Thursday, May 13, 2010

Safeco Field

Chicago White Sox @ Seattle Mariners
August 18, 2007

Mariners 7, White Sox 5

W: Jeff Weaver
L: John Danks
S: J.J. Putz
HR: Jim Thome 2 (CHW), A.J. Pierzynski (CHW)
Attendance: 41,121
Time of Game: 2 hours, 31 minutes

Stadium Facts

Location: Seattle, WA
First Game: July 15, 1999
Capacity: 47,116
Type: Retractable roof
Surface: Grass

Yet another long hiatus since my last entry. Now that I'm done with grad school, I really don't have any excuse not to get caught up with these in the next month or so. I left off in the middle of the last full season of my six year tour of every MLB stadium, which was 2007. A Memorial Day weekend trip took me to Phoenix and Chicago. My next stop was probably the most aggressive and illogical trip I made in this entire tour: a weekend trip to Seattle. I flew all the way across the country on a Friday evening, explored the city the following afternoon, went to a game and then flew back to the other coast on Sunday. Since Seattle wasn't exactly a quick trip from any other MLB city, I decided to make this one a trip of its own, and since I had no other purpose for making the trip than to see a Mariners game, I decided to do it on a weekend when the White Sox were in town. This happened to be in mid-August of 2007.

I really enjoyed my first visit to Seattle. It is a very scenic city situated between the mountains and the ocean. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco, but perhaps even a little more scenic. Of course, they don't have the greatest weather there, but fortunately it stayed dry during my time of exploration. On this particular Saturday, it was the exact opposite of what I experienced in Phoenix where there was barely a sole to be found in the streets of downtown. In Seattle, there were people everywhere, especially at the fish market near Puget Sound. I walked to Safeco Field from downtown. The stadium is situated just south of downtown, right next to Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks.

I have had mixed reviews of the retractable roof stadiums I have reviewed so far, but Safeco Field is different. From the outside, it looks very similar to Milwaukee, Arizona and Toronto, but it is much different on the inside. What I like the most about it is that it really doesn't feel like a dome, even when the roof is closed. The roof consists of sliding pieces that cover the stadium more like an awning than an actual roof. Even with the roof closed, the ballpark is very much exposed to the elements. I imagine it is quite chilly in there for early season games. The roof was closed the entire time I was in the stadium. Although it was clear all day, it did start drizzling by the time the game ended.

Another interesting feature of the park is its proximity to the train yard just outside the stadium. Throughout the game, you can hear train horns sounding off. Some might consider this to be a little annoying, however I didn't mind it at all. It just helped add to the ambiance.

Like I said, Safeco doesn't really feel like a dome at all. The concourses are very similar to any of the newer outdoor parks I've seen, allowing people to watch the game while they wait in line for concessions. The seating areas are arranged in typical new ballpark fashion as well with two main seating levels and a smaller club level between them. The seating capacity is relatively high for a baseball only facility. There are a ton of outfield seats, especially in right field where there is a full-sized upper deck. My only complaint about the seating configuration is that almost all of the seats in left field are quite a ways removed from the field. This happened to be where I was sitting, in the first row in left field above the bullpens. There are much better seats close to the field in center and right field though.

Safeco Field plays like an outdoor stadium as well, especially when the roof is open (obviously). Since left field is completely exposed to the outside, wind can play a factor. Overall, this is a great pitchers park. It features some of the deepest power alley distances in all of baseball and there aren't many cheap home runs down the lines either. There aren't a lot of other distinctive features about the playing field.

This game featured two teams in completely different situations. The White Sox were suffering through a miserable, injury-plagued season and were well on their way to their worst finish in nearly two decades. Meanwhile, the Mariners were well on their way to their first winning season in four years and were very much in the playoff hunt. The Sox starting lineup featured four rookies, including starting pitcher John Danks. He was opposed by veteran starter Jeff Weaver. Both starting pitchers entered the game with ERAs over 5.00.

The Sox got on the board early on a solo home run by Jim Thome in the top of the first. A Juan Uribe sacrifice fly in the second knocked in A.J. Pierzynski and gave the Sox a 2-0 lead. Pierzynski added another run with a towering home run to right in the fourth. Unfortunately, Danks could not hold the lead. Raul Ibanez and Jose Guillen had RBI singles in the fourth and fifth innings respectively to get the Mariners back into the game. It was tied at three after five.

The wheels fell off for the Sox in the sixth. Danks allowed his ninth hit, a single by Adrian Beltre, to lead off the inning. He was then pulled from the game and replaced by Ehren Wassermann, who threw gasoline on the fire. A two run single by Kenji Johjima gave the Mariners the lead. Another hit, an error, a wild pitch and two intentional walks followed. When it was all said and done, the Mariners scored four times to take a 7-3 lead. The Sox were not quite done though. Jim Thome hit his second home run of the game in the eighth to make it 7-5. J.J. Putz recorded three outs in the ninth to pick up the save and gave the Mariners a two run win.

Despite the loss, Jim Thome had a terrific game. He hit two home runs (491 and 492 of his career) and very nearly had four. He flew out deep to center in one at bat and flew out to the wall in left in another. Meanwhile, five different Mariners recorded two hits in the game for a team total of 13. Weaver picked up the win after settling down following the early Sox runs. Danks took the loss, already his eleventh in just a few months in the big leagues. Fortunately, there would be better days for him down the road. The Sox miseries continued though, dropping their seventh straight. The streak reached eight the following afternoon as the Mariners swept the series. The Mariners improved to 68-52, but failed to go on much of a run after that and finished the season in second place behind the Angels.

I really enjoyed my short stay in Seattle and hope to visit again sometime. Safeco Field is a terrific stadium, ideal for protecting fans and players from the frequent Seattle rain, but built in such a way that it still feels very much like a baseball park. It is easily my favorite retractable roof stadium.

After this weekend trip to Seattle, all I had left was one final trip which I set out for just a week later. Like all of my 2007 trips, it required me racking up frequent flier miles as I flew to Colorado and Texas.

Photo Album

From Seattle

From Seattle

From Seattle

From Seattle

From Seattle

From Seattle

From Seattle

Next stadium: Coors Field, Denver