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Washington St. drubs Cal, 28-9
Robert Ferrel had a touchdown catch and a key punt return as host Washington State defeated California 28-9 in a Pac-12 Conference game Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash. The Cougars (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) came up with a big defensive performance a week after allowing 624 yards -- and 29 fourth-quarter points -- in a 44-41 loss to Oregon. WSU limited the Golden Bears (3-2, 1-1) to 311 yards. Freshman running back Jaydn Ott

Columbian Newspaper

Army officers appear on Burkina Faso TV, declare new coup
Author: Associated Press

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — More than a dozen soldiers seized control of Burkina Faso’s state television late Friday, declaring that the country’s coup leader-turned-president, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, had been overthrown after only nine months in power.

A statement read by a junta spokesman said Capt. Ibrahim Traore is the new military leader of Burkina Faso, a volatile West African country that is battling a mounting Islamic insurgency.

Burkina Faso’s new military leaders said the country’s borders had been closed and a curfew would be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The transitional government and national assembly were ordered dissolved.

Damiba and his allies overthrew the democratically elected president, coming to power with promises of make the country more secure. However, violence has continued unabated and frustration with his leadership has grown in recent months.

“Faced by the continually worsening security situation, we the officers and junior officers of the national armed forces were motivated to take action with the desire to protect the security and integrity of our country,” said the statement read by the junta spokesman, Capt. Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.

The soldiers promised the international community they would respect their commitments and urged Burkinabes “to go about their business in peace.”

“A meeting will be convened to adopt a new transitional constitution charter and to select a new Burkina Faso president be it civilian or military,” Sorgho added.

Damiba had just returned from addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York as Burkina Faso’s head of state. Tensions, though, had been mounting for months. In his speech, Damiba defended his January coup as “an issue of survival for our nation,” even if it was ”perhaps reprehensible” to the international community.

Constantin Gouvy, Burkina Faso researcher at Clingendael, said Friday night’s events “follow escalating tensions within the ruling MPSR junta and the wider army about strategic and operational decisions to tackle spiraling insecurity.”

“Members of the MPSR increasingly felt Damiba was isolating himself and casting aside those who helped him seize power,” Gouvy told The Associated Press.

Gunfire had erupted in the capital, Ouagadougou, early Friday and hours passed without any public appearance by Damiba. Late in the afternoon, his spokesman posted a statement on the presidency’s Facebook page saying that “negotiations are underway to bring back calm and serenity.”

Friday’s developments felt all too familiar in West Africa, where a coup in Mali in August 2020 set off a series of military power grabs in the region. Mali also saw a second coup nine months after the August 2020 overthrow of its president, when the junta’s leader sidelined his civilian transition counterparts and put himself alone in charge.

On the streets of Ouagadougou, some people already were showing support Friday for the change in leadership even before the putschists took to the state airwaves.

Francois Beogo, a political activist from the Movement for the Refounding of Burkina Faso, said Damiba “has showed his limits.”

“People were expecting a real change,” he said of the January coup d’etat.

Some demonstrators voiced support for Russian involvement in order to stem the violence, and shouted slogans against France, Burkina Faso’s former colonizer. In neighboring Mali, the junta invited Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help secure the country, though their deployment has drawn international criticism.

Many in Burkina Faso initially supported the military takeover last January, frustrated with the previous government’s inability to stem Islamic extremist violence that has killed thousands and displaced at least 2 million.

Yet the violence has failed to wane in the months since Damiba took over. Earlier this month, he also took on the position of defense minister after dismissing a brigadier general from the post.

“It’s hard for the Burkinabe junta to claim that it has delivered on its promise of improving the security situation, which was its pretext for the January coup,” said Eric Humphery-Smith, senior Africa analyst at the risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft.

Earlier this week, at least 11 soldiers were killed and 50 civilians went missing after a supply convoy was attacked by gunmen in Gaskinde commune in Soum province in the Sahel. That attack was “a low point” for Damiba’s government and “likely played a role in inspiring what we’ve seen so far today,” added Humphery-Smith.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that nearly one-fifth of Burkina Faso’s population “urgently needs humanitarian aid.”

“Burkina Faso needs peace, it needs stability, and it needs unity in order to fight terrorist groups and criminal networks operating in parts of the country,” Dujarric said.

Chrysogone Zougmore, president of the Burkina Faso Movement for Human Rights, called Friday’s developments “very regrettable,” saying the instability would not help in the fight against the Islamic extremist violence.

“How can we hope to unite people and the army if the latter is characterized by such serious divisions?” Zougmore said. “It is time for these reactionary and political military factions to stop leading Burkina Faso adrift.”

Women protesters demand more security after Afghan bombing
Author: Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — A group of Afghan women Saturday protested a suicide bombing that killed or wounded dozens of students in a Shiite education center in the capital Kabul a day earlier, demanding better security from the Taliban-run government.

The demonstration was quickly broken up by Taliban police.

On Friday, the bomber struck an education center packed with hundreds of students in a Shiite neighborhood, killing 19 people and wounding 27. Among the casualties were teenagers taking practice university entrance exams, a Taliban spokesman said.

The morning explosion at the center took place in Kabul’s Dashti Barchi neighborhood, an area populated mostly by ethnic Hazaras, who belong to Afghanistan’s minority Shiite community. The Islamic State group has carried out repeated attacks on schools, hospitals and mosques in Dashti Barchi and other Shiite areas in recent years.

About 20 protesters Saturday gathered in the Dashti Barchi area for about 45 minutes before their rally was broken up by Taliban security. They carried banners in English and Dari reading “Stop Hazar Genocide.”

“We are asking the Taliban government, when they claim that they have brought security, how they cannot stop an attacker from entering an educational center to target female students. In this incident, one family has lost four members. Why is it still happening?” said demonstrator Fatima Mohammadi.

Staff at the Kaaj education center spent Saturday cleaning up the wreckage caused by the attack, while victims’ family members searched through items covered with blood belonging to their loved ones.

Hussain, who goes by one name, witnessed the attack. He said he believed the death toll was significantly higher, based on the large number of bodies he saw.

“First the attacker just over there, where a huge crowd of students was standing, opened fire. At least 40 people were killed there,” he said.

Zahra, a student who survived the attack, was unharmed because she went out just minutes before to buy a pen. She said she lost her friends in the attack and also her hope for a better future.

“I am not even sure if there is a future for us anymore or not,” she said.

Hot air balloons draw global audience to New Mexico
Author: Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of hot air balloons lifted off Saturday morning, marking the start of an annual fiesta that has drawn pilots and spectators from across the globe to New Mexico’s high desert for 50 years now.

As one of the most photographed events in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has become an economic driver for the state’s largest city and a rare — and colorful — opportunity for enthusiasts to be within arm’s reach as the giant balloons are unpacked and inflated.

Three of the original pilots who participated in the first fiesta in 1972 and the family members of others are among this year’s attendees. That year, 13 balloons launched from an open lot near a shopping center on what was then the edge of Albuquerque. It has since grown into a multimillion-dollar production.

Pilot Gene Dennis, 78, remembers the snowstorm that almost caused him to miss that first fiesta. He had to rearrange his flight plans from Michigan so he could make it to Albuquerque in time.

The weather was perfect when he got to New Mexico, said Dennis, who flew under the alias “Captain Phairweather.” He was quoted at the time as saying he had brought good weather with him.

He was on the hook again, as pilots hope predictions for the rest of opening weekend are fair.

“Ballooning is infectious,” Dennis said, describing being aloft like drifting in a dream, quietly observing the countryside below.

This year will mark Roman Müller’s first time flying in the fiesta. He’s piloting a special-shaped balloon that was modeled after a chalet at the top of a famous Swiss bobsled run. One of his goals will be flying over the Rio Grande and getting low enough to dip the gondola into the river.

