Wednesday 9 January 2013

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Behind the Scenes on a Tour of Safeco Field

Touring Safeco Field brought back memories of my youth. In my younger days, I could swing a fairly decent bat. It wasn't my passion (that was soccer back then), but I dare say that if I had chosen to pursue baseball as a career, I could have made a go of it. All I would have needed was a little more practice, some high level coaching, and a promise from opposing pitchers to throw softly, underhanded, and over the middle of the plate. With those three things in hand, this post might have been titled Hanging Out at Daddy's Work instead of Touring Safeco Field. Alas fate has dictated that we use the latter title, so let's get on with that story.

Safeco Mariners Seattle sign

I don't think that my family had super high expectations when I told them we were going to tour a baseball stadium. They've had experience with baseball before, having been dragged to spring training and the All-Star Fan Fest, while Lori has even made the pilgrimage to Yankee Stadium with me. Somehow though, despite all this exposure, it seems that I'm the only one who really understands and appreciates professional baseball. Everybody else is just along for the ride as we do "that thing Dad wants to do". I appreciate their tolerance, but when questions like "How long is it going to be?" or "You mean there's not even a game?" kept coming up, I wondered if perhaps I'd overstepped the limits of my family's patience.

I needn't have worried. The same fate that decided I wouldn't get to swing a stick at a ball for a living chose for us to be the only English speaking people who showed up for the 12:30 tour. While twelve others set off on the Japanese language tour, our family was left with a private guide to show us around Safeco. When you can get VIP treatment for the same price as a regular tour ($9 for adults, $7 for children 12 and under) you're going to have a good time. We met up with our guide on the top floor of the Mariners team store and set off to explore the stadium.

Safeco entrance left field Seattle Mariners

Tours are apparently not done in a certain order, but rely more on the whims of the tour guide and whatever else is going on in Safeco that day. Ours began up at the very top level of the stadium where the mechanics of the sliding roof were explained to us. The view from the very top of the stadium was impressive, but more interesting was watching the 60,000 crazy people making their way into Qwest Field across the way for the Seattle Seahawks last game of the season. They're installing a new giant screen at Safeco right now, and the hopes are that if the Seahawks make the Super Bowl they will be able to have a giant viewing party at Safeco for the game. Go Hawks!

Top row Safeco Seattle Mariners

Next we were taken down to the suite level, and although we were told that we were allowed to look inside any of the suites that we wanted, nothing really caught our attention until we reached the Owners Suite. You have to take a look at that right? 

Safeco Field Owners suite Seattle Mariners

Surprisingly, the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners has never actually been to a game at Safeco. Hiroshi Yamauchi lives in Japan and prefers not to fly, so he follows the team from his homeland instead. Sensing an opportunity, I asked if that meant the suite sat empty on game days, but apparently the minority partners use it to host their guests. Oh harm in asking.

Hiroshi yamauchi Seattle Mariners rock owners suite

The home plate from the Mariners old park, the Kingdome is now in the owners suite at Safeco.
Next we went down to the press box to see where the media gets to watch from. 

Press Box Seattle Mariners Safeco

It certainly paled in comfort level to the owners suite, but I guess people who are working don't need reclining seats. There was plenty of information packets available, but since the season was over, we were told that we could help ourselves to a media guide if we would like. I think Lori equated that to shopping.

Press Box Safeco Field tour Media Guide

We had a brief stop to see where post game press conferences are held, and practiced our More Kids Than Suitcases speaking panel format...

Safeco tour Seattle Mariners Interview Room

  Then we got to see the visiting team's clubhouse...

Safeco tour clubhouse visitors Seattle Mariners

...and of course, the visiting teams showers...

Safeco Field tour visitors showers

I noticed this on the way out. I don't remember seeing braille on any of the other door plaques...

Safeco tour Umpires room braille Seattle Mariners

Finally, we made our way out onto the field...

Safeco tour dugout field Seattle Mariners

Kind of. We weren't actually allowed to step on the grass or roam the outfield, but it was still pretty cool to be on the field of an actual Major League Baseball team. We spent a little while soaking up the atmosphere, and while I was standing there behind home plate, looking up at the stands that hold thousands of cheering fans on game day, I couldn't help but think back to the dreams of my youth. I wondered if perhaps I should have pursued a sports career and lived the superstar life, but then I looked back at my daughter standing on her own by third base and I realized something very important...

Safeco Tour field level Seattle Mariners

It's a lot further between those bases than it looks like on TV. I'm definitely more suited for the press box, or if I can wrangle an invite, the owners suite. I'm going to call Hiroshi and see if he's using the suite on opening day.

For the latest information on tours of Safeco Field, visit the Seattle Mariners web site here.

Written by Steve Pratt