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About Last Night: Nelson Cruz Hits #300 by the Maple Grove

We are the best, even when we are the worst

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MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In case you aren’t on Twitter, Mariners twitter is a thing of some renown. Friends from other fanbases, night owls from across the county, turn to our club, open late and still serving. And just like all good ideas are born in two places (the shower, or the dead of night, end of list), Mariners twitter has given rise to some of the more creative ways of embracing this team, this usually terrible and always disappointing team, this team we cannot quit, no matter how much we’d like to sometimes. The poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive during the day, and caught in an unhappy marriage at night, when he would write his poems. We all need our corner of refuge, a place to continue crafting our wings after we’ve flown a little too close to a hopeful sun, and for many of us, this place is Mariners twitter.

Last night we saw the generative power of Mariners twitter made manifest in the second (and most famous yet) iteration of the Maple Grove, the James Paxton cheering section invented by some members of Mariners twitter, namely Daniel Carroll (@tworsandtwols) and Hillary Kirby (@hillarynkirby). Daniel is well-known for his sign-making ability (you’ve seen his work during the Blue Jays series); Hillary is a talented graphic designer who has access to machinery to print signs, like these “eh” cards:

Tiffany (@rockedfaces) tweeted about it, inviting people to join, and the nascent Maple Grove became more rooted:

King’s Court was created by the Mariners’ marketing department, which, pound for pound, has to be one of the best, most intuitive out there, elastic and keenly attuned to the fanbase’s sensibilities; perhaps most remarkable is their ability to pull, magician-like, one last rabbit out of the hat as this season falters and stumbles, as so many have before. King’s Court was genius, of course, so much so that it inspired a host of imitators, and there’s an obvious debt owed to the King’s Court in the Maple Grove. But there’s also a lot about the Maple Grove that’s one of the most organic fan experiences in baseball: the signs are made by hand, by fans, but they are also, thanks to the time and talent of their originators, able to be produced en masse and distributed around to make a unified cheering section. There’s no special ticket to purchase, no t-shirt and drink special; all you need is a ticket to the general area, or to the ballpark period, and the Maple Grove will welcome you with open arms and the gentlest whiff of syrup.

The 2017 Mariners have been disappointing, to say the least. A potential playoff-contending team has been ravaged by injuries, and even when healthy, have often looked offensively flat. The pitching has been full-on Romero. There’s been no miraculous comeback; no Leonys Martin or Dae-Ho figures capturing our hearts. They have not given us, the fans, very many reasons to love them. And yet we do. We love them because we do not know any alternative but to love them; we love them because we are part of a community that loves this team, and we are lucky enough to have talented, clever people to spearhead an organic, egalitarian, independent celebration like the Maple Grove that represents the best of us, and the best of what this team can be.

This team has been so frustrating, for so much of this year, but we still have moments like this: Nelson hitting #300 on a night when the Maple Grove was out in force. There’s still beauty, even in the breakdown. What we are makes this what it is. And what we are is so special and cool and strong and funny and smart, and I am so tremendously glad to be a part of it, and I hope you are too.