“This is my plan,” he said with a wide smile while acknowledging that it’s not always easy to fly a balloon.

One thing that helps, he said, is the phenomenon known as the Albuquerque box — when the wind blows in opposite directions at different elevations, allowing pilots to bring a balloon back to near the point of takeoff. Dennis said it took a few years of holding the fiesta to realize the predictability of the wind patterns.

Tens of thousands of people packed the field Saturday, wide-eyed with necks craned as they tried to soak in the spectacle.

The fiesta has grown to include a cadre of European ballooning professionals. More than 20 countries are represented this year, including Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Taiwan and Ukraine.

U.S. Army misses recruiting goal; other services squeak by
Author: Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Army fell about 15,000 soldiers — or 25 percent — short of its recruitment goal this year, officials confirmed Friday, despite a frantic effort to make up the widely expected gap in a year when all the military services struggled in a tight jobs market to find young people willing and fit to enlist.

While the Army was the only service that didn’t meet its target, all of the others had to dig deep into their pools of delayed-entry applicants, which will put them behind as they begin the next recruiting year, which started on Saturday.

The worsening problem stirs debate about whether America’s fighting force should be restructured or reduced in size if the services can’t recruit enough, and could put added pressure on the National Guard and Reserve to help meet mission requirements.

According to officials, the Marine Corps — which usually goes into each fiscal year with as much as half of its recruiting goal already locked in — has only a bit more than 30 percent. And the Air Force and the Navy will have only about 10 percent of their goals as they start the new fiscal year. The Air Force usually has about 25 percent. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details on the recruiting totals that have not yet been released.

“In the Army’s most challenging recruiting year since the start of the all-volunteer force, we will only achieve 75% of our fiscal year 22 recruiting goal,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The Army will maintain its readiness and meet all our national security requirements. If recruiting challenges persist, we will draw on the Guard and Reserve to augment active-duty forces, and may need to trim our force structure.”

Officials said the Army brought in about 45,000 soldiers during the fiscal year that ended Friday. The goal was 60,000.

The Air Force, meanwhile, was able to pull enough recruits from its delayed-entry pool to exactly meet its goal to bring in 26,151 recruits this year.

“Using Air Force lexicon, I would say we’re doing a dead stick landing as we come into the end of fiscal ’22, and we’re going to need to turn around on the first of October and do an afterburner takeoff,” Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas, head of the Air Force Recruiting Service, said at a conference last week. “We’re going to be starting 2023 in a tougher position than we started 2022.”

Military leaders used increased enlistment bonuses and other programs to try to build their numbers this year, but they say it’s getting more and more difficult to compete with private industry in the tight labor market. And as they look to the future, they worry that if the declining enlistment trends continue, the Pentagon may have to reassess its force requirements and find ways to make the military a more attractive profession to the eroding number of young Americans who can meet mental and physical requirements for service.

Early this year, military leaders were already braced for a bad recruiting season. The Army, for example, announced several months ago that it would have to adjust the expected size of its total force this year from 476,000 to about 466,000. The large recruiting shortfall was offset a bit by the Army’s ability to exceed its retention goal — keeping 104 percent of the targeted number of troops in the service.

The causes for the recruiting struggles are many and varied.

Two years of the pandemic shut off recruiters’ access to schools, public events, fairs and other youth organizations where they often find prospects. Moving to online recruiting — as in-person meetings closed down — was only marginally successful. And some of the in-person access has been slow to open up again.

At the same time, companies like McDonalds are now wooing workers with tuition benefits and other increased perks that for years made the military an attractive profession. Military leaders say they are suffering from the same labor shortage that has restaurants, airlines, shops and other businesses desperately scraping for workers.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that according to estimates, just 23 percent of young people can meet the military’s fitness, educational and moral requirements — with many disqualified for reasons ranging from medical issues to criminal records and tattoos.

