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Ironically when I started following baseball… Major League Baseball, actually keeping track of the game, reading up on it, and understanding it; I stopped going to games in Everett. I can find two reasons for this. I was too busy falling in love with baseball, and going to games in Seattle, to sit in the cold at Everett. And, the prices at Everett were escalating, the priciest seats in Everett were comparable to the cheapest seats at the Kingdome, and it was warmer, plus the level of baseball was obviously better (to this day, aside from “buy one get one” or discount nights, the cheapest seats in Everett are the same as the cheapest seats at Safeco, and the priciest seats in Everett are comparable to the second to cheapest seats at Safeco, which I still think is pricey for what is, essentially, rookie league).

However, in 1996, the Mariners sent both Chris Bosio and uh, Randy Johnson to Everett for rehab assignments. I went to both games (& so did half of Everett), mainly because it was unclear to everyone who would be making the rehab start for the first game since both Bosio and Johnson were on the DL, there was a buzz there until… it ended up being Bosio, but a week later, it was Johnson, being sent to Everett. When The Big Unit took to the field to stretch and warm up for his rehab start the stadium was packed, and Randy was grumpy as usual. We watched as the trainer stretched Randy’s ridiculously tall, lean body out, and we watched him in the bullpen (he was merely feet from me), where he stood next to minor leaguers and made them look like children (or at least trick photography). Randy pitched well that night, although I can’t remember how many innings he went (I think 3 or 4, they didn’t want to overdo it), or how many he stuck out (he did strike opponents out), but it was a successful rehab assignment. Later a small group, in an attempt to get an autograph (we kept a respectable distance), watched the Unit walk to his car, and all I can say is he’s not a friendly person, he’s not a conversationalist by any means, and he doesn’t seem to like people in general. Although I read later that he was really nice to the AquaSox and gave them new cleats.

All of these great memories don’t compare to September 19th 2010. Game 3 of the Northwest League Championship Series vs the Spokane Indians, series tied at 1 win each; do or die time. Once again, mom & I went last minute on a whim. I was listening to the game on my radio (how I get broadcasts from Everett is beyond me, but I do), I was on the edge of my seat, praying the Sox could force a game three. If they could do that, I knew I had to go. An hour after they won, the tickets were for sale on line. This would be my first game in Everett in over a decade, and I was giddy. I wanted this team to win so badly, the 2010 AquaSox were good from day one, leading the league all the way, and winning the first half of their division with flying colors.

The game was amazing. The day started off gloomy, but my game time the rain had stopped (& all the seats were dry), I got their early (there is a bus that runs from Seattle to Everett & has a stop right in front of the stadium) and met my mom at IHOP (I’d like to thank the person who put an IHOP next door), our seats were awesome, there was electricity in the air which could only be described as #winning, and the AquaSox were ON FIRE. The starting pitcher (I don’t remember his name) pitched a gem, it was a shut-out until the 9th inning (final score was 6-1). My favorite memory is of the 9th inning, watching the guys in the bullpen (which isn’t much of a bullpen, more of an area off to the side), they were on the edge of their feet the entire time, with every pitch they edged closer to the foul line, closer, and closer… until they were Northwest League Champions (for the first time since 1985 & first time as a Mariner affiliate).

[I’d like to add that was the only night game I’ve ever attended at Everett Memorial Stadium where I did not get cold. Perfect temperature the entire time.]

It was so awesome to see those kids (short-A ball is often the first stop in a professional career, the average AquaSox is 17 to 21 years of age) so happy, so excited to be winners… and now that it is in their blood, they will strive to win. They won’t be happy with anything less, and hopefully they can continue to be winners, and when ready, bring that winning attitude with them to the Major Leagues. With the exception of two guys who will continue to be AquaSox this year, and a few who were released (I’m still sad that Evan Sharpley is no longer affiliated with the Mariners, and now plays for the Traverse City Beach Bums in Michigan. But, that’s the minor leagues, right? It’s not always fair.), all the 2010 AquaSox have been promoted to full season A and Advanced-A. That’s the side effect of minor leagues (especially at this level), come next season the players you’ve grown used to are rarely back, yet at the same you are so happy and excited for them to have been promoted, and you really cannot wait to see them play in a big league game someday.

