Results tagged ‘ Seattle ’

Jaso Earned His Perfect Moment

I know I was one of many of the Rays Republic sitting with a dazed and confused look on my mug when Seattle Mariners hurler Felix Hernandez thrust his arms up into the air following his Perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays recently. Not only did I feel a know in the pit of my stomach because of the process put a stumbling block into the road for the Rays with losing this series, but for the third time in as many years, the Rays anointed a new monarch into the ranks of pitching brilliance.

Then I saw a figure run out from behind the plate and join the mound festivities and a bit of the gut retching subsided as I saw someone jump into the celebratory impromptu team meeting who desired this kind of moment and who is quietly establishing himself as a great game caller behind the dish. And it seems in perfect ironic harmony that ex-Rays catcher John Jaso finally gets to celebrate a historic pitching moment by being the battery mate of a new pitching immortal.

Everyone always throws the accolades and praise towards the pitcher in these displays of perfection and finesse, and for a flamethrower like Hernandez it not only took a delicate amount of luck and precision, it possibly took a little fine tuning and graceful glove work by Jaso to bring perfection into a reality.

Jaso over the last few years has gotten really good at framing pitches, bringing wandering breaking pitches and border line called strike into the red so the Home Plate Umpire can make an easier job of having to bellow out a called strike to the astonishment of many a batter.

I am not pushing back the emerald green curtain and trying to tarnish an ounce of Hernandez’s brilliance on this afternoon, but Jaso definitely played a key role and deserves a little sunlight himself. This was a catcher shocked and a bit dumbfounded and possibly still has some abandonment sentiments after the Rays sent him to the Pacific Northwest late last November sending him from a contender to a team trying to find the right pieces to their own contending puzzle.

The mild-mannered Jaso took his change of scenery as a chance to again establish himself, put himself on the map in another locale possibly again having throngs of female admirers loving his facial hair and protruding dimples as much for his hard work and determination on the field. All # 27 has done for the Mariners in his 73 game is post a .292 average with 14 doubles, 8 HR and 3 stolen bases. And watching Jaso behind the plate taking each and every one of King Felix’s 113 offering and being a part of only the 24th backstop to help help monitor and achieve perfection for his pitcher.

I felt the trading of Jaso this past Winter was a bit premature, one of the handful of total glitches that have transpired since the dropping of the “Devil” from the Rays in November 2007. Possibly his ailing batting average and the hint of more production and long-term solutions from the bevy of Rays farmhand catching prospects made this deal not only warranted, but needed at the time. I am one of those who scratched my head and wondered what the Rays had in kind trading a proven component for a relief pitcher who was still trying to pitch his way out from under his own trouble cloud.

Most of you already know I glance towards the scoreboard a lot trying to view the Seattle scores, it is my adopted second home and holds my favorite stadium. In the end, even as I pondered and thrust my own arms into the air in frustration, it was with hidden admiration and joy to see our old former # 28 bounce and jump for excitement as he approached the King and his field court, finally getting that well deserved sunlight alongside a hurler who had just put himself into an esteemed and lofty pitching Fraternity.

This is the kind of player moment a hard-nosed guy like Jaso sweats and bleeds for. It has to be a bittersweet moment as he stood on the hill celebrating with his fellow M’s, then turn and see his former squad with their heads down possibly wondering if this was the first nail in their post-season coffin.

Jaso was catching at Triple-A Durham when Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle handcuffed the Rays for their first perfecto in 2009 as well as May 9, 2010 when Oakland Athletic SP Dallas Braden duplicated the feat.

A minute after the wave of negativity washed off me concerning the event I found myself laughing a bit. The guy we thought was expendable, was a patchwork piece of our former Rays battery possibly got his career defining moment and even if they could not cheer for him, you know a few Rays inside were happy Jaso got to finally feel this kind of adulation. Jaso had a perfect angle to see and watch this historic event play out, and it couldn’t of happen to a better player or person. 

” Friedman’s Anatomy”

Not sure why, but the moment I heard that Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was heading for a Seattle hospital with stomach pains, the fictional Seattle Grace/Mercy West Hospital instantly came to mind. Maybe one too many lattes in this cool and rainy town turned my brain into mush.

