In July of 1999 my dad took me to one of the final Mariner’s games in the Kingdome, which is now replaced by CenturyLink Field on the same lot in South Downtown Seattle (shown in the picture above). That Mariner’s team in 1999 was entertaining and exciting to watch, being 8 years old I idolized Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez was my favorite player. I played shortstop and so did A.Rod, this was the humble, gritty Alex Rodriguez before the steroids and before J.Lo. That team also consisted of possibly the greatest DH of all time in Edgar Martinez, and the crafty left hander Jamie Moyer. The flame throwing 6’10 Randy Johnson had left Seattle before that season, I always say The Big Unit would be the pitcher I would least like to face if I ever had to choose.
That game in the Kingdome was not only special because I got to see some of my favorite superstars, but because I received a gift that landed next to me in odds that were so slim it had to be some Act of Providence.
The M’s were squaring off against Rafael Palmiero , Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and the Texas Rangers that day. If I remember correctly, Griffey hit a towering bomb over the right field wall, he also robbed a home run and the Mariners got the W. After the game, there were many pictures being taken, fireworks and celebrations on the field, some would go on to call it “a baseball theater”. I had been to many games at Chavez Ravine and Angel Stadium, but I still remember being awestruck walking into that Pacific Northwest indoor giant. It was nothing like an outdoor stadium, and to this day it is still the only indoor field I have ever step foot in.
We were sitting somewhere in the upper section, and I remember the wave being so well performed unlike the weak attempts I had seen tried at Dodger Stadium. After the game amidst all the flashes and roaring fans I could see that players were signing baseballs and throwing them into the field level seats. I was pretty far from those seats so I wasn’t banking on being somebody that received one of those baseballs, until one landed in the seat right next to me. I had no idea how it happened, nor did I even think about it before I instinctually snatched the ball up quicker than a heavy set man going for it next to me. It was unreal, the ball had literally landed in the seat right next to me and I hadn’t even seen which direction it came from. What happened next was even more surreal. I turned the ball over to look at it, and in fresh blue ink it read “Alex Rodriguez”, no way. I showed my Dad and he confirmed it was A-Rod’s signature even though it was kind of difficult to read, I remember we joked about it because it looked like it said “Frak” Rodriguez. I rode high off the excitement of getting that ball for the rest of the night, displaying it on our dinner table in the hotel later that night.
Over the years the blue ink signature faded to yellow, but I proudly kept the ball in a plastic case on a shelf in my room always glancing at it in passing and flashing back to that day in the Kingdome. Sadly, I don’t know what ever happened to the Frak Rodriguez ball. I must’ve left it behind with all of my other possessions when Heroin Addiction took over my life, left in a box somewhere and lost in a move. My chemical dependency took me back to Seattle in August of 2013, back to the site of the Kingdome, to the streets of downtown and south downtown Seattle.
Every time the Seahawks play at home on Sunday Night Football, NBC does their usual pans across different parts of the city when returning from a commercial break. Last night, the rising star Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes lead the Chiefs against the already proven Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Upon returning from a commercial break the camera glided across the Northwest Metropolis, from the space needle through the public market past the ferris wheel and on down to CenturyLink Field. When I saw the Ferris wheel I was quickly rocketed back into a dismal month I spent on the streets of Seattle in August 2013. From that excited young kid in the Kingdome in 99′ to a scared, hopeless junkie wandering on to that same lot 14 years later.
I had fled a small town in Alaska due to reasons I need not further discuss, and I didn’t have enough money to get to LA on a next day flight. My only option was to get as far south as possible with the money I had, which landed me at SeaTac airport on July 31st, 2013. I had about $42 dollars to my name, a backpack full of stuff, a suitcase full of clothes and no cell phone because it was taken by the Alaska State Troopers when they raided my apartment. I stepped out of the SeaTac airport with no plan, full of fear and lacking the courage to call anyone for help because that would mean I had to tell the truth. I didn’t like telling the truth back then. So what was I to do? What I always did when I felt this way, drink and get high. I had traveled around and ran the streets enough to know that drugs were always accessible in the downtown area of any major city, so I asked a nearby woman where downtown Seattle was and how to get there.
