Safeco Field is My Safe Place in Seattle

Weird, right?

I’ve been to two Mariners games now at Safeco Field. I, obviously, am not a Mariners fan. I don’t even really follow American League baseball that much. But it is a lovely ballpark with great sight lines and amenities. The tickets are inexpensive. I can walk there after work.

And when I’m there, I don’t want to be anywhere else. When I’m watching the game, even though I don’t care who wins, I don’t want to think about anything else.

And I don’t have to.

I live thousands of miles away from my closest friends and family. I have a pretty fast-paced job in a major American city. I don’t have a lot of downtime or days off, and my schedule can be pretty demanding. Some nights, I just want to go home and watch TV and forget about life until the morning.

But some nights, when the M’s are in town, I go to the ballpark instead. I sit there in the stands alone, sipping a beer or munching on a pretzel, and I watch the pitches and swings. I don’t really cheer or clap or do anything that most fans do when they go to the game.

Hell, I wear my Mets hat. And I’m the only one there wearing a Mets hat. I am clearly a neutral party.

And I think that’s the important thing. Whenever I go to Mets games, we have to win. It’s a serious event. Dignity and sports emotions are on the line, every time. My mood correlates with the scoreboard, the hitting, the pitching, and the managerial strategy.

With the Mariners? I don’t care, but I love it anyway. They aren’t a very good team. They are in the midst of the longest postseason drought of any major sports team in the world. The general feeling at the ballpark is sadness, and the upper deck is almost always empty. Most of the fans aren’t that into it, and there aren’t that many of them that show up.

And the ones that are there seem like they’re mostly there for the novelty—entertaining clients or taking the kids out to the game—and not really watching the game itself.

But I’m there with them, wandering around centerfield wearing the hat of a team that never plays there, talking to the beer vendors, watching the pitchers warm up in the bullpen. The smell of the grass and clay and peanuts seems to center me a bit since it reminds me of being a kid and playing catch with my dad when he used to umpire college games and I tagged along.

But the crack of the bat is an ancient American sound of triumph.

I’ve been looking for a place in Seattle where I can go just to get away and feel centered and unpressured. And when I’m at Safeco Field, I’m safe. There’s nowhere else to be when I’m there. And there’s nothing else to think about.

I don’t really think I’ve found that kind of experience in my life before. And now that I have—and that baseball is the main part of it all—I’m incredibly grateful.

And in terms of baseball in which I do emotionally invest myself, the Mets are kicking ass. We had the best start within 10 games that we’ve ever had, and even though we’ve had a rough few games with the Nats and the Braves, our pepper grinder team seems like they’re gonna do great this year.

But I’ll be in the bleachers at Safeco, meditating on the game in front of me with some headphones on, listening to the action in New York. When I was there this Sunday, Wilmer Flores smacked a walk-off homer for the Mets and stopped the Nationals from sweeping us.

Among the unenthused crowd, I gave a little yell of joy and clapped. They looked at me like I was a total stranger.

I pointed to my hat, and then to the scoreboard of all games that every MLB park keeps.

They understood.

The Mets Begin, Gottman-Style

So, as many of you know, I now work at The Gottman Institute as their content manager. And at TGI, we have a motto, which is 5:1, or five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Dr. John Gottman, through 40 years of research, found that people in committed relationships need to hit that ratio in order to have a positive and successful relationship into the future.

He did it with data and science. It’s no joke. It’s a fact.

Well, I’m in a committed relationship with the New York Mets, as of today, we are doing just that. We’re 5-1 and in first place in the National League East. And we just beat our rivals, the Washington Nationals, to take the lead. Kid Conforto showed back up in the lineup a couple weeks ahead of time and got two RBI, and Bruce hit a grand slam to push the game beyond contention.

I’m no therapist, nor am I a baseball analyst. But I can tell that this kind of ratio, while unsustainable across a baseball season of 162 games, is a great start.

And we even have a new team mantra, or sign, or handshake. I don’t even know what it is, but suddenly, after every good play, all of the Mets make a pepper grinder motion with their hands.

The grind of 162 games. The seasoning it takes to make a lineup with some pop. And the grit it takes to play this game like it’s meant to be played.

And the 2018 New York Mets are surely hitting the ground running, pumping on all cylinders, full speed ahead, pick your cliche, I don’t care because my team, at least right now, is playing some wicked good baseball.

Staub Passes, and a New Mets Live

It’s 2018. A lot of things have changed, obviously. I barely wrote for almost two years. The last real writings I did get down to paper before I got carpal tunnel were posted here. I live in Seattle now. I drove across the country to get here. I’m very far away from my friends, family, and my New York Mets.

But I was back at home to watch Opening Day with my father, and man, these 2018 Mets, at least so far, do not disappoint.

Sure, Syndergaard strikes out 10 in his first outing. We score 9 runs. But none of those runs come from the long ball, which is not how this Mets roster has operated over the last few years. We started playing small ball. Slapping opposite-field hits, stealing bases, drawing walks. That’s a kind of strategy that’s less enthralling but more gutsy and brave, more risky and dangerous and dirty and, honestly, fun to watch.

But we’ve still got a lot of sluggers. We’ve still got a lot of power pitching. But we also have a new, young manager in Mickey Callaway who seems willing to do what’s needed in combining new and old managing strategies into making this team win. And even though David Wright is still on the bench, rehabbing his way into, hopefully, an elder captain’s role of pinch hitting and teaching younger players, we have Todd Frazier, this weird New Jersey dude who’s a bit scrappy and can hit and is old and wise and funny enough to lead these young guys from the far side of the horn.

It’s a new, yet old, New York Mets. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, those beloved ’86 alums, lead the SNY broadcast team with humor, emotion, and sharp critical eyes alongside the veteran no-nonsense Gary Cohen “put it in the books!” at play-by-play. Rusty Staub died on Opening Day, and Hernandez wept openly to the media. Darling seconded Rusty’s greatness, and now the 2018 Mets wear his signature on their sleeves for the year.

I once saw Rusty deliver the first pitch at a Mets game at Citi Field. He tottered onto the field, balding but still with a shock of red hair. He was overweight, slow, but smiled and waved happily to the crowd. He assumed the stance slowly, but simply underhanded the pitch in. It bounced in front of home plate, and he didn’t care, and neither did the catcher.

They met halfway between home plate and the rubber and hugged before Staub waved to a lot of fans that adored him, many of which were not old enough to have seen him play for the Mets. He was no star. But he was one of us.

There’s still something magical happening in National League baseball in New York City, and that’s been happening for a while now. David Wright was the spark of these post-Shea, post-Piazza Mets, and he might still come back to punch a few over the fence again. 2015, with Terry Collins at the wheel, was a fragile but thrilling journey into a new Mets greatness. There’s no way to tell if the 2018 Mets will tap fully into a real chance at a championship, but after a couple of days of spirited and emotional play at the start of the season, I have a feeling that this one will be worth the ride.