King’s Court, a Royal Success

King's Court
Fans in the King's Court cheer on Felix Hernandez during his first ever Safeco Field at-bat.

Besides a renaissance fair, the only other place today where you might find grown men and women dressed up as court jesters and passing around a turkey leg is the “King’s Court.”

This new seating arrangement is being touted as the latest and greatest innovation by a Mariners marketing team that certainly knows how to get butts in the seats, despite the team’s lackluster performance the last several years.

The King’s Court is a special section at Safeco Field for the 2011 season in which fans cheer loud and proud, not only for 2010 A.L. Cy Young award recipient “King” Felix Hernandez during each of his home starts, but for the rest of his teammates as well.

Fans dressing up as royalty or as Felix’s commercialized alter-ego “Larry Bernandez,” and creating signs such as “King Felix will kick your royal highness,” have been the most redeeming features of the King’s Court thus far.

Even better is the prize for best costume: a turkey shank delivered on a silver platter. It is beyond hilarious to see the winner take a big, juicy bite and pass it down the aisles to share the trophy. This has got to be the most unique and ingenious stadium promotions I’ve ever seen.

The King’s Court is the brainchild of Gregg Greene, the team’s marketing director. “We have one of the best pitchers in the game in Felix,” Greene told Mariners’ beat reporter, Geoff Baker. “Every time he pitches, it’s an event. And we wanted to create an event around Safeco Field and each of his starts.”

Safeco Field has typically been known as a docile, almost sterile atmosphere for fans. Gestapo-like ushers have been known to roam the stands and scold people for cheering too loudly or showing even remote signs of inebriation. Some fans just seem uninterested in cheering.

Since its inaugural homestand in 1999, Safeco has been known more for its family friendly confines and notorious reputation as a pitcher’s park than its status as a place for hardcore fans to have fun rooting loudly for their team.

With the King’s Court, one feels that the Mariners marketing team has finally taken a page out of the Sounders’ and Seahawks’ book by allowing rambunctious fans to participate in organized cheering sections.

Baseball fans shouldn’t be forced to be the “sit on your hands” type. Just look at what the crowds of the Nippon Baseball League in Japan do during games.

On June 24, Hernandez would become the first Mariners pitcher to hit at Safeco Field in a real live game, thanks to a scheduling conflict that forced the Marlins to play a home series on the road.

Hernandez singled into right field in his first at-bat and caused the King’s Court to erupt in cheers. His 10 strikeout performance in a 5-1 Mariners victory wasn’t too shabby either. King’s Court fans raised their “K” signs and chanted in unison during every two-strike count on Marlins hitters.

During the ninth inning of the same game, King’s Court faithful began an “Olivooo…Oh Oh!” chant for Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo. Olivo rewarded their vocalized efforts with a two-run blast into the left field bleachers just mere feet from where the King’s Court was stationed. Needless to say, this only riled them up even further.

After the game, Mariners players signed the praise of the newly developed King’s Court to the media. Olivo was thrilled with the chants from left field and didn’t want to disappoint his biggest fans. “They got me going,” said the veteran backstop. “I heard that and when I missed the first fastball I said, ‘Man, I cannot strike out right here.’ They were excited for me. I’m glad when I hit that ball, they cheered even more. That meant a lot to me,” Olivo added. “That’s the first time people did that to me in my career. I’m very happy and thankful for it.”

Hernandez gave his own personal cheering section a shout out saying, “It was unbelievable today. That was loud. They were pretty good. The King’s Court is awesome right now.”

Tickets for seats in the King’s Court are surprisingly cheaper than they would be for a start by any other Mariners’ pitcher. They are typically $40 but the team has decided to drop the price by $10 for the promotion. If that weren’t enough incentive, fans also receive a collectible yellow t-shirt with “King Felix” printed on it in blue, and a yellow and blue “K” sign.

Greene said fan enthusiasm has more than exceeded expectations. Ticket demand for the King’s Court has caused the team to expand the seating arrangements from two sections to three (Sections 150-152). “They’re becoming part of Safeco Field lore with all the things they’ve done,” he said of the fans.

Mr. Greene should stand up and take a bow (and request a raise), for his idea has, without a doubt, struck gold at Safeco Field and perhaps single-handedly changed the reputation of baseball fans in the Emerald City.