I look forward to going to more games in Everett this season, and cheering on the AquaSox to another NWL Championship.

When I was a kid growing up in Marysville, WA, we went to a lot of minor league baseball games. In the next town, Everett (which is approx 30 minutes North of Seattle) there is a short-A minor league team. I didn’t follow baseball back then, but we still went to a lot of games here because it was ridiculously cheap (like $2., and you can bring your own snacks) — sometimes free — entertainment. We usually went on a whim, and only when the weather was nice… except for Opening Day, we always went to Opening Day because it was free if you said, “I saw it on the Big 5″ (a local TV station’s nickname). Opening Day often fell my birthday (as well as my mom’s birthday), but we still always went because why not? I remember spending many evenings sitting on a blanket in the lawn next to the right field.

The team plays at Everett Memorial Stadium (which is actually a sports complex), and the field is shared by the Everett AquaSox (1995-current, formerly the Everett Giants 1984-94; not sure why they didn’t stick w/ the Baby M’s name, I hate the name “AquaSox”, which is a tree frog), the Everett Merchants, the Everett Community College Trojans, and the Everett High School Seagulls. In the NE corner of the complex there’s an open field as big as a football field (although not to be confused w/ the football field which is west of the baseball field). I’ve never been sure what it is used for  aside from an impromptu game of a Frisbee or catch (I think the high school must use it for some type of practice), but just past the random field there’s a hill that kids roll down. A lot of people post reviews of minor league ballparks online, this random field is mentioned EVERY time.

My earliest memories of baseball consist of sitting on a lawn, and rolling down a hill. And there is no glorious way to put it…

My second earliest memory is hearing about Seattle Mariners 1987 first pick overall & Bellingham Baby M, Ken Griffey Jr., getting his first professional hit, which was a home run. I was there, the place was buzzing about him, I, however, wasn’t in the moment. I can’t say I felt the anticipation as he stepped up to bat, or that I almost caught the ball, or that I took photos or met him. I was probably thinking about wanting to roll down a bumpy hill… I am still glad – and proud – to say I was there; and that it was my birthday.

Another thing I remember fondly about the Everett Giants/AquaSox was their first owner, Bob Bavasi (yes, brother of Bill, the worst GM in Mariners history – go figure, I know I can’t figure it out), who bought the team while in Yakima and brought them over to Everett. Bob was a great minor league owner, he was at every game, walking around, talking to fans, if you had an issue you would just walk up to Bob.

It was a sad day when the Bavasi’s sold the team. It just doesn’t feel the same… Although it will always be a great place to see the newest “Baby M’s”.

[TO BE CONTINUED. See next post!]

[NOTE: for a good history of this team, check out this website. It mentions some of the players who started in Everett)

For some time now I have been thinking that Portland, Oregon needs a Major League Baseball Team.

Currently the American League Western Division is the smallest division in all of MLB. Every division has five teams, except for the National League Central, which has SIX teams, and the AL West, which has only four. The argument is what team do you realign into the AL West, to some the two teams that stand out are the Houston Astros or the Kansas City Royals, neither of which are anywhere near the “West” (& you cannot have BOTH Texas MLB teams in the same division, which means the Astros go into the NL West, and AL West gets the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Colorado Rockies, and ideally the team in Colorado should not play with a Designated Hitter).

Portland having a MLB team makes everything easier.

If Portland had a MLB team, it would balance the AL West Out. Supposing the team is placed in the American League, the Western Division would no longer be the smallest in all of MLB. If the team is placed in the NL West, then one of the aforementioned NL West teams gets moved. Nonetheless, divisions get more even, which HAS to happen to make the standings/ play-offs fair.

