Best Courts for Free, Drop-in Tennis

When the sun comes out in Seattle, the instinct is to head to the water. But doing so would be at the expense of experiencing one of the things that makes this town so great: a Mariners game at Safeco. The ushers are friendly, the garlic fries are addictive, the views of the Sound from the 300-level terraces are worth the cashed-in "sick" day, and you can wear pretty much any team's regalia without getting heckled. If America's pastime isn't your bag, Safeco offers the best people-watching in town. And, of course, there's Ichiro. Yes, Felix has been dubbed Seattle's resident king, and now that Junior has proclaimed his desire to retire a Mariner, we're all just waiting for him to reclaim his throne; but for now, the town belongs to the man teammates call "the Wizard." Safeco stands still for every one of his at-bats, and for good reason. With his trademark slide step and all-wrists swing, he can put the ball wherever he wants—including over the fence—and has a whole generation of Little Leaguers pointing their bats like katanas and tugging their front sleeves. (And really, is there a more tailor-made name for chanting than Ee-chee-ro?) It's more than baseball, or watching the face of a franchise; it's experiencing the sense of community that everyone complains is in such short supply in Seattle. It's hearing the collective cheer when Ichiro chops a hopper into the hole, which grows louder as he sprints down the line in those long, swaying strides, the roar matching him gear for gear. And when he beats the throw by half a step, it's nothing less than pure joy, even though there was really never any doubt—because, after all, it's Ichiro.—Huan Hsu 1250 First Ave. S., 346-4000,

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