Section 144 at Safeco Field (back in my day...), right down the third base line is where I called home, night in and night out, for the better part of my time in Seattle from 2014 to 2017.
I was in the Navy at the time, stationed in Bremerton aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis. More often than not, when we were in port, I would be the No. 1 customer at our ship's MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) window, picking up $15 tickets to Mariners games in section 144, usually about two-thirds the way down towards the field.
For a lot of those years, whenever I went to a game, I would sit down with the person I dragged with me to the game, look up to my left, and point at the manual scoreboard in left field with the Edgar's Cantina sign. I'd say something to the effect of, "Nellie's gonna hit one hard and clang off that scoreboard tonight to win it for us."
I saw a lot of Nelson Cruz dingers in my time in the Emerald City. Most were spectacular to see. Some came in very clutch moments. None of them fulfilled my wish to see one definitively clang off that scoreboard.
Just like my simple wish, my much more complicated wish of seeing the M's break their 13-year... then 14-year... then - you get the idea - playoff drought would bring me glimpses of joy at times but never did come to fruition.
Other than having to watch almost all of the 2016 season from afar due to me being deployed, I was in attendance for a lot of those games over the years. We would come oh-so close, but so often the numbers on that left field scoreboard yielded disappointment.
A team would come back in late innings to beat us when we desperately needed a win - Same Old Mariners.
A struggling pitcher would use our equally-struggling lineup to get right and spin a gem - Same Old Mariners.
We would go into a hyped home series against a premiere opponent just to see them jump all over us - Same Old Mariners.
The years came and left. King Felix's dominance against the league left. A 2017 team that was poised to break the drought instead just left us all disappointed. Shortly after that regular season, I also left Seattle, on orders to the east coast. The Boomstick himself left a year later. The drought stayed.
2021 was as fun for me from afar as it was for every M's fan back home - I just never got the chance to sit in my beloved section 144 and cheer on Chaos Ball. But even last year there were so many times we sighed... "Same Old Mariners."
Tonight, when I saw Robbie Grossman hit his go-ahead bomb against Paul Seward - dominant, all year - I felt physically ill. "This ALWAYS happens to us," I said. My wife (rightly) told me I needed to check my attitude. "No one should have their entire mood dependent on a baseball game," she (also rightly) said.
But how could it not? Seemingly every year since 2014, our team, our Mariners, would get "Oh So Close," just to fail in the end. A 6-2 lead going into the 9th against the reigning, defending World Series Champs. Going for two of three in the series. Then - it all just, fell apart.
Two straight walks from a visibly shaky Diego Castillo - Same Old Mariners.
Come back for two outs just for a stud rookie to hit a two-out, three-run moonshot to cut the lead to one - Same Old Mariners.
Last year's NLCS MVP comes in and gets a pinch-hit single with two strikes and two outs, setting up an absolutely crushing two-run shot from Grossman - Oh For Fuck's Sake.
Coming into the bottom of the frame, morale was - not optimal. Sam Haggerty fouled off a bunt, then after showing bunt once, he bunts right to a shaded-in Austin Riley.
Julio CRUSHED it - 117.2 mph is the third-hardest hit ball of the Statcast era for the M's - behind only Nellie himself.
The ball was stung on a frozen rope - clanging definitively off the left field scoreboard.
An obviously-injured Ty France later and we forgot all about our struggling All-Star because Good Vibes Only ended the night in immaculate fashion.
Baseball is absolutely poetic sometimes. In a lot of ways, Julio's attack on the scoreboard seemed to exercise a lot of demons, all while bringing my Mariners fandom full-circle.
The Same Old Mariners don't win this ballgame. They don't immediately bounce back after epically surrendering the lead like they did.
They don't give a city hope like no other team in recent memory has before.
They don't end the drought.
The 2022 Mariners - courtesy of a line shot off the left field scoreboard, setting up a walk-off of the Champs - are making me truly believe they will.