Safeco Field Sees First Ever College Game: OSU vs. Washington
May 8, 2007
By Casey Grogan OSU Daily Barometer
May 8, 2007
Corvallis, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- A train, 'The Wave', Harry the Husky, a band, a crowd unseen by the Pac-10 and garlic fries. This was the scene Friday night as the No. 9 Beavers took on the Huskies at Safeco Field.
Friday night, Oregon State (35-11 overall, 7-8 Pac-10) and Washington (23-21, 8-7) stepped onto the home field of the Seattle Mariners for the first ever college baseball game at Safeco. As they tend to do, Beaver Nation traveled up the I-5 corridor for this memorable event.
'It was a great atmosphere,' second baseman Joey Wong said. 'It was real loud and we had lots of fans. There were a lot of people that are Oregon State fans that came up to watch us in Seattle and that's a pretty good drive for most of them.'
The setting and game was as big league as it gets for the college ballplayers and fans. The SoDo district of Seattle behaved as it does for any Mariner home game. An establishment across the street from the stadium's porch was covered in orange and black while the Mariner team store was full of purple and gold.
This event was a trial for the Huskies and Mariners, who together hope to put on a non-conference tournament at Safeco in the future. The Huskies previously had hosted teams on occasion at the Mariners former home, the Kingdome. With the upper decks and outfield seating closed off, the Mariners staff maximized the capacity available hoping to challenge the Pac-10 attendance record.
'The Mariners said 'how about a single this year and see how it goes?'' said University of Washington coach Ken Knutson. 'We looked at the Mariners schedule and saw the Beavs were in town and it worked out great.'
Entering the day, it was expected as many as 3,500 to 5,000 Beaver fans would join the team in Seattle. Coupled with the Husky fans already in Seattle, the conference record 9,772 fans who attended an Arizona and Arizona State game in 1980 was ready to be overtaken. With orange and black down the first base side and purple and gold down the third, a roar rose as a new Pac-10 record was announced to the crowd of 10,421.
'It was fun,' Knutson said. 'It is like this a lot of places around the country, I don't know if it's this divided. It would be fun to play here everyday. It was exciting to get the record and show that people love baseball up here.'
Both teams were excited to get to play where some of their idols do and took advantage of it during their batting practice swings. Both teams had players hitting line drives and hard ground balls throughout batting practice while some players were also hitting them into the stands. OSU catcher Mitch Canham hit two bombs into the fifth row in right while leftfielder Mike Lissman rocked a ball into the upper deck in left.
For Canham, this was a special game having grown up 45 minutes from Seattle in Lake Stevens, Wash.
'My old high school coaches, little league coaches, high school staff, best buds and everyone from my hometown was here,' Canham said. 'The Mariners giving us a shot to come play out here was just phenomenal. No one is going to forget this moment and we feel blessed to get to play in this venue and to get to watch little Joey Wong run around and dive all over.'
As the game began, the Huskies showed they were ready for the defending national champions. Sophomore starter Jason Erickson's first pitch was a strike before he was able to get center fielder Chris Hopkins to ground out. OSU shortstop Darwin Barney then followed with a single for the first collegiate base hit at Safeco Field.
It was OSU starter Mike Stutes who delivered the first collegiate strikeout at Safeco to Washington's leadoff hitter Michael Burgher. Matt Hague followed by flying out in the first, which displayed the uproar that the crowd was ready to deliver. Hague drove Stutes' 2-1 pitch well into center field as the third base line erupted. Fortunately for OSU, the ball settled down into Hopkins glove as the first base line erupted back.
'I was really excited about coming out here to Safeco,' Stutes said. 'It's fun to come out with this many people.'
Erickson benefited from great defense by his infield while picking up the 6-2 victory. It was the defense that was on display as both teams struggled with the stadium that played bigger than listed. UW shortstop Danny Cox made a number of exceptional plays including a sliding catch in foul territory.
'I was really excited this was a really long week,' Erickson said. 'This was all I was thinking about. I was maybe more excited to be pitching against Oregon State.'
Oregon State was not to be out done as Wong flashed his leather on multiple occasions. In one instance, Wong made the long run into foul territory behind first base and dove fully extended for a fly ball. Wong dropped the ball, however, but would make up for it in the third inning. With the bases loaded, UW designated hitter Ty Rasmussen hit a bloop fly over the mound. Wong dove for the ball as it short hopped into his glove, and scrambling to his feet he threw off balance to the plate to get the out and stop the Husky scoring threat.
'It was a great experience getting to play and play hard out on a big league field,' Wong said.
The game was played as a Mariner game would be. Vendors sold peanuts and Cracker Jacks in the stands while the manual scoreboard in left field was in use. University of Washington's band played the national anthem and 'Take Me out to the Ball Game' in the seventh inning, while Harry the Husky prowled the stands. Foul balls were fought over and kept by fans and the field was prepared by the ever popular Mariner grounds crew, who even performed their trademark dance during the game.
'It's fantastic, just great,' coach Pat Casey said. 'The atmosphere was great and fans were excited, we just didn't do a good job keeping them on their feet.'
For some of the players, the most memorable but un-noticed moment of the game was the closing of the Safeco Field roof. While the roof can only be opened during a stoppage of play, it may be closed while the game is in action. During Wong's at-bat in the sixth the roof began to close above the field.
'I came out in like the eight inning and (right fielder) Matt Stevens was talking about how weird it was seeing the ball on the roof on a fly ball for the first time,' Erickson said. 'I looked up and hadn't even realized they closed it.'
(C) 2007 OSU Daily Barometer via CSTV U-WIRE