As I stand in the outfield at Safeco Field, I look from foul pole to foul pole, from left field to right field. There’s a light breeze blowing in from left, a touch of salty sea air that contrasts nicely with the sweet smell of freshly-mown grass. It’s quiet, though the sounds of trains and traffic echo in the distance. I walk slowly towards the right field foul pole, thinking that a future hall of famer has spent most of the last 12 years running through this same grass. As I approach the foul line, the bright yellow number “326” looms large at the top of the wall. Is this year the last time that number will grace her?
“I’m told, that I was purposely built here, to make Ken Griffey, Jr. happy,” says Right-Field as she sits on her back porch, her two daughters swinging happily on their swing-set. Both girls look like their mother, dark green skin, with a bright yellow top, their foul poles reaching to the sky. “It’s funny, I only saw him for a couple of months before he left. It was really disappointing.” I nod thoughtfully, as it seems she has more she wants to say. “When Ichiro showed up I was excited, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect.” She pauses. “That’s not true,” she says. “I had expectations, but they were so far from what actually happened that I don’t even remember what they were now.” She stops again, smiles, and waves to her girls, their grins matching their mother’s. “We’re happy here, you know. I’m not sure how I feel about moving. The kids are in good schools, we’ve got lots of friends. I’m not sure I’m ready to start over.” I ask her if she’s thought about the increase in offense that might come from moving in a bit. “Sure I’ve thought about it, who hasn’t? Still…” She pauses, again. “With this year maybe being Ichiro’s last year, I’m not sure what to think. Things are going to change whether we want them to or not. I just don’t know if I can handle moving on top of everything else.” She looks from her porch, across the way to Center-Field. “You might want to ask him, he’s not tied down the way I am.” She smiles at this though, and I can tell that she’d rather be “tied down” with those two girls than be anywhere else.
“It’s a ‘Fair’ pole, you know.” I’m taken by surprise, not sure what he’s talking about. “If the ball hits the pole, it’s a fair ball. Fair pole is more correct.” Left-Field is sitting at his desk, typing on his computer. I ask what he’s working on. “Oh, just a new defensive metric. There are so many people who complain that metrics like UZR and Defensive Runs Saved have flaws, I’m trying to come with something better. It’s a difficult problem, one I probably won’t solve today.” Left-field takes off his glasses, leans back in his chair and looks at me for the first time. “So ‘move in the fences,’ that’s what all the hoopla is about, right?” I nod. “It’s a good idea,” he says. I must show my surprise, because he immediately explains. “The wind is the problem. That, and my height, my distance. Hell, everything.” He stops for a second, then looks at me critically. “Do you know how many starting leftfielders I’ve seen in the last 13 years?” Ten, I say. “Ten! More if you count spot starters. Do you know Raul Ibanez holds the record for most starts in left field in Mariners history? Raul Ibanez!” I can tell he’s getting agitated. “Look at Fenway Park. Manny Freakin’ Ramirez was not a total disaster in left field there. If I was 20 feet closer all around…. If I was 10 feet closer…. Yeah, I think moving closer is a good idea.” He stops, for a second and considers. “Maybe not the others.” He motions toward Center- and Right-Field. “Hell, I doubt they move me. It’d be nice to have a right-handed power hitter actually want to come here, though.” Left-Field turns back to his computer, types something in, then stops. He looks up at me, and then goes back to typing. It’s obvious that he’s got something to do. I politely excuse myself.
I walk back towards home plate, taking in the sights of the stadium. Does it really matter? If we move the fences in or back or leave them, will it really change anything? I turn around, and look back at the walls. Yeah, I decide. It probably will. What will change, though? To that, I have no answer.
Any inaccuracies are my fault. I either made shit up or read it wrong.