It started out so well. All of the events and ceremony leading up to the game seemed destined to leave an indelible mark upon the collective Mariner memory. It was a little odd, being the first Mariner Opening Day held at night since 2001 (which I chose to take as a good omen, little did I know that the bad omen would over-shadow the good when my phone battery died prior to the 4th inning).
I didn’t abide with my tradition of taking the day off and spending the morning at a spa. Instead, I went to work a couple hours earlier than usual so I could leave in time to get to the corner of Royal Brougham and the “new street” to be witness to the unveiling ceremony. I arrived just as just as the crew was finishing the audio setup. A huge crowd was gathered at “The Glove” awaiting the final unveiling (the veil was a sign in itself that read “My Oh My!”).
I was tapped on the shoulder by Chuck Armstrong as he parted the crowd, clearing the way for the entire Niehaus family. Several city and county politicians took turns reading portions of the proclamation and giving credit to the citizens who started the grassroots campaign. And then….
I had a couple of hours before my “date” would arrive (my mom-in-law was planning to meet me at 6:15pm) so I decided to meander through the Team Store and, of course, couldn’t escape without purchasing a couple of items. Then, my stomach was talking to me, so decided I’d head up to the 300 level where I knew I could get a gyro. I enjoyed said gyro from my regular seat (had to buy other tix for the evening, since I only have one season seat these days) while watching the Indians take batting practice and listening to the pre-game show … a lot of talk about the Jack Wilson controversy – more on that later. Then, got a call from my mom-in-law – she was here! So went down to meet her so we could make our way to our seats for the evening (section 306 – right center field) and we were good and settled in with plenty of time to spare before the festivities.
It started, as every home opener since 1999 (when Safeco Field opened) with a Make-A-Wish kid being the first to “touch ’em all!”. Eleven year-old Kamrin Cramer soaked up every minute of his trot around the bases, stopping at each one to wave to the crowd.
Then it was time for the introductions – the visiting Tribe first, of course. Then the red carpet was rolled out and the 2011 Mariners ran in one-by-one from the centerfield gate to the first base line as they were introduced. Felix, of course, received the loudest ovation, followed closely by Ichiro and Michael Pineada (yay!). A huge flag was carried onto the field and the Navy Band Northwest performed the National Anthem.
Next, the awards for the 2010 season were presented. Guti (who is still rehabbing in Arizona) and Ichiro received their Gold Gloves and Felix his Cy Young (what a birthday gift – Happy 25th, Felix!). Then, a little extra something – Edgar was there to present a framed photo commemorating the new Mariner hit-king (Ichiro surpassed Gar in that category during the second game of the season). They embraced and exchanged words (would have loved to hear that conversation!). It was a very nice moment.
Then came the tough but touching part. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed the fabulous “My Oh My” song. Even those who are not rap fans (like me) had to be moved to tears by his sincere emotion. Add to that the video highlights and Dave’s calls interspersed, it was a quite perfect tribute.
Marilyn Niehaus made her way out to the mound and threw a strike to Felix with her entire family standing behind her. Another “what a moment” moment. Then, all the Niehaus grandchildren signaled the start of the game with a hearty “PLAY BALL!” It was 7:20pm and 53 degrees.
Okay – that’s about all I have for you. From that point on, it’s a bit of a blur. Seems my cell phone battery wasn’t the only thing that died and I’m relatively sure that the real Jason Vargas was abducted by aliens – or at least the ghost of Chief Wahoo found a way to extract Jason’s command. I mean, we are used to offensive woes … we are not used to the pitching being offensive.
It’s a shame that the fabulous pomp had to be over-shadowed by the disastrous circumstance but, I’ve no doubt that, from above, Dave was singing the Wabash Cannonball. And, that he truly appreciated the love and respect that over-flowed from Safeco Field last night.
Better days ahead…