By Kirby Arnold
SEATTLE – Imagine 45,000 fans waving American flags, two teams wearing the Stars and Stripes on their uniforms and everyone singing “God Bless America.”
That scene will unfold Tuesday night, when Safeco Field becomes a house of patriotism as the Seattle Mariners get back to the business of baseball.
The team flew back to Seattle on Thursday night and returned to its holding pattern after major league commissioner Bud Selig decided the season won’t resume until Monday. The Mariners are off Monday, but begin a three-game series at home against the Anaheim Angels on Tuesday.
When the games to resume, Safeco Field will be swimming in added security measures.
“Suffice it to say that people will notice that it takes them longer to get into ballpark,” said Rebecca Hale, the Mariners’ director of public information.
Team officials would not discuss specifics of the security plan, but everyone entering the ballpark will be subject to close scrutiny.
“We want folks to know that yes, it may take you longer to get through the gate,” Hale said. “And we don’t make any apologies for that.”
The stadium will open at the usual times, three hours before the first pitch at the center field gate and two hours before the game at all other gates.
All spectators at Tuesday’s game will receive an American flag and players will wear a small patch depicting the flag on the back of their uniforms for the rest of the season.
There will be a moment of silence before Tuesday’s game to honor victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, and everyone will sing “God Bless America” either before the game or during the seventh-inning stretch.
Like all other teams, the Mariners will make a contribution to families and victims of the attacks. Hale was not aware of the amount the Mariners will contribute.
The club also will ask fans to donate blood and money to the American Red Cross to assist with relief efforts.
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong supported the decision by Selig to wait until Monday to resume the season.
“It’s right and proper to take some time,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong also applauded Selig’s decision to extend the season so each team can complete its 162-game schedule.
“It was the best decision that could be made,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to get all the games in, so the statistics and records will be complete, and I think it’s important to do that.”
The Mariners, who have a magic number of 2, can clinch the American League West Division championship on Tuesday with a victory over the Angels and a Texas victory over visiting Oakland.
By playing a full schedule, the Mariners can continue their quest for the best won-loss record in baseball history. They are 104-40 with 18 games remaining, and must go 11-7 to beat the 1998 New York Yankees’ American League-best of 114 victories and 13-5 to top the 1906 Chicago Cubs’ major league mark of 116.
The games that were postponed, two in Anaheim this week and four at home against Texas, will be made up from Oct. 2-7. The Mariners will play Oct. 2 and 3 at Anaheim, then finish at home Oct. 4, 5, 6 and 7 against the Rangers.
Tickets to Thursday’s M’s-Rangers game will be honored on Oct. 4; Friday’s game on Oct. 5, Saturday’s on Oct. 6 and Sunday’s on Oct. 7. Game times have not been determined, Hale said.
The postseason playoffs, scheduled to begin Oct. 2, probably will start a full week later, although the commissioner’s office has not made an official announcement.
The team arrived at Safeco Field about 7 p.m. Thursday after having spent the week at their hotel in Anaheim. They had hoped to return on their charter jet, but charters had a low priority among the flights that were allowed to leave the Los Angeles area.
“This morning they were looking into a 26-hour bus ride from Anaheim,” Armstrong said. “We contacted Alaska airlines and they scheduled a special flight just for everybody in the Mariner party.”
Armstrong and two other Mariners executives had their own cross-country adventure to return from Milwaukee, where baseball’s quarterly meetings were scheduled. The meetings were called off and Armstrong, chairman emeritus John Ellis and vice president of finance Kevin Mather sought a rental car to drive back to Seattle.
“There was nothing available to rent,” Armstrong said.
A Seattle car dealer that has provided vehicles for the Mariners arranged to purchase a car from a dealership in Milwaukee, and Armstrong, Ellis and Mather drove it 2,000 miles back home.