Well, since Opening Day was less-than inspiring (and by "less-than-inspiring" I mean "the offense didn't show up"), I thought I'd post what I hope is an informative baseball perspective for you guys, and it might even work out to generate some business for my new best friend, Safeco Field tour guide Ted. (Hi Ted!)
I had never been to Seattle, and got my very first offer last weekend, which I happily accepted. Because the friend I was going to Seattle with completely supports my baseball hobby (read: obsession), our itinerary was perfectly set; first stop: Safeco Field. As we drive down the 5 freeway, I quickly look to the right and see a giant stadium, which I dismiss quickly, mumbling under my breath, `get a real sport, losers'. Out loud, I said, "Oh that must be Quest Stadium, home to the Seattle Seahawks' football team." When asked how on earth I could tell baseball and football stadiums apart without ever seeing them in person before, I lie and say that I remember from pictures, since admitting that my brain is wired with a GSP baseball homing device too early in the weekend might land me back at the airport.
My first impression of Safeco Field? Picture Ye Olde Baseball Stadium meets Gotham City. (To the visiting clubhouse, Robin!)
The façade of Safeco is entirely comprised of bricks, giving it an old fashioned, classy, very baseball look that almost begs fans to come inside and enjoy a game, maybe a hot dog. The roof; however, is a completely different story. Rising up out of the stadium, circling around the huge park, this engineering feat almost takes my breath away. When we first get to the field, it is open, but apparently the grounds crew, tirelessly prepping the field for Monday's Opening Day, isn't a huge fan of freak hailstorms, so during our tour, the roof is closed.
We meet Ted the tour guide on the second floor of what is no doubt the biggest team store I have ever seen. Upon exploring the store, I discover my new retirement plan; take a box of balls, have Ichiro sign them, sell them, retire rich. Ted quickly picks the Red Sox and Yankees fans out of the gathering crowd and in a tender moment, makes them exchange hugs. He calls the A's the `Oakland B's', but I forgive him because Safeco has been empty in October for three years now. Our tour starts with a round-the-stadium walk of the main concourse, which we are told that fans are allowed to do during the entire game, no matter their seat designation. On the way, we pass a chandelier-like object at the entrance of the park, an avant-garde sculpture made up entirely of silver bats; very cool.
Ted then leads us to the private boxes, perfect for that company season ticket. Ticket prices even at this level certainly seem reasonable, but that could have something to do with me being from Los Angeles, touring with a friend from Hong Kong. I'm already picking my seat for a return trip when the A's are in town.
From the field boxes, we head to the Terrace Club, with the bar, and the seats, and the food, did I mention the bar? We lost part of our tour here; Ted never should have served us. (Thanks Ted, if you're reading this!) (Ted's boss? If you're reading this, he was a fine, fine tour guide and I'm just kidding.) The tour route is perfectly set-up from the top of the stadium down, and all of us are hoping it ends on the field. But first? The press box and the coolest seats in the stadium.
Ted tells us that people always request to sit in the press boxes, but since they are always full of people doing press-like things, Safeco came up with an alternate seating option. Located right next to the actual press boxes, and with a matching design, is a box that seats 18 people, complete with a bar, a small kitchen, and the requisite seats pulled up close to the long table facing the game. Real garage doors with panes of glass form the windows of the press boxes; they are open and closed depending on the ambient temperature of the stadium. (Gotham City design at its finest). Ted tells us that the box ranges from $5000 to $9000 a game, depending on the `high-profile-ness' of the competition. Judging from his underwhelmed reaction to the green and gold, I'm pretty sure we could bargain a grand apiece for those games. Anyone interested?
We reluctantly leave the Bat Cave and head to the Terrace Club; your standard baseball club complete with a bar, more food stations, and decorations on the wall, for example, Babe Ruth's framed contract for $75,000! I think I fell over a trash can trying to see it. Ted kept a pretty close eye on me after that, especially since the next stop on the tour was the visiting clubhouse.
What a place! Indoor batting cages, the showers, a small workout room, the showers, a huge TV, the showers, two hired chefs, did I mention the showers? Hey, there are women who read this site. Just writing for the masses. Ted told us that the players think the accommodations at Safeco are among the nicest in baseball. I can't verify, but they looked pretty good to me.
Our tour was well over an hour by the time Ted opened the door and <gasp> we headed out to the field. I had a hard time seeing anything right away except the awesome, awesome roof over the stadium; shielding it from the elements, but not completely covering it. Ted told us to feel free to walk on the grass, since it was artificial anyway (Kidding, again, Ted). Actually, the grass is real, and meticulously manicured, and major props to the grounds crew for keeping it alive and green in the Pacific Northwest conditions. Ted told us that only real grass would do for real baseball and I couldn't agree more. Two little kids on our tour, impressed by the `fragile grass' speech, stooped down to gently pat the grass, and all was right in the world.
The stadium was buzzing with early April energy; much like the players, I imagine, and certainly exactly like the fans. Nothing quite like it. I'd highly recommend a tour of Safeco Field to all A's fans, and I certainly can't wait to see a game there. Ted, if you're reading, remember, I love baseball. My 30th birthday is in October of 2006, and everyone knows that it's way more likely to come before the home plate wedding we talked about. How about the press box for the ALDS that year?
This concludes the tour of sensational Safeco field. Now...let's go Oak-land!