However, the Portland team SHOULD be in the AL West because, personally, it would be awesome to drive down to Portland to see the Yankees play, it would give me a reason to go to Portland. Also, it would give the Mariners a legitimate rivalry/competition, because currently, I don’t feel there is a strong rivalry between the M’s and any of the AL West Teams, and as much as Mariner fans seem to think of the Yankees as the main rivalry, its not, it brings fans to the ballpark, but its not a legitimate RIVALRY.

In a fantasy like state I started playing around with name ideas for my future Portland MLB team. I went to Portland, and Oregon’s Wikipedia pages , looking for ideas… when I came across this on Oregon’s Wikipedia:

“Portland has also actively pursued a Major League Baseball team”

On the Sports In Portland Wikipedia Page I found this:

“There has been recent interest in attracting a Major League Baseball franchise to Portland. In 2004, the city made an unsuccessful bid for the Montreal Expos, and in 2006 was contacted by the Florida Marlins.”

I wasn’t even aware the Marlins had considered relocation in 2006, much less to Portland.

Portland, all of Oregon state, and SW Washington state residents are forced to make the trip up North to enjoy Major League Baseball, and they do (ok, I know there are other areas of the country futher away from a MLB team, but my point is they do come up here). I’m always talking to people at Safeco from that area. In 2002 when the Mariners and Padres played an exhibition game there, it sold out in 15 minutes! Is it really fair for Seattle to have the Major League Baseball monopoly on the entire Pacific Northwest? Look at a map, the closest teams are San Fran/Oakland and Colorado. Go to Google Maps, and get directions from Safeco Field to AT&T park — its 806 miles. What other team is that far from other MLB teams? Seattle gets fans in all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska! Those are some of the largest states in the country, and they’re, for the most part, forced to be Mariner fans! Not only is that insane, but its not fair for fans. They deserve a choice.

Although, I have never been to Portland, thanks to the internet, the news, stories, and photos I can tell you its a lovely city, its beautiful — a baseball park would look beautiful in downtown Portland — has great public transportation, is one of the greenest/sustainable cities in the country (they could have the first MLB sustainable stadium, think about it — a retractable roof made out of solar panels?), and Portland is known for being very quirky, which would work well and give the potential team a lot to work with regarding logo (there’s gotta be a rose in there), nickname (I like Expos, even before I read it in an article, because I miss that name, and it sounds cool), mascot, team colors (Douglas Fir Green & Stumptown coffee stain Brown?), and merchandise. And this nice 20 thousand seat  ballpark would make a  great interim location (three diff links there).There’s plenty to work with.

Whether its a new team, or a current team that is relocated (which I hate because I don’t any city to lose its team, a new team is better) The City Of Roses is ready for Major League Baseball. But how does a fan get the idea through to Major League Baseball? Wouldn’t they turn their noses up at such a “small market” city, like P-town? Well, here’s one last point to chew on; how many teams are there currently in MLB? 30, right? With an estimated population of 583,776 PDX is the 29th populous city in the United States.

Why hasn’t it happened?

(In my search, I found this website regarding a proposed MLB team in Portlandia. Its very interesting, and was useful. Also a quick Google search for “Portland Or MLB” turns up some interesting articles.)

Junior.

Today is June 2nd. Twenty Four years ago today a seventeen year old Ken Griffey Jr. was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. It was pure luck for the Mariners really. If the Mariners didn’t have the first draft pick, there’s no way Junior becomes a Mariner.

Twenty Three years after that day (one year ago today) Ken Griffey Junior retired.

He did not stay a Mariner for all of those twenty three years, but he came back just long enough for a few more laughs and to say goodbye to everyone; to finish here. Seattle could not have been luckier.

Junior had controversy in his career, but it wasn’t like the controversy that surrounds players nowadays. Junior supposedly took a nap in the clubhouse during a game. It was a sin, obviously, and as reported by the media, it happened more than once. Oh my gosh. I wish that more players, instead of all their personal drama or illegal substance use, just wanted to, supposedly, recline in their easy chair. And he was obviously a “me” not “team” player for not retiring the second he took the supposed nap. He just wanted to play baseball; I wish more had that desire.

