T-Mobile Park

I’ve visited dozens of ballparks in my life. I’ve written about all the current ones in my new book, Baseball Road Trips. Follow me as I share stories about my trips to ballparks across North America.

The 26th Ballpark I Ever Visited: T-Mobile Park (2019)

Here are all the things I did at T-Mobile Park:

I ordered an Reuben’s Brews beer from Cask, a craft beer vendor near home plate that serves some of the finest beer in any ballpark. Seattle has some terrific breweries including Reuben’s, Popluxe, Urban Family, and Fremont. (I visited each during a Sunday afternoon crawl.) You can typically find beers from producers like these throughout T-Mobile. Few ballparks embrace their local beer scene like Seattle’s.

I slurped up a cup of white clam chowder from the Way Back Crab Shack. Crackers were mandatory. The next day I’d eat a bunch of smoked seafood by the water. Why? Because I could.

I ate grasshoppers. At Edgar’s Cantina, named after Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez, they sell chapulines, or toasted grasshopers that are doused in Tajin. They’re delicious. Also, you have to get them early because the Cantina only makes 312 cups of chapulines (312 for Martinez’s lifetime batting average).

I saw Randy Johnson (cut-out), Felix Hernandez (cut-out at his throne), and Dave Niehaus (statue).

I took photos of two guys and a woman, three good friends, visiting from Canada to see the visiting Blue Jays. The woman handed me one of their phones to take photos but it wasn’t giving me good light, so I tried with my phone, a Pixel, and they were great shots. I told the woman I could text her the photos, to which the guys smirked. “Oh that’s slick. You’re gonna have her number now.” TouchĂ©. I texted the photos and deleted her number, but the images are still on my roll, so once in a while I scroll past these three Jays fans and laugh about it.

I watched a relatively meaningless August game between the Mariners and Blue Jays. Both teams came into the game 20 games under .500 and sporting young teams building toward the future. But J.P. Crawford, my favorite former Phillies prospect, doubled in the second inning. Austin Nola, brother of favorite Phillies pitcher Aaron, caught. Bo Bichette homered, then singled, then doubled. Teoscar Hernandez homered. The Jays won with a late comeback, taking it 7-5.

And while I did see Felix Hernandez as a cut-out, but I also saw him on the mound and in person.

Hernandez pitched five and two-thirds innings of two-run ball. He gave up three hits, walked two, and struck out four. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad. He kept his team in the game, and in fact he had the lead when he left. The crowd loved it. They gave him an ovation when he exited in the sixth, after Randall Grichuk tagged him with a double.

King Felix would go out there two more times in Seattle. On Sept. 14 he threw a superb seven frames in a 2-1 win over Chicago, and on Sept. 26 he battled but got through five and a third, though the M’s lost 3-1. His road starts in 2019 were rarely ever good (9.17 ERA), but he looked like a solid No. 2 starter in his home starts (3.57 ERA). There’s something to that. The crowd, many sporting their yellow King Felix shirts, willed him forward in those outings. Seattle was way up there, isolated from the rest of baseball like a mountain in a faraway range, and King Felix reigned quietly.

Hernandez hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2019. It’s uncertain whether he’ll return. His stuff doesn’t hit like it used to. The injuries have added up. He’s just not fit for an era of pitching defined by flamethrowers, something that would’ve been impossible to imagine 15 years ago when he was regularly firing fastballs in the high 90s, sometimes hitting 100 mph. He’s only 35, younger than me, and yet Felix feels like a relic of the last era, even though some of his peers continue to survive.

I likely saw the end of Felix Hernandez. I also met Blue Jays fans who stormed Seattle for the weekend set (because Canada ain’t very far away). I drank a ton of beer, including a big-boy can of Rainier before the game at Slugger’s, and a beer and a shot at the historic Triangle Pub. Cozy and claustrophobic with more local color than a rainbow over the Puget Sound, it truly deserved its reputation.

But 2020 happened. COVID-19 closed the Triangle for good. It closed down the ballparks and stopped baseball, and it was the first season since 1985 – when I wasn’t even one – that I hadn’t seen a live game.

So, my August 2019 adventure at T-Mobile remains the last game I’ve seen live.

I can’t wait to return to the ballpark. I miss everything about it – the random people, the grasshoppers, the clam chowder, the many beers, and the many cut-out photos. But most of all I miss the feeling of sitting in a chair, holding a beer in one hand, taking a breath, and watching a pitcher throw to a catcher. Maybe it’s Felix Hernandez to Austin Nola, or maybe it’s Aaron Nola to JT Realmuto. To me, it doesn’t matter – it’s always baseball.

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