Monday, August 4, 2008

A bus to SAFECO Field

For my son's birthday, he wanted to take in a Mariners game at SAFECO Field, just him and his Dad. My wife was bummed, 'cause she likes baseball, too, and we both cherish one-on-one time with our kids, which we don't get enough of anymore. They're growing up fast.

I got some good seats for the occasion, 5th-row on the Field level, close to where the ballgirls sit; I thought it would make a special remembrance if he could bring home a foul ball to go with the Felix Hernandez bobbleheads we both got for arriving early (I'm saving the other for my second son's birthday in a few more weeks). He brought his mitt, too, in case we got something hit more directly our way. I was glad because he's a pretty good young ballplayer and might just save someone in our area a nasty little bump. I also bought him a birthday package, which included some nice swag for a good price, plus an individualized  birthday wish on the big scoreboard.

Then came the complication: how would we get there? I would be coming from my office in Tukwila while he would be coming with my wife from North Seattle.

The solution was easy: my wife had some errands to run downtown and could bring him to King Street Station in plenty of time for the game, while I would bus/bike to work and back to the same place. But then it became not so easy: as I was pulling into my bus stop in Tukwila for the return ride, the bus came up from behind and roared past; the driver didn't know I wanted to climb on board, and no one else was waiting there. This would make me 15 minutes late, and probably make my wife grouchy and my son anxious -- I didn't have a cell phone that day.

While I was waiting for the next bus, about a dozen people walked to the stop, many wearing Mariners-branded clothing. I think some were out-of-towners being brought to the ballpark by their local hosts. None had ridden this bus to the ballpark before, and were concerned about whether it was the right bus and whether it would get them there on time. I let them know which bus to get on and reassured them that they would get there in plenty of time. I can see how it would be intimidating for someone who isn't accustomed to buses to make the leap to riding one to the ballpark: you have to do a fair amount of research to figure out the right place and time to arrive for a bus going in the direction you want, and you have to remember the number of the bus you want to ride in case there are several different buses that stop there. King County Metro's Trip Planner is an invaluable resource for this, but for some trips I still find myself having to spend 10-30 minutes figuring out the best connection.

The bus came, there was room for all of us and a lot more, plus my bike, and we did indeed arrive in plenty of time. It turns out that traffic and the nature of her errands made my wife even later than I was; but only by 3-4 minutes, so meeting turned out to be no trouble. I put my bike on our minivan's bike rack, then my son and I walked to the ballpark from King Street Station. My wife could've brought my son's bike along, too, as there's now plenty of bike parking in the SAFECO Field parking structure, but I didn't want us riding 8 miles home in the dark; it would have been my son's first nighttime ride, and downtown isn't the best place for an introduction to night riding.

We stopped for a sausage and a hot dog outside the ballpark and arrived in plenty of time for the game. I had him introduce himself to the ballgirl and let her know that it was his birthday. He was reluctant until he saw someone else do it first.

It was a beautiful evening, my son loved the bobblehead and the nice surprise of the birthday package. But until the 9th inning only two foul balls were hit our way, with the first going to the first boy who'd introduced himself to the ballgirl (the second wasn't hit anywhere close to us, and the ballgirl handed it to someone who was a lot closer to where she got it). By the bottom of the 5th, the ballgirls switched places and my son introduced himself to the new ballgirl all over again. And we waited. Two foul balls were hit in the air to within a few seats of ours, but not close enough.

With one out in the top of the ninth of what looked to be a blowout Mariners win, the second-to-last Cleveland batter hit a foul ball close to our ballgirl. She made a very nice grab (these ballgirls were obviously capable players in their own right), and then, while at least a dozen kids clamored for the ball nearby, she carried it to my son, who was waiting patiently at the end of our aisle about 30' away from where she caught it, and handed it to him. He was practically glowing. Thanks, Seattle Mariners, for hiring such thoughtful and capable people! Best of all, my son thought to compliment the ballgirl on her excellent play, making his Dad one very proud papa. I think the same batter (or maybe it was the next one, as my memory got a little hazy right about then) promptly hit into a double play to end the game with an all-too-rare-this-season Mariners W.

My son and I walked a mile to 3rd Avenue afterwards, waited 10 minutes for a bus that would bring us to within 1/4 mile of home, and got home late but safe and happy. My wife told me later that my son thanked her profusely for the experience, saying he had a really great time. I did too, if it came to that, but I'm especially glad that he went out of his way to tell her so, as I know she wanted to be there with us.

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