I knew that sooner than later this day was probably coming. I’ve thought about it at times but for the most part, took it for granted.
I’ve talked about with friends how much I love Dave Niehaus and that I wished he could do it forever. I never wanted him to retire. I wanted him to call Mariner games until he couldn’t do it anymore.
I guess you could say I got my wish. Now my wish hurts more than anything.
It’s hard to just sit here and nonchalantly write about what Niehaus meant to the Mariners, and to us as fans. It’s not simple at all. It transcends just baseball. It transcends just sports media. He was more than an announcer. He was more than just a member of the media. He was more than just the guy on TV who told us about how the game was going.
That’s why I had to spend some time in Seattle tonight. I stood outside of the left field gate of Safeco Field. It was cold, dark, peaceful. Inside I could see the field and the grass. That’s what Dave saw every day for 81 days out of the year for the 11 years he called Safeco Field home. I could see the press box where Dave was able to take in the game he loved, and from where he transplanted that love onto me.
I proceeded to make a lap around the stadium sorting through my memories. There were pictures of moments of Mariner past, Griffey crossing the plate in the 1995 ALDS only to be piled on by all of his team mates and coaches. Ichiro holding his helmet in the air after breaking the single season hits record. Edgar Martinez taking a lap around the stadium following his final game of his career.
Dave Niehaus was there for all of them. He was the one who would reach through your speakers and make you feel as if you were there.
All throughout I couldn’t help but break down in tears. Because I couldn’t help but think of the memories that he helped me create as a child.
I grew up with Dave Niehaus. He was all that I knew. People that know me best these days know that my life tends to revolve around sports probably a little more than it should. Baseball, more specifically Mariners baseball, was my first love, and was my love for as long as I can remember.
He gave me my earliest memories of baseball, and sports. He fed my emotions for the game when I was a kid and taught me almost everything I know about the game today. I envied him. He made me love the Seattle Mariners, he made me become a die hard fan. He made me want his job, he made me want to be him.
His emotions were infectious. He would always make you feel as if you were at the ballpark with him. You never heard him through your radio speakers, you heard him in your heart. He made you feel the essence of baseball. It wasn’t just a ball with some seams and a bat made of maple. To Dave the game of baseball was just another avenue in which you could see the true measure of people and see the joy in life. Dave enjoyed the ballpark experience and what the fans brought to the action at Safeco Field just as much as what the players were doing on the field.
I remember blatantly breaking my 9 o’clock bedtime rule to stay up and listen to the rest of the games I started watching, pacing around my bedroom in the dark, because the way that Dave told the story going on in the field I could easily feel the emotions in my heart. I could easily feel like I was with the team. I couldn’t just sit on my bed. I was too anxious. Dave made every pitch seem like it was every bit as important as the last one.
To me he was my idol. He was my hero. Dave Niehaus was Seattle Mariners baseball. Him and the Mariners were synonymous. You could not have one without the other. He was one of the biggest reasons that as early as seven years old that I fell madly and deeply in love with the game of baseball, and my Seattle Mariners.
You see, when most other kids would watch baseball games they would try to go out and emulate their heroes on the diamond.
I was the kid who sat in front of the television, put it on mute, and started to describe what was going on in the game myself as if I were the announcer. I tried my best to be as creative as he was, but in the end, I just tried to say exactly what he would have. My personal favorite was win a Mariner slugger would knock one out of the park. It was a win win for me, since obviously I was a Mariner fan as well as giving me the opportunity to shout “SWUNG ON AND BELTED…DEEP TO LEFT CENTER FIELD AND THAT BABY WILL FLY, FLY AWAY” since obviously, Dave would always make ramp up the emotion, so naturally so would I.
I’d sit down and watch games with my dad and ask him question after question. Eventually, he’d just say ‘Just watch the game son, figure it out yourself.’ He wasn’t trying to be rude, he was trying to get me to discover for myself.
So, I did. Niehaus taught me.
The things that Niehaus would notice about the game of baseball was astonishing to me. At such a young age it was complex to me. I hardly knew the difference between a fastball and a slider. Yet here was Niehaus, noticing even the small ticks about players. He never had anything bad to say about a player. He would always see the best in you. Instead of criticism it would be suggestions. Instead of lamenting defeat and being hard on the Mariners, he’d always be able to tip his hat to the accomplishments of the other guys. He was the consummate professional.
Today, Dave is why I’m doing what I’m doing. He truly loved the game that he covered every day, he loved the team that he covered and he loved what he did. The game made him see the best in people, and a real meaning to life. He saw beyond the game. He is why my ultimate goal is to do something that I love to do, and why I want to be in the sports media. It’s the way that he approached things, his knowledge of the history of the game that he loved, and the things he was able to notice that makes me want to think outside of the box when I approach my own work as a Sports Journalist or member of the media.
Eventually in life, I want to do something that makes me happy, that can make me enjoy life and see the bigger picture. When I’m in my own little world with sports I can do that. That’s what Dave experienced for over 40 years when he was broadcasting baseball games. But not only did Dave do that for himself, he did it for millions of people and made them happy. I don’t think I can ever replicate that, but the very least that I can do it try to carry on his legacy.
It’s now our job as Mariner fans and baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest to never let Dave leave us. Everytime we go to Safeco Field we need to remember what Dave did to make us love this game and how he made what we saw so special.
Mariners baseball will never be the same. It wasn’t when Griffey left. It wasn’t when Edgar left. But, we moved on, and we appreciated.
One day we will see a World Series at Safeco Field. The only thing I’d wish now is that Niehaus would be able to experience it. At the very least, I know that every time I visit Safeco Field that he will be with me in my heart.