Outside of a few pockets of activity, T-Mobile Park is mostly quiet this Friday morning. Walking along the 200-level concourse to go from the press box to the auxiliary press box, the halls are hushed, smelling of the bright acidity of the housekeeping staff’s Lemon Peel spray and a subtle whiff of popcorn I suspect never goes away. Carpets that will soon be trod on by hundreds of anxious, harried feet are vacuumed, velvety piles. Every dish is washed and stacked, ready to be loaded up with dearly-priced ballpark food. A stack of beer cups menaces from the T-Mobile ‘Pen. The high-traffic areas of the bullpens and the primary outfield positions gets a fresh sprinkling of grass seed, by hand, while another groundskeeper pushes a mower back and forth outside the visitor’s dugout, making the long, slow walk from home plate to the edge of left field, and back again. Every one of the seats in the great green bowl gleams like it has had its own personal attendant shining it.
For the first time in 21 years, Seattle is ready for post-season baseball, and every person in the Mariners organization is welcoming it with open arms. John Stanton himself was walking around the seats behind home plate earlier in jeans and sneakers, inspecting the sight lines as members of the national media filmed interviews from the field. Like a star player emerging from the dugout, the sun made its appearance on the field around midday, just in time for the cameras to start rolling. Outside of the quiet concourses, the park is humming with coordinated energy. Heaters in the press box are fired up; power issues are troubleshot ahead of the big day; extra supplies are laid in at every concession stand. It’s the playoffs for the operations staff here at the ballpark, too.
While this game will be the most meaningful played at the park in over two decades, it also serves as a dress rehearsal for another marquee event where all eyes will be turned to our small green corner of the world: the 2023 All-Star Game. Last year’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium drew a historic crowd of 52,518, the largest since the 2008 extravaganza in Old Yankee Stadium’s final year of existence, which packed in over 55 thousand. (Dodger Stadium currently holds the attendance record for an All-Star Game for a baseball stadium still in use: 1980’s sellout crowd of 56,088. This doesn’t count Anaheim Stadium, which has been drastically resized since its 64-thousand-plus 1989 All-Star Game). When the Mariners hosted the All-Star Game in 2001, they saw a sell-out crowd of 47,364; with the addition of the new Press Club in 2023, plus SRO tickets, they should be able to surpass that number. There have been six sellouts already this season at T-Mobile Park; the highest-attended individual game at T-Mobile Park this year was August 27, against Cleveland, with 45,586, a record that should be shattered tomorrow.
With the Mariners earning at least one home playoff game, they also earned the ops staff here a unique opportunity to host a trial run for an All-Star-like environment: not only a sellout with the Seattle faithful, but also scores of national media. While T-Mobile Park is always a jewel thanks to the dedication of the hundreds of groundskeepers, construction workers, housekeepers, concession workers, and other gameday staff who show up at the park well before game time and stay long after the game’s end, there’s a little extra something in the air in anticipation of tomorrow. It’s a different feeling than Opening Day, although certainly the work the club puts in to make the annual Opening Day celebration one of the league’s best has paid off in getting ready for fans and media alike to descend on T-Mobile Park.
Like the team that plays here, the ballpark feels like it’s on the precipice of something great. Every player we spoke to today expressed their excitement to see the Seattle fans fill this park tomorrow. The park itself seems to be anticipating the crowd, rows of seats begging to be filled, the whistle of a passing train looking for an answering cry. It’s quiet here, now. Tomorrow, the show starts.