Have a baseball road trip coming up? Well, in a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
Welcome to Seattle! You’ve grabbed your cup of Starbucks and watched them throw fish around at the Pike Place Market, but now what? There’s a lot to consider when you visit Seattle, and believe it or not, you won’t always need an umbrella! Yes, Seattle gets a lot of rain, but there’s one place you’re guaranteed to stay dry, and that’s Safeco Field.
The Seattle Mariners' miracle run in 1995 was a turning point for a baseball team that was on the cusp of moving to Tampa Bay. An Edgar Martinez double down the left field line against the Yankees cemented the team’s legacy, and fast-tracked the approval to build Safeco Field in time for the 1999 season. Its retractable roof, one of the few in the major leagues, was a key component of the proposal and guaranteed that not only was baseball here to stay in Seattle, but that the game is guaranteed to be played every scheduled day, rain or shine.
1. Downtown! I think most casual fans visiting from out of town are in Seattle for longer than just a day or two. There are the easy things like walking downtown Seattle and hitting the Pike Place Market, but then there’s the “rest of it." Walk the rest of the Piers and take a ferry across Puget Sound. Pioneer Square is close to Safeco Field and is basically a cluster of bars, restaurants, and more. Take an Underground Tour of Seattle and see the city beneath the city. Check out Ye’ Old Curiosity Shop at the Pier, take a ride to the top of the Space Needle, enjoy the view from the new Ferris Wheel, or spend the afternoon at the Experience Music Project to see the history of Nirvana, Taking Punk To The Masses. Seattle is a beautiful city that’s easy to walk, make the most of your time here!
2. Parking and Transportation: If I had one tip for getting around Seattle it would be to leave plenty of time, and to park in one place and forget your car… Well, I guess that’s two tips. The freeways around Seattle are horrible. Expect congestion and backups, that’s what happens when five lanes of I-5 (the main way through downtown Seattle,) turn into two lanes when you hit downtown. There are plenty of all-day parking lots around Seattle; they won’t be cheap, but if you’re spending the entire day in the city it’s worth not worrying about it. If you’re just in town for the game, there are a handful of lots around Safeco Field, but the cost varies based on who they’re playing. Now you may be thinking, “Are there any free places to park?” The answer to that question is yes, but not downtown. There are abandoned lots and side streets on the south edge of the city where you can park for free, but be ready to do some walking. Look for two-hour parking spots that end at 6pm if you’re in for a night game. They’re out there if you look for them!
3. The Mitt: Every park has its “meeting spot." Yankee Stadium had the Bat, Safeco Field has The Mitt. Stationed at the left field entrance of the park, The Mitt is a big glove sculpture with a hole in it. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if having a glove with a big hole in it is the kind of statement you want outside of left field, but given the Mariners' difficulties with maintaining a true constant in left field, I guess it makes sense. Lou Pinella was always vocal about the team’s instability at left field, so it’s only fitting that Pinella would be traded as manager to Tampa Bay for Randy Winn, who would join the team as, yes, a left fielder.
4. Home Plate Tribute To Ebbets: You may not know it, but there are two tributes to Ebbets Field in Seattle. The first and most obvious is the rotunda shape of Safeco Field’s Home Plate gate. Stand back and you’ll see a clear homage to Dem Bums with the rounded brick entrance and stark white letters along the top. Citi Field did the same style of tribute when they opened their park in 2009, but Seattle did it first 10 years earlier. To cap it off, look up as you come in the home plate entrance, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
The other tribute is less known unless you’re a big fan of throwback jerseys, or past Negro and Dominican League teams of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Ebbets Field Flannels specializes in authentic recreations and retro shirts you can’t find anywhere else. They’re based out of Seattle and have a store on Occidental, down the street from FX McCrory’s, which boasts probably the largest alcohol board you’ll find anywhere. (Do you like how I snuck an extra tip in there? Shh, don’t tell anyone.)
5. History In The Northwest: You’re at a ballgame in Seattle, so you might not be up for a history lesson. That said, don’t pass by the Pacific Northwest Baseball Museum on the 100-Level of the park. They have a detailed history of the Pacific Coast League, the Seattle Rainiers, the single-season Seattle Pilots, and everything before, during, and after. The museum has a great assortment of bats, balls, programs and more. It’s worth the stop. There’s a strong baseball history in the Northwest, but there’s one name that’s truly transcended the game, and that’s Fred Hutchinson. Hutchinson managed in the Minor and Major Leagues, but his namesake is the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, one of the premier cancer research facilities in the world. The Mariners pay tribute to Hutch through their annual Fred Hutch award and luncheon, as well as on the seat sides of every aisle in the lower bowl of the park.
