As an avid of baseball and Seattle Mariners, it is pleasure to share my experiences and memories of T-Mobile Park, formerly known as Safeco Field. All the photos here are taken before the name had been changed into “T-Mobile Park” so please excuse me for outdated photos with Safeco Field on it. I look forward to updating them once I start visiting on a regular basis in 2022 unless the season get affected by the pandemic or lockout.
To summarize the history of T-Mobile Park, the ballpark first opened on July 15, 1999 after 5 years of planning and construction and was named after Safeco Corporation who bought it for 40 million dollars and became “Safeco Field.” There has been a number of notable records but to name a couple that remains unbeaten are the most wins in American League in a single season with 116 wins set in 2001, which is also the last time Mariners made the playoffs and have been maintaining the longest playoff drought in any major sports. The second notable record is the most hits in a single season set by none other than my idol, Ichiro Suzuki, by surpassing George Sisler’s 84-year-old record (257 hits) in 2004 and finishing the season with 262 hits. What is also amazing is he also holds the second highest single-season hits (242) if you exclude players from the 20th century.
After a quarter century of ownership by Safeco Corporation, the newly named T-Mobile Park shines with a bright pink light. Because I have been saying “Safeco Field” for more than a decade, I still cannot help but saying, “Do you want to go to Safeco Field”?
Getting to T-Mobile park from Vancouver, BC
I would like to share different ways to get to T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington by car, bus, train, and plane, assuming you are leaving from Vancouver, Canada. As each option has pros and cons, I narrowed them down in order of my preference.
First option – Car
Driving with your own car is probably the most productive, flexible, and fastest way to get to the ballpark. I would not say it is the cheapest due to the parking fee (unless you find a free/cheap street parking) and a round-trip gas, which is about $40 CAD. However, the gas is much cheaper in the U.S. than Canada so you might as well take a full advantage of it by filling it up on your way home.
Depending on traffic conditions and what days you leave, it takes about 2.5 to 3 hours of driving. I recommend to stop by Harris Avenue Cafe in Bellingham for a good cup of coffee and a quality brunch as well as Seattle Premium Outlets for various shopping destinations by giving yourself plenty of leeway before going to the game.
Second Option – Bus
The good things about taking a bus instead of your own car would be a convenience and an affordability. Greyhound bus that leaves from Pacific Central Station costs from $19 to $28 USD for economy seats as the price changes based on the season and time. There is an option to upgrade it to Flexible, which allows you to refund or exchange the trip date along with a free of charge to the second bus bag and priority boarding for an extra $5 to $10 USD. The bus has a built-in Wi-Fi for you to kill the boredom with your phone.
The downsides are a longer travel time and not being able to stop for a private sightseeing. It takes about 5 hours to get to Seattle Amtrak Station, which is a 10-minute walk from T-Mobile park so that is beneficial for a one-day trip and a single game.
Third Option – Train
I would have placed taking the train as a second option if it were not for the higher price. My first time taking the Amtrak train was when I bought a ticket as soon as I finished watching Austin Jackson beating out on a walk-off forceout in the bottom of 11th inning that kept Mariners in the playoff race on September 27, 2014.
Unfortunately, Mariners did not make it to the playoffs despite beating the Angels on the last game of the season as the A’s clinched the second wildcard spot. Back to the topic. As you can see the price of Amtrak is almost the double the amount of Greyhound buses. However, I highly recommend it if it is your first time as not only it is fast — 3 to 4 hours — because it is a non-stop and the scenery and roomy space are enjoyable, especially if you are even travelling further down to Portland, Oregon.
Last Option – Plane
Last but not least, the fastest — 2 hours and 15 minutes — and the most expensive — $150 to $1500 depending on the season — way of getting to Seattle from Vancouver, Canada is none other than a plane. Surprisingly and ironically, this was the only way for Canadians to cross the border for almost 2 years after both countries agree to close the borders due to COVID-19. Based on their logic, it would be safer to fly than to drive for safety of the passengers (planes can fit hundreds of people while a single car is limited to less than 10 people).
I apologize for going off at a tangent as it was brought out due to being a controversial topic. It is not an ideal option for those who live within a driving-distance to Seattle to fly. A couple of common cases of taking the flight would be either driving takes more than 5 hours from where you live or you are stopping Seattle as one of the travel destinations en route to other cities or as a layover.
Around T-Mobile Park
The gate opens 2 hours prior to the game time. Theses are common questions people often ask before you head out to the ballpark.
Q: How early should I arrive in order not to miss the giveaways that are limited to the first 10,000 to 20,000 fans?
A: You will not miss the giveaway as long as you line up 2 hours prior to the game. It is not like you will get a better quality because you receive it earlier than others. But, you might not get the size of t-shirt/jersey you want if you arrive after the game starts, depends on whether it is for everyone or just for kids. For example, despite me and my friend queuing just 2 hours before the game time, people who arrived after the gates opened had no problem receiving one of the popular — double Ichiro Bobblehead — giveaways back in 2017.
