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.