By Jim • 

Sports Fan: Are the Seattle Mariners Oregon's MLB team?

Portland, Oregon, is considered to be a “small-market” city, one not quite large enough to support a Major League Baseball or National Football League team even though it has the Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers and the Portland Thorns.

So Oregonians are forced to pick their favorite NFL and MLB teams from outside the state, and many MLB fans have selected the Seattle Mariners, fewer than two hundred miles up the road from Portland. That’s by car, and the drive – with no real traffic to battle at the congestion points – is only two hours and 45 minutes.

When I lived on the southern Oregon coast, however, I heard no one talk about Seattle. Many leaned toward the San Francisco Giants since the drive was “only” seven hours from Gold Beach – still the closest major sports’ team. On the other hand, Seattle could be reached only by driving up Highway 101, then taking one of the connecting east-west roads to I-5.
The journey from Gold Beach to Seattle? About nine hours.

However, although I attended several Giants’ series over the years, I was loyal to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who I’ve stuck with for decades, even when they were struggling to make the post-season, let alone win another World Series. Yet, I see more fans on the street wearing Mariners gear than Giants or Dodgers gear, or other MLB clubs’ attire in northern Oregon.

For some reason, whether it’s proximity or exposure in the press, Seattle has lured a large number of Oregonians into its fold, especially from the Portland Metro area and the Willamette Valley. The Oregonian writes about the Mariners, as well as the Statesman-Journal in Salem, on a regular basis, often giving the club front-of-the-sports-page status, almost like Seattle was a “home” team.

Even the Register-Guard in Eugene covers the Mariners when the Ducks’ flocks of successful athletic teams aren’t commanding the headlines during football, basketball, baseball and track seasons. And, recently, the Mariners have been on a hot streak, which doesn’t hurt: fans love to support winning teams, right?

The good news is that if Mariners fans from the Portland Metro area or Willamette Valley don’t want to fight traffic for three or four hours, they can ride Amtrak to Seattle, watch a game, stay the night and return home again the next day by the same means of transportation.

Both SAFECO Field, where the Mariners play, and Century Link Field, where the Seahawks play, are within a short distance of the King Street train station, where passengers can opt to take a cab or walk to the stadiums. My wife and I rode Amtrak to Seattle from Salem recently and enjoyed the trip, with the train passing by scenic vistas, especially the portion of the journey that took us through the countryside and along Puget Sound.

Plus, there’s food aboard, and we discovered a nice IPA to enhance the enjoyment of the trip, which does take longer than a car ride since the train stops at several stations along the way.

But overall, if you’re one of those Oregonians who has chosen to become a Mariner fan, wear your gear proudly and head to Seattle on the train. You may have a few Giants fans question why you picked Seattle, though, especially in Salem, where the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (a short-season Class A club) play. The Volcanoes are an affiliate of the Giants’ organization, and you’ll see plenty of SF caps and jerseys not only at Volcanoes’ Stadium but also worn by fans on the downtown sidewalks.

As for me, I like the Mariners and Giants, but you won’t see me wearing their gear any time soon, and it’s not because of their colors. Yes, Seattle’s combinations of Northwest green, navy blue and silver are attractive and I like San Francisco’s black and orange (a little Oregon State touch?), gold and cream, but deep down, I prefer the colors worn by my favorite MLB team of all time.

Maybe, like former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, I bleed Dodger blue.

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