She told me to hop on the light rail and it would take me straight downtown, so I bought a ticket and was on my way. I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going or what to expect. I was riddled with stress, anxiety and fear and I needed those feelings to go away, I had to find my solution and I would. I finally arrived downtown, came up from the train station and onto the street. For about 5 minutes I smiled and looked around at the giant buildings and all the people, a new city, a new adventure and no one will find me here. I began walking toward the water and arrived at a place the locals called totem pole park, and the smell of marijuana filled the air. It was then that I remembered marijuana had just been legalized in the state of Washington, so I sat down on a grassy hill and observed my surroundings to see where I could buy some weed. I quickly noticed an older guy who was being approached by all different kinds of people and walking them out of the crowd to talk. I approached this man and easily got my hands on some potent Seattle buds, for $10. i went and bought an Arizona iced tea drank half, poured the other half out and smoked the cannabis out of the can. Away went the stress, away went the fear, away went the anxiety and on came the delusion that “everything would be okay”, even though I was probably in the most severe self-imposed crisis I had ever experienced. I thought to myself, “I’ll get high and enjoy the city and sleep at the park tonight, and then I will figure out how to get out of here tomorrow”. Tomorrow came, but I had no intentions on leaving or figuring anything out, I needed to find some Heroin.
With the shame and regret of throwing away my life in Alaska, and abandoning everyone who cared about me, I needed to be numb around the clock and the weed wasn’t enough. I had ran out of money after 2 days, but that wouldn’t stop me, it never did. I turned a gram of weed into $300 one morning and met a guy who would take me up to what they called “The Blade” between Pike and Pine on 3rd street in downtown. He said just walk down this street and ask someone who looks the part if they have any pure, or if you want black tar ask for black it’s cheaper. Soon enough I had 10 balloons of powder Heroin and a clean needle, I wanted to get away from downtown and all the commotion and explore the rest of the city and surrounding areas. I bought some more Heroin and some meth and made my way back down through Pike Place Market to totem pole park, picked up my suitcase that I had hidden and just started walking.
Heavily drowned in euphoria from shooting high doses of amphetamines and opiates into my arm, I made my way down into what the locals called “SoDo”. This was a desolate place full of abandoned warehouses , old buildings and streets with no sidewalks. I stumbled across SafeCo Field and thought it would be cool to do some Heroin outside of where the Mariners played, just to say I’d done it, so I did. It wasn’t as cool as I thought. Finally, I came across CenturyLink Field and I saw something or a view down a street that triggered my memory, i had been here before. Through the years of drug addiction and oblivion I had forgot that I ever even visited Seattle, I forgot about the Frak Rodriguez ball, I forgot about the Kingdome and now there I was. A 22 year old Heroin Addict running from every single problem and crisis I had created, lost and hating myself, wondering how I got to this point. It was too much, I kept walking.
I ended up underneath the 5 Freeway right above the Mt. Rainier Beer Factory, and that’s where I slept. I would wander into the city each morning hustle up some money and buy some dope, get high and roam around with people I met. I smoked crack for the first time on a bridge above Broad Street looking up at the Space Needle and overlooking a harbor. I made my way up through the U District and Capitol Hill, the days turned to weeks and I found myself back underneath 5 Freeway one night crying and wishing it would all just end. I contemplated ending my life that night, but I didn’t have the balls to do it.
The next morning I was flooded with the harsh reality of what was going on, I want to say it was somewhere around August 29th. I had been lost and loaded in Seattle for almost a month, it felt like a couple days. I got a hold of my mom from a pay phone and she bought me a grey hound ticket back to LA that day. I would continue living this way for 2 more years and it wouldn’t be until August 22, 2015 that I ingested my last dose of mind altering substances. I have been sober since that day…