Safeco is going to be packed tonight. While the Mariners have done little to bolster their preseason expectations with a tripping-over-their-feet 3-6 start, the hype has not yet faded here in Seattle.
While a subjective view of the world sees more Mariners hats, shirts and jerseys that any time in recent years, a more objective one gives us this, a look at ticket availability for tonight's game against the Rangers.
It'll take some walk-ups to fill in the lower-level corners, but as you look now, that has a chance to be a 40,000-person crowd for the first Friday night game of the year. Yes, there is a giveaway, and yes the weather is unseasonably warm—but that's going to be the case more often than not for summer weekends. This one is a good example, where there's also Felix's bobblehead set to go tomorrow, for which they might even approach a sellout.
While it's easy to look at the giveaway games and discount them, there's more going on. For one, discounts (sorry).
Tonight's college night should draw thousands, with many of them in that upper right field tank. Someone on Twitter mentioned University of Washington's Greek purchased upwards of 1,000 tickets themselves. Easy way to stack the attendance? Sure. Smart way to get young fans out at a cost that's workable? Definitely.
I don't mean to put up an ad for the M's, but the early results are encouraging for those who wish to see the Mariners receive support approaching the level of their local brethren—and those results don't just include this homestand. Looking back at the very brief previous one, the Marines made progress on getting the fans back to Safeco.
Opening Day was a sellout, of course, which is to be expected, but the next two nights showed an interesting trend. They managed to clear 25,000 in attendance on both nights, amassing an official 52,040 count. Last year, the combined total for the first two non-Opening Day weeknight games was a meager 30,797—giving them a 69 percent bump this year.
Of course, this all comes after the Mariners saw—as we tracked previously—the biggest increase in attendance (by percentage) last year in all of baseball. That said, there is still a very long way to go; even with the bump, the Mariners ranked ahead of only seven teams last year in terms of attendance per game, with 25,485—barely ahead of Oakland.
Also, while it's encouraging to see the Mariners approach and clear that average from last year in two of the weeknight games thus far, we are seeing something new at Safeco over the past year-ish, another sign of how far they have to go to get back to the glory days of sellouts for random Tuesday games against bad teams. For certain games, the upper right-field deck and corner are virtually tarped—as, if you check availability for Monday and Tuesday's games agains the Astros, a large swatch of seats are unavailable for purchase.
When they are available for purchase, for the big games, that raises another issue.
If you're thinking "hey, maybe I'll take the kids out to see Felix this weekend, get a bobblehead," those tickets halfway up the right-field upper deck are the cheapest available, and they'll cost a family of four about $130 to get in the door without thought towards food or transportation. There are discounts, and there are tricks, but for those looking to get into the game the old-fashioned way, that's a bit hefty.
And that's the thing. I think we'd all love to see the Mariners own this town the way the Seahawks do during autumn and winter, but that comes with a cost. There are many people out there who have painted Seattle as the next San Francisco, and I've written before how that could carry over to baseball, but we are already seeing the requisite ramifications.
But now, we just hope we see the same on the field. Looking at the early numbers, it's clear the Mariners have an opportunity to reignite the city's love for them, a passion we haven't fully seen closing in on a decade. It obviously takes more than hype, and it will come with a cost, but there are few things in the world I'd rather spend money on then a summer at Safeco Field.
If that summer shows improved promise on carrying all the way through our long, pleasant autumns, I'm sure there are tens of thousands around the area who will feel the same.