Safeco Field, the current home of the Seattle Mariners, is considered by many to be one of the nicest parks in the MLB. In designing the park, architects aimed to create a fresh, new look without sacrificing the ambiance of older parks. The result is a beautiful combination of tradition and innovation.
The older aspects of the park include the asymmetrical outfield, the real grass and the brick facade. The most obvious contemporary feature is the 22 million pound retractable roof that enables play to continue in all conditions, but the glass fixtures and HD video board are also notable.
Unique to Safeco are the extraordinary views of Seattle's skyline and the Puget Sound, the 1000-bat chandelier, and the art-lined walkways, just to name a few things. It's also often said that there's not a single bad seat in the park.
I've introduced the park itself, but here's a look at five traditions that have developed at Safeco over the past 12 years.
Perhaps the biggest trademark belonging to Safeco is the Rally Fries. Starting in 2007, the Mariners' color commentator Mike Blowers has sent Ivar's garlic fries to the fan with the most creative request.
The tradition began when Blowers noticed that a fan had dropped his fries in an attempt to catch a foul ball. He and co-commentator Dave Sims felt bad about the mishap and appreciated the fan's spirit, so they sent an intern down with free garlic fries.
After the incident, fans began bringing signs like the one pictured asking Mike Blowers for Rally Fries. It has since become a fun custom that sometimes even follows the Mariners to road games.
The Mariners' grounds crew doesn't just do a great job keeping the field up, they also dance. In between innings, you can sometimes catch four or five of them dancing to various songs while the players warmup.
It's nice to see that they enjoy their work and make everybody else enjoy it too, even if the players try to act uninterested.
There are lots more dances that you can find if you look through related videos, and it's well worth the 10 minute YouTube digression, trust me.
Following the traditional chorus of Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch, fans are roused to their feet by the Kingsmen's version of Louie Louie.
As the the Rolling Stone 55th best song of all time echoes throughout the stadium, fans express their enjoyment by showing off their dance skills on the big screen and singing along. This song serves as a uniting force for the tightly knit fanbase that supports the Mariners.
Again, enjoy the related videos. You'll get to see some interesting dances and some more interesting singing!
If the Rally Fries aren't the most well-known tradition at Safeco, then it has to be the train whistle that fans and TV viewers get to hear a couple times a game. There are railroad tracks running beside the stadium that carry the Sounder trains that transport passengers to and from baseball and football games (Qwest Field is right next door).
Coincidentally enough, there is a road crossing right next to the stadium that requires the trains to blow their whistles. The sound is easily audible from the ballpark, and when the roof is closed, the whistle echoes several times, to the enjoyment of fans.
On numerous occasions, the sound of the whistle comes just as the ball is being hurled toward home plate, and an unsuspecting batter from the away team is knocked out of concentration.
Hopefully, fans will continue to be graced by the harmonious sound of the Sounder train whistle as long as baseball is played at Safeco.
Now we come to the newest tradition: Ichiro's Bleacheros!
As you can see in the picture, it's four guys who occasionally wear bleach-blonde wigs to games and claim to be affiliated with the Mariners' star right fielder. Apparently, the original idea was for the members of the group to dye their hair blonde, but they ended up receiving four blonde wigs as a gift since at least one of them didn't have hair to dye.
After making a sign, they became official and even received an interview from ROOT's Angie Mentink, who's also a blonde.
This Hogette-esque fan club hopes to become a staple of Mariners baseball over the next few years, even though there's nothing bleached about Ichiro's appearance or play. Maybe their name is alluding to the location of their seats in the right field bleachers?
Regardless of this disconnect, these guys certainly add some fun to the game and contribute their part to the colorful history of Safeco Field.