Ever since I made it a goal to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, I have envisioned a trip that would take me up or down the entire west coast. The trip would start in Seattle or San Diego and end in the other city, with a stop at each MLB city in between. Definitely a good amount of traveling for sure. Except Seattle alone presented a major challenge to this west coast trip dream.
Seattle is nowhere near any other city with a MLB franchise. The Bay Area cities of Oakland and San Francisco are the closest MLB cities to Seattle and if you’re driving, you’re looking at a 14 hour car ride even if you don’t stop. Flights between the Bay Area and Seattle are 2 hours as well. So unless you’re willing to add 2 or 3 days to your road trip, it’s probably best you and whoever you’re with drive in shifts.
For as much time as I spent over the past few years “planning” west coast trips that involved Seattle, my trip to the Emerald City was planned rather spontaneously. I’ll often look at flights just to see what’s out there. Occasionally I’ll stumble across a price I find appealing. On rarer occasions, I jump to buy that plane ticket. Since my travels have usually revolved around baseball schedules, flights I frequently research are those to cities that my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, are playing in on those dates.
In April 2021, less than a month before the Indians were scheduled to play the Mariners in Seattle, I decided to look at flights on the dates the Indians would be out there. I often use a sight called SkipLagged to view flights. SkipLagged showed a Delta flight for $127 and it hit me right away. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had a flight to New York through Delta in April of 2020 canceled. Because of this, I now had a $118 voucher to use towards a future flight.
I did some additional research into the $127 Delta flight mentioned in the previous paragraph. I could fly out to Seattle for about $8. After about 24 hours of deliberation and a little bit of nudging in the form of encouragement from a coworker, I requested the days off work and booked the Delta flight and a return flight home on Alaska Airlines. Because of the impromptu decision, I didn’t bother to find company for the trip. It would be what I consider to be my first real solo trip.
Even though my trip was only 3 nights, I decided I would see 2 games at T-Mobile Park. After all, I was flying all the way out there for baseball. Plus in past visits to see other MLB parks, I would see 2 games just give myself time to really see all the place had to offer. I’ve always liked it more when I get a chance to see more than one game at a ballpark. In case I miss something the first go round.
T-Mobile Park opened on July 15, 1999 as the third retractable roof stadium in MLB. It replaced the dark, old, gray concrete slab of depression that was The Kingdome. Which like many stadiums constructed in the 1960s and 70s, was built for both baseball and football and featured a hard artificial playing surface. The Kingdome usually is found on most lists of the worst MLB stadiums ever. So no one was sad to see it be imploded.
T-Mobile Park is located in Seattle’s southern downtown district, more commonly known as the SoDo district. Seattle’s public transportation system is the Sound Transit and T-Mobile Park is accessible by the Link Light Rail, which has a stop for the ballpark. From there it’s about a 10 minute walk or so to the ballpark’s gates. You can find plenty of parking near the stadium. However, I took the light rail since I did not have a car while I was there.
T-Mobile Park is one of seven stadiums in baseball with a retractable roof. It is the only stadium where the roof acts as an umbrella. The ballpark is still open air even when the roof is closed. Seattle is known for having a rainy climate, which was the primary reason T-Mobile Park was built with a retractable roof. Despite Seattle’s reputation for rain, the retractable roof at T-Mobile Park is the least used in MLB. When it is used, it can open and close in 10 minutes and hardly make a sound. In fact, it’s so quiet that they can close the roof in the middle of a game being played with no distractions.
Since it was built in the late 1990s, T-Mobile Park can be classified as a retro ballpark (Wikipedia lists it as Retro-modern). Before you enter, I suggest you walk to the home plate entrance and then walk across the street. Face the ballpark and you’ll have a nice shot of the ballpark’s exterior. I made sure to get a picture. When you are right outside the home plate gates, you will see a statue of the legendary Ken Griffey Jr.
When you enter the main rotunda you will see a chandelier made up of a 1,000 baseball bats before you head up to the main concourse. There is a plethora of good art to see around the stadium. One of my favorite features was the use of recycled materials to create “quilts” of team logos. The Mariners Hall of Fame is worth checking out too. It features not only Mariners history, but the history of baseball in the Pacific Northwest as well.
The ‘Pen in left field is a popular hangout place for fans that opens 2 hours before the game. Here fans can partake in happy hour specials, watch pitchers warm up in the home and visiting bullpens, take in batting practice, and eat some of T-Mobile Park’s most well known food.
Perhaps the most unique culinary dish that T-Mobile Park serves comes from Edgar’s Cantina. Here you will find chili lime seasoned fried grasshoppers. Believe it or not, the grasshoppers are actually one of the ballpark’s most popular food items. I wanted to try the insects, but unfortunately I could not because at the time that area of the ballpark was only open to fans who had been fully vaccinated for Covid-19 for at least 2 weeks. When I went, the Mariners were still doing pod seating and the allowed capacity was 9,000 fans.
So because of the Covid-19 restrictions, I wasn’t able to check out everything I wanted at T-Mobile Park. I didn’t let that deter me completely. Whenever you go to a ballpark for the first time, it’s like going to a baseball game for the first time ever. No matter how many games you’ve attended elsewhere. Since I was on my own, I had all the freedom to explore T-Mobile Park at my own speed, and explore as much as I wanted of what I could.
Out in center field you will see a statue of legendary Mariners play by play radio announcer Davie Niehaus. I can hear his famous grand slam catchphrase in my head right now. The main concourse is designed so you can see the field no matter where you are located on it. I walked around the main concourse a couple times so I could decide what food I wanted to try. I can be a picky eater at times, so I settled on some garlic fries. Which had a little too much garlic for my liking.
If you are at T-Mobile Park for a night game, head up to the upper deck concourse in left field. There you will get a full view of the Seattle downtown skyline, and the sunset beyond Puget Sound with the mountains in view is one of the best sunsets you will see. You can also get a good view of downtown Seattle from the upper deck along the 1st base side.
The Mariners are the only MLB team without a World Series appearances. Despite their team’s shortcomings in the few postseason appearances they’ve made (4 total and none since 2001), Mariners fans are a passionate bunch. The second game I was at was the debut of top prospect and outfielder Jarred Kelenic. When Kelenic got his first Major League hit and home run, the crowd of 9,000 sounded more like there were four times as many fans there.
Because of how isolated Seattle is from other MLB cities, the Mariners have a pretty wide reach with their fan base. It doesn’t hurt that Seattle has major passion for all their sports teams. Just look at the NFL’s Seahawks and MLS’ Sounders. I have no doubt that if the Mariners ever become a playoff team again, T-Mobile Park can be one of the loudest parks in baseball.
Overall I enjoyed my visit to T-Mobile Park. Obviously I wish there hadn’t been Covid-19 restrictions, but I’m glad I went. Being that it was a solo trip, it helped get me out of my comfort zone. It was also my first new park since September 2019. No baseball games were attended in 2020 because of the pandemic.
If you’re trying to see all the MLB parks like me, definitely check it out. Just remember to plan accordingly if you’re trying to include T-Mobile Park as part of a bigger ballpark trip. Because it will require a few extra days be added to your trip.