Seattle’s place among Major League Baseball seemed destined to be short-lived. Awarded an expansion team – along with the Kansas City Royals – the Seattle Pilots entered the American League in 1969. They struggled financially, and were sold following the season to a car dealer from Milwaukee. Bud Selig then moved the Pilots to Milwaukee, where they became the Brewers.
It would take eight years for Seattle to become home to another MLB team. The Mariners entered the league in 1977. They’ve been a mainstay in professional baseball since.
The M’s, as they are affectionately known, played their first two decades in the old Kingdome. The domed stadium in King County was better situated for the Seattle Seahawks, an expansion team that joined the National Football League in 1976. The Seahawks eventually had a new stadium built for them to play at – CenturyLink Field – in 2002.
In 1999, the Mariners moved into their own stadium – now known as Safeco Field. The stadium is beautiful, as we witnessed during our tour. Stadium tours are offered on a regular basis.
Safeco Field has mistakenly been referred to as a dome stadium. It actually has an “umbrella” roof, as the stadium isn’t enclosed. If you look at the field, you see open space under the retractable roof; thus, it’s an “umbrella.” The decision to play games with the roof closed or open can be made about 10 minutes before first pitch. It only take a few minutes for the roof be closed or opened.
We didn’t see a bad view of the field from the concourse or seats. Our guide – a fellow Nebraskan, who relocated to the Pacific Northwest decades ago – told us the stadium was designed to be fan friendly and provide an open watching experience. The team didn’t think expect fans to stay in their seats for a full nine-inning contest, he said.
Our tour took us beyond the field view. We started with a visit to the executive offices. We saw the general manager’s office through the glass doors. However, we stood in the lobby area. Imagine how many players and field managers have stood in that spot. I get goose bumps thinking of the famous players who have been in that area, including Ichiro Suzuki (one of the best hitters in baseball history), Ken Griffey Jr. and Franklin Gutierrez.
My favorite spot in every stadium we visit is the press box. Press members have a great view of the action on the field. I actually sat in the official scorekeeper’s chair. He has his own monitor to watch the game, as well as a copy of baseball’s official rules.
An interesting item in the press box is the hole in the wall caused by a foul ball that popped up from home plate to the press box.
The Mariners have made the American League playoffs four times – three as division champion and once as a wildcard. Seattle has reached the AL Championship Series three times, coming up short each time of a berth in the World Series.
Field level offers some interesting stops. We visited the press room, where I may or may not have been a friendly manager to the press corps.
We hung out in the home dugout. Imagine standing along the top of the steps as the field manager and guiding the team to victory. The Mariners are managed by a former Creighton University (located in Omaha) player, Scott Servais. He spent time in the Majors after his Bluejay career. He also has been a pro executive.
While visitors can’t step on the grass, you can walk on the dirt nearby. The view from the field is impressive.
Seattle will have its second player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame July 24, when Ken Griffey Jr. joins the roster of the greatest players in the game. Griffey played with the M’s 1989-99 and again at the end of his career (2009-10). Randy Johnson was the first ex-Mariner inducted. He joined the Hall in 2015.
Seattle has a great following in the Northwest, with a fan base reaching beyond Washington’s borders to include Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Canada. The Mariners have had 12 winning seasons since joining Major League Baseball, but the fans continue their support. The M’s are challenging for a winning mark this season.
Seattle is great for baseball. The city has a beautiful stadium. We enjoyed our tour. We recommend visiting Safeco Field.
For more information on the Mariners or Safeco Field, please visit www.mariners.mlb.com.