Being a Fan Beyond Winning

First off, let me expose myself. No, not like that, no need to get excited. Let me expose who I am, my reasoning in this article will make a lot more sense.

I am a father of four, with two of my nieces living with us while my sister (a single mom in the Army) is deployed. That makes 8 of us living together, 6 kids from ages 3 to 9, and my wife and me.

I am the stay at home dad. My wife works full time and is also a fulltime student. The kids are the center of my life, so my views of the world have changed the last couple of years.

I am biased; no question about that. I am a sports fan, but more of a baseball fan. I am a baseball fan, but more of a Mariners fan. I am the typical homer with high hopes each and every season.

I live in Eugene, OR, and that is the closest I have lived to Seattle over the last ten years. Obviously, it is a serious trip to make it up to watch a game in person.

Apparently, I am the typical fan that many commenters on here complain about the M’s catering to. Beyond that, I am a stat-head. I really enjoy the development of the advanced metrics of the game and have come to appreciate players that I normally wouldn’t have. I believe that I have gained a more well-rounded understanding of the game I grew up playing and love. What I have to say doesn’t involve anything SABR or statistical.

Each year we make our homages to Safeco; usually three or four times per season. Each trip is a fairly large investment; gas for travel, typically a hotel for Saturday night, 6 tickets and parking for Saturday night’s game, 6 tickets and parking for Sunday’s game, ballpark food for both the games, souvenirs, etc. You get the idea, most every aspect is multiplied by six, and this season that multiple will be eight. We reward our team handsomely each and every year.

Do we want to see a win? Heck yeah we do! Beyond that, I want help keeping my three boys interested and loving game that I do, to strengthen the bond that we have. Sure a winning season would be great! Meaningful baseball into the fall would be amazing! That said, what is even better than winning is having the team take part in the relationship. It’s the signing of autographs, it’s the answering of fan mail, it’s accessibility, and it’s acting like the role model that they are. We want fun and excitement, and winning too, but not at the expense of feeling like a Yankee’s fan. They can however, and quite easily I might add, choose to be player fans want to cheer for.

It’s for this reason that my family and I were rooting for Casper Wells to make the team and for the team to trade off Jesus Montero whenever is convenient. A few months ago at Fan Fest, Casper took the time to visit with my 5 year old. He took the time to listen to my little Benny explain that his Agent Perry shirt was not an Angry Birds character, but a character on Phinneas and Ferb (most parents of younger children probably understand this already and also can understand how important it was to my son). I am not saying that an autograph buys the loyalty of a young fan, but it sure as heck helps. The same day, my 5 year old and I literally ran into Jesus Montero. I apologized and told him I was glad he was no longer wearing pinstripes, and my son just smiled ear to ear and held out a ball with Casper’s and Brendan Ryan’s autographs already on it. Jesus looked down at him shook his head and side stepped him with-out responding with a single word. Benny is in Tee-ball on a Little League team I coach, and each time he comes to the tee, he pretends to be Casper Wells!

We have special places in our baseball hearts for this kind of player. For Jarrod Washburn, smiling at my son, shaking his little hand and telling my little Bobby (my oldest) “thank you for coming out to cheer us on”. For Curtis Granderson, seeing the disappointment on my son’s face when he was begging King Felix to come over and sign a baseball and Felix responded as if shaking off a catcher calling for a curve. Granderson saw this and jogged over as my son began to cry, and gave him a high five and signed the ball. For Raul Ibanez and Jamie Moyer writing a quick a note in response to fan mail that was sent. While I grew up going to the Kingdome with my dad and brothers, it was Harold Reynolds, Edgar Martinez, Dennis Powell, and Scott Bradley who treated me as more than just an annoyance.

I loved the way Griffey played but I didn’t shed a tear when he left, after the repeated rebuffs I received when trying to get an autograph or just a simple acknowledgement. Yes Ken, the “not now kid” and “some other time” responses and ignoring the several letters I wrote you in the early ‘90s, discouraged this young fan. Had it not been for the kindness of Harold and Gar and the rest, I could have ended up not caring as much about the Mariners or about baseball.

I am sure most of us have different players who have affected our fandom in a positive and/or a negative way. This is the emotional tie to the game that I love. I get to root for players that I feel invested in. While I would love to enjoy cheering in the post-season, I would rather spend my money to watch and support the players who show me that they care about being cared about. I am not delusional enough to think that all ball players can or will be "good guys", nor can they honor every request from every fan they encounter.

This is why I feel that the M’s front office is doing a pretty decent job in my book. They seem to be working hard to put together a good product on and off the field. I know Raul can't ball like he used to, and I know that Michael Morse is going to rack up the Ks, and Brendan Ryan can't hit his way out of a wet paper bag, and so on and so forth. I still enjoy rooting for them, because their humanity and joy for the game have made it joyful for me to enjoy with my family!

Go Mariners!

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