SEATTLE — The first game at the Mariners’ current ballpark was played July 15, 1999, when it opened as Safeco Field. That company’s naming-rights deal expired at the end of the 2018 season, and the Mariners signed on with T-Mobile, who will pay the team $87.5 million over the next 25 years to put its signage on the ballpark ($3.5 million per year).
The ballpark is easy to get to, located south of downtown Seattle near public transit (and also walkable, I did it from my hotel which is closer to Pike Place Market). They’ve got an early entry area which gets you into a part of the park called “The ‘Pen,” which is named because it’s right next to the team bullpens in left field. Mostly, this is an area where they can separate you from more of your money on food and drink, though the views of the field were nice (and they helpfully have nets above some of the bar areas to protect you from batting-practice baseballs).
Entry to the park was fast and the bag/magnetometer check was done efficiently by gameday staff.
Walking around the concourse, which was wide, easy to navigate and signed well, I came across an extensive Mariners Hall of Fame and Museum, which you can see in the photos above. The Mariners have a 42-season history and have never even been in a World Series, much less won one, but they have quite a number of significant players and events in that history that are commemorated in that museum — Felix Hernandez’ perfect game, Hisashi Iwakuma’s no-hitter, great players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and of course, Ichiro. There’s also a display (photo 23) honoring Lou Piniella, who is by far the most successful manager in Mariners history (840 wins and four postseason appearances with them).
It really made me, even more, want to see the Cubs put together something like this. It could, I think, fit easily into the restored groundskeeper’s cottage in the left-field corner, which would be a perfect location for it given the cottage’s own history.
There are probably more food choices at T-Mobile than at almost any ballpark I’ve been to, so many that it was hard to decide. I settled on an “ordinary” choice, a burger and garlic fries. These were good, and the prices weren’t too unreasonable. I might try to get a bit more adventurous this afternoon.
Gameday staff was friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and efficient. I stopped by “Guest Services” to find out where to go after the game to call for an Uber back to the hotel, and the woman there knew exactly where to point me. Staff here also holds fans at the top of sections during play, letting them go down to their seats between batters. This is a very good idea that I’ve also seen in Arizona and San Francisco and I think it would work well at Wrigley too.
I thought you’d enjoy the photo of the T-shirt the Mariners have put on sale honoring one of their players who has hit 12 career home runs (photo 9).
I suppose the only thing that is “wrong” with this park is that there isn’t really anything that says “Seattle” to me in it. You can’t see outside the park from most seats (from mine, I could see a very thin sliver of “outside” that showed some trees and a bit of Interstate 5), and there’s nothing that hints at the water or mountains that define the Seattle area. That’s a minor quibble, though, and they do honor local baseball as well as the local heroes in their museum (no extra charge to walk through that area).
So all in all, this is a solidly done ballpark, now almost 20 years old, yet it does feel fresh and new, not dated. The Mariners and their fans should be proud of it, even if Cubs fans more or less took over the place Tuesday evening.
T-Mobile is the 45th ballpark in which I have seen a major-league game (and I’ve seen the Cubs play in 40 of them). They are:
- 27 of the current MLB ballparks (have not yet been to Petco Park, Marlins Park or SunTrust Park).
- The following 14 parks no longer in use: old Comiskey Park, old Yankee Stadium, old Busch Stadium, Milwaukee County Stadium, Metropolitan Stadium (Bloomington, Minnesota), Metrodome, Tiger Stadium, Turner Field, Riverfront Stadium, Dolphin Stadium (Miami), Three Rivers Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego), Candlestick Park and Shea Stadium.
- Four parks outside the continental US: Exhibition Stadium (Toronto), Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Jarry Park (Montreal) and Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan).
I’ve enjoyed my trip to Seattle, lots of interesting sights to see beyond baseball (went to Pike Place Market and walked around Pioneer Square), and now there’s just one thing left to do before returning to Chicago: Bring home another win in Wednesday’s late afternoon game!