Junior was, through his career with Seattle, the face of baseball in Seattle. He was the player of the decade and had shoes, video games, and Wheatie boxes devoted to him. Along with promoting the greatest player out there, it was also a great way to promote the Mariners, despite some really bad teams. As long as Junior made the highlight reels, the Mariners made the highlight reels because he was the Mariners.

When it finally did pay off, when the Mariners finally made post-season play in ’95, it showed what a great TEAM the Mariners had become. It was Edgar who hit The Double, Randy who pitched out of the bullpen on little rest… but does any of that happen if the Mariners don’t luck out with the first overall draft pick? Do the Mariners move to Tampa after the 1995 season? We’ll never know, but having the most marketable player of the 90′s as your team leader was a blessing in many ways.

And for the people who can’t see the effort put in by Junior, and see all that he did as a Seattle Mariner, many who call themselves Mariner “fans” need to understand how lucky and blessed we were, as a city, to have Ken Griffey Junior play here during the best years of his career, and to come back, to end an epic career where it began. Without the Kid, the team probably isn’t here anymore.

I just wish he could have played in a World Series.

Players rarely stay with one team. A lot of people don’t like it, especially if the player is likeable or a superstar. But, it happens. You just have to move on.

Depending on why the trade took place, as a fan, I am more likely to be sour when a player leaves in a trade than as a free agent. I can relate more to the free agent because if someone offered me more money to do what I already do, I wouldn’t hesitate (would you? I doubt it); yet a baseball player is supposed to stay with their original team because they are already making plenty of money, why would they need more.. right? Players get traded for many reasons: they are in the last year of their contract and current team knows they won’t be able to afford them so they get what they can from another team, or team is rebuilding and can get a lot of young players/prospects for one expensive guy , or the player decides they no longer desire to play for their current team and demand a trade.

The late 90′s Seattle Mariners had some great teams, with great players… “You gotta love these guys”, right? But, great things never last, and some of their top players left.

First to leave was Randy Johnson. In my personal opinion, ’98 the “Big Unit” was not a happy camper for whatever reasons. He decided he didn’t want to play in Seattle, he played really bad so they would trade him (because as soon as he got traded, he started winning again — coincidence?). He lost games to get his way.

Second to leave was “The Kid”, Ken Griffey Jr. This was the most heartbreaking of trades for this city, but it was not unexpected. I don’t think Griffey was unhappy here, but he really wanted to play for Cincinnati. He wasn’t shy about that desire.

Last to leave was Alex Rodriguez. After the departure of Griffey, A-Rod was THE face of the Seattle Mariners… only thing is that up until Seattle drafted Alex in ’93 (as stated in interviews) he didn’t even know where Seattle was and that he wanted to be a Dodger. How could little Seattle keep someone that, obviously, wanted to play in a big city? Seattle couldn’t contain a personality that big.

You get over it. You just do.

When Ken Griffey Jr played in Seattle as a visitor with the Cincinnati Reds, he was embraced, and talk of Junior returning as a Mariner in the future was hinted at. In 2009 he signed with Seattle, and was loved by the city again (lets not talk of 2010, ok?). Griffey Jr. retired as a Mariner. Opening Day 2010 Randy Johnson was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and he was loved by the city again. Currently at Mariner games, you can buy a Randy Johnson t-shirt, and there’s a mural painted outside of Safeco. Both of these players DEMANDED trades, they wanted out of Seattle, and they both LEFT.

Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in baseball, a World Champion, and plays for the biggest, most winning sports franchise in the history of professional sports. Many say he is the best player to ever play baseball. His off field personality is just as big as his on field dynamics. Seattle wouldn’t know what to do with this A-Rod.

When Alex comes to Seattle — first with the Texas Rangers, now with the New York Yankees — we boo him. Seattle shows him how immature and bitter we are, and boooo him all night, at every at bat or play near third base. They boo him louder than they cheer their own players.

None of it makes sense to me. I find it all stupid, but if Seattle can forgive Randy & Junior, then why not Alex? Why is Alex the super villain? He wasn’t the one who demanded a trade, he just got a promotion that didn’t include Seattle?

