Ballpark Review: Safeco Field

Eeeee-chi-row!

Safeco Field was built in 1999, but since 2001 it has been Ichiro’s home. I visited for two games over the weekend of the SABR convention in Seattle.

The field itself is situated in Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle, where the parking lot for the old Kingdome used to be. The Kingdome site is now Quest Field, home of the Seahawks and the Seattle Sound- a soccer team that had a home game on Saturday night.

The park seemed to have all the amenities that new parks nation wide have: wide concourses with a view of the field, an overabundance of restrooms, and great sight lines from just about every seat in the building. My wife and I experienced the best of both worlds: in the cheap seats above the right field line on Friday night, on the lower level along the left field line Saturday.

The Safeco staff was friendly and very helpful, though our Saturday section usher was a fanatic about her job, specifically the part about keeping those from cheaper seats out of her section. After each half inning she would scan the section for any new folks, and quickly demand to see tickets. This continued through the eight inning, in which she apparently decided she had done her duty. One angry man asked loudly as he was leaving the section “if I don’t sit here, who will?”. She provided no answer.

The concourses are sprinkled with memorabilia from Mariner’s history. Since said history is not overly extensive, there are two main themes: 1995 AL Division Series and the 2001 regular season. An usher proudly referred to the former as the moment that saved baseball in Seattle as he pointed out the sculpture of Ken Griffey Jr. sliding into home to defeat the Yankees.

We were told that we had to try the garlic fries, but quickly realized whoever offered that advice must have really liked garlic. There is nothing in particular wrong with garlic, I would have just preferred to have been able to taste the fries. The chili dog was nothing special, and I found that adding hot sauce caused no discernable change in the lack of flavor from the chili.

On Saturday we were set up in the center field picnic area by SABR. The spread included the standard ballpark fare; hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, peanuts, popcorn, and Pepsi; along with cookies and baked beans. I am sure the food was the same quality as it was on Friday, but there is something about not paying $5.00 for each item that makes it taste better I suppose. The picnic area is right against the wall in center field, so we had several baseballs tossed our way as well. I highly recommend picnic area “A”.

During the game, the large electronic scoreboard in left field was enough to keep me up to date on all of the out of town games, and occasionally would flash stats from other games as well. The lineups for both teams remained posted on the centerfield board throughout the game, and actually provided the current OBP for each batter as he stepped in for the first time. Pitch speed and count were also easy to find along the baselines, and a small hand-operated scoreboard in the left field corner added a bit of retro charm (as much as can be had at a retractable-roof stadium).

It would be difficult to comment on the knowledge of the typical Seattle fan since I was surrounded on both nights by other SABR members. The crowd seemed to really like Ichiro, and chanting his name was a favorite pastime throughout the game.

We did not see a single cloud in the sky throughout our stay in Seattle, and consequently did not get a chance to see the retractable roof work. We got a little bit more sun than we wanted on our seats Friday night, but it disappeared behind the upper deck by about 8:00.

I was told that there are seats where there is a great view of the sunset, but I wasn’t able to find them. Most of the “view” of the city is obscured by the retractable roof.

Overall, Safeco is a nice park. It’s no PNC Park by any stretch, but it is certainly better than the park with which I am most familiar.

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