6. Let’s Play! You didn’t forget the kids at home, did you? Safeco Field is great for all ages. The Mariners have a solid Kidzone past the batter’s eye in CF. There’s a fountain (where all of the change goes to charity,) a play area, and the home of the Mariner Moose. Take your kids by between most innings and you’ll have a chance to take a picture with the team mascot. They have a kid-centered souvenir store next door, and one of the best values in the park at the concession stand: You can get a cup of popcorn, small Cracker Jack, a hot dog or PBJ, and a pop for one low price.
7. BIGGER IS BETTER! The Mariners debuted their new big screen in center field for their opening day away game against the Oakland A’s. Yes, 15,000 people showed up to watch the game on TV at the park because it beats anything any of us have at home. I have it on high authority that the team’s screen in center field may be the largest in the universe. You just thought everything was bigger in Texas. Wai t… the board at Cowboys Stadium is still bigger? Dammit. Well, 11,425 square feet is still really big!
8. Place is a total meat market: (I mean that in a good way.) There isn’t a more popular location for single men and women than “The Pen” and now, “Edgar’s Cantina." Prior to 2011, the lower level area outside the Bullpen was cramped and dark. You were separated from the pitcher by a fence, and only the true diehards would go down there to watch pitchers warm up. The Mariners changed all of that in time for the 2011 season. The team took down the fencing, and now you’re practically on-top of the pitchers warming up before and during the game. You won’t find a park in baseball with a closer view of the Bullpen. They’ve lined the area with countertops, filled the walkways with tables, and added a slew of new concessions. Some of the best food in the park is downstairs outside of The Pen. You can get pizza, burgers, crepes, and their famous tortas. There’s also a huge beer garden that offers specials before the game, and a full-bar with a gas fireplace and seating. If The Pen is too full, head out and stand in the open air of Center Field or head upstairs to “Edgar’s Cantina”, a new addition to the park for 2013. (You might even see Edgar Martinez while you’re there!)
9. Feed Me! Anyone that’s been to my website, Blocking The Plate, knows that I love to eat. There’s a lot more to Safeco Field than hot dogs. Safeco Field, like Seattle, is a culinary melting pot. Where else can you get fish and chips down the way from BBQ, upstairs from pizza and Mexican tortas, and on the other side of the ballpark from sushi? (And don’t get me started on the garlic fries…) I’ve had a bit(e) of everything in the park, but personal favorites for me are the BBQ sandwiches down the first-base line, a slice of pizza down in The Pen, or a high quality hamburger from Hamburg and Frites. Trust me when I tell you, there’s more variety at Safeco Field than you’ll be able to experience in even one or two games, and that’s just inside the park. There are some great choices outside the park too. Pyramid Alehouse, Jimmy’s On First, and FX McCrory’s are just a sample of the restaurants that are close to the park. For your best seafood options (outside of oysters at FX,) you’ll have to go further into the city.
10. Beer. I know what you’re thinking, every ballpark has beer. Yes, but does every ballpark have over 50 styles of beer on tap or in the bottle?! Safeco Field boasts the largest selection of beer in the major leagues. No, seriously, check this beer list out.
Seattle is known for its craft beers, and that’s loud and clear at Safeco Field. You can get a Bud Light or a Coors at any park, but what about a Pyramid IPA, Silver City Ridgetop Red, or Elysian Men’s Room Red (that’s a hanging curve, I know). You can get 'Duk’s favorite Mac & Jack’s too. If over 50 beers weren’t enough, the list is constantly changing. Safeco Field rotates their beers based on the season. (Their full list actually comes in at 72 different styles.) That leads to some serious questions: Which ones to choose, and who’s driving? (For the designated drivers, stop by the table in The Pen and sign in for a free pop, and “Thank You” for doing the right thing!)
Enjoy your trip to Seattle! It might be your first trip, but it won’t be your last. The city and the ballpark have a ton to offer, so have fun and let’s “Play ball!”
Doug Miller writes about Major League Baseball, travel, and everything in between on his site www.blockingtheplate.com! You can follow him @millerdna. How big of a Mariners fan is he? He picked them to make the playoffs this year – We’ll see how that goes, he’s either out of his mind, or an absolute genius!
What are your favorite tips for visiting Safeco Field?
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park, PNC Park, U.S. Cellular Field
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