R Year in Review is a 4-part series. If you haven’t read Part I yet, get caught up before jumping into Part II. We’ll share Part III on Friday, and you’ll get firsthand stories from inside the Cheney Stadium clubhouse and press box as sports returned in a unique fashion.
We pick up where we left off in March, as most across the country are sheltering in place for the first time. From athletes like Jarred Kelenic, to parents, to the people writing this article, everyone had their own struggles.
And we didn’t have any live sports to distract us from what was happening outside. Surely we were all aware that the coronavirus would be affecting our lives nine months later, right?
March 16, 2020 – With MLB Spring Training, the USL Championship season, and all pro sports leagues suspended, the We R Tacoma front office and Seattle Mariners players are now working at home.
Nick Cherniske, We R Tacoma Asst. GM (NC): I felt that 30 days was gonna do it. I really did.
Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners outfielder (JK): I was like, probably about a month.
Statement from Minor League Baseball ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/H4RlAyPxxw
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 12, 2020
Mike Curto, Tacoma Rainiers Broadcaster (MC): At first I figured that we would simply have a delayed start to the season, and get things going in a month or two. Turns out that was quite wrong!
Kristopher Negrón, former Tacoma Rainiers player and current Seattle Mariners Asst. to the Director of Player Development (KN): I was optimistic. But at the same time I was ready to grind it out for the long haul.
JK: I have the luxury of the two facilities that I work out and hit at. My dad built them. So it actually kind of worked out better for workouts when everything was shut down. Both the buildings were closed and I got the whole place to myself. So one of them is a 42,000 square foot training facility. It has 75 yards of turf, an NBA basketball court, a sandpit, eight squat racks. And a whole bunch of other stuff around. But I don’t hit there. Because a mile up the road he built a 38,000 square foot building that has a full turf infield in it with a 30-foot ceiling. And then there’s 10 cages upstairs and four downstairs.
Dave Clark, Tacoma Defiance Broadcast Analyst (DC): Defiance players started doing training inside their apartments rather than on training fields. Their micro bubbles were basically the two or three guys that they shared their apartment with.
Megan Mead, We R Tacoma VP of Marketing (MM): It was real, but it wasn’t real for us for a while. And then it got really real. I don’t remember when that was, but it was sometime before Easter.
Casey Catherwood, We R Tacoma Creative Director (CC): A lot of phone calls, a lot of being frustrated with just talking on the phone and learning Zoom. Our house was not equipped for any of this.
MM: I wasn’t interested in doing anything. I was having my groceries delivered. I wasn’t letting my parents in the house. They would come to our front window and my kids would be inside, and that’s how they visited.
Aaron Artman, We R Tacoma President (AA): It didn’t sink in until about May that this has a huge ramification on everybody’s life and our organization.
DC: Having those first few months where we didn’t have sports on the TV made me recall how important sports was to passing time.
MM: It presented us a challenge: how do we stay relevant when the sports that command our business are not being played? Our team was forced to think about what our community needs from us, whether it was a laugh, or a more serious message, or when the time came, providing baseball content.
CC: I looked at the calendar every day when it would rain during the summer, which it barely rained, and we didn’t even have games scheduled those days. I wonder if we would have even had a rain delay or a rain out this whole year.
DC: We found some little bright spots and just wanted to share those moments of joy. The good thing that we did was give little corners of Tacoma and Pierce County a reason to smile and reason to remember good times.
CC: Our hearts were in the right place and we were feeling like we want to help people if we can, which I’m proud of some of the things we did. I’m proud of the Small Business Guide. It was the one of the leading useful tools for people in Tacoma to figure things out.
DC: One of the ones that I liked the most was our bar drink recipes. Because a lot of adults these days have taken to enjoying a few more beverages than normal. But sharing those recipes kind of captured what makes Cheney Stadium awesome.
The Battle of the Bars has us thinking about ice cold drinks up in R Bar. Here’s 6️⃣ adult beverages to remind you of Cheney Stadium on #FastTrackFriday
— Tacoma Rainiers (@RainiersLand) May 15, 2020
MM: This gave us an opportunity to find a different way to communicate and celebrate with Tacoma and the South Sound in a way that we’ve always wanted to do, and we’ve always tried to do, but this gave us a significant push because there was nothing else to do.
MC: I was holding out hope that we would play a shortened season all the way up until June.
JK: When June rolled around, I was like, there’s no way we’re going back now. On Twitter, nobody really been talking about it. And then all of a sudden, a week and a half before we went back, they agreed on something and went with that.
June 30, 2020 – The Minor League Baseball season is officially canceled, marking the first time since Tacoma professional baseball’s inception in 1960 that a baseball season would not be played at Cheney Stadium.
MC: I figured we might get 50-ish games in, playing in August and September. But once June rolled around it became clear that wasn’t going to happen.
Despite a frustrating year for all, and uncertainty about what lies ahead, the Tacoma Rainiers fans showed their love for the team.
AA: Over 90% of our ticket holders who already invested kept their money in. And that’s remarkable. It’s something that I’ll never forget. It’s validation for everyone that puts on the show at our place for our fans. That was the highlight of 2020 for me.
It’s clear that hindsight is NOT 2020, but looking back at the year from within the gates of R House shows that, even in our quiet homes, we stayed connected and lived a story worth telling.
Check back later this week for Part III of R Year in Review.
Always Together. We R Tacoma.
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers are the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Tacoma has been a member of the Pacific Coast League since Cheney Stadium opened in 1960, and has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.
We R Tacoma Team Store
The We R Tacoma Team Store is currently closed until Monday, January 4, but is always available online. Grab your Rainiers gear, your Defiance ‘fit, and follow the team store on Instagram and Twitter.