Friday, April 06, 2007

Game Report: Mariners vs. A's - Morrow Less The Same

This is more of a personal diary of Tuesday evening's game, which I already wrote a silly entry about. I sort of intended to make a Friday Foto out of the pictures I took, but as it turns out, this entry will serve just fine for linking them.

I think I need to first make something clear: I write a Mariners blog, I live in Seattle, I root for the Mariners, but first and foremost I'm a Phillies baseball fan, which means that I often end up with various loyalties to other individual Utleys players. Occasionally many of them will happen to be on the same team. And over the last year or two I became something of a closet A's fan; I think they're a pretty good team, I think they're a pretty interesting team, I think they're pretty fun to watch, but another element also grabbed me -- one that most bloggers around here couldn't care less about -- the personalities I observed, mostly during batting practice. Scutaro's a goofy little dude who's always smiling. Swisher used to hug just about anything in his path (and changed his facial hair daily). Chavez and Kotsay are great at talking to kids. Rich Harden's the nicest guy on the planet. Even Brandon Buckley, the A's bullpen catcher, did things like dressing up a pitching dummy as Huston Street (including a hand-drawn "longhorns" symbol. No, really. I have proof.)

So basically, I showed up on Tuesday at around 5:45pm because I wanted to watch the A's during batting practice because I find them entertaining. Also, I find them to be one of the most photogenic teams out there, and as a huge camera geek, I figured that Game 2 would be a nice empty day where I wouldn't have to fight people to get down to the field.

Sure enough, it was actually a pretty great time to just hang out and watch people. Danny Haren, the opening day pitcher, was actually chasing fly balls in the outfield. Nick Swisher was wearing high socks and pretending to play golf or croquet or something with baseballs in shallow center. There were some little kids on the field running around in the sun with the rest of the team, having the time of their lives. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Brandon Buckley was pitching batting practice, and I even caught a glimpse of Todd Walker trying to hit a few baseballs.

Another awesome thing about batting practice is teams like the A's, who will have several players come over and chat and sign stuff. I'm not a huge collector or anything, but I love getting ticket stubs signed in particular, and I've kept all of the ones I've gotten. To me, it's like a series of papers representing brief moments, funny little interactions with players. Things like complimenting Tim Corcoran on his handwriting, or Eric Byrnes on his hair, or thinking it was funny how Billy Wagner and Barry Zito both sign right-handed. Or thinking how pretty much everyone on the Angels except Scot Shields is a meanyhead.

I was really psyched when Milton Bradley came over first, since I'd never really seen him come by before. He was really nice to everyone, even posing for pictures and all. Next to come by was Swisher, of course -- Swish always comes by, he's a crazy man with endless energy who seems to love talking to fans.

Other fan: Hey Swish, your hair looks great!
Swisher: Thanks, so does yours!
Me: Those high socks are AWESOME, Swish, you really should wear them more.
Swisher: [laughing] What? Me? With these skinny-ass legs?

I got Milton and Swisher to sign Monday and Tuesday's tickets, and then I noticed that King Richard the Brokenharden was also holding court further down the foul line by the outfield. So, even though I didn't really have anything left to get signed, I figured I'd wander down there and say hi and take pictures or something.

Rich Harden
A Rich Harden smile cures all ills. Really.

While walking down along the field towards where Harden was, suddenly a ball went rolling fast towards the stands, right where I was! Wow! There wasn't really anyone around me at the time, so I bent over onto the field, hands outstretched to grab the baseball...

...and when it was about half a foot from my hands, a guy about a foot taller than me with a longer armreach ran in with a glove and pushed me and swooped up the ball.

I was devastated. I'm sure there was a look on my face that was about half "I am going to KILL YOU" and about half "I am horrendously horribly sad and am about to cry".

I don't really know the exact rules of baseball snagging -- perhaps nobody except Zack Hample really does -- and I'm sure there's no way this guy could have known that the only other baseball I have is a "training ball" that was thrown to me after BP last May by Willie Bloomquist -- but I guess I guilted him into giving me the baseball with my sad face. Maybe it's because he felt bad swiping a ball from a girl.

Anyway, the cool part was that I realized I actually had an excuse to stand with the crowd asking Rich questions about his hockey preferences, because I had something (the ball) I could ostensibly get signed, rather than just standing there like a dork with my camera. So I got a signature *and* a smile from Rich Harden, and well, I could have gone home happy right then without even seeing the game.

But, fortunately I didn't.

For one, I discovered that Joe Blanton wears contacts. I never really thought about that before -- I figured one of the requirements of being a pro baseball player is having good vision, since as a hitter you need it to pick up the ball, and as a pitcher you'd need it to have good control of where you were throwing the pitches, as seen by Rick Vaughn in the Major League movies with his big thick glasses. So now I'm vaguely curious about the percentages of major leaguers with subpar vision and how they deal with it (I know various guys have LASIK and other surgery done, among other things).

Second, I got to see things like rifle-twirlers and other ceremonies for Armed Forces Night.

Third, I got to see another RICHIE SEXSON FUNK BLAST WOOOOOOO.

Fourth, I found out that Kenji Johjima has good taste in videogames.

Fifth, I got to see the major league debut of Brandon Morrow (and his first mound conference and post-game interview!)

Sixth, after a topsy-turvy game involving the M's actually giving an undeserving Jarrod Washburn a 2-run lead, Mateo choking it up, and Calero choking even worse, Morrow managed to pitch a scoreless 9th inning (despite some control issues or nerves) and thus the Mariners actually won the game!

Seventh, I got to see what life-sized bobbleheads of Johjima, Raul, Ichiro, and Felix would look like, and now I'm going to have nightmares for weeks.

Eighth, I got to see Dave Niehaus's 4600th Mariners game. Think about that one for a second -- 4600 days is over 12 years. My oh my.

Ninth, I noticed that Jose Guillen's at-bat music was a remix of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, and I think that's pretty silly, as In-a-Gadda-da-Vidro would make a lot more sense.

Tenth, they forewent a lot of their normal Stupid Stadium Tricks (tm) in lieu of Armed Forces Night stuff, which was good. Even the normal tricks were geared towards it -- for "Ask the Mariners" they basically said "What would you say to the folks in the military?" and they had a clip of "Moose Basic Training", and the music trivia song was American Woman, and stuff along those lines.

After the game ended I ran towards the dugout to try to see Morrow, who indeed was in an interview with Shannon Drayer, but alas, it was at a bad angle. Still neat, though. So now I've been to the pro debut of our 2005 #1 draft pick Jeff Clement, up in Everett, and to the major league debut of our 2006 #1 draft pick Brandon Morrow, here at Safeco. And I suppose I was at our 2003 #1 draft pick Adam Jones's first appearance at Safeco (the game last year where Jamie Moyer gave up 5 home runs to the Red Sox). That's pretty neat. Or maybe I just really go to way too many baseball games.

No comments: