Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/29/13
Smell The Spring The Seattle Mariners opened up Safeco field over the weekend to 18,000 loyal fans. An ever-shifting club like the Mariners desperately needs fans to re-engage if they want to kick-start the season. Walking into Safeco this past weekend helped to show everything the franchise is doing to accomplish just that. Even through the 2013 season doesn’t feel all that promising, just feeling the energy and enthusiasm in the park from the youngest of fans helped to just make people smile. Seattle fans need to smile more, and Seattle players desperately need to see those smiles as well. All that being said, here are five things to smile about that were illuminated at FanFest: 1. Things are happening For so long it has seemed that the Mariners have been stuck in the past. Safeco Field was built in the golden era of Seattle baseball, sandwiched in between the miracle seasons of 1995 and 2001. For the longest time it seemed like the Mariners had gone from “refuse to lose” to “refuse to win” with short-sited trades of top draft picks for players aging out and a constant stream of “rebuilding” messages. Now the Mariners are addressing the present needs (agree with them or not) by moving in the outfield walls. At FanFest, you couldn’t help but notice the major construction came from moving in those wall. It was an acknowledgement of a new direction for the club. A new future. Michael Morse and Jack Zduriencik participated in the Mariners 2013 FanFest. (Photo: Ben VanHousten/Mariners) 2. The Mariners have some quality guys on the roster A lot of pro athletic teams have guys that don’t play well with others. FanFest really illuminated one of the Mariners’ strengths in recruiting players that can be good role models on and off the field. Part of this may just be caused from the Mariners young staff, but even the Seattle greats like Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson help things lean in that direction. Now it would be nice if they were a little bit better ON the field as well as off, but if you can get to know these players as real people,than some of the bad attitudes of fans stop and we can just enjoy the baseball games together. 3. Happy fans are important to the Mariners One of the things that really impressed me about FanFest was how much great stuff there was to do for a low price. There was a zip line across the outfield, fly ball competitions, photo ops, giveaways, lots of interactions with players, autograph sessions and even touring of the Mariners’ clubhouse. On top of that was seeing the Mariners’ addition of the new top-of-the-line scoreboard in center field and the new open-air restaurant field level in left field. The fan experience is going to be better than ever in 2013. 4. Honest dialogue Many players came and sat on top of the dugout just to chat with the fans. I admired their accessibility as well as their willingness to own up to their weaknesses and talk about what they were doing to get stronger. Some clubs would try to hide that. The Mariners embraced it. I can stay a fan of a team that is honest. 5. There is hope I don’t understand most of what the Mariners are doing this off season, to be honest, but I do see that there are a bunch of guys on that team that truly believe they have what it takes to be something special. Only time will tell, but at Fanfest you don’t see stats and you don’t judge the numbers—you see the game through the eyes of a child and remember that this game is all about the magic of the unpredictable. There is hope in that unpredictability because you never know when something special might happen. Hopefully it is in 2013. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE SEATTLE MARINERS CLUBHOUSE AT NWSB!
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