Maybe it was too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” with my ex-fiancée’ that somehow perpetrated that image of Meridith Grey and Doctor McDreamy standing over Friedman just in time for MLB prime time, poised and ready to deliver another Emmy winning episode, complete with more singing and dancing as the Rays kid wonder was wheeled out of the operating room to his semi-private suite.

You could see feisty redhead/dirty blond/hair color du jour Doctor Lexi Grey using a nifty curving circular move with a disposable ER scalpel to cut the cellphone and blue tooth expertly away from Friedman’s hand and ear in one swift motion, watching it fall in slow motion to the floor with a MLB GM on the end end screaming “Hello?”

Somehow I could easily see one of the Rays most brilliant minds centered with one of ABC’s greatest fictional hospital drama……Oh, and did I leave out, it is based in Seattle. This medical emergency of Friedmans’ only deserved the best medical staff, and this fictional staff never seems to lose the focus, their determination or their patients….well, most of the time.

Seriously folks, how could you not see this kind of drama and action play out when the MLB Trade Deadline and a medical emergency both rear their ugly heads…It is a perfect ABC Movie of the Week in training…easy.

I know the whole enchilada with Friedman was not packed in a 41 minute segment like on the television series, but considering the time of the year, and the stakes that could have been at stake….it would be ratings gold…Even in NYC.

You know then even though Cristina Yang is a talented cardio-thoracic blades-woman, she would be extra assertive to get a chance to possibly slice, dice and julienne Friedman’s nasty appendix out with the skill of a medical Zorro. That is just the way she rolls baby. How perfect would it be if this really happened with husband Owen Hunt stands behind her doing that classic Macaulay Caulking “Home Alone” face.

But you know the always crafty and smug Alex Karev would find a way to either be in the surgery, or playing a key second fiddle position, possibly manning Friedman’s phone hitting ignore every time the Washington Nationals number flashed on the screen. Heck bring back a montage of George, Izzy and maybe even some Denny Duquette for good measures. All flashing through Friedman’s subconscious.

I could easily see Chief of Staff Richard Webber on the bat phone with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and conferencing in Rays President Matt Silverman making sure all is calm in the Rays camp at this critical evening and juncture of the Trade Deadline countdown.

I wonder if the Rays really do have a plan in place for just this sort of emergency? Maybe it was placed in a hermetically sealed crystal box just for this kind of occasion. More likely a “Doomsday Draft” scenario then a Trade Deadline dissection/appendectomy.

Sometimes they say timing is everything, and with Friedman buckled over in pain and going under the knife, it surely will bode well with Sternberg in hopefully keeping Friedman in Tampa Bay once those Houston rumors hit the fan after their new ownership group is approved this month. Fair warning Stu, if this guy will sacrifice his body and life for this team…long term deal…or a blank check.

Rays Senior Advisor Gerry Hunsicker must have been in his old Astros days battle mode at this moment not only fielding calls about players, prospects and trade scenarios, but also well wishes and “get well soon” texts, emails and You tube quality videos from the vast Rays Republic. Sometime being behind the main target is the safest place to be…even in sports.

Friedman did not have his surgery at Seattle Grace, the hospital isn’t located near the Space Needle, or even anywhere situated near Broadway or the old P & I building. Friedman was armed again on that sunny Sunday morning armed with the utility belt of technology used to hone the deal and squeak an extra player out of a team.

Somehow MLB took it easy on Friedman that day. No deals were finalized, no players changed hands, no harm, no foul, except for that dang appendix in the jar on his bed stand. Somehow just like an episode of “Grey’s”, in the end, all becomes one, and all the madness turned into perfection in the Emerald City of coffee and dramatic moments. I think even Amanda Bailey would have smiled.

Safeco Field Should be the Rays Stadium Benchmark


By now most of you who have read any of my 1,111 posts know of my starry-eyed glazed look when it comes to Safeco Field in Seattle. It is one of my favorite all-time Major League Baseball fields. From the pure excitement of the breath-taking sight lines just beyond the top tier of the Leftfield bleachers that look out into this great city from the lifeline of the elevated Alaskan Way, to the pristine waves and vessels moving about on Puget Sound, outside of Tampa Bay, this is my paradise lost.

