Happy 12th Birthday, Safeco Field

As the Mariners' official Twitter account reminded us earlier this morning, 12 years ago today marked the midseason opening of Safeco Field. Dave Niehaus threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and Jamie Moyer threw out the actual first pitch, to Quilvio Veras. It was a called strike. Eight innings later, consecutive RBI doubles by David Bell and David Segui gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead over the Padres that they took into the ninth. It looked as if the M's would snap a five-game losing streak and win in their new stadium's debut, until Jose Mesa got the ball. As I watched in horror from my living room, this happened:

Jose Mesa replaces Jamie Moyer pitching
R. Rivera walk
R. Rivera steals 2B
J. Vander Wal walk
E. Giovanola walk
D. Magadan strikeout looking
Q. Veras walk; Rivera scores
Paul Abbott replaces Jose Mesa pitching
E. Owens sacrifice fly; Vander Wal scores

Mesa walked four of the five batters he faced - all of them on full counts - the Mariners fell behind 3-2, and Dan Miceli worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to seal the Padres' comeback victory and extend the Mariners' skid. I actually had no memory of the Mariners' losing streak, but I still vividly remember the end of the game, and I will vividly remember the end of the game for as long as I'm alive. Even though it isn't true, I recall it as the worst save attempt I've ever watched, and I can still hear the groans and the boos as Mesa labored. Watching on the Padres' television network didn't make things any better. If that was the day that Safeco was born, then watching the game rather fittingly felt like we were all giving birth.

But still, that game is ancient history, and we can kind of laugh about it now. Oh, that Mesa! Grisly torture turns into a series of cocktail anecdotes with the passage of time. And more important than this being the 12th anniversary of Jose Mesa melting down is this being the 12th anniversary of Safeco Field's birth. It's growing up so fast! It seems like just yesterday that it was first learning how to express itself, and now it's a full-blown elder tween. Following is a list of changes we can expect to observe over the next year as Safeco continues to mature. They're not all pretty, but it's just part of the process.

Safeco will experience a growth spurt
Safeco's been fairly steady in size for some time, but it's getting to the age where it's going to grow, and it's going to grow quickly. Those of you who have been asking for closer fences will instead see the opposite, as by this time next year center field could be as many as 500 or even 600 feet from home plate.

Safeco will become increasingly embarrassed by us
It's normal, and we shouldn't be offended. It'll still love us. It'll just love us differently, and less openly. This is the age when Safeco will want to begin exerting its independence, and it can't do that with its family hanging around. We'll want to give it space. Just not too much space.

Safeco will develop a terrible taste in music
To this point, Safeco has been content to listen to and play the music that we like. But as part of its becoming independent, it will develop its own tastes in things, and the tastes will invariably be bad. At least for a little while, expect to hear Safeco play a lot more Smash Mouth.

Safeco will show more of an interest in the opposite sex
It was all harmless fun and games for so long, but now the hormones are beginning to swirl, and there's no muting the biological imperative. It shouldn't come as a surprise if Safeco begins spending more and more time with CenturyLink Field, who lives just up the street. Which means before long we'll probably want to go ahead and give it the talk, before it gets itself in trouble.

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