Rick Lukens has spent the past few months on social media trying to convince naysayers that this year’s Seattle Mariners squad has a shot at greatness.
“One of the best things of my year was watching the bashers – they showed up on my Facebook post – watching them one-by-one disappear, from the middle of June on,” said Lukens, a longtime radio and TV broadcaster.
On Saturday, he found himself in a room with his brother-in-law. The Mariners were down 8-2 against the Toronto Blue Jays , and slugger Carlos Santana stepped up to the plate.
“He said, ‘I don’t like Santana. He hasn’t done that much for us,’ ” Lukens said. “And I said, ‘This guy can change the course of a game.’ The words were no sooner out of my mouth when he hit it out.”
That 395-foot shot over the left field wall in Toronto sparked an improbable comeback that propelled Seattle into the next round of the playoffs, and ensured the city on Saturday will host its first playoff baseball game in more than two decades.
At that game will be Jeremy Davis, a Spokane native and former Mariners batboy who catered to the opposing teams in the early 2010s.
Davis grew up taking day trips with his dad to the Kingdome before joining the team as a “navigator” while in college at Seattle Pacific University, helping with promotions and assisting visitors. In 2013, he was the batboy for visiting teams, earning some extra cash while chatting it up with players from around the league.
“You obviously wanted the Mariners to win,” Davis said. “But if the Mariners didn’t win, they’d tip you better.”
The Mariners went 71-91 that season, finishing fourth in the American League West. The tips were good.
Davis was helping his wife pack on Saturday, taking a break after the first pitch.
For the past few years, Davis has lived in Southern California but is in the process of moving back to Spokane. When the Mariners fell down 8-1, his guilt had him back helping pack the family for a move, though he kept an eye on the score.
“When it got to 8-5, I went back downstairs,” he said. “It’s a new game. I can’t move. I’ve got to stick with this.”
He and his buddies picked up $60 tickets for the divisional series, which at the time seemed a far-off possibility. Tickets for Saturday’s game against the Astros were starting at around $300 on secondary sites Sunday.
Davis said he’s just happy the park will host a playoff game, after the Mariners locked up their first playoff appearance since 2001 in dramatic, walk-off fashion at T-Mobile Park last month.
“My biggest thing is Seattle needs a home playoff game,” he said. “I was watching the game when we clinched, just seeing the energy of the ballpark. I was imagining us being there.”
Also present Saturday will be Bob Dunn and his wife, Mary. Dunn, a local attorney, bought what’s known as a “strip” of 20 tickets for this season and next year as a way to ensure seats to the 2023 MLB All-Star Game, which will be played in Seattle on July 11.
The Dunns were “glued to the TV” on Saturday as the Mariners mounted their seven-run comeback, Bob Dunn said. They were thrilled to watch a group of young men they’d seen up close throughout the year, from four rows back, coming together to advance in the postseason.
“We’re going to the World Series,” Bob Dunn said. “The chemistry for this team is so incredible. These guys can do it.”
Neither Davis nor Lukens were ready to make a prediction against the Astros, who got the better of Seattle in the season series, winning 12 of the 19 contests this year. But that was before the addition of pitcher Luis Castillo, who shined in Game 1 of the wild-card series, blanking the Blue Jays in seven-plus innings.
“They’ve been snake-bit against Houston,” Lukens said. “Not only do you have to go up against Justin Verlander – that guy is so good. But guys check out against Houston, for some reason.”
Davis said he’s going to enjoy the ride.
“I was telling my wife, for two-thirds of my life, my baseball team wasn’t in the playoffs,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s such a big deal to me.
“I just want to go to Seattle. I want to be there.”