A Test of Character

I don’t remember exactly when or why I started watching Seattle Mariners’ games. I do know I hadn’t watched a complete baseball game for over forty years. In fact, about then I’d decided that I really didn’t want to watch any professional sports, though I still hadn’t been able to wean myself from University of Washington games.

I think I first started watching when I was staying with mother when she was beginning to wander because of her Alzheimer’s. She was relatively happy watching television and, although she had cable, there was little else the three of us (Leslie kept us company) wanted to watch regularly except baseball games.

Surprisingly, Mariner’s games became a regular event after that. Though I still sometimes think the game is about as exciting as watching grass grow, I was drawn by the character of the team, particularly that of Edgar Martinez and John Olerud. Even the bravado of second baseman Brett Boone seemed more playful than arrogant. In fact, there wasn’t a single player I couldn’t root for, and sometimes players like David Bell, Gil Meche, or Scott Speizio who were struggling became my favorites.

Amazingly, Leslie and I actually bought tickets and attended games, the first time I can actually remember attending anything other than a high school game in person. We’ve gone to several games in the past few years and always at least once per season. Although I’ve heard complaints that the Mariner’s won’t allow fans to “have fun,” the park is child friendly and fans, with the possible exception of when Alex returns to town, are overwhelmingly positive. I was amazed to see how many senior citizens were at the stadium and astonished to see an old gentleman wearing an oxygen mask climbing to the top rows of the stadium.

The fact that the Mariners were winning more games than they were losing certainly didn’t detract from my interest. Still, I watched most of their games last year in a painful season that proved the last for Martinez and Olerud. Amazingly, the ballpark was nearly as full as it was in their preceding glory years, which I took as a tribute to the character of the team. If the team had been full of egotistical players who fans loved only for the victories they brought, the ballpark would have been as empty as many of the stadiums the Mariners visit.

The addition of Ichiro with his obvious love of the game was simply icing on the cake. I can’t imagine not wanting to watch Ichiro get another hit. While I know little or nothing about Adrian Beltre, I taught Richie Sexson at Prairie High School, and he’s one of those kids you rooted for because he was a “good kid.” It’s tough not to root for someone like Bucky Jacobsen or Bobby Madritsch to have a good year. I’m looking forward to seeing how this season turns out; certainly it deserves a better finish than last year’s dismal ending.

I’m not na”ve enough to believe that I really know any of these players well enough to accurately judge their character, but I do know that my perception of their character, particularly on the field, is a vital part of how I feel about the game and determines whether or not I’m willing to part with a little of my hard-earned cash.