I wrote this as a fanpost over on Lookout Landing. Coming on the heels of what I hope is a Mike Zunino coming-out party I wanted to celebrate. I was limited to 800 words, but every one of them is true. It’s hard to be a Mariners fan sometimes. But if you’ve lived in this area as long as I have, and if you live for baseball, as I do, it’s hard not to surrender your heart to the olde towne team.
Yes, I don’t feel like they take very good care of my heart at times. And I do stomp out the door angrily for a night, or a week or ten days when they are absolutely unwatchable. But I am linked to the Seattle Mariners, and will be until the day I can no longer see or hear.
Why I am a fan of the Seattle Mariners
I’m not sure I’m the oldest reader at LL, but at 61 I’m certainly not the youngest. I’ve been a baseball fan as long as I can remember, and my first heroes were ballplayers. It was Mays and McCovey, and then Koufax and Drysdale. I could never understand why my friends wouldn’t let them all be my heroes at the same time.
I grew up in Shoreline, not far from the home of the late, great Chris Cornell. My dad took me to Sicks Stadium to see the Rainiers, and then the Angels. In 1969, something special happened and major league baseball came to Sicks Stadium as the expansion Pilots. Don Mincher, Tommy Harper and fightin’ Ray Oyler were the guys we followed in the box scores. I loved the Pilots, and if they were dreadful, well, they were our dreadful team, Seattle’s team.
As I prepared to enter high school, two terrible things happened. Kent State, and the Pilots, who went to spring training as Seattle’s team, took a right turn and became the Brewers. They were our team. It felt like having my heart broken for the first time. If only I could have been a better fan, gone to more games, cheered a little louder they would have stayed and maybe won.
That summer I moved to the Bay Area and became a Giants fan. But Willie, Stretch and Marichal left. I basked in the A’s glory years with Reggie, Catfish, and Campy until Charlie Finley began to part them out too. I stayed for five years. When the University of Puget Sound called me back to finish my degree, Seattle was different in every way. Sicks Stadium was gone, but the Kingdome was rising in its place.
When the M’s became a thing in 1977, I immediately latched on to them and have been in love ever since. I’ve seen good players come and go. I’ve seen some great games and some terrible ones.
I saw Jim Presley’s extra inning grand slam to beat the Angels on opening night in 1986 and I cheered with my family when Junior hit his first homer in 1989. I saw Kevin Millwood’s combined no-hitter in 2012.
I also watched Mike Schooler blow up on opening night in 1992 and saw Jose Mesa punt the save in the first Safeco game. In my only playoff game, Roger Clemens threw a one-hitter at the M’s in the 2000 AlCS. In 2014 Fernando Rodney walked four Athletics to lose a game that would have gotten the M’s to the playoffs.
The run of teams that were good and almost good from 1995-2003 was wonderful. It had the entire Puget Sound area excited, and it was tremendous to be part of that. I’m a teacher and the M’s were always the talk of our school. The wins, the home runs, the latest Dave Niehaus call. Edgar and Junior, Danny and the Unit, Buhner and Boone. I remember like it was yesterday.
It’s been a long time since this team was really good. There were some good seasons. And lots of terrible seasons. It’s the number of terribles that make it hard to be a fan. Baseball is a process, one in which a team should be constantly building toward success. The guys in charge, Mariners-in-chief, have done stupid, and there’s been an awful lot of stupid for a long time. I’m under no illusions when the team is bad, and I don’t hesitate to call them out. That’s the privilege of being a fan. But I don’t ever walk away, give up, and say never, never, never. Never is a long time.
When that happens, all a fan can do is cheer the players. Ichiro’s hitting. Felix when he was young and on fire. Remember Guti in 2009 when he was the best center fielder ever? And I keep cheering today when Nelson Cruz goes deep, or when Cano makes the play behind second that looks so easy, like he’s in a rocking chair. Yes, the pitching may be as bad as pitching can be, but there’s always something for a fan to applaud.
I’ll always be a baseball fan first. It’s nice that the Seahawks win, but I don’t live or die for football. No, the leisurely pace of baseball is fine for me. I suppose I could choose another team to root for. But I learned a lesson early in life that if you don’t love your team enough, if you can’t manage an occasional cheer even when they’re bad, your team just might decide to leave town. Yes, it’s been a long time since the M’s were in the playoffs, but I’m proud to be a Seattle Mariners fan, and I know some day I’ll be rewarded too.