As Mariners fans, we frequently feel left out of the high-profile, national baseball media. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros lead the regulars who dominate the coverage, while for years it’s seemed like Seattle hasn’t been taken seriously. The Mariners have plunged into unfamiliar territory this season, as they sit in an AL Wild Card spot for the third month in a row. But having rarely been known as a team that fits into the playoff conversation, it’s taking a long time for them to be accepted. It’s no secret that the Mariners have lacked this sense of belonging for quite some time, but with the talent and excitement that the 2022 team brings, now more than ever it becomes important to bring attention to this team the way they deserve.
Entering the world in 2003, my existence was literally unknown the last time the Mariners dipped their feet in the postseason mix. My parents took me to my first Mariners game when I was just months old, which was two seasons after the team’s last playoff appearance in 2001.
Since that day, I’ve attended too many Mariners games to count, and unfortunately endured a large amount of Bad Mariners Seasons in the process. I didn’t grow up with Griffey, Edgar, and the other Mariner greats who are responsible for the fandom of many. My Mariner heroes at the time were Felix and Ichiro, who were both towards the end of their careers by the time I can start to remember watching games (honorable mention to Kyle Seager who was my favorite Mariner as I got older). I didn’t have the hype from previous seasons to cling on to; I only had the stories of how great a time it was.
This season, however, something feels different. Something is different. On the surface, there’s been a stronger focus on defense, incredible starting pitching that is leading the charge and striking out more batters than previous seasons, and a constant emphasis on consistency. But looking past the pre-game drills and bullpen warm-ups, there’s something more. There’s a sense of confidence in the team’s talent and mission that hasn’t been present in previous years, but there’s also a sense of peace and belonging. These players are performing so well and having so much fun while doing so because they know that they’re right where they should be.
For local players like outfielder Jake Lamb and reliever Matt Boyd, being part of a playoff push for this team means more than just competing. Both Lamb and Boyd grew up in Seattle, attended local high schools and colleges, followed the Mariners throughout their childhood, and have a unique perspective on how important a postseason run is to this team.
Boyd is especially excited for the prospect of playing October baseball with the Mariners: “We can believe in our team and our ability and we know where we stand. Playing this kind of meaningful baseball at this point here is really special. It’s something you dream about, especially for your hometown team. It’s hard to put into words, but I’m really, really grateful.”
Boyd had been working through an injury when he was traded to Seattle, and wasn’t expecting to be able to help the team in their playoff push this season like he has. Boyd had heard from his friends at home that something special was happening, but didn’t really understand it all until he returned home and saw it firsthand.
“Everything from the grocery stores to seeing people’s enthusiasm around town and seeing people in the seats. It’s really special and you want to share that and bring this to the city,” Boyd said.
From Lamb’s perspective, he’s been around the league on a handful of consistently contending teams but can feel something special about this Mariners team. “I’ve been on some good teams, and I think it always starts in the clubhouse with the players. And the team has to be a close knit group. And that’s definitely what I walked into. The first few days were ones to just keep quiet and kind of observe and I definitely observed how close this team was and how much fun they just have playing the game of baseball. And that’s always where it starts with those good baseball teams,” he said.
Both players also mentioned how the team feeds off of the fans’ energy because they know how much winning matters to the city. “Seattle’s a sports town. And when you give them something to cheer for, it’s really special,” Boyd said. “It’s not a done deal or anything but that’s the first goal that we want to get to is get in. And then once you get in, anything can happen. So, I just know how much it would mean to the city, and especially if we’re able to have some playoff games here in Seattle. I mean, it would be loud,” Lamb agrees.
Walk through the ballpark on any given gameday, and it’s easy to tell that there’s a completely new energy. Fans come from different places and express their fandom in different ways, but are able to unite over the shared belief that something unique is happening here. We’ve given so much of our lives to the game of baseball, but to finally feel like we are associated with something more than the standard adds a new level of joy and aspiration to the ways we root for this team.
The 2022 Seattle Mariners are incredible. They’re unlike anything I’ve ever been able to witness before. This team is shattering expectations, breaking records, and in the process, having so much damn fun. You can tell from being around them even for a day: they want it so bad. For themselves, for the organization, for the city, for the rabid doubters and the lifelong believers. And they’re done waiting.
People are paying attention, and with the Mariners now part of the playoff conversation, it’s starting to become real. These are new feelings for me. The normalcy of 70-win seasons, mediocre talent, and dwindled buzz about the team has become so familiar over the past 10 years that it’s been hard to imagine life on the other side. Just as the team is doing, I too am entering new territory, which brings new hopes and expectations, along with anxiety and fear. But I’m ready to embrace the new and take a step forward into the unknown. And together, with the team this season, I finally feel like we’re right where we belong.