Right, so tonight was Dan Appreciation Night. I got there pretty early with my parents again. You see, tonight was their last night in town, and I was torn between hanging out with them and going to the game, so I solved the problem by taking them to the game. Of course, my mom ruined a lot of the Fan Appreciation Night drawings by screaming "318!!!" (the section we sat in) every time they started choosing seats for prizes, but that's okay.
A touching gesture by the grounds crew.
They started off the festivities with this bizarre thing where they were selecting a few people randomly from the audience to come onto the field and "steal" first base (signed by Richie Sexson), second base (signed by Dan Wilson), and third base (signed by Adrian Beltre). They also selected someone to throw out the first pitch. It was sort of odd, they just focused in on a section and zoomed around the people until they selected one to come down, and an usher would come get them. They swore it was random. Still odd.
A "Fan of the Year" was given an award; he was an air force guy who apparently buys a ton of tickets to games and shares them with all the other people he's stationed with. Joel Pineiro came out and presented him with an award for it.
They sang the National Anthem a little bit early, around 6:45pm or so, and did more awards after that. They had the BBWAA awards for various players, including Scrappiest Local Boy, Most Vexing Closer, and Most Pleasant Surprise of the Year.
Then, they announced the lineups. No big deal for the Oakland A's lineup, but when they got to the end of the Mariners lineup, and the announcer said "Batting ninth, the catcher, Dan Wilson," and everybody stood up and cheered. And cheered. And cheered some more. It paused for a good minute while Dan got his first standing ovation of the evening.
As Dan walked across the field with Jamie Moyer, there was more applause. Then, when he sat down behind the plate for the pre-game warmup throws, they spent a while flashing “Dan the Man” on the screen and playing video clips of his past glory, etc.
They settled down to start the game. Dan caught the first inning for Jamie Moyer. Mark Ellis blooped a fly ball to Jose Lopez. Jason Kendall singled to left, and Mark Kotsay hit a hard drive to center, putting Kendall on third, and it looked a little iffy for a while there, but Jamie retired Eric Chavez and Bobby Kielty to get the inning done scoreless.
Then the Mariners came out. Ichiro led off, and there was a big to-do about how he was 2 hits shy of getting 200 in each of his first five seasons. Well, I was at Fan Appreciation Night last year too, when Ichiro was 2 hits shy of breaking the single-season hit record, and let it be known that Ichiro does NOT disappoint. He smacked a nice double into the gap in right field for hit number 199. Betancourt then bounced the ball towards second, where Ichiro got himself caught in a somewhat football-looking 6-5-4 rundown-type thing, while Betancourt got to second. While that was a somewhat unpromising development, Kirk Saarloos next walked Ibanez and Sexson. Beltre came up and hit a short ball to third, so he was out, but Betancourt scored. Then Dobby the Bench Elf came up, and he shoots the ball into right field, where Bobby the Red-Haired Reindeer recovered the ball and spun to throw it back home... and sort of missed the plate, so in the meantime, Ibanez and Sexson scored, and Dobbs got to second. Jose Lopez grounded out to second, but that was the start Jamie Moyer happily accepted on his way to another home start win. 3-0 Mariners.
The funny part is, I wonder what would have happened if the Mariners had continued batting and gotten up to the 9th slot in the order during the first inning? Would they have let Dan bat then, or had Torrealba pinch hit for him instead?
Dan came out to catch Moyer again before the second inning — and then there was the announcement, he was replaced, and he hugged Moyer, and they flashed again the whole “Thanks for the Memories, Dan” on the board, and then he went through and hugged everyone in the dugout, and also came out again for a curtain call. I'm not much of a crier in general, but I had tears in my eyes as they showed Dan and Jamie hugging up on the video screen. I think it really sunk in at that moment that I'd never hear them ever announce, "And to repeat, the starting battery for the Mariners is Dan Wilson behind the plate, and on the mound, Jamie Moyer," a sentence which had become very familiar to my ears since I moved out here.
Let's see. The rest of the game was pretty great too. The A's went down meekly in the second, and then Ichiro got his 200th hit in the bottom half. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the hit itself as I was trying to mop up a soda waterfall that had started several rows up from me and seeped into my backpack, but I did see the replay and they stopped the game for a minute for a standing ovation and for Ichiro to tip his cap and all. It was like last year, but without the fireworks.
The third inning was fairly meek on both sides, aside from Mark Ellis getting plunked for the first time. So was the fourth, although we got to see a rare 3-4-1 play off Eric Chavez -- he smacked the ball to first, and Richie didn't quite get it, so it deflected back off him, but Jose Lopez had run around behind him in the meantime, so he picked up the throw, and Jamie was there to cover the bag, so they got Chavez in time. Pretty cool.