“We remain committed to maintaining our standards, investing in America’s youth, and emphasizing quality over quantity,” said Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army.

It’s unclear how much the debate over the COVID-19 vaccine is playing in the recruiting struggles. So far, the Army has discharged a bit more than 1,700 soldiers for refusing to take the mandated vaccine. That’s a tiny fraction of the overall force size.

At the same time, the patriotism that fueled the rush to military service in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has dimmed. Some may look around and see no more wars and terrorists to fight, so they look elsewhere. Others see lucrative hiring campaigns by private industry and know the salaries will be better than military pay, and they will be less likely to end up wounded or killed in those jobs.

The services are grappling with a number of new programs and other changes to beef up recruiting but face lingering questions about how best to convince young people that military life is a viable option for them.

During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the recruiting challenges, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., challenged the services to “think outside the box; creating new career paths, offering innovative pay and incentive structures, and realigning some capabilities from military to civilian workforces should all be on the table.”

Castillo strikes out 8 as surging Mariners drop A’s 5-1
Author: CHRIS TALBOTT, Associated Press

SEATTLE — Luis Castillo struck out eight in six innings of two-hit ball and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Saturday to keep pace with the Toronto Blue Jays in their bid to host an AL wild-card series.

Castillo (8-6) retired 16 in a row to help Seattle to its fourth consecutive win, after two straight mediocre starts in which he gave up nine earned runs. The right-hander settled down after giving up two quick hits and a walk in the first inning to fall behind 1-0 — about 12 hours after most Mariners left the ballpark after clinching the club’s first playoff appearance in 21 years.

Jordan Diaz’s RBI single scored leadoff batter Tony Kemp, who singled on Castillo’s first pitch. But then Castillo recovered and struck out Conner Capel to end the first inning. He was flawless the rest of the way, teaming with Carlos Santana for three putouts at first base, and finished with a strikeout of Sean Murphy. His next outing will be in the playoffs.

The Mariners rested most of their key starters a day after securing a wild-card berth, ending the longest playoff drought in major professional sports in North America. They’ve got five more games – Sunday against the A’s and four games against the Detroit Tigers next week – to catch the Blue Jays and stay ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The No. 1 wild card hosts a three-game series beginning Friday.

Leadoff hitter Dylan Moore doubled off opener Adam Oller (2-8) to start the game, and scored on Santana’s RBI single two batters later. Sam Haggerty’s two-out single brought home Santana and Luis Torrens later in the inning for a 3-1 lead.

Oakland’s J.P Sears kept the Mariners from extending the lead after entering the game to start the second. He struck out six, walked two and gave up just two hits, both of which the A’s wiped away with double plays. But Seattle used a near collision between outfielders Seth Brown and Capel on Torrens’ double in right-center to start a rally for two more runs in the eighth.

Matthew Boyd, Diego Castillo and Matt Festa provided three innings of hitless relief, sending the A’s to their sixth straight loss — their 102nd of the season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: Oller came off the 15-day injured list Friday from a bout of rib costochondritis, the swelling of cartilage between the ribcage and breast bone. He gave up three runs and three hits, striking out two and walking two before yielding to Sears to start the second. A’s manager Mark Kotsay said using Oller as the opener allowed the team to manage the former starter’s work in a way he was familiar with.

UP NEXT

Athletics RHP James Kaprielian (4-9, 4.43 ERA) finishes off the series. Kaprielian is 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts.

Mariners LHP Robbie Ray (12-11, 3.58) attempts to halt a three-game losing streak in his last appearance of the regular season.

Mariners end two decades of misery returning to postseason
Author: TIM BOOTH, Associated Press

SEATTLE — Because of one stat, pitcher Matthew Boyd has become the go-to player to ask about the Seattle Mariners’ situation.

