Mariners manage to stay in fans’ good graces


Staff writer

Stop me if this sounds familiar: you’re dating a girl who all your friends think is crazy. She takes up all your time, she’s a significant drain on your personal finances and every so often you discover that one of your favorite somethings has gone missing because she decided to “clean out” your apartment. Worst of all, she’s lazy.

All the reasons to break up are there, but you’ve been dating for years and you exchanged “I love you’s” with her a long time ago. Besides that, you’re convinced she’s not all bad; she recently promised, for the millionth time, that she’s going to change, and you just can’t help but have faith in that statement.

Sound crazy? It is, but it’s also the gist of my 17-year love affair with the Seattle Mariners.

Since attending my first game in 1991, I’ve been through just about everything: hearing pins drop in the Kingdome during the early ’90s; feeling my blood pressure spike during postseason runs in the Lou Pinella era; watching my hopes dashed during would-be championship runs in the early aughts and more recently, trying to figure out whether the good has outweighed the bad during it all.

I still don’t have an answer for that. For the time being, I’m the hapless boyfriend in the aforementioned analogy.

But not without good reason.

Last weekend, the M’s did something decidedly un-Mariner like by throwing an enjoyable and affordable party for their thousands of hangers-on — Mariners FanFest. The (apparently) annual festival took place Saturday and Sunday and offered fans a chance to run wild in Safeco Field for only $10.

My brother and I were skeptical of the event at first, but it was cheap and we had time to kill. Besides, the idea of seeing the stadium from the playing field seemed fun.

What started out as a whim, though, quickly turned into an agreement: “Let’s make this a yearly thing.”

We got to do everything at the Safe. We fielded fly balls in the outfield, ran the bases, pitched in the bullpen, hung out in the dugout and plenty more.

Players, coaches and front office staffers participated in Q & A sessions throughout the day atop the M’s dugout. We had a chance to talk with General Manager Bill Bavasi and ask him if he considered fans’ emotional ties to players when making trades.

Point blankly, he told me: “No — we’re not that nice.”

Tough, but fair.

Considerate, too. For all the four-letter words I’ve privately heaved at the GM since his arrival in 2003, I couldn’t help but appreciate his taking time, on a Sunday, to participate in a free-wheeling discussion with fans.

And that was more or less the feeling all weekend. For all the departed superstars, lopsided trades and dismal seasons fans have suffered through during the years, FanFest gave us all a reason to still love the team and remember why we started following the M’s in the first place.

(This was all further compounded by the Erik Bedard trade rumors that broke out Sunday night).

The bottom line is that come late September, I’ll probably still be cursing at my television set and lamenting the fact that I wasn’t born in a city like Boston or New York, but I’ll rest a little easier knowing that good times — or at least a few perks — are most definitely on the horizon.

After all, the Mariners may be crazy, but what can I do? I love ’em.

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