The second day of the journey began in Vancouver and ended in Seattle.
I had some trouble sleeping, still dealing with just a three-hour time difference, making me incredibly worried for the 17-hour change I will have to go through from the west coast to Japan. I’m not very good at travelling through time, but hopefully I will be better for the two-week trip to another continent than I was either time I went to Australia. There, I was awful.
For the first few weeks down under, I would suddenly wake at three in the morning and be ready for the day. I would find myself hungry, unable to go back to sleep, and restless. Then when I made my way back to the northern hemisphere I had a lot of difficulty getting to sleep at night. There was never a time when I was more grateful for marathons of Criminal Minds, because I would flip between that show and Fear Factor until I could get to sleep at around four in the morning. Each time that lasted for almost three weeks, so I’m hoping for better things in Japan because I won’t even be there that long.
But, back to the day. As I did in Brisbane when I couldn’t sleep and had nothing else to do in the morning, I went for a run. After missing my scheduled long run on Monday, the Vancouver trails were a nice place to make up for it on Tuesday. The trails were beautiful, though perhaps a little dangerous for a clumsy runner like me with rocks on the ground and unpaved pathways, but I only rolled my ankle once. Not bad. I thought I was doing pretty well on avoiding forks in the road as well, until I realized I was lost. A kind stranger stopped to help me find my way back, however, so I did. A big thanks goes out to him, whoever he may be.
When I got back to my mom’s cousin’s beautiful home, it was time to pack again. Because I threw everything into my bags when I left London, I had some work to do to sort out just what I would need for the next five-day vacation to Seattle. I’m still terrible at packing, nothing in that regard has changed since Sunday, so who really knows how that went. But I got my stuff together and packed up the car to head to Seattle.
I figured I would have enough time once I crossed the border to see the friends I would be visiting before heading to Safeco Field to interview James Paxton before the Mariners matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the border was incredibly slow. After a stop at the duty-free shop to pick up a multitude of Canadian presents for my friends and hosts – maple syrup, mugs with maple leaves on them, maple chocolates, Coffee Crisp bars, Smarties, the usual – the line to get to a border guard took over an hour. I was probably already cutting it close with the visit, so as soon as my mother and I made it into the United States, I decided I had to head straight to the field.
So the first stop in the beautiful Emerald City – named for its greenery I found out – was Safeco. How fitting. When I arrived I picked up my media credential and headed to the press box to find Bob Elliott and Tracy Ringolsby. Bob is, of course one of my favourite people, and the curator of the Canadian Baseball Network. Both of the aforementioned men are Hall of Fame writers, and also close friends. I’d met Ringolsby before through Bob, and when I saw him he said, “You don’t look like you’d be carrying a bomb.” I guess he’s been reading, or following me on Twitter.
After a quick chat with them and a couple other members of the visiting writers from Toronto, I headed down to the basement in search of the Mariners clubhouse. It was pretty easy to find because a boatload of writers and broadcasters were standing outside of the doors waiting to get in. I jumped in the line and it wasn’t long before the doors opened. I went into the clubhouse to see if Paxton, a native of Ladner, BC, was at his locker. He wasn’t, so I joined everyone else in the manager’s office to hear what Lloyd McClendon had to say about his club.
I find a lot of manager scrums to be a little awkward late in the season. It’s almost like no one has anything to ask, or they don’t want to be the person to start it off with a question, or maybe they have just run out of questions by the last few months in the year, but there often seems to be a period of strange silence, and the skipper just has to sit there for it.
Eventually someone asked a question, and about five minutes in the questions asked actually seemed to be ones where the asker was interested in the answer, and wasn’t just asking something to ask it. McClendon seemed great though. He had a way of making an answer feel like it should have been too obvious to answer the question, without making the reporter feel stupid. I can respect that. I didn’t ask anything because I was a visitor, I’m new, and I’m young. I don’t want to get in anyone’s way. Plus, I was only there to talk to Paxton, with fellow Canadian Michael Saunders back from a rehab stint but away from the team on the paternity list, and McClendon had already talked about Paxton unprovoked on two occasions during the question-and-answer period. That was enough for me.
After the manager was finished with his duties, all of the writers and various others headed for the lockers. Paxton had returned to his, but another guy was there asking him questions. So then I had a dilemma – do I interrupt this guy and just horn in on his interview, or do I make the 25-year-old Canadian left-hander answer twice as many questions and probably some in duplicate?
I opted to wait. I really didn’t want to interrupt. And it became apparent that Paxton knew I was there waiting to speak with him, so I didn’t think he would run off as soon as the other guy left. I did a little bit of eavesdropping on their conversation, and I want to say it was so that I could avoid asking the same questions, but really it was in an attempt to overhear perhaps any answers to questions I had overlooked. I wouldn’t want to miss something big and have this other guy write about it at the same time. Inferiority doesn’t sit well with me.
