Went to a ballgame Friday night, and life broke out.
At least, a sporting life that looked familiar — 28,638 fans on a comfortable, 75-degree July night in Seattle’s Sodo district. Yelling, drinking, eating, hustling, chatting, cheering. They seemed happy. Know how I could tell? I could see their faces.
Their team made them happier. Down 3-0 in the fifth inning, the Mariners (44-39) beat the Texas Rangers 5-4 in 10 innings on CF Jake Fraley’s walk-off single, their 10th win in the past 13 games.
A fireworks show came with the ticket, along with a sense of passage. Life, and then some.
As noted epidemiologist Yogi Berra put it about COVID-19, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” But enough of it was behind the state this week to permit renewal of the collective pleasure of looking forward to a summer night at the ballyard — to make a plan to take the kids, or to swoop in on a hottie, or to invite gramps and gramma to something besides a Zoom call.
Imagine looking forward to doing things, then doing them. Joined by the Mariners, doing things well.
At T-ball Park, Seattle hugged out the past 16 months.
Calling it Grand Re-Opening Night, the first gathering in the full-capacity stadium since September 2019, there were no cardboard replica fans.
What there was, was a video on the big screen showing a variety of memorable Seattle sports rallies, concluding with the phrase, “Our greatest comeback yet.” And the was before the late-game heroics.
Both teams lined up along the first and third base lines, mimicking the first opening day.
The ceremonial first pitch was a lobbed lefty strike, and the answer was Seattle native and Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings.
The question: Who is the only MLB pitcher in July who didn’t have to unbuckle his pants in front of the umpires?
And of course, the mandatory civic ritual: Trotting out sainted figures from 1995, this time Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson, who are beginning to appear sepia-toned. But if there’s any place in Seattle that requires everyone stand up, inviting some ’95 Mariners does the trick.
Well, in the sixth inning, fans also did The Wave. On this evening, it didn’t seem right to scorn the corny enthusiasm. Then in ninth and 10 innings, fans insisted on standing and shouting again.
Before the game, manager Scott Servais called evening a “return to near-normalcy” after the ordeal of navigating the pandemic.
“There’s been a lot of things that I hope we never have to go through again,” he said. “I never thought we’d have to come through this once — hopefully, not to do it twice. But we’ll look back on this 10 years. We’ll explain to people what happened. And it’ll be like, ‘No way, that never happened.’
“Oh yeah, this is how it really did happen . . . hopefully, we’re on the back side of it.”
Nearly eight hours later, after the 13th consecutive win over the Rangers in Seattle, Servais couldn’t have asked for a better sequence of dramatic turns to improve their record to 10-1 in extra innings and 19-7 in one-run games.
“I can’t say enough about the crowd tonight,” he said. “We have not had a feeling like that. It’s been a while, you know what I mean? You can just feel the electricity in the ballpark. The crowd’s hanging in there with us. We’re starting to come back.
“J.P. Crawford’s at the plate (in the eighth inning of a 3-3 game) and 30,000 people are (chanting) JP, JP, and he comes through gets the clutch hit. We take the lead. Pretty cool.”
Crawford’s opposite-side single bounced through to score Fraley, who walked and stole second, on a close play at the plate. Mask-free hallelujahs erupted.
Crawford said he’d never had the experience of hearing his name chanted by a big crowd.
“it was really cool,” he said. “I really couldn’t feel my body at the moment . . . Chanting your name, like, you gotta come through. You just gotta come through.
“I put a pretty good swing on the pitch, and thankfully, it got through.”
But in the ninth, a throwing error by 3B Ty France led to an unearned run and a tie. The Rangers’ ghost runner in the 10th failed to score against Anthony Misiewicz.
In the bottom of the 10th, Shed Long’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runner and Fraley, against closer Taylor Hearn, delivered his fateful single into right field.
Said Fraley: “Having a day like today, where it’s the first time that everything’s opened back up, we got a big crowd out there. So to be able to put on a game like that for all the fans of Seattle, it was huge.”
Of course it was one of 162. But some are different.
After the sickness, after the disruption, after the heat and before the smoke, a splendid evening bloomed to those who came. They rose to their feet, waved their arms, swooned and bellowed. Fireworks hailed an end, a beginning, and something fresh from something familiar.