Sepp Straka

Nathan Pilling: Mariners’ clutch comeback brings back the noise, and some memories


I will admit to not being much of a baseball fan for most of the year. Octobers, though, are a different story.

Generally, this time of the year is when my interest in the sport returns, when I latch on to some bandwagon or find an enjoyable storyline to pull for as the horse latitudes of a long regular season disappear. I love a good story, and how could you not love that roiling pop of a postseason crowd reacting to a clutch base hit or a long, rising home run? Baseball this time of year is something else.

Officially speaking, Saturday’s game between the Mariners and Angels may not have been a postseason contest, but it had that feel. T-Mobile Park and the more than 44,000 people on hand to see the Mariners take a must-win game had that postseason pop.

Having watched the Mariners keep their unlikely run going live from Section 119 on Saturday night, I’d say I’ve found a fun bandwagon to jump on. I think I’ll hang on to the trident logo hat I bought earlier in the day.

To be honest, Mariners games I’ve attended previously haven’t had been terribly memorable. They’re the kind you make small talk about with someone and then forget about a few days later (OK, Bark in the Park excluded).

Saturday night was a little different; an invested crowd, clutch hitting, a comeback, an overall beautiful night at the park.

After Jared Walsh quieted the home crowd in the eighth inning with a three-run homer that gave the Angels the lead, I admit that I wondered if this incredible stretch run would end with a thud. Forgive me, I’m new to the BELIEVE thing. Then, of course, came clutch hits from Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager, the cheering, the yelling, and the run at the postseason would live another day at least.

During the ferry ride back to Bremerton, I chatted with Chris Piercy, of Bremerton, and his charge for the night, 9-year-old Dylan Hamilton, about the game. Chris noted that Saturday was the first time Dylan had been to a pro sporting event. Not a bad place to start.

Dylan’s reaction was pretty similar to my own: “It was exciting, but it also felt like it was going to blow out my eardrums, because it was so loud. I could just hear everyone screaming in my ear.”

And wasn’t it great? These are the kinds of moments that etch fandom.

Said Mariners manager Scott Servais after the 6-4 win for his club: “I hope there were a lot of little kids in the stands tonight. Because it doesn’t get any better, that’s what baseball is all about.”

Chris noted that he wanted to bring Dylan Saturday night because of the similarity to the 1995 season, which saw the Mariners make the postseason for the first time in franchise history: “I remember those memories just being indelible in my mind, and I wanted him to experience that.”

This run, Chris said, has brought him back to the Mariners: “It was somewhat reminiscent of ’95. It wasn’t quite the noisiness, but you kind of knew they were going to pull it out. It just felt like when they got two runners on, it was automatic at that point. They were going to get it done.”

Where does this run end up?

“It’s hard for me to be too optimistic, but at the same time I want to be,” he said. “It’s that battered fan syndrome, I’ve had it for a long time. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Either way, we’d all witnessed something special on Saturday night.

Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, nathan.pilling@kitsapsun.com or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.

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