Ballpark falcons

Seattle Pacific students and alums share employment experiences with Seattle Mariners

Callaghan Bluechel, staff writer

When we think of people who are involved in sports, we think of athletes donning their colors and giving their all for their team. But sports are a big business, and there are far more non-athletes in a professional sports organization than there are athletes. 

And there are plenty of people from Seattle Pacific University, both students and alumni, who are not athletes but work in professional sports. For example, Rawnie Hoover, a senior communications and political science major, works on the Seattle Mariners’ Navigator team, which does promotions and experiential marketing.

“We do community outreach, community events, and also fan engagement during the games, so any time you see the [Mariner] Moose running around, they have a Nav[igator] with them,” she said. “Anytime [you see] the pregame festivities or the Plinko game … that’s us.”

Such a program helps utilize a team’s on-field success to amplify excitement among the fanbase, and events during games can bring fans out to the stands. Those fans then go back home and spread their excitement around, and soon talk of the team permeates the air.

“I feel like this campus definitely reflects the energy of the city as a whole,” said Hoover. “Everyone’s excited for this team. Especially with events like College Night [where college students get discounted tickets], it definitely gets campuses more excited.”

Filmed and edited by Sophie Beadle

The most recent College Night was on April 14, where the Mariners played the Colorado Rockies and won a 5-3 victory thanks in part to the performance of breakout hitter Jarred Kelenic. Although he struggled to perform in 2021 and 2022, he has been on a torrid pace to start 2023. And he notes the positive presence of the Mariners faithful at T-Mobile Park.

“The fans are always great,” said Kelenic. “Obviously, there has been a lot of ups and downs, but to know that they got my back is super rewarding. I’ll never be able to tell each and every one of them how much I appreciate it.”

Amanda Kenning, the Mariners’ Account Manager for Suites and Hospitality and an SPU communications alum from 2005, also notes that College Night is an event that helps bring campuses out to games and ties it to Mariners president Catie Griggs’ efforts to streamline fan experience.

“Our president, Catie Griggs, is really focused on making the fan experience for all fans. For instance, I came to College Nights here when I was in college, for $10 tickets, and we have brought back College Nights for $10 tickets.”

This is especially good news for the Mariners, as the previous president, Kevin Mather, resigned in disgrace in 2021 after comments he had made to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club leaked online. 

These comments included insulting beloved longtime Mariner Ichiro Suzuki, whining about the cost of hiring an interpreter for Japanese-born pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, bragging about having ripped off Root Sports on the Mariners’ TV deal, and admitting to illegal service-time manipulation. To many, his remarks revealed insulting cheapness, especially coming at a time when the Mariners had not had a playoff appearance in a generation.

But in the last two years, after Catie Griggs’ tenure began on August 23, 2021, the Mariners have seen a renaissance. Ticket sales have soared high, fan engagement has roared back, and the Mariners have sailed out of the doldrums and into playoff waters. 

This renaissance has markedly improved the employee experience. Kenning, for example, adores her job with the Mariners.

“It’s fantastic. It’s everything I could dream of, working with this organization. I told my boss recently, I’m not going anywhere. They can bury me on this field,” noted Kenning. “Working with the Mariners has been a dream come true, not only because of how well the team has been doing recently but just how well the organization treats their staff.”