In addition to having the friendliest, most helpful game staff in all of Major League Baseball, Safeco Field is home to one of the most heart-warming Opening Day traditions in sports. It’s a tradition that dates back to the very first Opening Day at Safeco Field on July 15, 1999. Every year, a child is chosen to be the first person to “touch them all” by christening the field with a ceremonial first run around the bases. In 1999, the honor fell to 5-year old Joey Hutchinson, the grandson of Seattle baseball legend Fred Hutchinson, who was a successful pitcher and manager in Major League Baseball in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Starting in 2000, tapping our long relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Seattle Mariners invited a Make-A-Wish recipient to do the ceremonial first run around the bases. It is always the highlight of our pregame ceremony as the child makes his or her way around the bases, waving to the sold-out crowd. And by the time the child approaches home plate, they are greeted by Seattle Mariners players. Everyone in the ballpark is on their feet cheering and shedding a few tears at what is always a touching and joyful moment.
The 2017 Opening Day Make-A-Wish child’s story had a special resonance for the Seattle Mariners family. Sophia Robinson of Anchorage, AK had come to Safeco Field in 2013 to meet her hero Felix Hernandez, the Mariners ace pitcher. She was only four-years-old, but she had already undergone several open heart surgeries to treat two life-threatening heart conditions: ventricular septal defect (a congenital hole in the heart) and coarctation of the aortic arch (a narrowing of the aorta, which carries blood from the left ventricle to the organs). Sophia’s family are Mariners fans and during many treatments at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the TV in her room would be tuned to Mariners games. She fell in love with Felix.
On June 10, 2013, the Robinsons flew to Seattle and Sophia spent the afternoon with Felix at Safeco Field. He took her inside the Clubhouse for a private tour and they ate corndogs in the players’ dining room. They formed a special bond during the visit and Felix and Sophia have remained in contact through text messages. Felix has even brought the family to Seattle on several occasions to attend Mariners games.
On April 10, 2017, the Mariners Opening Day, Sophia became the first person to touch them all at Safeco Field, and waiting for her at home plate was her hero Felix Hernandez, along with teammates Nelson Cruz, Robinson Canó, and Kyle Seager.
Sophia Rounds the Bases