Anytime anyone, even the local media bloodhounds bring up the idea or issues concerning a possible new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, visions of Safeco go dancing around my head.

With its massive roof mechanism and wheels that churn and burn to open and close their massive roof, to the amenities aimed at the fan’s enjoyment of the ballpark, Safeco is the model I conjure up as a foundation for any future Rays stadium plans. Sorry but the sail idea has left for a port of call somewhere else…possible Japan.

Everywhere within this stadium is a swirling dervish of beauty. From the “Bat in Motion” sculpture above your head as you transcend into the ballpark, to the imprint of signed baseball from the Mariner’s team permanently placed within the points of the marble compass in the floor, Safeco was built for visitor’s and locals alike to gawk and remember forever.

Within the hallowed walls of the exclusive Diamond Club sits a classic photo of Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth poised at the back of a fishing boat just beyond the shores of Pass-a-Grille, Florida.  It is one of the only photos of the two legendary stars off the field, even though they both lived in the penthouse apartments at the Ponce de Leon Hotel on Central and First Street just to the West of the old Waterfront Ballpark. Funny how a small sliver of Tampa Bay slipped into the magnificent Pacific Northwest achievement.

From a concourse that runs a full 360 degrees around the stadium, that always gives guests a clear visual sight lines to the playing field to witness a play unfold while standing in line for Rally Fries or a cold Red Hook.

I often daydream that this should have been the stadium style originally set upon the tract of land at 16th Street and First Avenue South in St. Petersburg, Florida, but the Tampa Bay community leaders called for a futuristic and modernistic ballpark.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon recently cited during his banter about the Rays needing a new abode/stadium that it should feature a roof system that could be opened on sunny Florida days and evenings, and provide possible shade or comfort from the Sun and elements for a baseball complex or park just beyond the ballpark walls. Seattle has that feature, but it is not a park that is covered when the roof is open, it is the staff and player’s parking area. But I like Maddon’s thought process here.

It shows again how someone within the Rays organization might have the same affection for this ballpark style that I do. Even in the crowded SoDo neighborhood where Safeco Field is located, sometimes parking is a premium. But the Mariners helped relieve this burden by building a 6-story parking facility just to the South of Safeco, which also has its own pedestrian bridge to stadium gates.

Did you know original drawings for Tropicana field also had 2-3 story parking garages to help eliminate parking hassles. Wonder when and where that idea got flushed out into the bay?

If the Rays truly want a 1-stop shop of stadium ideas and great features to incorporate into their future plans, Safeco has 60 % of their “wish list”. From the ample suites that ring the upper core of the stadium, to the old time ballpark feel of the Press Box area complete with roll-up windows, This stadium has something for everyone.

Ironically, the Mariners played in a dome a bit similar to the Trop a long time ago, and I still at times go and check out the video of the Kingdome’s final implosion.

I still think in the deep recesses of my soul if the Tampa Bay community did not act with premeditation and “build it and they will come” mentality, this stadium design might sit in front of us nightly for Rays games. Everything about Safeco could be retrofitted or designed to conform with the Florida’s fickle weather.

Humor me here for a moment and day dream on how he National media would not be calling out the catwalks, giggling about lamps busted by foul balls, or Bullpens in the field of play. Safeco somehow magically has taken the Trop’s visual faults and made them simply mute for the media fodder. Only thing the media can complain about is if they jaywalk on their way out of the building. Seattle doesn’t take kindly to jaywalkers. Just ask Chicago White Sox GN Ken Williams.

Even with the Rays Fan Host doing a superior job compared to so many other MLB ballparks, Safeco’s ushers do something I truly find remarkable, and warranted for fan enjoyment. When a hitter plants his toes in the batter’s box, the ushers in unison hoist up a placard prohibiting the disturbance of the fans by walking in the aisles. At Safeco, you are not allowed to walk up or down the aisle to or from the concourse while a hitter is in the box.

