and artifacts of Sicks Stadium and the players that were a part of Seattle history at this location.  Finally, in front of the building there is a plaque indicating that this is the former sight of Sicks Stadium where the Rainers (no mention of the Pilots) used to play.  Fred made this the best experience that I had visiting any of the former sights of stadiums!  Make sure you visit this store when you're in Seattle and don't forget to ask for Fred.

Now to the Mariners, Seattle's current Major League franchise.  On my way to the stadium I was looking for two of the things that Seattle is famous for, Rain and the space needle.  I didn't see either one.  In fact, this was the clearest day I've had since I began my trip.  I couldn't see a cloud in the sky, and considering that I kept looking up to see the space needle, which I couldn't see either, I was clearly paying attention.  I found out later that the space needle is just outside of the downtown area and on the other side of town from Safeco.  The ballpark, however, was pretty easy to find it was right off of both I-5 and I-90 and is located next to the NFL's Seattle Seahawk Stadium.  I knew this was the former sight of the Kingdome, the home of the Mariners from 1977 through 1999.  Therefore, on my walk around before the game I circled the football stadium to find out if there were any markers indicating anything regarding the Kingdome, but I didn't find anything.  In fact, everyone that I asked about the Kingdome (including people working in guest relations for the Mariners) indicated that there isn't anything to commemorate the dome and couldn't understand why anyone would even want to remember it!  I got a good laugh at of that, but I still feel that it is unfortunate that I never got to judge for myself.

There was lots of action outside of Safeco including many street vendors in the surrounding blocks selling both food and Mariners (and Seahawks) merchandise.  This was also the first time I saw kettle corn, which is just popcorn cooked over a kettle.  I'm not a popcorn fan, so I didn't try any figuring I wouldn't be a good judge of whether they were good or not anyway. You also have access to the huge Mariner's souvenir store from the outside of the ballpark.  The huge metal glove outside of the Left Field entrance is also pretty interesting.  However, what made the outside of the park particularly interesting to me was that while the roof is open it slides over the train tracks (both city and commuter trains stop here) that are next to the station.   The roof actually looks like it was meant to cover the train tracks and not the stadium.  Luckily for me the roof was open, so I didn't have to watch indoor Baseball tonight.

Once inside you will see some more interesting artwork throughout the park. For instance, by the Southwest entry gates you will see the giant chandelier called "The Tempest" which is made entirely of translucent bats.  Another piece of art that I found particularly interesting was "The Defining Moment: Griffey Scores from First" which can be found by the Northwest entrance on the main concourse level.  This is art depicts Ken Griffey scoring from first to win the series against the Yankees in the 1995 playoffs with his teammates celebrating in the dugout.  This was the victory that effectively turned Seattle into the baseball town that it has become today.  See it is not just me that gets excited over a Yankee loss!  I also like the way the steel beams and girders and the air conditioning ducts are left exposed as artwork in itself.  This is similar to Miller Park, but somehow not quite as nice.

Like many of the new stadiums, your choice of food here is plentiful.  The best place to start out is in the Bullpen Market behind left field.  You can chose from BBQ food in Porter's BBQ to Pizza to Sushi at the appropriately named Sushi stand.  You can of coarse find all of the standard stadium food here as well, but I just had to try the local Mariner special "Ichiroll", which consists of spicy tuna sushi and is named after the Mariners star right fielder (Ichiro Suzuki).  I happen to like sushi and this was very good, so make sure that you try it when there.  Also, near the Children's Hospital Playfield, you will find Moose's Munchies (named after the Mariners' mascot) concession stands which have all the foods young children will like and even have the counters at kid-level heights.  This whole section is set up for kids to play and have fun, while their parents can still watch the game on the TVs provided in that section.  Therefore, everyone should be happy whether they watch the game or not.

