Sometime soon, the Mariners will clinch the AL West title, but the celebration likely won’t feature champagne splashes and a dog pile.
By Kirby Arnold
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners have thrown the question at themselves for a couple of days without any clear resolution:
How do you observe an achievement that’s one of the high moments of your career, yet do it in a way that’s sensitive to a grieving nation that may measure the way you react?
Even Monday, the Mariners weren’t sure.
They can clinch the American League West Division championship tonight if they beat the Anaheim Angels and the second-place Oakland A’s lose to the Texas Rangers.
Such moments usually spawn a pileup of celebrating players on the field, then the spraying of champagne in the clubhouse. That won’t happen tonight, or whenever the Mariners clinch the division, because of the somber mood caused by the East Coast terrorist attacks.
So how should they observe the moment without seeming insensitive to a much greater issue? That dilemma loomed as big to the team as the question of how to hit Ramon Ortiz’s fastball.
"We’re going to get it done in a respectful manner," center fielder Mike Cameron said. "We’ll do it in a way that leaves a smile on your face. We’ll go out and thank the fans for the support they’ve shown us and show everyone in America that we’re still together."
Mariners catcher Dan Wilson believes the team will behave in a way that recognizes the mood of the country.
"I think you’ll see something that’s respectful to what has happened," Wilson said. "At the same time, we have accomplished something here, something noteworthy, and I don’t think any of us are ashamed of that. But we all realize that what we’ve done has been put in perspective."
While some may worry that any way they observe the clinching may be construed poorly by someone, pitcher Paul Abbott has a different outlook.
"I think anything is the right way," he said. "Look, what we’re doing is a game but all of our thoughts are on this crisis."
Spectators will feel the impact of the crisis beginning tonight.
Major League Baseball has instituted additional security measures at all stadiums and the Mariners will comply with one exception. Backpacks and large bags will be allowed, although hard-sided coolers will not.
"But if you do bring in one of those, it’ll take a long time to get into the ballpark," said Rebecca Hale, the team’s director of public information. "All of those will have to be visually inspected or hand inspected. We’re discouraging fans from (bringing backpacks and large bags), but we’re not telling them they can’t."
Security was extremely tight Monday, even though the public was not allowed to view the workout. Reporters’ bags were searched carefully, sometimes more than once.
When the Mariners practiced Monday for the fourth straight day, their mood wasn’t nearly as somber as it was Friday. Still, they continued to operate with a sense of perspective about the importance of their work.
They’re eager for the games to resume tonight but realize that any joy they experience may seem hollow.
"That’s kind of a general feeling among people right now," Wilson said. "Baseball is no different than a company trying to get back and make money, trying to profit. You feel like that’s not the way you should be feeling right now, and that’s what makes it hard going back."
Wilson believes the conflicting feelings could be part of a mourning process that no baseball player has ever felt.
"It’s hard. We don’t have experience to draw from," he said. "Pearl Harbor didn’t happen during the baseball season. We don’t have any experience, any history to draw from. We haven’t talked to people who’ve been through something like this before. We can’t rely on any experience that any of us has had."
Cameron did his best after practice Monday to ease his own mind. On a shelf in his locker was a small candle that brought a soothing light.
"It’s peaceful," he said.