Seattle fans attend early-morning viewing party

Seattle fans attend early-morning viewing party

SEATTLE -- The Seattle sky was pitch black, the city silent and most citizens in deep sleep, but inside a crowded Terrace Club at Safeco Field, loyal Mariners season-ticket holders came together in the wee hours of the morning for a viewing party to watch the club's 3-1 victory in the season opener against Oakland.

With the inaugural game against the Athletics played in Tokyo as part of Opening Series Japan 2012, fans back home in Seattle were forced to be awake at 3 a.m. PST -- first pitch was at 7 p.m. local time in Tokyo -- for a chance to see their team open the season.

And if you didn't peer outside the windows at the Seattle skyline illuminated by skyscrapers, it was easy to forget the time. For the 170 season-ticket holders who made the trek to Safeco Field, energy and excitement was rampant with everybody happy to get baseball started again.

"I didn't see one person kind of drag themselves in," said Frances Traisman, vice president of sales for the team. "They are all excited."

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The Mariners wanted to provide a way for fans to gather and enjoy this historic Opening Day, even if it was at a time when people should be sleeping. The team sent e-mail invitations to season-ticket holders and received immediate response. They even had to increase the number of fans allowed from 150 to 170, and people were still left on the waiting list.

"We wanted to make sure that people felt connected to Opening Night," Traisman said.

Several carried the necessary Starbucks coffee inside to help stay awake, and it almost felt like Tokyo with the food choices. A traditional Japanese breakfast was provided by Safeco's local sushi vendor, including miso soup, cooked salmon, warm white rice and a spicy salmon roll appropriately named "Ichi-Roll."

"There are more people than I expected," said Hiroshi Egashira, owner of Hiroshi's sushi restaurant and a big Mariners fan. "I'm happy to serve Japanese-style food to the fans."

Fourteen flat-screen televisions showing the game lined the top edge of the Terrace Club, which sits atop the lower level along the first-base line at Safeco Field and is filled with tables, chairs and comfortable leather couches. Fans dressed in team gear and pajamas were often up on their feet, high-fiving each other after every successful Seattle play. Everyone even stood up during the seventh-inning stretch and sung "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" in unison with fervor and passion.

A few diehards sat outside on the deck and watched the game on TV with the Safeco Field sign and the picturesque Seattle skyline in the background. One man brought a huge self-made scoreboard to help fans keep track of hits, runs and errors, while Montana native Jeremy Reese won a prize for traveling farther than anyone to catch the season opener.

"It's amazing to look at the stadium and city right now," Reese said, holding a plate full of sushi in one hand and a bowl of miso soup in the other. "It's pretty cool."

Sure, the Mariners faithful inside the warm Terrace Club had to pull an all-nighter, but it was obvious that experiencing Opening Night -- albeit 5,000 miles away in a different country -- with fellow Seattle fans was something nobody wanted to miss out on.

Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.