“My plan was just to get it close to the plate,” Haldeman said. “I kind of did that. It worked out well.”
Not many umpires would call the pitch — which ended up a bit outside — a strike. That didn't stop Haldeman, a detective with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department, and several others who helped during the afternath of the deadly Oso mudslide from receiving a standing ovation at Safeco Field. They were honored during Stilly Valley Community Day before Saturday afternoon's Mariners game against the Baltimore Orioles.
“It's a great honor to be able to come out and do something like this,” said Haldeman, who threw the first pitch to former Everett AquaSox catcher Mike Zunino. “It's very cool for the Mariners to honor the rescuers and the first responders. We really appreciate it.”
Haldeman established the first command post east of the slide. With his truck, police radio and supplies from his garage, he helped get initial rescue efforts started. In the following days and weeks, he used vacation time to work an excavator to recover people and belongings.
before the game, a moment of silence was held for the victims of the Oso mudslide as all of their names were displayed on the scoreboard in center field. Free and discounted tickets were distributed in Darrington, Arlington and throughout the Stillaguamish Valley with the residents filling almost eleven sections in right field with more than 4,000 fans.
Ryland Reynolds, an 11-year old from Oso, even got the game under way with the traditional “play ball” call.
Reynolds tweaked the announcement a bit, adding an “Oso Strong!” afterward.
Earlier in the week, search and rescue crews found the body of Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge, the 43rd and final missing victim of the March 22 mudslide, the deadliest in U.S. history.
The Mariners' recognition is “an appreciation for how things are moving forward,” said Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin, one of those honored in the pregame ceremony. “(And the support) continues. Having all this support and the recognition, it keeps our communities engaged and forging ahead to the future.”
Randy Fay was also among those being honored. Fay is a volunteer Snohomish County helicopter crew chief, and flew rescue missions after the slide.
“It's very, very flattering to come out here,” Fay said. “It's also very humbling to come out here.”
Fay works for the Department of Emergency Management and is still involved in Oso relief, as the community continues to rebuild and try to recover from the disaster.
“I think the community stepping up now and continuing to reach out and say, ‘What you did was important and it's going to be OK. There's better times coming,' ” Fay said. “I think that's an important message.
“Oso is still going strong.”
The Mariners players, while unable to focus completely on the ceremony, were excited to help honor the community devastated by the mudslide at Safeco Field.
“That's what it's all about. You realize that this is just a game. Those are things that are real-life issues,” said Mariners pitcher Dominic Leone, who played for the Everett AquaSox in 2012.“We respect everything that those people do and we like to honor that and kind of focus on that as much as we can. … It's cool because, for us, it kind of takes us away from the intensity of the game and makes us realize that we're just playing a game and these people are playing with their lives.”
Ruea Davis and Alex Mackay, two Marysville residents who were sitting in the stands in “Oso strong” T-shirts, said it was great for the responders and those affected by the slide to get away from it for a bit and get to watch a baseball game on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
They were there to show their support for a large Stilly Valley contingent that accounted for more than 10 percent of the 36,936 announced attendance at the game. The Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Orioles.
“It's great to see the people who were able to get here and (I) recognize some people in the crowd,” said Mackay, who works for the Snohomish County sheriff's office. “We want to keep supporting Oso and the recovery effort. … It was great to come out and show our support for the community and the responders.”
Davis, who spent 12 years as a search and rescue volunteer, said it was a welcome distraction.
“I think it's still at the forefront of peoples' thoughts and activities,” he said.
Said Fay: “There's a lot of folks still really engaged. These kind of interruptions are good.”
And while all agree there is still a lot to do, everybody agrees a day at the ballpark is a great way to help.
“It's absolutely incredible. There aren't enough words to describe it,” Haldeman said of the Mariners' support. “It just kind of helps with the healing and let's everyone know there is a lot of support for us and we appreciate it. There's still a lot of work to be done.”
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