My main reason for writing this post was initially to ask everyone about when y'all first became Mariners fans. (There's a poll at the bottom. Click on it!) I guess I have some vague idea about how long some of you've been rootin' for the M's, based on stray comments I've read here and there, but my understanding of the overall demographics of this community is a little shaky. I think that it could be useful to know that this blog is frequented by a bunch of old-time baseball fans or that nobody who reads these articles really cared about the Mariners before Sweet Lou became their skipper. Knowing this kind of stuff might help me decide which players/teams would be the most fun/engaging to write about as I put together articles throughout the off-season. In any case, I felt like I should share with you guys first since I'm asking you to share with me. Here goes!
The first major league baseball game that I ever attended was played between the Seattle Mariners and the California Angels on May 13, 1994. (Warning: clicking on that link will take you to a very grisly box score; it's not pretty.) Although this particular game was a terrible (albeit fairly accurate) introduction to Mariners baseball, it still inspired me to start considering myself a "Mariners fan". I got my first M's hat, spit my first sunflower seed shells onto the concrete floor of the Kingdome, and (over)zealously participated in my first seventh inning stretch. Although some of the finer details of this day have become somewhat hazy over the years, I'll never forget the sheer wonder and excitement that I experienced while whooping loudly for my new favorite team as the starting lineups were announced. I admit that I probably cheered just as emphatically for Felix Fermin as I did for Ken Griffey Jr. (I was very new to caring about sports), but I did my best to quickly learn the ropes of Mariners fanhood.
During the course of this game I made two very important decisions: 1) Jay Buhner would be my favorite player (because that meant that maybe my dad would buy me a big inflatable bone - he did) and 2) that Tim Salmon was a chump. Both of these beliefs would be reinforced time and time again over the course of the '90s. Since this first M's game, I've been to quite a few other terrible loses (I've attended an inordinate number of starts by Hector Noesi, for some reason), but I think that I can safely say that I've never attended a more lopsided defeat. (Giving up more than 21 hits in a nine-inning game is a ton. The M's have only done that four times in the 20 years since I first saw them.)
This contest was fairly grueling to sit through. I don't remember being too too bored - I'd played tee-ball, so I at least knew the basic rules of baseball - but the Mariners didn't show up for this game at all. It felt like the Angels had two or three runners on every inning and Chuck Finley was on the top of his game for California. Once the Angels broke things open with three runs in the fifth, we stopped wondering whether or not the Mariners would win and started to wonder about how many runs they would lose by.
To my dad's credit, we never even discussed leaving the game early. In the top of the eighth inning, after a Chili Davis home run pushed the score to 8-0, there was a massive exodus from the stadium. But we stuck around. I'm not sure if my dad wanted to stay for the entire game because it was my first, or if he was simply doing his best to enjoy an opportunity to spend some time at the ball park. Either way, because of his steadfastness, we were finally rewarded with a little bit of excitement in the bottom of the ninth inning when the great Rich Amaral hit a home run. (Of course, in a lineup with Griffey, Edgar, and Buhner, Amaral was the one to homer for the M's). I remember watching the ball rocket off of his bat to hang in the air for (what seemed like) whole minutes as it traced a towering arc into the left field seats. And I remember being surprised by a sudden explosion of light and sound and color as fireworks were set off in celebration.
It didn't matter that the Mariners were losing by 10 runs; this was an incredibly magical moment for me. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky that my first Mariners game had such a vivid, lasting memory. It's probably a large part of the reason why I'm writing about them now, more than 20 years later.
A few other important takeaways from my first MLB game:
- Fireworks set off inside are way louder, smokier, and cooler than those lit out of doors.
- Despite your father telling you that you have "nosebleed seats", you won't actually get a nosebleed from sitting in a seat, even if they are waaaay up at the top of the 300 section. (This was seriously something that worried me on and off for the first several innings of the game.)
- Just because you bring your glove to the game does not mean you're going to catch a foul ball.
- Baseball games can feel very long, especially when your team takes more than two and a half hours to score a run.
As a seven-year-old, I didn't know a lot of things about the game that I had just watched. I didn't know that I'd just witnessed more than 9% of Rich Amaral's career home runs. I didn't know that Dave Fleming had just given up the most hits in a game in his brief, initially promising, ultimately disappointing career. And I didn't know that an ugly players' strike was looming just a few months away that would more a less doom a franchise (poor Expos), disillusion thousands of baseball fans, but ultimately make America's pastime stronger than it'd ever been before. Because none of that stuff really matters when you're just a kid taking in your first game.
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If you've made it this far, thanks so much for letting me ramble. I'd love it if some of you guys shared something about your first MLB/Mariners game down in the comments. And again, if you could complete the quiz, I'd appreciate it. Go M's!