I knew when I first started planning out my baseball trips that I’d eventually need to get to Seattle and I knew that it would be the biggest challenge of the journey. The ‘Emerald City’ is great place to visit, with or without baseball, and has been one of my top ‘must see’ cities for a very long time. But since there are no other major league ballparks anywhere near it (the closest is AT&T park in San Francisco – 850 miles away), I knew that it wasn’t practical to combine it with any other games on the trip. So, I decided to make a Pacific Northwest excursion for 2 weeks starting in Portland then to Seattle then Vancouver and finally a week in Alaska.
After 2 days in Portland, I took a late afternoon ride on the scenic and comfortable Amtrak Cascades through Tacoma and into Seattle. Watching the sunset over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Puget Sound was worth the price of the ticket alone. I got into King Street Station in Seattle a little after 9 PM last night and headed to the hotel to turn in early.
This morning I got up early to explore the city. My first impression was that Seattle is a lot like San Francisco – plenty of hills, vibrant waterfront, trendy neighborhoods… but the more time I spent in the city, the differences became more apparent than the similarities.
Unlike many other MLB host cities, Seattle is a legitimate tourist destination with an abundance of great neighborhoods and attractions. Pike Place Market is iconic and must-see, but better to be there on a weekday morning/afternoon to contend with less crowds. Don’t bother standing on line for an hour to see the first ever Starbucks, your time is better spent standing on line at Piroshky Piroshky for some of the most amazing Russian pastries that you’ll ever have. Pike Place Market also has great produce and fish markets and dozens of unique shops. Nearby the market right on Pike is my favorite micro-brew in Seattle - Pike Brewing Company
The Space Needle and Pier 57 Great Wheel are worth checking out as well (just to say that you did if for no other reason) but again, I’m not sure if it’s worth it if the crowds are too big.
If you have the time, venture into some of the neighborhoods. Walk-able from downtown is Pioneer Square which features some of the historic buildings of old Seattle and some of the nicer eateries and coffee shops (there seems to be a coffee shop about every 8 feet in Seattle). The Queen Anne neighborhood offers some amazing views of the city. Fremont is best known for it's bridge 'Troll' , but there are other nice stops nearby it such as Theo Chocolates where you'll find lot’s of free samples. Ballard is a hip waterfront neighborhood with trendy restaurants, indie shops, bars and craft breweries centered on historic Ballard Avenue. Ships and salmon pass through the Ballard Locks, also a popular picnic spot. If you have a car (parking can be a real challenge in Seattle like many major cities) take a drive on 520-E across the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge into the city of Medina where you will see some of the country’s most amazing and expensive homes. This is where the world’s 2 richest men – Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates – hang their hats.
Seattle also has a bustling waterfront with plenty of activities, a great aquarium and good eateries like Ivar's. A nice break from the city is to take the water taxi across Elliot Bay to Alki Beach where there are lots more great restaurants, bars, ice cream, donut shops, etc. and not as crowded as downtown Seattle.
After a day of exploring, I headed over to Safeco about 90 minutes before first pitch. It was a nice walk from my hotel through Pioneer Square into the SoDo district passing along the way neighboring CenturyLink Stadium – home of the Seahawks
There are a good handful of watering holes in SoDo right near the park for any pre or post game brews you might be in the mood for. Elysian Brewery right near CenturyLink (about one block from Safeco) , the Pyramid Alehouse located directly across the street from Safeco.
It was a cool night and had been drizzling on and off for a couple hours after being clear and sunny all day. When I got to the field, my worst fears realized – the roof (which was opened earlier when I toured the city) was now closed - This is the 6th and final stadium I’ve been to with a retractable roof – and only 1 time was it opened for the game I was at. But once inside, I realized that Safeco’s roof was a bit different. It was more like an umbrella than a roof and a good portion of the stadium was still open air – so it had an ‘outdoor’ feel to it very unlike Rogers Centre and Miller Park where it actually felt a bit claustrophobic.
The aesthetics and features inside the park are great. Safeco has the biggest and clearest video board in all of Major League Baseball.
They have a nice little Mariners and Seattle area baseball Hall of Fame in the park. The ‘King’s Court’ section is filled with very enthusiastic fans of ‘King’ Felix Hernandez on days that he’s pitching. There’s a really nice bronze statue of late and legendary Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus outside one of the gates, and plans to erect one of Ken Griffey Jr as well. There’s also a cool chandelier made of 1,000 resin baseball bats above the home plate entry an a 9 foot metal sculpture of a mitt outside the left field gate.
Once inside, you barely even notice there is a roof over your head when it's closed. When the roof is open, the roof is tucked away behind right field and it feels just like a stadium without a roof. From what I was told, with the roof open from the pavilion areas behind home plate and in the upper deck , you get breathtaking and peaceful views of Puget Sound, the Space Needle , downtown Seattle and, on day games, Mt. Reiner.
There are plenty of good food and brew options here as well. Edgar’s Cantina (named for former Mariner and fan favorite Edgar Martinez - a ‘doubles machine’ in his playing day and worthy of the Hall of Fame) serves great Mexican food. There are lots of good seafood options including a sandwich with a mound of Dungeness crab meat dressed in house-made aioli on garlic butter-grilled sourdough bread. But the one offering everyone talks about and that sells out the fastest are the toasted grasshoppers. If you go to the park, you need to try these if for no other reason than to prove to yourself that you can!
The Hit it Here Café is located in right field, on the same level as the Terrace Club. Open to all visitors before game time on a first-come, first-served basis (though season ticket holders may make reservations), the café is only open to holders of tickets in the café during games. Hit it Here Café tickets are only sold on an individual game basis.
The fans at Safeco tend to be rather quiet and very polite and typically stay seated unless they are prompted via video board to get up. The mascot “Mariner Moose” is always present, working to get the crowd engaged and is one of the best mascots in MLB. Even with the roof closed, the sounds of train whistles blowing from the nearby railroad could be heard clearly throughout the ballpark over the sound of the fans.
The game I saw was one of the best I've seen. It was an inter-league matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals. Scoreless through 5 ½ frames, the M’s took the lead on an RBI ground out in the bottom of the 6th. Mariners starter Wade LeBlanc, who was making his first start in the bigs in 2 years, fired 6 scoreless innings before giving way to the pen. The Cards answered in the top of the 8th scoring 3 times on a bases loaded walk and a 2 run throwing error by Kyle Seager. It was onto the bottom of the 9th where St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal took the ball but couldn’t record a single out. Seager led off with a double, then Dae-Ho Lee drew a walk and up came Adam Lind who deposited Rosenthal’s 1-1 offering over the right-center field wall for a game winning, walk-off 3 run homer. This woke the crowd up!! Everyone left the park happy that night (except for the folks wearing red jerseys!).
The overall experience was great. The city, the park’s location, the food, the features, the game.
I would have been happier if the roof was opened and I could experience the views – but it was still very positive and a lot of fun.
Off to Vancouver tomorrow.
Only two more parks left to go!
Fans - C - Cordial and friendly, but a bit laid back - Until the walk off homer anyway
Features - B - The best 'indoor' experience in MLB due to the great roof design. Nice hall of fame. The King's Court section.
Location - B+ - Great 'SoDo' location. Walkable from Downtown & Pioneer Square. Lots to do before & after the game.
Food - B - Toasted Grasshoppers! - Great seafood options. Lots of nice local brews. Other parks do have better options though
Game - A - Always fun when the home team wins on a walkoff!
Overall Experience - B+ - Being in Seattle adds so much to the experience. The park is a really fun place to watch a game. Would have loved it if the roof was open.