SEATTLE — For one night, the Edmonds-Woodway High School baseball team got a taste of the big leagues.
The perfectly trimmed grass and meticulously raked dirt. The larger-than-life backdrop of a 47,000-seat stadium. And the opportunity to play under the lights on the same field as the stars they’ve grown up watching.
Surely, the Warriors will long treasure their memories of playing at T-Mobile Park on Friday night.
“They just had smiles on their face the whole time,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Somoza said after his team’s 6-3 non-league loss to Kentwood in the Seattle Mariners’ ballpark.
“You grow up watching the Mariners play baseball,” he added. “And to come out here and get the same chance they did, it’s an incredible experience.”
The fact the Warriors lost did nothing to dampen the night.
This was a game where the primary goals were to have fun and create lifelong memories. Both teams substituted early and often, giving as many players as possible a chance to partake in the rare experience.
“It was surreal,” Edmonds-Woodway junior Jens Simonsen said. “It was unbelievable. … I mean, words can barely describe it. It was insane.”
The game was part of the annual High School Baseball Classic, which provides a select number of prep baseball teams the chance to play at T-Mobile Park during the spring. The Warriors are one of 16 teams participating in this year’s event, which features eight games spread across two weekends.
As part of the agreement, each high school team must sell 1,000 tickets to a certain Mariners game. The Mariners provide those tickets at a discount, which allows the high school teams to use their sales as a fundraiser for their programs.
“You sell Mariners tickets, and then you get to play on (this) field,” Somoza said. “And we’re like, ‘What better fundraiser is there than that?’ It beats selling oranges.”
It was the second High School Baseball Classic appearance for Edmonds-Woodway, which played in the 2019 event after spending years on the waiting list. But it was a brand-new experience for nearly everyone on this year’s Warriors team, with only one player remaining who played in that 2019 game.
As Simonsen walked onto the field for the first time, he said its immaculate condition was what struck him most.
“Just the grass and the infield, it was perfect,” he said.
For Edmonds-Woodway senior Jacob Gabler, it was the sheer size of the stadium.
“It’s a lot bigger when you’re down on the field,” he said. “Like the stands everywhere, it’s huge. It’s way bigger than high school fields. It just felt amazing.”
One fun perk for the players was seeing themselves on the massive center-field video board, which showed live shots of the action.
“Looking up and seeing myself on the screen, that was cool to see,” said Gabler, who pitched two scoreless innings and fanned four of the seven batters he faced.
The Warriors (6-5) struck first in the bottom of the second, when Simonsen lined a run-scoring double down the left-field line to give them a 1-0 lead.
“It was surreal just seeing that ball land in fair play, going around the base and getting on second, and (seeing) everybody in the stands and (me) up on the big screen,” Simonsen said. “It was amazing.”
Kentwood (9-2) responded by scoring all six of its runs in the top of the third. Senior slugger Tobie Maurer broke open the game by hammering a bases-clearing two-out double into the right-center-field gap, stretching the Conquerors’ lead to 6-1.
Edmonds-Woodway trimmed the deficit with one run apiece in the fourth and sixth innings, but couldn’t pull any closer.
Perhaps the Warriors’ biggest highlight came in the top of the seventh, when sophomore right-handed pitcher Thomas Schults picked off two runners at first base in one inning.
One pickoff is rare enough. But two in the same inning?
“I’ve never seen two in one inning,” Somoza said. “That was pretty crazy. That was pretty special.”
Players and fans also got to experience some of the between-inning ballpark staples of Mariners’ games — such as the hat trick, the virtual hydroplane race and the “Louie Louie” song.
And both before and after the game, players posed with each other for on-field photos to document the once-in-a-lifetime type of experience.
“It was amazing,” Gabler said. “It was a great experience. … Everything about it was super fun.”