Mariners Grounds Crew Working To Make Safeco Football-Ready

Dec. 7, 2001

By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE — The pitcher’s mound is gone from Safeco Field and the grass will have stripes by the weekend.

Soon the goal posts will be set as the Seattle Mariners’ ballpark gets a facelift for football. The inaugural Seattle Bowl on Dec. 27 will be the first major non-baseball event in the 2-year-old stadium.

“We’re going to turn it into a football field,” said Bob Christofferson, head groundskeeper for the Mariners. “It’s a little weird.”

Organizers hope the place that was packed all spring, summer and fall will fill up again when Stanford plays Georgia Tech.

There will still be a baseball feel to Safeco, the basepaths are staying put. The 50-yard-line will go just beyond the cutout between third base and second.

Christofferson is protective of the grass and knows the field is going to take a beating.

“It’s going to get a little chewed up,” he said. “I am worried, don’t get me wrong. So many people are worried the grass will not be ready for baseball season, but that’s not the case. Even if it’s destroyed it can be replaced.”

Grass for the field is grown in Olympia, and 2{ fields worth is constantly growing.

“Some people are saying, ‘What are you doing to a baseball field like this?”‘ Seattle Bowl spokesman Rob Sullivan said. “But they used to do this all the time, at Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Wrigley Field. It’s unique for Safeco, but they did it in the olden days.”

One goal post will stand in front of the visitors’ bullpen, the other just in front of the home dugout. The teams will share a sideline, in right field and center field. Christofferson has received some setup tips from the Seattle Seahawks, and a professor of crop science from Penn State who was in town for a conference has assured him the field will be fine.

Ideally, the roof will be open for the game, Christofferson said.

It will be an adventure to play on a baseball field, Georgia Tech quarterback George Godsey said. Godsey hasn’t shared a sideline with an opponent since he was playing youth football.

“It’s a little added variable,” he said of the infield dirt. “But it’s nothing that will change the game plan. It’ll remind us a little bit of high school because high school practice fields went right over the infield.”

Godsey went to high school with the son of Mariners manager Lou Piniella. Godsey and Derek Piniella played football together at Tampa Jesuit in Florida, where Lou Piniella also went to school. Godsey followed the Mariners’ amazing season this year and even watched them play the White Sox in Chicago in the spring.

He kept up with the team through the playoffs. Seattle lost in the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees.

“I was disappointed the fans were drinking coffee,” he said. “It’s a time to be wild.”

Godsey was impressed by the support of Seattle fans and said he could tell there was a good atmosphere at Safeco.

“With a team from the East Coast, maybe it will provide another means for getting excited for football,” he said.

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