I’ve been a Mariners fan since the late 80’s. I couldn’t tell you on which specific day I became a Mariners fan, mostly because my memory is fickle on its best day. It does somewhat recall my first live game; something about the Kingdome during my friend’s birthday party and perhaps Jay Buhner hit two homeruns. Details are foggy.
My mind has so much trouble with that memory because it’s so jam-packed full of quality memories about the Mariners that it has to keep track of. “Quality memories?”, you might ask. Sure. This franchise isn’t all 100-loss seasons and Adam Jones trades. I listened to The Double on the radio. I watched Win #116 on the television. I sat and watched live at Safeco when Ichiro got a base hit in extras to beat the Toronto Blue Jays. No matter how fond those distant memories seem to be, it’s a much more recent memory that sticks out in my mind as ‘favorite’.
We (we being my family and I) have been to every Mariners Fan Fest for the past five years, ever since my son could walk. Every year, we get in line to enter Safeco, anxious to hit homeruns and pitch in the bullpen and pretend we’re running first to third on an Ichiro single. Every year, we walk through the turnstiles and approach the stairs up the home plate concourse. Every year, we grab the autograph voucher from the person handing them out and quickly stuff it in the backpack after a quick glance. We’re really not much for autographs.
One year, however, I grabbed the voucher, glanced, and then stopped dead in my tracks. The name on the voucher was typed out in big, bold letters: Felix Hernandez. I was excited, to say the least. My son, who was four at the time, was beyond excited. It was his idea to wait in line to meet The King, and this kid won’t sit still to eat a bowl of Chocolate Coated Sugar Bombs.
He made it, though. We waited patiently while that line crawled along. A half hour passed. An hour. An hour and a half. Finally, we walked through a set of double doors… and there he was, signing baseballs, caps, posters. I looked down at my son and was immediately happy we’d ventured the line.
He stood there, mouth agape, eyes wide, the sense of awe that only children seem capable of these days. As we approached the table, my son held out the baseball we’d purchased while in line. Felix reached for it, looked Bradon in the eyes, and asked if he was having fun. Bradon nodded, cool as could be. Felix signed the ball, handed it back, and said, “Good.” I quickly congratulated Felix for winning the Cy Young the previous year, and we were ushered along.
After exiting the room, we met my wife and daughter and enjoyed the rest of the day. We hit the homeruns, caught the fly balls, and I’m pretty sure I struck out an imaginary Albert Pujols with a nasty slider on the outer edge. We drove home, five hours because we live in the middle of nowhere. When we got home, we put the Felix Ball in its case and set it on my son’s dresser. Sometimes I go and look at it and feel lucky that my family’s favorite baseball team is blessed to have such a quality person and player on its roster.
And that is my favorite Mariner memory. Not Ichiro breaking Sisler’s hits record. Not Edgar’s Game 4 grand salami off Wetteland. Not any play any Mariner has ever made on the field. It was a play that one made off the field that has and will stick out in my mind.