The bitter, arduous winter has finally molted, shedding its pale skin for spring greenery, and with it comes the promise of a new MLB season. In the early days of my baseball fandom, I used to cross my fingers and squeeze my eyes shut and wish for a World Series championship… then “just” a winning season… then a handful of good games… a good player… finally, nothing more ambitious than a stretch of mediocre baseball capable of eliciting more enjoyment than pain from its dwindling audience.
My tastes are far simpler these days. The business of baseball is to win games, certainly, but the business of the baseball fan is to take deep comfort in the ritual of bat touching ball touching glove, of a home run well-struck and a fly ball caught at the warning track over and over again, through the chill of spring ball to the stressful stretch of autumn postseason.
I never feel more at home than when I’ve just settled into a cold plastic seat at the ballpark, scorebook in hand and three+ hours of a leisurely game to take in. There’s something indescribably perfect about watching a ballgame unfold in person — a magic that doesn’t quite translate to the TV screen at a sports bar or a living room — and it’s that feeling that I crave far above the opportunity to watch a come-from-behind win in extras or a pennant-clinching blowout. I have faith that those things will come in their own time, but, God willing, my fandom will never hinge on a positive win-loss record, a World Series title, or any similar bucket-list moment in Major League Baseball.
For now, it’s enough just to have the Mariners for another 162 games. It’s enough to have baseball back.
In six days, Seattle will officially kick off the 2019 season against the Oakland Athletics in Japan. And even in the heart of the Bay Area, some 700-miles from the newly-christened T-Mobile Park and another 5,000-odd miles from the Tokyo Dome, I’ll feel at home once more.
“The Mariners suck, do you know that?”
The gaggle of 15-year-old boys eyes me warily as I approach the LL Gate, the brims of their green and gold caps tilted to flaunt an array of New Era stickers. Two of them are debating the merits of their fantasy football rosters while another two commiserate over the injustice of being served a “down low” when they specifically requested an “up top.”
“I don’t think she heard you,” one of the boys stage-whispers to his friend. I am the only Mariners fan in a scraggly line of forty wrapped around the perimeter of the O.co Coliseum. It’s days like these when I miss Safeco Field — the foghorn signaling the opening of the gates, the smell of chili cheese fries wafting through the air, the mild buzz of M’s fans around the concourse during batting practice…
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