Not the stats on the back of his baseball card, mind you. It’s the fact Boyd was born in Bellevue, Washington, on Feb. 2, 1991. That he grew up on nearby Mercer Island and was 10 years old the last time Seattle reached the postseason.

“I was really lucky to have really good baseball teams at a point in my life where it was kind of those transformative years,” Boyd said. “I just wanted to watch the game on TV. I wanted to go to the Kingdome every day. That was really special. It was huge for me. I’m very lucky that was the case because baseball was fun.”

Baseball is fun again in the Pacific Northwest in a way that it hasn’t been in more than two decades. The longest postseason drought in the four major professional sports ended Friday night when the Mariners earned a long-coveted spot in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

And Seattle did it in the most dramatic fashion possible. Cal Raleigh, sent to the minors because of struggles early in the season, stepped up as a pinch-hitter and launched a game-winning solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning on a 3-2 pitch to beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1.

It was storybook stuff, played out by kids in backyards for generations. And it joins a small list of singular, unforgettable moments — a shot, a play, a swing — in Seattle’s sports history.

“It was the craziest thing ever. I don’t think I’ll be able to forget that moment,” Raleigh said.

Seattle will play in the wild-card round, potentially as the beneficiary of the postseason expansion that added a third wild-card team for each league. Toronto and Tampa Bay have clinched the other two extra spots in the AL, and the playoff schedule has yet to be set.

But the path hardly matters to fans, who if they were born the last time Seattle made the playoffs are now legally old enough to buy an alcoholic beverage to celebrate the return.

That includes Boyd, who was acquired by his hometown team at the trade deadline.

“The thing about Seattle, Seattle loves baseball and really it’s a baseball city,” Boyd said. “Recently the focus has been on the Seahawks because of their great success, but when you have a winner it’s really cool to see the energy and the fans come out in droves.”

Seattle fans last saw their team play a postseason game on Oct. 22, 2001, when the Mariners lost to the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series. So 7,656 days will have passed for them by next Friday, when the AL wild-card playoffs begin.

The last time the Mariners had a playoff game, Tom Brady had made four career starts. Blockbuster Video still had more than 5,000 stores nationwide. Michael Jordan was about to begin a two-year addendum to his career with the Washington Wizards.

The iPhone? That was still 5½ years away. But the iPod? Well, that went on sale on Oct. 23, 2001.

Google wasn’t yet a verb. Facebook? Nope. Same with Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or any idea of what social media meant.

That long drought has made Seattle a woebegone franchise, the butt of jokes. The Mariners still remain the only team never to reach the World Series despite rosters that included the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez.

Manager Scott Servais seems set that this can be a team to end that piece of trivia, too.

“I know everyone is exhausted. ‘End the drought. End the drought.’ I’ve heard it for seven years,” Servais said. “Every day when I get up and drive to work that’s what’s been on my mind. The goal is to win a World Series, not just end the drought.”

Ichiro Suzuki played in 1,861 career regular-season games for the Mariners and just 10 playoff games, all during his first season. Franchise cornerstones Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager never saw playoff baseball after spending most or all of their career with the Mariners.

All the moves that were supposed to push Seattle over the top at various times during the two decades never equated to a playoff berth.

Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard, Chone Figgins, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were all brought in at some point over the past two decades with the belief they could be the difference. And while Seattle got close on several occasions, an entire generation of fans missed the postseason experience.

Those fans were instead treated to championships by the Seahawks, the Storm and the Sounders. They saw the SuperSonics leave and the Kraken arrive.

That led to apathy and anger among baseball fans. And a belief that the ownership at times cared more about ballpark entertainment and profit than it did about the product on the field.

But there’s no doubt that when the Mariners are good, Seattle hugs the team differently from the way it embraces the other local teams.

Whether those fans will get a playoff home game to celebrate Seattle’s return remains a question. That’ll be decided in the coming days as the Mariners battle with Toronto and Tampa Bay for seeding and settle Seattle’s postseason path.