Can’t Seattle just forget about it all, and let Alex go? Hasn’t it been long enough? I think it has. Seattle, as a city, is better than that.

I love meeting famous people. I can’t deny it. I love getting autographs, taking photos of them, and just seeing them. Especially when baseball is concerned. As a teen, my mom and I would go to the Kingdome early, and watch batting and fielding practice just so we could watch them, and if we happened to get an autograph then that was even better. After the game we would wait by the main security gate, and wait specifically for autographs (strangely, our chances of getting an autograph were better there, outside, in the dark, near the gate. Weird).

As a teenager approaching a celebrity (or sports figure) was easier for me. I don’t know why. I was terribly shy back then, and I still am, but now its more nerves than shyness.

When I was eighteen I had no issue with walking up to David Cone and David Wells (who exited the Kingdome, on foot, and walked towards Pioneer Square), and asking Coney for an autograph (I wish I had an awesome story here, but that man literally did not say a word — he did sign my ball, though, so no complaints. I WAS too intimidated to ask Wells for a signature).

Today I ran into some Yankees downtown.

It wasn’t totally on accident. I follow them on Twitter, and uh, by the things they Tweeted, I was just really smart at figuring out where they were… But, in all honesty, I didn’t think our paths would cross.

But there they were, a whole bunch of Yankees exiting off the elevator at one of the downtown malls. I recognized them instantly, they were hard to miss.  A group of about 8 guys (Posada, Joba, maybe Teixiera, and at least 5 more), all taller than anyone else there, dressed better than anyone else there (I mean, they were dressed casually, but still dressed well), and smelled of success (or just really good cologne).

I saw them coming, the path they were walking on would take them right past me. Either them or me would have to move to get out of the way. I panicked. I grabbed a chair and sat at a cafe table, watching as they passed me (& hearing Jorge gab on his phone in Spanish). And just like that they were gone. I froze. I didn’t say “hello”, take their photo, or tell them what a great fan of the Yankees I was. It was like this little pocket of time where I saw my hero’s, and then they were gone; I feel like I was the only one who saw them.

Melissa from ten years ago would not have froze.

I was sad. How could I have froze? I was disappointed in myself.

Since I was downtown I decided to make the most of my time, and take a leisurely stroll. And about an hour later, on Pike Street, I saw Joba again… with two other guys (One was an average looking white guy. Pendleton? It was raining lightly, so my glasses were a little hard to see out of– plus they were across the street from me — maybe Teixeira? The other guy looked kinda like Mo, but not Mo.). Why did I keep noticing Joba? Well, both times I saw him, he looked so familiar — and coincidentally I realized he dresses like a friend of mine — that it seriously took me a moment to remember who he was.

THIS time I was on the wrong side of the street, and they were once again going the opposite direction. I swear Joba noticed me staring at him. I unsuccessfully tried to backtrack, but I couldn’t find them. It was dinner time, so I assumed they disappeared into a restaurant.

I didn’t get to say hi to anyone, I didn’t take a photo, and I would have really disappointed the 17 year old me, but… does it matter? I saw them, I have the memories, and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

First… How I Became a Baseball Fan.

I didn’t grow up loving baseball. Neither parent was much of a fan, and I grew up generally hating sports. I couldn’t get into it.

As a child the closest I came to attending a sporting event was going to see the Everett Giants. We went to a lot of games because it was cheap. I was there when a kid named Ken Griffey Jr. hit his first home run, but I didn’t really know what that was. To me, this was baseball. Seriously, never mind that they played on field they shared w/ high school teams & a community college, I thought the short-A team in Everett was a MLB team. (I was, obviously, an idiot). When I would see a S.F. Giants sticker, I just assumed those people were fans of the Everett team. One time my mom said to me, “well, I think there’s another team called the “Giants””. I insisted she was wrong.

