(Ed's note: Please welcome Meg Rowley to our staff. Meg is a lifelong Seattle sports fan whose Fanposts and Twitter feed caught our eye. We begged, pleaded, and bribed and she has agreed to join us as a contributor. Welcome Meg!)
"These seats are really great."
Yesterday, my family made our way to Safeco to celebrate Father's Day. It was the first game we'd attended together since I moved back to Seattle. As we settled into our seats overlooking the first base line, my brother-in-law ribbed me about attending three games in four days. We marveled at the command Felix's son appeared to have on his ceremonial first pitch. We rolled our eyes at the fanatical Astros fan who loudly cheered every strike call. At one point, my dad turned to me and said, "These seats are really great."
My dad is a kind but reserved man. Overcoming the distance during the years I lived in New York and Wisconsin was challenging. But over time, I noticed the ease with which we could talk about sports. When you live on the East Coast, and have to be at work at 7:30 every morning, and Mariners games start at 10 pm, and the Mariners are terrible, it's easy to lose track of them. So when my dad and I would talk sports, we would talk football. After I went to grad school and was afforded a more forgiving schedule, I dipped my toe back in the Mariners pool. We'd signed Robinson Cano in the offseason. Felix was still Felix. Perhaps it was time. When the 2014 Mariners started the year 3-0, I bought MLB.TV. All it took was a nudge.
And slowly, our phone conversations were nudged in different direction, too. Sure we still talked about Pete Carroll, and how great Kam Chancellor is. But slowly, Dad started to ask me about Mariners trades. Who was this Austin Jackson character? Was bringing Kendrys back tantamount to kidnapping (Yes, Dad. Yes it was.)? Was pitch framing enough to salvage Zunino's offensive woes? Would I please stop talking about pitch framing? Last summer, we'd sit in my dad's favorite dive bar, and work our way through local IPAs as the Mariners won and lost. Baseball gave us another way to navigate that transition parents make with their adult children from a relationship of dependence to something resembling friendship. We were talking about baseball but it felt like a lot more than that.
As we sat there yesterday, with a Zunino barbecue apron draped over my legs against the breeze, Dad asked me questions about the Mariners as they came to bat. Why was James Jones' batting average .000 (We all wonder that, Dad.)? Where had Seth Smith played before now? How many years was Kyle Seager's extension? Had Brad Miller cut his hair? After Miller errored in the fifth, he asked me questions about infield defense, and I shared my frustrations with Brad, and my fascination that he's still one of the best shortstops in the American League.
The Mariners didn't win, but it didn't really matter. Yesterday, we all found our way back to a common experience of fandom. My sister and I regaled our brother with tales of the Kingdome, and our memories of The Double. We shared grainy looking YouTube videos of Randy Johnson obliterating a bird with a fastball. We talked about how nice it was that we were all there together. We talked about home.
Safeco was packed with families yesterday. Dads with their dads, toddlers in Mariners hats, infants in Mariners onesies, little girls who had claimed a barbecue apron as their own. A lot of them were there for the cotton candy, or the hotdogs. As the game wore on, I saw a little boy curl up in his dad's lap and go to sleep. For many of them, Sunday was just another lazy day in the sun. But a few of those kids had that look. They watched each at bat with rapt attention; they could distinguish the routine fly balls from the doubles. They groaned and cheered and believed right until the end. Those kids were hooked. And someday, years from now, they'll have the same feeling that I did. That walking into that ballpark isn't just about home runs or the King's Court. That ballpark is about family. That ballpark is about coming home.