Eric Hess has witnessed many of the most iconic moments in Seattle Mariners history.
On Oct. 8, 1995, a young Hess was there in the Kingdome when Ken Griffey Jr. slid home to score the winning run on Edgar Martinez’s double to beat the Yankees.
On July 15, 1999, he was in attendance for the first game played at T-Mobile Park (then Safeco Field).
On July 21, 2019, he sat through stifling heat at Martinez’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, New York.
And at precisely 9:41 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2021, Hess clicked on a YouTube video and unintentionally became part of Mariners history, setting off an ugly episode that soon prompted the resignation of his favorite team’s president.
After his three children went to bed Saturday night, Hess, a 36-year-old engineering manager in the Seattle area, retreated to his home office for some quiet time — alone with his PlayStation and his favorite video game, “MLB The Show.” While playing, he finished listening to a Mariners podcast, and then turned to YouTube to see if he could find anything new on the Mariners’ spring-training preparations. He simply typed in “Mariners” in the YouTube search menu.
The second-newest result, of a video posted the day before by the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club, featured then-Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather’s Zoom conversation with club members from Feb. 5. Hess clicked on the 46-minute video, becoming the first person to play it.
Hess listened to the first 10 or 12 minutes, as he recalled, and was struck by Mather’s unusual candor when discussing contract details regarding prized outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic. That’s when Hess turned to Twitter and Reddit to share the video; he doesn’t have a lot of followers on Twitter — his profile @SeattleSunDvl had 211 followers as of Tuesday — but many of them are fellow Mariners fans. “Super interesting video here with Kevin Mather …” Hess began his tweet, then included a link to the video.
“I was basically saying, like, ‘This is a super candid conversation,’ not knowing what was about to happen in the rest of the conversation,” Hess said. “So I kept listening and I was like, ‘Oh … oh … this is getting dark.’ I grew more and more horrified as the video went on.”
It was after 10:30 p.m. when Hess finished the rest of the video, which included disparaging remarks from Mather on a range of people and issues in baseball.
“I went over and talked my wife and I was like, ‘I think I found something. I’m the only person who has seen this video,’” Hess said.
On Sunday morning, Hess checked LookoutLanding.com, a popular Mariners fan site, and saw that the video had started to gain traction there. By late morning, Joe Veyera, a Mariners fan and editor at Seattle-based Factal News, outlined Mather’s remarks in a series of tweets, crediting Hess for the initial discovery.
“I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess that’s me,’” Hess said. “My phone’s been going insane since.”
Mariners beat writers — including The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish — discovered the video around that same time mid-morning Sunday. Divish’s first news story on the video’s existence was published on The Times’ website at 12:33 p.m. Sunday. A little over 24 hours later — at 1 p.m. Monday — the Mariners announced Mather’s resignation.
“It’s been kind of surreal being like, ‘OK, so this is my fault,’” Hess said. “It’s just cool to see the blogging community and citizen journalism working the way that it should.”
By mid-afternoon Sunday, the video was deleted from the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club’s YouTube channel. (The club’s channel has just two subscribers, and its previous two videos from other guest speakers had, as of Tuesday, just 22 views each.) The Mather video went viral anyway. Many outlets — including The Times — downloaded copies before it was deleted. (Rotary Club officials did not return messages seeking comment.)
Most mornings, Hess said he watches “MLB Central” on MLB Network. Hess does have a journalism degree from Arizona State, but he never expected to see news he found featured on that MLB show. The Mather story led that show Monday morning, and it was a top story on many national news shows the past two days.
“I’m a season-ticket holder. I’ve been a diehard Mariners fan since birth, essentially. It’s my life, and it’s crazy to possibly have that kind of effect,” Hess said. “The (video) was so buried in obscurity on YouTube that I don’t think a lot of people would find it. The fact that it’s out there and there’s action that can come of it, I think that’s pretty cool. You know, I want the best for the team. I want to make sure that we’re a good outfit in and out. And if I’m going to throw my money at them and throw my support their way, and if there’s any way we can make the front office a better place, then by all means.
“… Now they just need to go hire Theo Epstein, and then I can be on the first float in the World Series parade.”