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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

SABR36 Day 1

Well, day one at SABR36 is complete. After arriving at the hotel and meeting Maury and his buddy Tim Chamberlain (a die hard Red Sox fan with a tattoo on his arm reading 10-27-04 – the interpretation of which is left to the reader), Maury and I briefly worked on our presentation for tomorrow afternoon after which Tim and I took the less than a mile walk down to SafeCo Field and took the 2:30 tour.

We had missed the SABR-only tour that left an hour earlier but it was still interesting and starting at the team store took us through the main concourse, the upper deck to get a good look at the retractable roof, the owners luxury suite, the media press box, the field and Mariners dugout, the really expensive seats and the restaurant under the stands, the media room, and finally the visitors clubhouse and batting cage. In all the tour lasted a good hour and a half and was well done by our guide despite a few factual errors (she retold the apocryphal story of Ruth being sold to the Yankees to finance "No No Nannette", kept calling the manager the "head coach", mixed in with a few other legends).

After having now attended more than 30 games at Coors Field I was struck by the similarities of SafeCo and Coors – which of course makes sense since they were built by the same company. The views from the concourses and the upper deck looking down on the field are so similar that when cropped it's difficult to tell which field you're looking at. And like Coors, SafeCo has an underground system using heated water that allows them to keep the grass (a mixture of rye and bluegrass cut to one inch in length) growing year round. When asked how many times the roof is closed for a game our guide said 6 or 7 times last year, which seems like a lot of money ($65M for the roof out of the over $500M cost) for little benefit.

I also discovered that the press box was very large originally and because some of the space went unused a portion was converted into a luxury suite complete with all the food you can eat that seats 18 and goes for between $5,000 and $8,000 per game. The press box also contains high definition monitors within view of almost everyone, an amenity that speaking as an stringer, would be very helpful to check pitch location.

The owner's luxury suites, and in fact many of the suites and the exclusive restaurant are stocked with historical baseball photographs and displays purchased by one of the owners of the Mariners who is a Microsoft executive. Some of the images were quite interesting and included a huge photo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on the deck of a ship doing some deep sea fishing and a copy of Ruth's 1932 contract with the Yankees.

After the tour we hoofed it back to the hotel (uphill of course) and I hung out in the bar watching and talking baseball. This evening there was the SABR annual business meeting, which like most business meetings wasn't exactly riveting. I did learn that there are over 520 attendees here and over 7,100 SABR members with an average age of 54. Next year the convention will be in St. Louis and in 2008 in Cleveland. Long day but looking forward to committee meetings and research presentations tomorrow.

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