My grandma’s cousin’s eldest son (my mom’s second cousin? I think… or my second cousin once removed?) played baseball… professional, Major League Baseball, for the Phillies. Although through his 10-year career in Philadelphia Larry Christenson had only mediocre stats (ok,19-6 w-l record in ’77 was pretty great. And 11 career home runs? Not bad.), he obviously had potential because he was 3rd overall in the first round of the ’72 draft. All before my time, of course, and it didn’t turn anyone in my immediate family a die-hard baseball fan (good thing, too! Or else I may be a Phillie fan! I shudder to think…)

All that was cool and exciting at the time, I am sure, but it was over with. Sports still equaled boring.

And then… in 1995, we got a new TV. Ok. So, what? Well, for us, that was BIG. Our old TV was… OLD. We got four stations regularly, and on a good day maybe two more. The reception for KIRO 7 was the worst (as a late night TV fan I was so upset when Letterman moved to CBS because I could barely watch it), and that was the station the Mariners were on. No big deal, out of sight, out of mind, sports were boring anyway.

We got that new TV, and… suddenly my mom is watching baseball?

Perfect Timing

Somehow my mom got hooked… on baseball. I still don’t know if it was that we had a TV and could actually see all the stations we were getting, or if it was the 1995 Mariners, or possibly both, but mom, then grandma, and then finally I (me being the last in our household) turned into baseball fans.

In ’96 we got a satellite dish! Now, we could watch every Mariners game, and other baseball games, too. I was home schooled so I had a lot of time on my hands, and watched every game I could. If the Mariners weren’t on, I’d check to see who else was on, particularly the Yankees or the Orioles. I started to pay attention to the Yankees after Doc Gooden no-hit the Mariners; I remembered thinking, ‘wow, the Yankees are the exciting team’.  And I started paying attention to the Orioles after a guy at a game explained to us Cal Ripken and “the streak”.

Several things played into me turning into a Yankee fan in ’96, I was intrigued by Doc’s no-hitter, I realized that one of my favorite Mariners (Tino) was now a Yankee, I thought Derek Jeter was so cute, I felt like this team had electricity, and, yes, they won the world Series that year. In 1996 I fell in love with the Yankees, but… damnit! I still loved the Mariners, too.

I was torn for a couple of years, would go to games rooting for both. I had fun rooting for the Mariners, but there’s just something about the Yankees…

Bye-Bye to those Kingdome Guys.

From ’96 to ’99 I went to approx 15 games a year at the Kingdome. I loved that place, even though it was ugly. I felt at home. I knew it was on its way out, and I didn’t know how I would react to its demolition. Would I cry? Freak out? Get depressed? I did ALL of those things, and additionally I lost all the enthusiasm I had for the Mariners. I just stopped caring. I still appreciated them, I still wanted them to do well, but I didn’t care. I was tired of them.

Once Safeco was opened I only went to games when the Yankees or Orioles were in town (coincidentally on the day Safeco opened, I was in New York, my only visit to Yankee Stadium, watching Glavine and the Braves beat Clemens and the Yankees during this new thing called interleague play– I missed Cone’s perfect game by a couple of days, although I was Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant for the last couple of innings :) ).

My lack of enthusiasm for the Mariners meant that I stopped going to Opening Day, buying Mariners shirts, and collecting baseball cards. I was sad when Griffey left, but half expected it, and I had never cared enough about A-rod to begin caring when he left. My other favorite Mariners retired, and it didn’t phase me.

At this point, the satellite dish was long gone (we got cable), so I would only get to watch Yankee games when they were on ESPN and FOX (and of course during the playoffs), but I was okay with that… I didn’t want to be watching Mariner games just to be watching baseball, I didn’t want to waste my time watching something I didn’t care about when all I cared about in the baseball world was the Yankees.

I still want to Mariners to do well because its good for the city, but I don’t like the Mariners, I rarely root for them (even if they deserve it), and actually enjoy it when they don’t do well (expect last year during that whole “Griffey is sleeping in the clubhouse” scandal; that pissed me off). Essentially.. I want to root against the Mariners, and have them prove me wrong; I’m challenging them.

But, I will not root for them. The Yankees are the only team for me.

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