One of the best Mariner fan traditions, with all apologies to  Sean Kramer, is that when the Mariners are bad to mediocre, you can pay for seats in the nosebleeds and find a much better fan experience in vacant seats throughout different parts of the stadium.

Even in the Kingdome, where ushers seemed a lot more lenient, one could often make their way dozens of rows closer to the action.

At Safeco, the Mariners had (previously) worked very hard to create a better, more traditional baseball stadium experience than the dim and dreary Kingdome: a half-dozen stands serving garlic fries, a wide selection of Seattle craft beers and open access to the bullpen. A Mariners fan could conceivably buy $7 seats in the center field bleachers and watch the entire game from above the bullpen, obstructed only by a metal screen.

I’ve seen people get into fights there, I’ve seen people make friends there and I once saw a guy in a kilt, a mesh shirt, knee-high boots, a Scottish style plaid hat and a sign that said “Today is my bachelor party” hanging from his neck, spend two innings asking opposing pitchers if they thought he was sexy.

The bullpen was the best experience available at Safeco for the budget conscious. It was probably the best place to have a conversation or debate about baseball, and one of the few places you wouldn’t have your conversation supplemented with talk of the most recent gossip, the newest sale or best food at Starbucks. It was the only place in the stadium, by my estimation, where people spent their time for the sole purpose of watching the baseball game.

But when I heard that they’d lost the screen, I was really excited. When I saw that they’d mounted a bar-style table across the entire railing, I was thrilled.

Enter “The ‘Pen,” and exit everything good about Safeco field.

It used to be that you could walk from the bullpen to right field without having to hit stairs, and only when you got behind the center field beer garden did you have to take your eyes off the game. Now, you must drop down to the center field entrance to get to right field. Not that the game is completely out of site for the whole time, but there are actually restaurant-style booths along the way, completely out of view of the field or TV.

I witnessed four people sitting and talking, completely ignorant to the game, and none of them (not even the men) were even attempting to view the game on TV (if they had, they would probably have seen MMA on Versus instead of Seattle Mariners baseball).

Even their conversation was probably ruined by the loser (I’m sure he’s a nice person) playing cookie-cutter rap music so loud you can’t hear the crowd cheer, let alone the crack of the bat.

Eight-dollar mixed drinks that can’t be taken out of The ‘Pen and a crowded bar facing away from the field are no help. Root Sports has done a lot of great stuff to improve the fan experience for the broadcast, but to create a bar that is a magnet for the after-10, douchey sports bar crowd is an awful decision.


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