By JANICE PODSADA
SEATTLE — Fans from Snohomish and Island counties naturally yell louder, jump higher and dance prettier in their seats.
Fans from up north have missed ferries and endured traffic, flooding and some bad years of baseball to root for the Mariners.
What makes them such a hardy bunch?
It begins with the long trip down I-5, said Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Nicholas from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
"We have a long way to go," said Nicholas, who clocks two hours of on-the-road time driving from Oak Harbor to Safeco Field. Given that he attends about 15 games a year, that translates into more than 60 hours strapped into his seat belt.
But the stint behind the wheel only allows Nicholas to store up energy for the real work, which is "cheering on the M’s," he said at Friday’s game.
How do you get to be such a great Snohomish County M’s fan?
It’s sink-or-swim dedication, said Pat Killien, born and raised in Snohomish County.
"It flooded every year I was growing up in Sultan," Killien, 59, said. "But I survived them, I’m here today."
And Snohomish County fans, they’ve got the knowledge, said Everett steelworker Art Kelly. They know how a team, how a ballpark gets built.
Kelly, a member of the ballpark construction crew, helped raise the roof.
"I built these girders," he said pointing toward the beams.
Kelly has tickets to today’s game, but not Sunday’s. Doesn’t matter. Like many local fans he’s got the inside scoop.
"I know where there’s a secret girder in right field where I can stow away overnight."
How do you grow a Snohomish County fan?
Take them to the ballpark young, said Greg Della of Bothell. Della first brought his son Alex to the Dome when Alex turned 2.
In those days, Alex sat out the game clutching a picture book.
"I read during the whole game," said Alex, now 11.
By 1995, however, 6-year-old Alex had abandoned his coloring book. In its place he clutched a baseball mitt.
"I knew the stats on everyone on the team," he said.
Just a few rows away from the Dellas, Ted Johnson of Marysville scanned the field.
It didn’t matter to Johnson that the M’s lost 8-2 Friday night.
"We’ll be back," Johnson said.
Yup, those in-the-pinch, at-the-plate Snohomish and Island county fans will be gunning back down I-5 today for Game 4.
"We’ve supported the Mariners in the bad times," Johnson said. "We’re definitely going to support them in the good times. We’ve sat through some pretty bad baseball to be able to enjoy this."
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