Sunday, July 6, 2008

Safeco Field review

The Mariners might be an awful team this year, but the experience at Safeco Field is well worth it. As I did last year I will try my best to review the park compared to previous ballparks. For the record I have now seen games at the Metrodome, Wrigley, Miller Park, US Cellular Field, Great American Ballpark, Turner Field, the old Busch stadium, the old Arlington stadium, and the old Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium. Now I can add Safeco to the expanding list:

Before I get started here is Jim Caple's review of Safeco:

Scalping/Ticket Prices: A-

I feel like there needs to be a separate post on the "rules of scalping" since over the past few years I have started to learn the tricks to getting the best seats for minimal cost. These rules have come in handy for the fair weather Minnesota sports scene because almost always I can get Twins or Twolves tickets for under face value. Unfortunately, I broke one of the rules of scalping for the Mariners game by buying the tickets one hour before the first pitch. I still got a decent deal ($35 for $58 seats), but I felt like I could have gotten those tickets for $15-$20 if I would have just waited. I vowed to redeem myself for the next game (I went to the Wednesday night game against the Blue Jays and then the Friday day game against Le Tigres), but my friend Nicholas was nice enough to buy the tickets in advance.

Aesthetic Appeal: B+

If Miller Park (the Brewers) and Camden Yards (the Orioles) were combined I think that the combination would be Safeco. It was a nice looking stadium, but in the end I think that it was a step below both Miller and Camden. Miller had the feel of being larger than life and Camden had the appeal of being the first "old time" new stadium. Safeco was more middle of the road. Still, the park itself was a vast improvement over such stadiums as the Metrodome and US Cellular Field.

Thing(s) I wish I would have done:

Try some more of the food choices like the Pad Thai, burrito, or chocolate covered strawberries. Other than that there wasn't much in the way of in-game entertainment besides the game.

Fans: C+

For the Friday night game there was a Packers fan in the seat in front of my friend Candice and I who was friendly and knowledgeable about baseball and most sports in general. His claim to fame was that he stuck out Justin Morneau during a high school game in Canada. In the upper section on the Friday game there seemed to be a weird mix of sorority girls, post grunge guys, and people that were more interested in dancing during mid inning songs. Nobody was particularly rude, disrespectful, or even that much into the game. Maybe it would be different if the Mariners weren't one of the worst teams in baseball.

Buzz: D-

The only discernible buzz I could feel would be when Ichiro came up to bat, and still it was only a faint buzz. There is more of a buzz inside the Metrodome for Joe Mauer hitting an opposite field single. If one was to try and judge how the game was going through the atmosphere in the park then I am afraid you wouldn't know if the Mariners were winning or losing. One side note: Did you know that if you are a Canadian and you like baseball then you will probably be a fan of the Blue Jays? I was wondering why there were so many Blue Jay fans at the Mariners game since Toronot is 2570 miles away from Seattle, but I found out that people from Vancouver are fans of the Blue Jays since they are Canada's only Mlb team. This led to a large amount of fans at the game being Blue Jay fans and helped create a little bit of the buzz even if it was for the visiting team. These fans were especially hyped up since they had just celebrated Canada day.

Food: A

The garlic fries were outstanding and something that definitely would become a favorite of M's if she lived in Seattle. The hot dogs got mixed reviews (negative from Candice and very positive from Nancy), but that was more based on the type of hot dogs they got. Candice ate a hot dog from a normal stadium stand, while Nancy ordered the most expensive hot dog ever ($9!) from an outdoor grill. The $9 was money well spent though since this hot dog was incredible. The clam chowder ($8.50 in a bread bowl) was a novelty for a baseball game, but not something I would order again. The real star of the show was the Ichiroll Bento Box combo that has recently received some level of notoriety due to the New York Times writing about it. This was incredible if not expensive ($10.50), and something I would order time and time again if I was a local. I ended up ordering it twice during the two games that I went to.

Fun things to do besides the game:

There is the Mariners Hall of Fame that has video highlights of each player (Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez) honored. Also, you can practice your play-by-play by recording your call of famous past Mariner moments. There really aren't that many frills to the park though. One note is that I would recommend the tour of Safeco. For $8 on game days you can get a tour at 10:30am or 12:30am. On the tour you get to go down the field level, sit in the dugout, see the press room, and go to the owners suite. A bonus was our 70+ tour guide who was overflowing with baseball knowledge and trivia questions.

Overall impression: B

Safeco is an easy place to like, but hard a place to love. The cheap tickets (which might have been tougher in past/better years), great food, good sightlines, and friendly fans make for a great atmosphere. Also, it truly is a unique experiance to watch Ichiro while eating a Ichiroll. Still, I felt like there was something missing that would make this park truly memorable. In some ways it is better that the park isn't like Wrigley or Fenway in the fact that it makes it more accessible to the average fan. For the overall cost you could probably go to 20 games at Safeco for the same price as 4 games at Fenway. However, if you were going to pick a "last wish" park then I would rather go to a place like Wrigley. But if I had to pick an everyday park then I would pick Safeco. Safeco is the safe choice.

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