My dad took me to my first baseball game at Angel Stadium in 1990 (give or take a year). I'd have been around six years old at the time. He'd signed me up for the Halos Kids Club, so we got cheap tickets in the upper deck, along with a magazine, a t-shirt and some trading cards. I had the best time, even though I most likely didn't understand everything that was going on. Over the next year or so we attended a few games. I remember watching Wally Joyner, Chuck Finley, Dave Winfield, Gary Gaetti, Luis Polonia, Gary DiSarcina and others.
But my favorite player had to be Jim Abbott. The fact that he was able to make it to the majors, while genuinely impressive, seemed near-magical to me at that age. I remember reading about his life, how he'd throw a ball against the wall of his house to practice pitching and fielding quickly. I learned that he and I share the same birthday. Jim Abbott was the coolest guy ever. And I got the chance to see him pitch in a game. He caught a comebacker. Not a bouncing grounder, or a bloop, but a screaming liner that he was somehow able to catch shortly after pitching the ball and getting the glove onto his hand. I'm still not sure if I've ever seen something more incredible at a baseball game.
I didn't go to that many games, or watch on TV. I mostly followed the sport by collecting baseball cards. In the attic of my parents house are boxes filled with near-worthless cards. I've got a binder with the best players sorted out page by page: Nolan Ryan, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Ryne Sandberg, Will Clark, Kirby Puckett, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry (!) and on and on and on...
But then the 1994 baseball strike happened, and I just lost interest and drifted away from the sport. So I missed 1995. And 2001. In fact, I didn't pay any attention until I'd learned that the Angels were going to the World Series. I watched the series and rooted for the Angels, but it's not really ingrained in my memory because I had so little investment at that point.
But it reignited my love for the game. I started following baseball more and more, and I was pretty much a die-hard fan by the 2004 season. Shortly after that, I read a book called Moneyball and starting educating myself about sabermetrics. My brother and I would go to games as often as we could, many times driving to Anaheim and back to San Diego the same night. I came to loathe Frankie Rodriguez, because even though he'd get the job done, he'd have to give me minor heart trauma first.
I moved to Seattle in February 2007. And while I was an Angels fan, I was also a baseball fan and went to see baseball at Safeco as often as I could. I was somehow introduced to Lookout Landing, and was delighted to find a community full of hilarious, like-minded individuals. And that's where the trouble started. I was not only going to games, watching on TV and listening on the radio, but I was able to laugh/cheer/compain/lament with others who were smart and funny. I began to like individual Mariners. This was easy enough to excuse. Ichiro is amazing. Who doesn't like Felix? Branyan's sex blasts will make anyone tingle a bit. But this was a bit of a cover. Because I was also beginning to like the team. I should have cheered the Bedard trade because it would help the Angels' chances. But all I could think about was how stupid it was. I ran into Bavasi at my local market during the trade rumors and resisted the urge to ask the cashier to page Adam Jones to the front of the store. Jose Vidro drove me insane. He's batting cleanup again?? GOD. But I was able to keep up this doublethink for a while by allowing myself to enjoy both teams, as long as I rooted for the Angels over the Mariners.
Each passing winter without baseball seems longer and longer as I descend further into this madness that is fandom. And yet, when the spring finally arrived this year, I could barely bring myself to care about the Angels. I've watched all of a half hour of Angels baseball this season. When I hear that they get thrashed, or that one of my favorite players hit a homerun, they both get a similarly disinterested reaction. And even though I could easily watch their games on MLBtv, I instead spend time hunting for a working proxy so I can watch the Mariners lose to the As. And this is all thanks to you, Lookout Landing.
I've been spoiled. It's not enough for me to simply watch baseball anymore. I now watch not just for the sport itself, but so I can participate in a community that knows the following: the status of their Japanese catcher's back, who Levale Speigner is, and that there is no floor.
I realize that this seems rather opportunistic; that I'm switching allegiances just as the Angels begin their long, slow slide into mediocrity. And that there are those that believe that fanhood is for life, that you can't just pick a new team. And I don't have an answer to that. I think that's part of the reason why I didn't make this fanpost sooner. I didn't want to seem like I'm giving up, like I'm making the easy choice. It's not that I think things would be better if I liked the Mariners; the simple fact is that I do.
And so, I hope that you'll accept me as a Mariner fan. Seattle is my home now. I've come to know many of you well online and off, and am glad to be able to call some friends. I know I haven't suffered through the recent years like many of you have (though Yuni, Bavasi, Rally Fries [WHY DID THEY BRING THOSE BACK?!] and Silva aggravated me plenty). And I may never be able to convince some that my fanhood is legitimate or deserved. But I'll be standing by you all, rooting for the Ms all the same.
mariners fan in seattle