But for the first time in a generation, there is a postseason to talk about in Seattle.

“A lot of people worked really, really hard for this a long time,” Seattle pitcher Marco Gonzales said. “Even when the times were dark. We didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. And a lot of people believed when they didn’t have a reason to. And so this is for them.”

The Chronicle - Centralia

Tigers Throttle Bellingham to Remain Unbeaten

Scoring all but seven of its points in the first half, and recording two special teams and three defensive touchdowns, the No. 1 Napavine football team defeated 2A Bellingham, 71-13, Saturday afternoon at Civic Stadium. 

The Tiger offense took the field with a 16-0 lead in the first quarter, after Max O’Neill returned two kicks for touchdowns and Napavine recorded a safety, and the rest was history. Ashton Demarest threw for three touchdowns and 197 yards, Cael Stanley rushed for two scores, and Conner Holmes brought a pick-six to the house to highlight the Tigers’ day up north. 

Napavine was up so big that it put in its JV team in the second quarter, when the Bayhawks managed their two lone touchdowns on long passes. 

JV quarterback Grady Wilson was 2 for 2 with a touchdown toss to Cayle Kelly, and Austin Chapman added a score in the third quarter for the Tigers. 

Napavine will look to continue its winning ways against Morton-White Pass at home this Thursday on a short week. 

Inside the Mariners' Clubhouse for a Playoff-Clinching Celebration 21 Years in the Making

At 8:34 p.m. Friday, Pete Fortune emerged from the laundry room in one corner of the Mariners clubhouse and began to pace the hallways. Nervous?

"Of course," he said. "Everybody is."

Fortune is one of the only Mariners employees who has felt this feeling before. Not many know what it is. Even fewer remember what it's like, this mixture of anticipation and anxiety and uncertainty.

"I've been having flashbacks to the good ol' days," said Fortune, who was 18 years old when he became a Mariners clubhouse attendant in 1985.

He's never left. He is, in his words, The Laundry Guy. It's his job to make sure players' uniforms are clean and tidy — he was the guy who for years hand-scrubbed the pine tar off Jay Buhner's pants after every game — and he is, pardon the pun, as much a part of the fabric of the Mariners as anyone.

"Oh yeah, I remember 1995 in the Kingdome," he said, recalling the Mariners' first playoff berth. "That was crazy."

The 40 or so staffers here inside the Mariners clubhouse at T-Mobile Park are preparing for another crazy night.

It's the fifth inning, the Mariners and A's are tied 1-1 in the game unfolding out on the field, and Juan Rodriguez and his operations staff will spend the next hour scrambling to erect four walls of plastic sheeting, creating a protective incubator for the team to celebrate a party 21 years in the making.

At least, that's what everyone in here hopes will happen, if the Mariners can clinch a playoff berth.

Problem is, if the Mariners don't win, the operations staffers will have just a few minutes to tear down everything they just constructed — knowing they might have to do it all again the next day.

Yes, Rodriguez said, he knows all that is a possibility. But he doesn't want to have to think about that right now.

"There are a lot of moving pieces, but it's a good problem to have," he said.

 

For two days, the 96 bottles (*wink wink*) of Domaine Ste. Michelle Champagne have been chilling inside a walk-in refrigerator behind the clubhouse. A couple hours before first pitch Friday, Melinda Johnson and Paula Shilley helped pack the bottles into four large rolling coolers filled with ice.

At 9:12 p.m., Johnson and Shilley rolled the coolers into the kitchen adjacent to the main room of the clubhouse. A moment later, Jordan Larson rolled in the first of three coolers filled with cold Corona Extra cans. There are 456 cans of beer here. (Yes, Larson said, he counted them.)

A small team of clubhouse assistants — Johnson, Shilley, Larson, Chris Sterback and Cayleb St. Laurent — soon start tearing off the foil covering the tip of the bottles. How many bottles, exactly? Well, MLB's operation manual mandates teams can have 96 bottles of Champagne to celebrate. Why 96, no one is quite sure. But there are absolutely, definitely not 200 bottles of Champagne chilling right here on ice ready to pop.