Brings about a different take knowing Joe Schmoe is not going to walk in front of you with his nachos or beers and you miss a swing, a hit or possibly a historic moment. Instead you have to stand at the top of the aisle with the rest of the Safeco faithful hoping for a quick at bat, pop-up or 6-4-3 double play.

The modernistic stadium design and motif of the Trop never caught on after Major League Baseball went suddenly into a revival of traditional ballpark styles right after the completion of the Florida Suncoast Dome The wide-eyed vision of a modern design ballpark fell sudden to a untimely and painful death.

Safeco Field should be a constant reminder that local styles, influences and weather conditions can produce a stellar ballpark that even 25 years later people walk in a gawk at the visual eye-candy. I miss Safeco some times, especially since I truly feel that if it was built in 1991 or beyond, I would have been sitting in its majestic splendor for the last 14 seasons.

Hopefully the Rays front office will take hundreds of photos of this landmark ballpark, make inquires into its design cost and realistic structural possibilities within the scope of the harsh Florida Sun and weather. Possibly one day  we could see a future Tampa Bay ballpark being built with the similar fan-friendly quality’s and retracting roof of this exciting park nestled some 3,125 miles to our Northwest.  Or maybe I am still daydreaming.

Safeco Field, My Home Away from Home

 

 

 
Today is the first day in almost two weeks that the Rays can officially sit back and relax a bit while jetting on to the West Coast for a road trip to visit one of my favorite spots and stadiums in baseball. Since it is an off day, I am not going to talk Rays baseball. I have been thinking this past off season that on true “Off Days”, I am going to try and find something outside of the Tampa Bay area to enlighten and bring to light for fans around the country. My first one has to be my favorite place to visit both for baseball and for relaxation.
 
 

I have to start by saying I am not impartial when it comes to my favorites. If I like something, I will proclaim it to be the best, and I will not back down from that until something better has moved it down on the list. But my favorite stadium will not ever be moved down the list. It is in a town that has had my mind and heart since 1976 when I first came out here as a child during a summer vacation. My uncle used to be a Navy submarine commander and he had a place in Coupeville, Washington that took my breath away from the get-go.
 

 

 
 

For that reason, it is going to be the place where I call home in my golden years ( which are not too far away some days). I love the smell in the air, and the fact that if I look east I see the beauty and elegance of Mt. Rainer in the backdrop. And if I glance to the west I see the expansive waters of Puget Sound. I forget about the smell of the paper plants and the strong aroma of coffee houses that line the streets and cobblestone paths of this great town. For it is here that I have enjoyed numerous exciting games, and some of the greatest stadium foods..Yes, I am talking about the town that funded a monster stadium after their team went to the playoffs. Where Ken Griffey Jr. used to smile as a wide-eyed kid under the dome and where the turf was as rough as sandpaper with small rolls and hills in it at field level.
 

I love Seattle with every bit of my being. Sometimes it might be for the awesome seafood and delicacies you can get in this region, like the royal and Bing cherry. But then other times it is the 12-egg omelete at Beth’s that still boggles the mind that people even try such a gastronomical malfunction for fun. Safeco Field has so many great qualities to it that I might have to do a two-part blog to truly get everything on the blog. But here we go with some of the wild thing I have seen, heard and also been told while sitting in this palace of baseball. When you first drive into Seattle you see to your west side of the car a set of while roofs that poke their way out of the tall buildings and watery backdrops to let you know you are close. One of the greatest functions of this stadium is their retractable roof, and the ceremonial music that goes along with it opening. The music streaming from the speakers, “Flight of the Valykries” is amazing while watching it either open or close…….breathtaking.

 
 
Even from miles away on Alaskan Way you can see the white monument. I always stay at a hotel in the Queen Anne district right across from the Sir Mix-A-Lot famous Dick’s hamburger ( Yes, I stay on Broadway ) stand just a stone throw from the Key Center and the Space Needle. The sight of that roof is a reminder to me of great baseball in this country. But it is not only the baseball that makes me yearn for this city. The fans are some of the best in the league, bare none. I  am saying here that they are the friendliest and most open fans I have ever met in my baseball travels. Because of the businesses in this region, people from all over the globe have been called to Seattle. Be it American, Japanese, Korean or even Canadian, these fans respect the game and make you feel at home in their house.
 



