Twenty-one long years of frustration are over.
The Seattle Mariners have made the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
For many fans, Seattle’s last postseason berth was a literal lifetime ago and for others, Friday was the long-awaited payoff to many years of Mariners mediocrity and a night that none of the 44,754 in attendance Friday at T-Mobile Park will forget.
When the moment finally came as Cal Raleigh hit a walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth inning, Mariners fans reacted as expected for a fan base that has spent the past two decades starved for meaningful October baseball.
Pure, unvarnished joy.
“I’ve been waiting 21 years for this,” Susan Linde said on the concourse after the 2-1 win. “We knew that if anybody could do it, [Raleigh] could do it, and to do it the way he did it, like Mariners’ style. We rock, this is who we are. It’s fantastic.”
Early in the day, the Mariners virtually sold out of playoff tickets, mere minutes after they went on sale to the general public. After a Thursday presale took out most of the ticket supply, the Friday sale cleaned out the rest through the wild card, division series and Game 1 of the American League championship series.
According to Mariners vice president of marketing Kevin Martinez, the Mariners were the first MLB team this season to accomplish the feat.
Pat Trapp of Bremerton has been a fan since the Mariners’ inception in 1977, and attended Friday’s game with her sister, Shannon Lewis.
If the Mariners do wind up hosting a playoff game in October, the sisters say they “absolutely” will be in the stands if there are tickets available.
“If not, I will be glued to my TV,” Trapp said. “And rooting so that they can hear me from Bremerton.”
While a portion of the Mariners fan base fondly remembers the Mariners’ glory days of the ’90s and early 2000s, the playoffs will be a new experience for many others. Dan Conley is a 26-year-old Mariners fan from Seattle, whose earliest pictures from childhood are of him in Mariners gear. Conley said that he has no memories of the Mariners’ 2001 postseason run, but he knew that he was going to be emotional when the clinching moment finally came.
“I imagine I am just going to collapse in a pile of emotions,” Conley said. “I imagine I’m going to cry, I imagine I’m going to hug a lot of people, text a lot of people. I imagine every single person that sees me for the next few weeks is going to mention the Mariners to me, because it means so much to so many people, because now the Mariners are finally holding up their end of the bargain.”
With Friday’s game sold out, some fans were forced to pay higher prices on the secondary market. Patrick Leary of Seattle reported paying $70 for a seat in the 300 level on the ticket website SeatGeek before the price nearly doubled, while Griffey Edwards of Kent said that resold tickets in section 334 were going for nearly $200 on the secondary market.
On the Mariners ticket website, tickets in that same section for Saturday’s game were priced at $25.
For some, the cost of a ticket ultimately didn’t matter. They were going to be there no matter the price.
“Probably not that [high], just because I can’t afford it,” Matthew Calantas said of how much he would be willing to pay for a ticket. “But I would at least be up in the triple digits for sure to be at this game.”
To some, Mariners fanhood runs in the family.
Jeff Soderquist has been a Mariners fan for 30 years and was at Friday’s game with his wife, Lindsey, and their two children, Russell and Riley. It’s a special feeling for Soderquist to see his two children get the chance to experience Seattle playoff baseball, as like theirs, his childhood was filled with many lean seasons.
“It’s pretty special, because when I was their age, the Mariners weren’t that good either in the Kingdome,” Soderquist said. “You could get tickets a dime a dozen. It’s exciting for them to come into sports when the team is actually good.”
During batting practice Friday, 38-year-old Montana native Sarah McClain stood on the warning track behind home plate, playing catch with Ty France. For a fan who was named the Ultimate Mariners Fan in Montana by ROOT Sports, it was a thrill to be in attendance for the clinching game.
To McClain, the Mariners are more than just a team.
“Baseball is love,” McClain said. “There isn’t anything more pure of a love for me than baseball. And the Mariners, they are it.”
Todd Ulsund, 50, has been a Mariners fan for most of his life and watched Raleigh’s walk-off shot from his seat near the left-field foul pole. For him, the postseason bid is sweet, but he ultimately wants more.
“Being a Seattle sports fan has been a struggle for the most part, so just to see this again is incredible,” Ulsund said. “Now I just want a deep playoff run, and it’ll be fun. I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”