He didn’t really have any questions that pertained to my story, or were ground-breaking, so when he left, I stuck to my question-asking plans. Paxton was generous with his time, and after the things that mattered slightly more, he even told me about the giant maple leaf tattoo on his forearm, because I was curious. In varying shades of black ink, an entire landscape is tattooed inside of the maple leaf outline, and it is actually that of his family’s cottage up north, which I thought was pretty cool. My story on very successful rookie pitcher Paxton can be found here, with one that I wrote during spring training here, too.
After I spoke with the lefty, I got in touch with my friends in Seattle to meet up with them before the game. Conor and Cheryl Glassey are a wonderful couple I know from my time in North Carolina when I worked for Baseball America, and Nathan and Alyson Rode are also a fantastic pair I met during that time. Conor and Cheryl are from Seattle and moved back last year when Conor left the magazine. Nathan and Aly still live in Durham, but the former now works for Prep Baseball Reports, and the two were coming out to visit the Emerald City this week, so we made it a big reunion.
My mom and I met up with them at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where boats go through and salmon try to swim upstream and things like that. As you might have guessed, I didn’t really learn a lot about it or spend a lot of time there.
We ended up parting ways with the Glassey and Rode families from there again because we were headed to the game and they were on their way to see another sight. I’m not a big sightseer, so this has already been a lot for me. I am trying to branch out a little bit though, and I’m taking lots of pictures, just to prepare myself for Japan. I wouldn’t want to miss anything there.
I was hungry, so the plan was to get some food before returning to Safeco Field and it just so happened that across the street from the Locks there was a little independent restaurant. I wanted to take a chance on the Red Mill Totem House because it intrigued me, and it was totally worth it. The food was great, the service was wonderful, and there was actually some entertainment in the form of what looked to be a bearded lady and a man-woman that really confused me. I didn’t get any pictures because that would have been really creepy of me, but the mental picture will stay with me forever.
Back at the ballpark, my mother and I weren’t sure what it would be like to get tickets around the stadium, so we thought we would try the box office. Never a bad plan, right? But on our way to the box office, we were stopped by some scalpers, of course. First, the guy tried to sell us seats for over a hundred dollars apiece. No thank you. Then he went down to eighty bucks. Still no. We told him we only had about eighty dollars cash to spend and he offered us two decent-looking seats on the first-base lane in the lower level, but the tickets were the kind that you print off of a computer at home. We didn’t trust him.
The scalper did his best to convince us, having a traffic officer vouch for his whereabouts on game days, and saying that he would be right across the street from the gates at the corner, in case anything went wrong and we needed to come back and find him. Yeah, right.
I thought the tickets could actually be good seats for the price, so I tried to make a deal with him. I said I would give him half the money for one ticket and then if it worked, I would give him the rest and take the other one. When he said no to that, I started to walk away. As I departed, he continued to try and get his sale, so I said that if he walked with us right to the ticket-taker at the gate, we would do it. In the end, he actually walked with us right to the gate and waited until we got in. That’s good salesmanship, I’d say.
In the end, the tickets were great, and we were in a section surrounded by Canadian fans. I took this video while the Canadian anthem was playing – is that a faux pas? – and here you can hear all of the singing and cheering from where we were sitting. It was a sea of blue at Safeco and it didn’t really even seem to matter that the Blue Jays lost. Fans were faithful and enjoyed their time.
The people we were sitting directly next to had come to the series from Red Deer, Alberta. Their family of eight – multiple generations – rented a house nearby and got tickets for the Toronto series in Seattle. And actually, the tickets we bought off of the street were ones they had given up for twenty dollars each. The matriarch of the family had never been to a baseball game before Monday, but is a lifelong Blue Jays fan and was having the time of her life. The family kept trying to get on the video board at the ballpark, with a sign stating that the 73-year-old woman was seeing her team in person for the first time, and I broke their hearts when I told them of the unlikelihood that a home production crew would show visiting fans on the board. My bad.
After making a trip around the entire stadium in search of funnel cake, just because I had seen the Mariners tweet a photo of it earlier in the week, I found my prize and had it, in all its glory. I came out of that adventure covered in icing sugar, but in the end I got to eat a delicious funnel cake and take an unofficial tour of the stadium, so that was fantastic.
Fernando Rodney put the final stamp on the game with his trademark post-save bow and arrow, and the Blue Jays lost their second game in a row at Safeco. We retreated to our rental car and started the journey to Woodinville, where Conor and Cheryl live. It took forever, because traffic around the park is all pointed in one direction and everyone wants to get out at the same time, of course. It took a little over an hour to get to their house and we went through some dark and winding back roads, but we made it.
We got to give out our Canadian presents, which was very exciting. Conor, Cheryl, Nathan and Aly seemed to like the maple syrup in hockey player jars, along with the various chocolates and other things with big red maple leaves on them. It was an exciting time.
Then, bedtime because there is more of Seattle to be seen in the morning.