 

No disrespect to Boston or New York here who defend their home. It is just a different way to approach the visiting fan. Both have their meaning and objectives, but Seattle fans want you to come back again and again.  And there is so much interesting things around this stadium. From the Bullpen areas that seem to showcase the visiting team like livestock above the left field outfield walls, to the grassy and wooded terrain of deep center field. Even when you arrive at the stadium you get a different vibe when you enter it. The baseball bat structure positioned over your head is an example of art coming into play with baseball. The sculpture shows the classic baseball swing from start to finish and is an interesting sight to take in and follow to the end.

 
But then you take the first set of stairs up into the ballpark and you can finally see what all the fuss is about. 360 degree viewing, and you walk down into the lower bowl area. The concourses are huge and laid out in an expert way to invite you to chat with the regulars and take in the sights of the game from a high vantage point. If you wander to the north end of the park you can take in the breathtaking sights of the city and Puget Sound to the west. Take a few sets of stairs up into the upper regions of the stadium to really get a feel for life in Washington. At game time you might have on a light jacket and there might be a hint of coolness in the air. By the sixth inning, you are seeking a blanket or someone to keep you warm as the chilly breeze rips through the stadium, which is actually a  great way to meet women ( hehehehe).

 

 

But if you have to get out of the cold, you can always go to the Diamond Club and see some amazing photos on their walls. They even have a picture of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig fishing together on the Gulf of Mexico in Tampa Bay. I was intrigued by this picture and was told it was one of the only times that they are photographed outside of a baseball uniform and in public together.  Then your attention wanders to a photo of Babe Ruth in a Red Sox jersey throwing off the mound. And all of this is in a club section of the stadium that would rival any 5-star restaurant in town. I did not get to eat in this splendid setting, but it made me yearn to be a big wig for one night.
 

But some of the true treats in this stadium is the odd things that make it special. Things like that wind that comes in and engulps you during the late innings, or that almost haunting but comforting train whistle that blows from beyond the right field tracks during the games. I found it quite inviting and comforting myself to hear that whistle blow as the trains were whisking themselves past the outside of the stadium. It brought a small town feel to the stadium, and a comfort level of small time living in the big city. But something that caught my eye while strolling in the center concourse behind home plate might be the true test of being a Mariners’ fan.
 

The compass laid into the flooring of this stadium was also a work of art that must be seen if you ever get here. With every member of the original team that first played in this stadium immortalized in the compass points, it is a thing of beauty and elegance to view from above. From the Press Box area with their gas station type roll up windows, to the usher not letting any one sit down during the innings, this stadium is my top pick in this league. I know there are better places to different people, but the elegance and the baseball legacy here is still unfolding daily.
 
 

Every time I have come back to this Safe haven, I have found something new and exciting to see or hear. The last time was going into the Louisville Slugger shop in the gift area and watching them make a bat from a lump of wood. All the way to the engraving of the name and the branding of the bat are done on site, and can be completed during the game. Or maybe it is the huge mural of Ichiro on a building near the Space Needle that rises up out of the ground to make you take in this 20 story masterpiece. Most people come to this town for it coffee and it’s seafood. I came here for baseball and regain some of my youth.

 
 

I really do plan on spending my older days sitting in that ballpark looking up as they close the roof after a night game and seeing the star disappear for a few moments. I might not be as thrilled to come back for the sushi, but I am glad to take a sip of that Pyramid beer brewed not over 50 yards from the front gates. Seattle has a feel both in their baseball culture and city personality that makes you forget you are in a hub city for travel to Alaska, or even your hometown. It is my perfect home away from home, which is over 3,597 miles to my northwest right now, but I can travel there in seconds.

 
 
 
Photo credits:        1) Tartlime@Flickr.com
                             2) KevinRBoyd@Flickr.com
                             3) RRCollections
                             4) RRCollections
                             5) RRCollections
 
 
 

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