Now the Mariners, with the score still tied 1-1 in the eighth inning, just need to give everyone a reason to pop 'em.

 

Earlier in the week, Chris DeWitt reached out to other "clubbies" he knows with the Dodgers and Astros. Playoff berths have become routine for those teams, and DeWitt wanted to know what to expect with the clubhouse celebration.

"Having never done this before, I just wanted to know: What's the right way to do it?" said DeWitt, 39, a Mariners clubhouse assistant since 2006.

DeWitt and the clubhouse crew had been in several meetings with Rodriguez and his operations team throughout the week, and then more throughout the day Friday. They worked through various scenarios, but that doesn't make the preparation any less stressful now, especially with how the game is unfolding.

"We just want to make sure it's perfect for the players," DeWitt said. "This is all about our players and coaches. They put in all the work. We're just here for the backgrounds stuff so all they have to do is worry about baseball. That's our biggest goal."

 

At 9:28 p.m., the roar hits first, a low rumbling from the sellout crowd of 44,754.

Because of a typical delay in the game broadcast, it takes about 10 seconds for Johnson and Shilley to see what the roar is about on the TV mounted in the kitchen. Then there it is: Cal Raleigh just hit a storybook home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Mariners a 2-1 victory and ending the franchise's 21-year playoff drought.

"Yesssssss!" Johnson screamed.

They quickly got back to work, pushing the coolers into the center of the team clubhouse and putting the finishing touches on the preparation for the celebration about to hit the room.

At 9:35 p.m., the first group of players leave the home dugout and run up a ramp leading into the clubhouse. They're all wearing blue "October Rise" T-shirts.

By 9:42 p.m., some 100 players, coaches, front-office executives and support staffers have gathered inside the plastic incubator, packed around a covered pool table in the middle of the 75-foot-by-25-foot room.

Just as manager Scott Servais is out to give a toast, Julio Rodriguez, the rookie star, popped the first Champagne bottle, prematurely. A collective groan rises from teammates. Is he even old enough to hold that bottle!?

Servais gave his short toast, followed by another from veteran pitcher Robbie Ray.

Then — goggles up, everyone — the customary Champagne sprays filled the air, a collective release of two decades of frustration. For most in the room, it was their first time.

Just as the bottles popped, one wall of the plastic sheeting collapsed, exposing a handful of players' lockers.

"Immediate fail," one of the clubbies said later.

It was the only obvious hiccup during an otherwise historic night for the franchise, and for a city eager to back a winning baseball team again.

A few minutes later, relief pitcher Erik Swanson inspected the wet mess in and around his locker. He shrugged.

"Worth it," Swanson said.

By 10:06 p.m., the bottles had all been popped. The beer cans were running out too. That's when Fortune emerged from another corner of the clubhouse holding a small pile of paper cups and a large bottle of Crown Apple Whisky. His M's hat turned backward, he walked around the room offering up shots to anyone interested.

"Sometimes," he said with a smile, "I'm the bartender too."

By 10:17 p.m., the room was largely cleared out. Players, coaches and staffers had returned to the field to watch the fireworks show, leaving only scattered puddles of beer and champagne on top of the plastic floor. The operations crew immediately got to work on the cleanup, the whir of the wet vacuum drowning out the fireworks outside.

By 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, his work for the night complete, DeWitt was able to sit down in one clubhouse office and finally watch the last two innings of the game on his iPhone.

Yes, he said, the night turned out just about perfectly.

Let's do it all again next week, shall we?

Portland Business News

Legendary ad man Dan Wieden has died at age 77
Author: Suzanne Stevens
Wieden founded the ad agency Wieden+Kennedy with partner David Kennedy. The agency was behind Nike's "Just Do It" campaign.

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