Mixed in with the Safeco Field grounds crew, a chair with a killer view of all Seattle Mariners baseball games is reserved for one man.
Cook isn’t a major league player, or part of the scouting department, or even an assistant to general manager Jack Zduriencik. He is a 14-year employee who manages all event services.
“I manage 150 high school and college-age employees,” Cook said. “They are the ball girls, to who runs the manually operated scoreboards, to those who pass out the Felix (Hernandez) perfect-game T-shirts.”
It is a dream job that enables Cook, a Gonzaga Prep graduate, to watch “98 percent” of all Mariners home games.
But one he didn’t get to see turned out to be a biggie: Aug. 15 – Felix’s perfect game in a 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
On that day, Cook left early for his new job as Seattle Prep varsity football coach.
And that Wednesday around the state of Washington was the start of preseason camp for all high school football teams.
Big things are expected from the Panthers, too. Last season, they broke their decade-long state-playoff drought by advancing to the first round of the Class 3A playoffs, losing to Kamiakin.
This season, they feature one of the state’s hotshot recruits in defensive back Tre Calloway, who is a member of The News Tribune’s preseason all-state squad.
And in the TNT’s initial team rankings for 2012, Seattle Prep is No. 3 in 3A – slotted behind four-time defending champion Bellevue and Metro League rival O’Dea, last year’s 3A runner-up.
D.R. Clawson stepped down after last season, and Cook – a 33-year-old former defensive coordinator for the Panthers – was hired.
“I spend a lot more time being nauseous,” joked Cook. “It has been exciting and it has been fun. This has been my dream – and I love Seattle Prep.”
Even on the day he missed the Mariners’ most magical pitching moment.
On that day, Cook – who said he had not slept much in a week preparing for the start of fall practice – reported to the baseball game, like he always does. But he left in the sixth inning to drive to practice.
“I had no idea what was going on in the baseball game,” Cook said. “All I remember was that the game was going quickly.”
Cook met his players at school, then jumped in his car to drive down to the Montlake Playfield, where practice was held. He turned on the radio just in time to hear Felix was taking the mound for the ninth inning.
He immediately tried phoning members of his game-management crew. He could not reach them. Later, they admitted they were all doing the same thing at that moment: cheering.
Regret missing it?
“Sure, a little bit,” he said. “For all the big moments, I make sure and sit in that spot in right-center field.”email@example.com 253-597-8442 blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles