The element of surprise was gone, thanks to an early photo leak, but the enthusiasm was still present as Mariners fans headed down to the T-Mobile Park team store at brunch o’clock last Friday to get their hands on the team’s brand new City Connect gear.
A DJ and a balloon arch welcomed customers into the flagship store, which closed for two days earlier in the week to transform into a City Connect wonderland. Every surface dripped with blue and gold, lines of Kelenic jerseys and racks and racks of Rodríguez neatly lined up and ready to go. The crowd was steady but not overwhelming, and team store employees were efficient and well-prepared. Combined with the sunny spring weather, it was a much-needed idyllic morning in the midst of a disappointing start to the team’s season.
Some fans came in with their sights set on a specific player’s merch; others went just on vibes. Jeremy J. decided to buy a Griffey jersey because his wife recently gifted him a wallet made out of an old Griffey glove. “I like the connection.” He added that he’s superstitious about buying active player jerseys, before finishing with the only excuse one really needs to get a jersey repping Seattle’s most beloved baseball icon: “I didn’t have one yet.”
Griffey was a popular choice in the checkout lines, along of course with Julio Rodríguez. There was one name, though, where demand seemed to have outstripped expectations: Luis Castillo jerseys were a stone’s throw from being gone in adult sizes by 11am.
Many fans were shopping not only for themselves, but for friends and family, often consulting over phone or giving tours via video call. Sheyanne Lewis told me she was picking up jerseys for family back in Yakima: “They couldn’t be here today, but it’s my day off.” What drew her to the City Connects in the first place? She gave a slightly sheepish grin: “They’re pretty!”
There is a variety of City Connect merchandise in stock. Available for your purchasing pleasure are shirseys, hooded tees, shorts, muscle tanks, and the currently-trendy faux-layered hoodies. For the traditionalist, there are of course polyester polos. But the jerseys were by far the best seller this morning. Dustin Dura told me that even though his wife is the bigger Mariners fan in the family, he liked the thoughtful details on the jersey. New jersey owner Bryce Warren liked the “Sodo Mojo” tucked away on the neckline; Brendan Tool was moved by the Dave Neihaus “My Oh My” detail on the front.
While online reactions to the Mariners’ City Connect uniforms have been mixed, it’s clear that they’re fulfilling the brief for many. I asked two of the earliest customers why they had come down today to shop and was met with a smile and a casual shrug. “Because we love Seattle!” they declared, before walking off into the springtime sun.