Everett’s Garrett Westberg (right) and Eugene’s Chris Allen continue their national-anthem standoff an hour after Sunday’s game at Funko Field in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett’s Garrett Westberg (right) and Eugene’s Chris Allen continue their national-anthem standoff an hour after Sunday’s game at Funko Field in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A game within a game: Ump ends epic AquaSox-Emeralds standoff

National anthem “standoffs” are a thing in baseball, but this was one for the ages.

EVERETT — Let’s face it, baseball games can be long. Especially for pitchers in the bullpen who are waiting for their turn to summit the mound.

Some pass the time by stretching their arms. Others blow bubblegum or twiddle their fingers.

And some, well, some just stand there.

During Friday’s Northwest League game between the Eugene Emeralds and the Everett AquaSox at Funko Field — with a potential no-hitter unfolding on the field — Everett pitcher Travis Kuhn participated in a national-anthem standoff with Emeralds pitcher Ryan Jensen.

The anthem standoff is a reoccurring gag in baseball, but rarely does it last past the opening pitch, especially in the big leagues, where the anthems traditionally take place on the field.

On Friday, the two continued to hold their hats over their hearts well after the pregame anthem had been completed. For seven-plus innings they persevered — Kuhn in the AquaSox’s bullpen down the left-field line and Jensen in the Emeralds’ pen in right field. A winner would be declared if one of the players removed his hat from his heart.

The standoff eventually ended when Kuhn was informed by Everett pitching coach Ari Ronick that he needed to start warming up.

“We were pretty deep,” Kuhn said of the competition. “I was starting to stretch a little bit in case I needed to come into that game. Ari came down and let me know I probably need to tip the cap and move on with the day.”

The standoff is something Kuhn said he attempts almost every game after the completion of the national anthem, but Friday marked the first time this season an opponent has followed suit for any length of time.

“It’s a pretty rare bite,” Kuhn said. “We had Spokane pick it up in the last game of the series last time. It lasted until about the first pitch was thrown, and then they quit. This one was a bit longer.”

Endurance is required to thrive in such shenanigans.

Kuhn, who leads the AquaSox with four saves, was at a disadvantage solely because of his role. A reliever, he could have been called upon to pitch at any moment. Jensen, the Chicago Cubs’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, is strictly a starting pitcher who wasn’t scheduled to throw Friday.

Kuhn didn’t make any excuses. “Fair and square, he took the win tonight,” Kuhn said.

The fact the AquaSox won the game 4-3 in dramatic fashion — on a walk-off single by Cesar Izturis Jr. in the bottom of the ninth — helped ease the pain of the loss outside the lines.

The competition resumed Sunday night with two new participants: pitchers Garrett Westberg of Everett and Chris Allen of Eugene. The two held their anthem standoff until 8:24 p.m., approximately four hours and 24 minutes after the anthem was performed for the 4:05 p.m. first pitch.

They passed the time learning facts about each other: Allen learned Westberg is from just south of Everett (Federal Way) and drives a Ford Ranger (he thinks). Westberg learned Allen was a junior college draft pick (Marin Community College in California) and he’d been shut down from throwing because of an injury.

They even followed each other on Instagram afterward.

After Everett won the game 6-3, the two hurlers were carried like statues into center field by their teammates and placed just feet apart. Teammates encircled them for about 30 minutes, with each side trying to break the opponent’s concentration, including putting ice cubes down the competitors’ backs. For the last 30-plus minutes of Sunday’s standoff, the two were completely alone in the outfield.

Eventually a truce was called and the two agreed to resume their competition during Monday’s game at Funko Field.

But the umpires put the kibosh on the mischief in the second inning, informing both teams there would be ejections or fines handed out if the standoff continued. There is a league rule that prohibits anthem standoffs to prevent delays in the game.

There’s been instances of anthem standoffs in the recent past, prompting the implementation and enforcement of the rule, the most famous perhaps being Scott Van Slyke and Joe Kelly squaring off before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2013.

All good things have to come to an end at some point. Unfortunately, this one was anticlimactic.

Josh Horton covers the AquaSox for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH

Talk to us

More in Sports

Stay or go? Local senior college athletes face tough decision

Whether to accept the NCAA’s offer of an extra year due to the missed spring season isn’t black and white.

Seahawks agree to deal with veteran running back

Carlos Hyde, who began his career in San Francisco, rushed for 1,070 yards for the Texans last season.

Kamiak names new boys basketball coach

Former Bishop Blanchet head coach and Edmonds-Woodway alum Joe DeGrazia replaces Brandon Corsi.

Seahawks’ Wilson has a little ‘Air’ Jordan in him

Like the NBA great, the Seattle QB has shown he can use perceived slights to fuel his competitive fire.

Everett’s pickleball and tennis courts are open again

Social distancing is still required, so you can shoot hoops, but it’ll be HORSE and not five-on-five.

Readers believe Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm will be WNBA championship favorites when and if the 2020 season begins. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
POLL RESULTS: Storm expected to be WNBA title favorites

Nearly half the voters predicted Seattle to win the 2020 WNBA championship.

Silvertips’ Wolf wins WHL Goaltender of the Year award

The 18-year-old finished first in the league in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

MG’s Knight named Gatorade state baseball player of year

Despite not having a season, the star junior was recognized as the top overall player in Washington.

Hydroplane races at Seafair canceled because of pandemic

This will be the first year the races will not be held since they first came to Seattle in 1951.

Irvin relishes chance for another run with Seahawks

The linebacker is back with the team that drafted him after stints with Oakland, Atlanta and Carolina.

The Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd leans out for a shot against the Minnesota Lynx last June at the Angel of the Winds Arena. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
POLL: How good should the Seattle Storm be this season?

Everett’s adopted WNBA team was supposed to open its season last Friday.

Snell’s comments overshadow legitimate gripes

By Matt Calkins / The Seattle Times The great asset a writer… Continue reading