This game featured another one of the intense natural rivalries set up for Interleague play between the Mariners and the San Diego Padres.  Wait a minute!  I guess this is a rivalry by default since neither team had a natural geographical rivalry that made sense, so the Mariners get 6 games against the worst team in the National League West.  I'm disappointed that this wasn't a better match up, but was still happy to see Ichiro and the Mariners up close.  And considering that my seat was on field level right behind home plate I certainly did see the game up close.  The game ceremonies started with an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a young boy that was a junior achievement award winner and the Mariners also honored Mark McLemore for recently getting his 1,500 career hit before the actual game started.

After a slow start, the game was pretty much all Mariners.  There were no hits until Edgar Martinez singled in the bottom of the 4th.  Adam Eaton then walked the next two batters and shortstop Denaldo Mendez made a key error that helped lead to 3 runs for the Mariners to give them a lead they wouldn't relinquish.  Rondel White hit a 2-run homer in the top of the 5th to make the score close, but that would be all for the Padres for the rest of the game. The Mariners added 2 more in the 5th on an RBI single by Martinez and an RBI groundout by John Olerud (one of my favorite players). The Mariners also added single runs in the 6th (an RBI double by Brett Boone), 7th  (an RBI single by Jeff Cirillo), and 8th (a solo homer by Carlos Guillen which prompted the train horn to signify a Mariners HR) innings for a final score of 8-2.  Ichiro only went 1-5 during the game, but did make a great catch on a popup to end the 2nd inning.  Mike Cameron also made an amazing over shoulder catch in center field to end the 5th inning, but the play of the game had to be when the ball girl down the 3rd base line made a diving attempt to catch a foul ball.  She didn't catch the ball, but she did get a nice ovation from the crowd for the attempt.  Adam Eaton was the loser, while Joel Piniero pitched 7 2/3 solid innings for the win.

Aside from the game, it was fun to watch several different peanut vendors accurately throw the bag of peanuts behind their back to the fans (sometimes quite far away) purchasing them.  The ushers also made sure that the fans were OK every time a foul (or fair) ball went into the stands, but the most unique thing I saw was on the huge concourses throughout the stadium.  There were people constantly sweeping the floor to keep the ground perpetually clean.  This was pretty amazing.

Electronically, the Mariners had a little bit of a minor league feel, but I don't mean that in a bad way.  They had a "nice catch" soundbite when a fan made a nice catch and they made chicken sounds when the Padres intentionally walked Edgar Martinez.  The stats provided on the Jumbotron were quite detailed and great to follow during the game.  The main scoreboard was manually operated and the out of town scoreboard in left center field was pretty good as well.

I was a little disappointed in the fans during this game.  They seemed happy to be there, but the only time they cheered or seemed to react in any way was when the Jumbotron or sound system prompted them to.  Otherwise, they were pretty quiet, except of coarse, for the electronic Hydro Challenge where the Yellow boat was victorious over the red and green boats racing on the Peugeot Sound.  The fans did however, give a big cheer every time Brett Boone, Ichiro, or Edgar Martinez came to bat, but many of the fans left long before the actual game was over.

Bottom line - This is a fun team to watch, they play in a beautiful park, and the food was excellent.  It's definitely worth the trip to Seattle, but don't forget to check out the former site of Sicks Stadium too.!

Basic trip facts:
* Stadium # 10
* Old Stadium Sites visited - Sicks Stadium (Total - 6)
* Miles traveled - 1,852 via Car (Totals: Driving - 6,312, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total - 9,548)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through - Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington  (Totals: States - 22, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats -Section 128, Row 20, Seat 11 - Main Concourse right behind Home Plate
* Prices: Parking - $20 (I parked for $15 close by), Beer - $5.50 - $6.50, Ichiroll - $9.00, Hot Dog - $3.25 - $4.25 Program (including pencil)
- $4.00, Souvenir Soda Cup - 5.00
* Credit Card giveaway -Mariners T-Shirt
* First Pitch -  7:08 PM
* Attendance - 45,429
* Results - Mariners 8, Padres 2,  W - Joel Pineiro, L -Adam Eaton, S - None
* Home team record to date - 7 wins, 6 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 4 wins, 9 losses
* Lodging - Rapid City, South Dakota (6/25), Spokane, Washington (6/26), Seattle, Washington (6/27)

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