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Losing Team, Great Experience (Not The Cubs)

We found ourselves in Seattle last weekend visiting family. There is much to do in the Emerald City. They have a first-class aquarium, harbor cruises, tours of Boeing, the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, Mt. Rainier and the Olympics.

So, of course, we went to the ballgame.

We'd been to Safeco Field a number of times in the past and always have liked the place. It's a different experience than any stadium I've encountered.

I never thought I'd admit that I would enjoy a mall-like atmosphere when it comes to baseball, but it is helpful to be hungry when arriving at Safeco.

Let me explain. We entered via the left field gate where the woman who scanned our tickets thanked us for being there. More about that later.

Once you climb the few stairs onto the concourse, the All Levels Food Roster, a six-foot high board, greets you. Water Tower Place would be envious.

There really is no reason to ever stray further than left field unless your jones for sushi or seafood is overpowering.

For openers, there is The Sweet Spot, a full service candy shop. Or how about Grounders for world-famous chicken wings? La Creperie beckoned. No chance a guy from Chicago - or from anywhere - is going to eat a crepe at a ballgame. Especially with hot dogs just steps away.

These are not your regular ball park hot dogs. Grilled onions reliably buried the dog, but those were topped with red and yellow pepperoncini, and the entire production was covered with - get ready! - cream cheese. Not that I'm going to start drowning all my hot dogs with cream cheese, but it took only the better part of 90 seconds to ingest the sausage.

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And, man, do they have beer! The long bar in the middle of the concourse offered ten adult beverages on tap. They included the predictable Coors regular and light, but the Pacific Northwest was ably represented with Manny's, Pyramid, and Red Hook. Lager, amber ale, porter, stout . . . they have it all.

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The Mariners' web site declares, "Safeco Field has something for every appetite from traditional ballpark fare like hot dogs and garlic fries to sushi and gluten-free and vegetarian offerings."

Aside from learning that garlic fries are traditional, I was eager to check out food offerings throughout the park. The tourist seafood restaurant Ivar's has a full range of fare, and the Intentional Wok begins the Asian offerings. Of course, the Ichiroll tops the sushi menu, and this being Seattle, the Grounds Crew is the place for espresso. No one was lined up at the Wine Bar, but the micro brews were selling nicely.

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Since the game had started by the time we got to our seats, we had to wait until a lull in the action to actually sit down.

Safeco, you see, is the most civil of ballyards. The greeters at the gate are just the tip of the iceberg. Ushers hold signs saying, "As a courtesy to other guests, please wait until this at-bat is complete before returning to your seats. Thank you." Honest. I thought I was at the Goodman.

There was no waiting at the urinals. However, I was third in line to wash my hands.

This was the season's final weekend - the Mariners have three more home games on weekdays - so there were the usual fan appreciation gifts. These were not just items like team photos, baseballs, and bobbleheads which take up space in teams' closets over the winter. A number of fans won iPads and other technological gems, and one lucky soul won an hour of batting practice at Safeco for himself and 10 friends.

"THANKS" was written in Diamond-Dri behind second base, and you got the impression they meant it.

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While management appears kind and gentle, so do the fans. When centerfielder Michael Saunders, a .152 hitter, tapped meekly back to the (Texas) pitcher with the tying run on second base in the bottom of the sixth, nary a boo was heard. Think Adam Dunn might enjoy playing in Seattle?

I also must say that watching a game without a rooting interest is exceptionally liberating.

Texas trailed 4-1, but they slammed their way to a 7-6 victory, thanks in part to three third-inning solo home runs by Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton, and Adrian Beltre.

After watching the Sox the past six months, I was genuinely entertained by the Ranger hitters, who actually swing at good pitches and hit them a long way. It was also fun watching Ichiro display his fantastic arm, holding runners at third base with missiles that really do hit the cutoff man.

And I felt little remorse when we had to depart before the end of the game. After all, with a full stomach of food and drink, it was time for a nap.

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Comments welcome.

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