Q: Can I bring outside/my own food ?
A: Yes, but under the policy of T-Mobile Park which is
“Outside food is permitted in single-serving sizes. Sealed, clear plastic water bottles up to 32oz, baby bottles, beverages related to medical needs, and unopened, soft-sided single serve containers like juice boxes are permitted.”
Technically if you meet above requirements, you can buy a plastic container and put a single-serving hot dog or homemade food, a bag of popcorn with a non-brand clear water bottle up to 32oz. But do not take my word for it as they might have changed their standards due to COVID-19. Latest information and FAQ can be found here.
Q: Can I buy still buy tickets at the Box Office?
A: As silly as it may sound to ask this question in 2022, you still can buy physical tickets in the midst of covid-19. Despite the majority of us buying online tickets, there are still many people who prefer to walk to the box office to buy physical tickets. The Home Plate Gate Box Office opens 2.5 hours before the game. The Home Plate Box Office opens 2 hours prior to first pitch to the end of game and Left Field Box Office runs till the end of 4th inning. More information can be found here.
There are murals of active players on the wall by the shop entrance, but certain murals remain unchanged such as Ichiro Suzuki.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and a Mariners legend outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.‘s statue was built on April 13, 2017, a year after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by receiving 99.32% of the vote. Unfortunate incident transpired in October when the bat was broken off and taken by the man who later got arrested. The broken bat was safely returned and now reattached.
On August 11, 2021, another statue for a Hall of Fame designated hitter and a third baseman, Edgar Martinez was erected. I look forward to taking a photo when I visit for the first time in almost 3 years this summer.
Inside T-Mobile Park
There is a number of things you can do before the game starts. The gate opening 2 hours prior to the first pitch gives you a plenty of time to look around the ballpark by shopping at the team store, trying different food and drink, and looking into every nook and cranny of T-Mobile Park. I have narrowed down the essential activities to do after visiting for 7 years.
Team store has an array of merchandise: outfits for kids and babies, hoodies, jackets, shirts, socks, hats, accessories, and player jerseys. The clearance section has goods from other teams so it is a great way to buy away team clothings without making a trip to other ballparks or ordering online by paying shippings. You can customize the jersey by giving your last/first name at no extra cost. Also make sure to check out the game-used and autographed memorabilia area where you can find a collection of baseballs, bats, and line-up cards. You can get a 10% discount off the regular priced items (except gift cards, autographed and game-used memorabilia) if you buy tickets at the team store on the same day. Military veterans get 10% off with a proof of valid ID and get 20% off on Tuesday as it is a “Double Discount” day. More details can be found here.
Food and Drink
The food and drink options at T-Mobile Park are vast. From the basic hot dog and beer to gluten-free and vegan food, new menus are being added and modified every year as more people have started to be conscious of nutritions. One of my favourites is garlic fries that comes with a sprinkle of minced garlics and green onions along with slices of apples to minimize the saltness.
While I am satisfied with the portion and taste, I cannot help but complaining the price. It is like going to the movie theatre and buying a bag of popcorn and a fountain drink for the thrice the regular prices at the grocery store. I wish they at least have a combo options where I can buy the food and drink together at a cheaper price rather than having to pay each at a full price. The only combo option they have is for the kids whose portion is significantly smaller than adults.
The hot dog and beer shown in the above photo are more expensive than the normal kind. The layers of caramelized onions and sauerkraut along with a thicker pork/beef dog cost around $10 to $12. I believe the cheapest hot dog — $6.50 — comes with nothing but a bun and a single beef dog and the beer price varies from $9 to $13. There are secret places where you can buy the $5 to $6 beers here.
One tip I learned is that if do not like waiting for a long lineup for food and drink, make sure to try Club or Suite level sections where there are less crowded people, thus you will be able to buy quicker than other sections except the Diamond section in which you will have them delivered to your seat. More details can be found here. I will finish off this section with a photo of an impressive lemonade carrier.
Getting a handwritten autograph directly from a player whom you idolize or have seen on TV is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After visiting several ballparks, especially T-Mobile Park, the best way to boost your chances of getting an autograph is to wait at the very front of main level seats near the team’s dugout. I managed to get the autograph at the same spot twice. Here are a few tips:
- Wait until the players are within earshot
- Have a sharpie/marker/pen and a ball or other items you want it to be signed ready
- Call by their last name instead of their first name as it is more formal and polite
- Be patient and wait for your turn without pushing by respecting others
- If there are too many people in the front to pass through, ask others politely to get the autograph for you (I have been asked first)
Players are generally available and willing to sign for the fans, but do not disrupt when they are warming up as it is an important routine.
