A Section Built For a King

Not many of us are in the mood to talk about the recent skid the Mariners have been on.  It seems the offense has forgotten how to score runs – even more than usual – and they’ve run into some bad luck.  But, instead of focusing on a team that might be falling out of contention, I’m choosing to focus on a little bit of Mariners’ genius: The King’s Court.  Because there are many reviews and thoughts on the section floating around the M’s blogosphere, I thought I’d give my personal account for anyone interested.

Last Friday night I had a chance to sit in this new section.   If sitting here wasn’t enough to boot, the Mariners were playing the Marlins in a ‘Florida home game’ so Felix had a chance to bat.

My friends (JP and Bernie) and I arrived about an hour before the game started and the section was about half full.  There wasn’t much of an atmosphere in there yet so I opted to go get some Kidd Valley and walk around for a little bit.

Getting back to the seat about half an hour later, a large cheer went through the crowd as Felix was walking out to warm up.  This is where the fun began.  From that point on the section had a buzz.  Most of the seats were full.  On my left, I had a grown man dressed-up as a Jester.  He seemed to be in charge of the section and seemed downright joyful.  You know, the way a true Jester ought to be.  A little closer to me was a 10 or 12-year-old who was dressed as the famous ‘Larry Bernandez.’  It was his birthday and I don’t know if he’ll ever have a better one.  On my right, there were several babies and toddlers dressed up as kings.  Camera men were walking around all over the place, ready to relay the sights and sounds of the nights to TV and the big screen.

The game started and the section was into it right away.  Every 2 strike count brought the crowd to its feet and chants of “K! K! K! K!” would come.  The Jester was awarded the Turkey leg and a celebration started.  It was slowly passed through the crowd until it wound up in Larry’s hand’s.  A slow chant arose from the crowd, “Larry, Larry, Larry…” This happened many times throughout the game (whenever he was shown on the big screen and when he was awarded rally fries later).

Felix was pretty wild through the first 2 innings but managed to escape without giving up any runs.  In the fourth a run scored on a wild pitch and the buzz of the King’s Court was brought down a little bit.  Still, this was an atmosphere that I’d never experienced at Safeco Field.  This was, dare I say it, a playoff atmosphere.

As the game rolled on, the section was waiting for something to happen.  As so often happens, the Mariners’ offense failed to show up through the first six innings.  Felix was rolling though, and if the offense could scratch across something we had to figure the game was over.  That happened in the 7th as the offense somehow got 3 runs across on a few bloop singles.

Felix continued to roll and the buzz in the section hit a new high.  The best comparison I could come up with was like a college basketball game.  The King’s Court was like the Dawg Pack and it got the whole stadium into it, much like what happens in Hec Ed.  Felix made it through 8 innings and only gave up 2 hits.  He was incredible and seemed to really enjoy the section.

Miguel Olivo loved the section too.  In the top of the 9th, a chant was born.  Everyone knows the tale now.  Olivo came up in the top of the 9th with a man on and after a long at bat in which the crowd endlessly chanted, “O-Liv-O, Oh Oh,” Miguel ripped a home run down the left field line.  It was one of the most magical moments I’ve experienced at a baseball game.

Felix was pinch hit for in the top of the 9th, much to the dismay of the fans.  The M’s went on to win the game and the party lasted all 9 innings.

Of course, the section had a few downfalls.  There are always dumb people at sporting events and this game was no exception.  There were 2 girls sitting in front of us who refused to sit down.  They called it supporting their team but only watched about 1 at-bat an inning.  I have no problem with people standing up through most of the game if they’re into it but these two girls weren’t.  Also, there were a few inappropriate chants that came up.  They were somewhat comical (“Dirty Sanchez” for Gaby Sanchez was my favorite) but some shouldn’t have come up.

With that being said, the whole experience was fantastic.  It was a great idea by the Mariners Marketing and a tradition that will live on through the years.  Felix clearly loves it and anything that makes him feel like Seattle is home is fine by me.

My friend Bernie asked me before the game, “If Felix is so great, why does he pitch for the Mariners?”  He didn’t mean it as an insult to the team, he didn’t understand contracts in baseball and was genuinely interested in why one of the best pitchers in baseball would want to be on a team that is perceived as bad.  But, it’s easy to see that the Mariners pull the right strings when it comes to Felix.  He’s a hero in Seattle and with every little marketing move – like the King’s Court – I like to think that Felix will think of Seattle as home for his whole career.

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