I don’t feel like there are many other ballparks in the MLB that have the scenic backdrop that Safeco Field boasts behind the left field porch. If you’re sitting high enough, you can see across Seattle into Puget Sound. However, the downside of the view is the breeze that comes off the water. Even the most perfect of days can feel 10 degrees cooler with what feels like an Arctic wind blowing into the park. Because of that breeze, my parents always made sure I had a jacket with me when we went to games, even if it was an 80-degree day.
One such day was June 3, 2000, and the San Diego Padres were in town. I was ecstatic to get to see Tony Gwynn play live. As usual, I carried my jacket to the ballpark because it was 80 degrees, but it was “probably going to cool down” so I was “going to want it.” (I never wore it.)
We entered Safeco from the left field gate and headed to our seats. As we walked up the stairs above the bullpens in left field, I noticed Gwynn was in the cage for batting practice. I stopped on the landing as he readied for the next pitch and he laced it the opposite way. My way! The ball tailed from left center to straightaway left, right at me. As I held my jacket in my right arm, I reached my glove as far over the handrail as I could to make the catch, but I could feel that my jacket was in the way. The ball hit the fingertips of my glove and bounced off the cement landing and back down to the field. A collective “Oooh!” could be heard throughout the ballpark. I missed out on a ball hit by a Hall of Famer because I carried a jacket to the ballpark.
After I had gathered myself, I decided to head down near the right field line to get a closer look at the field. As I was standing down the line, Ryan Klesko stepped into the cage to hit. I was a fan of Klesko from his days with the Atlanta Braves, so I was paying close attention. On his final swing in the cage, Klesko looked as though he was trying to hit the Hit It Here Café and turned on a pitch, but pulled it foul down the line. A man five rows up from me wasn’t watching and turned just in time to get slammed in the nose by the hard-hit ball. His beer flew about 15 feet in the air and blood sprayed out of his nose. He stayed in his seat for the game.
I learned an important lesson at the ballpark that day. Always be prepared for the ball to come your way, no matter where you are.
Photo by Brigham Berthold