Memorable moments at T-Mobile Park
Edgar Martinez Day
On August 11, 2017, my friend and I drove down for the weekend games where they had Edgar Martinez’s number 11 officially retired. One of the highlights was being able to see Edgar Martinez — who spent his entire 17-year career with one franchise along with Kyle Seager who recently joined Martinez as the second Mariner after spending 11 seasons — with my own eyes.
We were prepared for huge crowds despite the Edgar’s jerseys being distributed to almost everyone (first 45,000 fans). As aforementioned, if you arrive to the ballpark 2 hours prior to the game time, you will be able to avoid a long queue. But if you do not mind waiting, it might be best to spend those extra time for yourself since there were enough jerseys for everyone.
Walk-off win against Red Sox
This game — May 15, 2015 — was special for 2 reasons. I managed to capture many high-quality images that are as good as the ones media takes using my DSLR camera (Canon 70D). The other reason was the walk-off win that enlightened an entire stadium on Friday night. This was my first walk-off game by Mariners so I crossed it off my wanna-see list.
Created an animated gif of Clay Buchholz using Continuous Shooting mode
Game 162 of 2014 Season
This game — September 28, 2014 — was very memorable for several reasons.
- It was a Mariners must-win game in order to have a tie-breaker with its division rival, Oakland Athletics, who also were facing a must-win game against Texas Rangers to secure the second wild-spot
- It was day of King’s Court — section 149 and 150 — on the last game of 2014 season. The atmosphere was more hyped than any other games as it was a decisive game 162 with Félix Hernández on the mound against the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels
- A day before the last game of the season, with A’s losing to the Rangers and Mariners walking off in extra inning, Mariners remained in the playoff race. Next day, I took the train in the morning to Seattle by buying the tickets in the last minute, hoping to witness the Mariners tying with the A’s for the wild-card berth
Unfortunately, despite Mariners beating the Angels by 4 – 1 and Felix getting his 15th win after striking out 7 batters and walking none, A’s blanked the Rangers by 4 – 0 and secured the second wild-card berth with a record of 88 – 74. Mariners fell a game short (87-75) of breaking the 13-year playoff drought, which has extended to 20 years as of 2022.
Speaking of the postseason drought, Mariners have had 3 seasons in which they were close to end the drought. Links are attached for a reference.
- Mariners win but fall shy of Wild Card Spot in 2014
- Mariners’ Wild Card chase ends in loss to A’s in 2016
- Mariners lose to Angels en route to tiebreaker in 2019
Seeing Ichiro’s last home run
On April 19, 2017, The Mariners Hall of Fame, Ichiro Suzuki appeared as a visiting player from Miami Marlins. It was my first time seeing Ichiro in the flesh at Safeco Field after seeing him play as a Yankee back in 2014. I regret for not making trips during the time he was playing as a Mariner from 2001 to 2012. The first 20,000 fans received the dual Bobblehead that had commemorated his single-season record and his 3000th hit. The bat part was quite delicate as my friend’s bat fell off so I had to treat it with care.
It was his first visit as a Marlin and a second appearance as an opposing player since July 24, 2012 — a day after he was traded to the Yankees. I made my way to the Marlins dugout before the game started, but the popularity was beyond my expectation as I had no room to squeeze through the crowed fans. I had no choice but to at least try to take a picture of him signing.
The game was one-sided as Mariners scored 8 runs in the first 4 innings. Every player except Miguel Rojas from the Marlins on that lineup is no longer with the team as of 2022. On top of the 9th inning, something I was not ready to see, but hoped to witness happened.
Many people reacted this as if it were his last at-bat or home run in his career. Surprisingly, the former was wrong as he came back to the Mariners in 2018 and retired in Japan in front of sold-out crowds in 2019 (Thanks goodness he did get an ovation he deserved before covid-19 broke out). The latter was correct as that was his last home run — 117th — during his remarkable 19-year career in MLB. The fact that he hit his last home run at the Mariners home game was his destiny.
Another highlight was I got to meet Amy Franz in person after the game concluded in a Mariners’ victory 10 – 5. She is a long-time Mariners fan as well as the biggest Ichiro fan in the world as she had not missed the milestone moments in person by traveling through the states to watch Ichiro play, which is one of a kind dedication and support as a baseball fan.
As a Canadian living in Vancouver, driving down to watch the Mariners games every year is a huge part of my life that keeps my love for America’s pastime going. If my family had not immigrated to Vancouver, I would not have become a Mariners fan as I am now. At the time of writing this post (January 2022), I have not made a visit to T-Mobile Park for nearly 3 years because of covid-19 and I really hope the lockout gets resolved and the 2022 season resumes on time without being postponed or cancelled.
To conclude this post, I would like to share some miscellaneous moments and thank you very much for reading!