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.