Road Game To Remember

I was at the game last night, and while game recaps are very few and far between from me (intentionally - there's enough great ones out there already), last night's game is more than worthy of an exception. Let me count the ways that it was pure, unfiltered fun:

  • It was awesome to see the Mariners come out in the road grays. Three years ago, I went to an end-of-spring-training exhibition game in San Francisco, where the Mariners played in their gray pants with their dark navy batting practice tops. I hadn't ever seen the team in their true road grays until last night. It is fun to say that I've now seen that.
  • I was also surprised at how much of a difference the uniforms make psychologically for me as a fan. It did not feel to me like Safeco Field with the Mariners in their road uniforms. Neither team "felt" like the home team. Until last night, I did not realize how much of my personal construct of the home team is tied up in the uniforms they wear, not the city or ballpark. I wonder if the players feel similarly.
  • One of the most awkward moments of the game was when the Marlins took the field. Nobody in the crowd was about to cheer them taking the field, but without any acknowledgment that players were taking the field, it almost felt like the start of the game took the crowd by surprise. It didn't, but it still felt that way, since so many of the usual pre-game antics attached to celebrating the home team were absent.
  • With that said, one of the most beautiful moments occurred as the Marlins took the field. There was a song as they charged out of the dugout - one of U2's hits. At least Hanley Ramirez noticed. I could see a big smile and some chuckles as he fielded some warm-up grounders out at shortstop. I salute whoever thought to do that as Florida took the field. Well played, extremely well played.
  • The King's Court might be the best idea the Mariners have ever come up with. Two sections down the left field line were completely packed with boisterous yellow t-shirts, and boisterous fans to match. They especially stuck out with everywhere else in the stadium half-packed at best.
  • The crowd at Safeco Field was unlike any other game I've been to. It was small (a shade over 15,000), but enthusiastic. Since this was technically a road game, season ticket packages did not apply. I wonder how much of Safeco's generally tepid demeanor comes from season ticket holders that see Mariners games as more of an outing than a baseball game. It also is probably unfair to make any sort of guess when the crowd last night was dominated by The King's Court, which again, might be the best idea the Mariners have ever come up with.
  • This is what baseball is all about:

    Sure, wins and losses matter, but watching King Felix hit in Safeco Field was an experience in itself. There will be many, many more wins and losses than at-bats by Felix in Safeco. His first at-bat would have been fun no matter the outcome, but getting a hit made this moment unforgettable. I don't know what my 10 favorite moments at a ballpark are, but I know that hit is one of them for sure. I knew it once the grounder got to the outfield.
  • It was good to see Franklin Gutierrez get a few hits for a couple reasons. First of all, he has really struggled this year at the plate, so it was good to see him not struggle. Hopefully it gets him going a little. Second, Guti's hits kept putting Felix in a position to hit with the potential to drive in a run.
  • The King's Court is about more than Felix. They started out multiple chants throughout the game, for several players. The most surprising was the, "OOOOOOOOH; O-LI-VO!" chant that lasted forever in the ninth, because Miguel Olivo battled for a while. The Marlins got their one run in the game off of a strikeout, thanks to Olivo's inability to catch baseballs as a catcher. I figured The King's Court would loathe the man that really gave up Felix's only blemish, but instead, they chanted for a home run. Even sweeter, they got it, and he hooked right around the left field foul pole, so that The King's Court got to keep the souvenir. It struck me that Olivo, a pull-hitting catcher with poor plate discipline, and an embarrassing defensive mishap earlier in the game, still got a chant later.
  • Another moment that was not lost on the crowd was when Jose Lopez pinch hit. The shower of boos was reminiscent of A-Rod's trips to Safeco. I felt a little bad for him, to be honest. He had a few solid years for the M's, and I thought never did anything really to make him much of a polarizing figure. Apparently, at least last night, I was wrong.
  • Mike Stanton, in different circumstances, could be an opponent this city loves to hate. He would have to end up on an American League team to really realize his "potential," but the groundwork was set last night. Something happened down the right field line during a catch in foul ground. It looked like a fan pushed him, and he wasn't afraid to say some words back. Between innings, Stanton talked to the umpires too, presumably about some fans down the line. Frankly, Stanton didn't do much to dissuade fans at the plate, with a golden sombrero.
The word I keep coming back to from last night is fun. The atmosphere had a vivacity that most baseball games don't have. There were chants, cheers, and jeers throughout the night. The crowd felt like part of the game, not just a collection of spectators. The lion's share of the credit should go to The King's Court, of course with all their adoration for Felix, but also for their spontaneous support of other players.
    A win always feels good, but a 5-1 victory rarely feels special. Last night did though, and it was all about the moments the game generated. Certainly, a fair amount of it can be attributed to the novelty of a "road" game with NL rules. However, that merely set the stage, and the players had to deliver. Felix was dominant (8 IP, 2 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts), yet his performance on the mound got overshadowed by several other moments in the game. They certainly weren't more important events to the game's outcome, but for whatever reason, anticipation in the crowd kept building for different outcomes, and there were a few that were so satisfying when they were delivered.

    Many nights, it is easy to wonder if the game justifies the ticket price. Last night was a bargain. Long live the King and his Court.