I couldn’t spend a month in Arizona without catching a Spring Training ballgame (or two). Since the underdogs always elicit my heart and support it’s not hard to figure out why I remain a Mariners fan—even after last season’s dismal record.
Letting bygones be bygones I headed to the Mariner’s Spring Training stadium in Peoria full of hope and a wad of money to buy the $7.00 beers and a $5.00 hot dog. I made this trip sans EmBee since the trails of the campground called to him more than watching seven innings of a potentially excruciatingly painful game of America’s favorite pastime.
Arriving at the stadium an hour ahead of the scheduled start was a must for me. I had heard of the autograph “tunnel” where players occasionally took pity on the fans and signed balls, programs, or pictures. Armed with a $1 program and a $3 sharpie I made my way to the appropriate area where I was one of the few adults amidst layers of kids thrusting arms through bars not unlike those covering prison windows. Feeling guilty that I might be taking an autograph away from one of these sweet little kids who had the corner on looking pathetically at the players I backed away from the front line. I soon figured out that most of these kids already had twenty or thirty autographs to their names. I began to feel swindled by my magnanimous feelings.
It appears you need guts to get in the front and beg, plead, whine, and cajole the players into a signature. One player, Tom Wilhelmsen listed as a pitcher on the Mariners roster, must have the biggest heart of all baseball players. He signed every single item poked at him through the iron. I was too timid to get even HIS autograph. Sheesh. Oh well, maybe next year I thought as I walked toward my seat without a single autograph.
The game I chose to attend was against the Chicago White Sox. You see, our little city in Montana is host to one of the Sox’s Pioneer league farm teams. It was hard to stay rooting only for the Mariners as I feel somewhat kin to the Sox too! I found myself clapping wildly at a home run hit by a Sox player identified only by a number 85 on his jersey. The Mariners fans around me gave me the evil eye until I explained to them my misplaced alliance with the Sox also. Besides, Coach Ozzie Guillen is a super guy with a great sense of humor. It’s hard not to pull for a team with such fabulous leadership.
Some people may balk at going to large public events without a companion. I’ve always found that, daunting as it appears at first, I always make friends in the end. This year was no exception. I sat next to two lively intelligent ladies from the northwest. Mary Ann was from Oregon and Jeannie was from Auburn. I hate to admit this but we missed a couple of great plays during our animated discussions! We left the game with shared email addies and a promise to get together for a real game in Seattle in the summer.
An interesting gastronomical note: they serve margaritas at the Peoria stadium!!! Why settle for a $7 beer when you can have a $7 margarita I say!
The game ended way too soon with the Mariners beating the Chicago White Sox 8-3. After dropping too much money on souvenir hats and t-shirts at baseball camp I headed back to camp. Trailer camp that is.