Now, in the meantime, the grounds crew danced to "It's Raining Men", and more prizes were given out, including -- I'm not making this up -- a Mariner Moose office party, and the chance to mow the Safeco Field lawn. Only one prize all night was in our section, and it was even in our row, but since it was a Ryan Franklin autographed jersey, I don't feel too awful about not getting it.
In the fifth, Jamie Bubela finally made a Jeremy-Reed-worthy catch on the warning track in center field, and Mark Ellis got hit by a pitch again, this time in the leg. Now, we don't know if it was retaliation or not, but the same inning, Betancourt got plunked in the hip, which he didn't look too happy about. However, unlike the A's, the Mariners managed to drive him in, as Richie hit a single and Beltre belted a double. Then the unthinkable happened: they intentionally walked Dobby the Bench Elf. Ohhhhkay. It worked, since Jose Lopez flied out to center after that. Still, now it was 4-0 Mariners.
The sixth inning was also fairly normal. My stepfather came back from the concessions stand with soft pretzels for me and my mom, and I was like "wait, move over, I want to see Ichiro hit!" as he came up the aisle. Sure enough, Ichiro got hit #201 right then.
The Moose came out for the seventh inning stretch dressed in a ballet uniform with a tutu and everything, and was walking along the top of the wall in right-center. Eventally he slipped, landed split-legged on the wall, and toppled over. It was... bizarre, but kind of amusing.
Raul led off the bottom of the seventh with a wacky double slide. That is, he hit the ball to right field, and Bobby Kielty slid to recover it in time. As he threw it back to the infield, Raul slid into second base to get there safe in time. And yet again, the inning ended with them intentionally walking Dobby the Bench Elf, and Jose Lopez flying out. For the record, Dobbs has been intentionally walked three times in his career, and two of them were tonight.
Mark Ellis led off the 8th inning not by getting hit by a pitch for once, but by driving a pitch 375 feet into section 152 for a home run. Since Jamie was up to 95 pitches, I got a little bit worried, but he settled down after that and retired the next three batters. His line for the evening was 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR... and 2 HBP. A very nice outing to round out the season for The Ancient Mariner.
The only interesting thing that happened in the bottom of the 8th was that with two outs, Ichiro came up and got hit #202. Betancourt popped out right after it. Still, if you're paying attention, you'll note that Ichiro went 4-for-5 for the evening. That's pretty freaking cool. Though, I feel sort of bad that it happened on Dan Wilson's night, as I'm sure more attention would have been paid to Ichiro for this amazing accomplishment almost any other day.
Anyway, Eddie Guardado came in to finish off the game. Bobby the Red-Haired Reindeer led off with a single, and I got pretty worried for a second there, since it was only 4-1. But, Payton flew out to right field, and then they put in... HIRAM BOCACHICA! Oh, it was awesome! They even played "Oh Yeah" by Yello, and put up "BOCA CHICA CHICA" on the big scoreboard, and there was a rush of people cheering. It sucked, though, because I really wanted to see him get a hit, but I really *didn't*, because I wanted the game to end. He hit a sharp line drive to third base, which Adrian Beltre made an AMAZING stop on. And then they put "UP ON YOUR FEET!" up on the board, and I decided what the heck, and just stood up. And Dan Johnson watched a few balls go by... and some were strikes, and one was a ball... and with the count at 1-2, he swung and missed and the GAME WAS OVER! Even more amazing, it was only 9:20pm or so.
But yeah! The Moose waved the flag, the team took the field, and Dan Wilson was there on the field with his son, high-fiving the team and shaking hands and generally being the great guy he is.
It was really great to see the team win. It was really great to see Jamie Moyer rack up another win and finish off the year undefeated at home. It was really great to see Dan Wilson catch his last game as a Mariner. I may have missed your glory years, Mr. The Man, but at least I got to see you while you still had some kick left. Here's to another great guy and great ballplayer -- and many more years with the Mariners organization in other capacities, hopefully.
And even better, it was really great somewhere around the 3rd or 4th inning when, after I saw that the Phillies and Cory Lidle had beaten Livan Hernandez and the Nats, that the Cubs had managed to score off Brad Lidge and come back from a 3-2 deficit in the 9th to beat the Astros. Woooo, now the Phillies are only one game back!
Man, I am a happy happy girl.
Tomorrow, Jeff Harris starts against Joe Blanton. If I wake up in time for the game, I'm heading down to the park for my traditional Jason Kendall stalk-a-thon. I may have to amend it to a Hiram Bocachica stalk-a-thon instead, though.