Kate Andrews watched the Seattle Mariners’ home opener Monday on television, surrounded by grandkids, a husband named Jim, a cat named Baby Kitty and close to 50 Tacoma Rainiers jerseys with no names at all.
As the broadcast went on, Andrews sewed the names on jersey after jersey – Bonderman, Farquhar, LaFromboise, Savastano, Poythress … .
When those Tacoma Rainiers and their teammates take the field at Cheney Stadium for the first time Friday night, the uniforms they wear will have been prepared by a 64-year-old season ticket holder who just happens to be a seamstress.
A volunteer seamstress, at that, heading into her fifth season with the team.
“I’m not a Rainiers employee,” said the retired hair salon owner. “I work with the team all season in exchange for our season tickets.”
Andrews is one of those people whose devotion to the game leads them to do something for the game – and to love the opportunity.
A season ticket holder before the “job” of team seamstress came about, she and her husband of 46 years sit along the third-base line.
“I can watch the players slide into third base,” she said “Everyone sitting around us knows what I do, so anytime someone slides and tears out a knee or the butt of a uniform, I hear about it.”
And that leads to a post-game delivery to the Andrews’ Tacoma home.
“Some of our neighbors probably think we’re drug dealers,” Jim Andrews said. “Late at night after games, a car will pull up, someone will run up to the house with a full garbage bag, leave it on the porch and drive away.”
His wife rarely misses a game at Cheney Stadium, and she attends each well-armed.
“I’ve had to sew buttons on during a game a few times,” she said. “I always carry a needle and thread.”
Another face you might see around the stadium this season is Ashley Roth, who differs from Andrews in that she’s actually on the Rainiers payroll. But Roth’s job title – director of baseball operations and merchandising – is misleading.
Travel coordinator is more like it.
Roth, 26, arranges the Rainiers road trips and meets team members at the airport when they depart or arrive. She arranges accommodations in Tacoma for visiting teams and also goes to the airport for their arrivals and departures.
“Umpires, too,” Ashley said.
As the Rainiers’ liaison with the Mariners, she handles the transportation any time there’s a team transaction – a Mariner coming down, a Rainier heading up.
Oh, and merchandising?
“I buy all the merchandise for the upcoming year and stock the shop,” she said. “Hats are a big-selling item. Throwback hats are big, and we have a few throwback nights this season.”
After interning two summers with the Rainiers and one with the Mariners sales department, this will be her sixth season working full time for Tacoma.
Baseball always has been more than a job for the Tacoma native and University of Oregon graduate.
“I started playing when I was little, and around nine or 10 started following baseball,” Roth said. “I have no idea why I fell in love with it the way I did – my dad and grandpa loved it, too.
“As a 13-year-old, I was following the Mariners and could tell you their lineup. My friends were more into boy bands.”
The pay range for jobs like Roth’s top out around $45,000 a year and may start as low as $20,000. It’s not a career anyone pursues for the money.
“Getting to work with the Mariners, I guess that’s the dream,” she said. “But I like minor league baseball. Your day might start at the airport at 5 a.m., and it might end at the airport at midnight.
“I can’t explain why I love it, but I do.”
Roth and Andrews work together at times. When Roth learns a player is coming to the Rainiers, one of her first calls is to the seamstress.
“Ashley will put together a nameplate at the park and send it and the right-sized jersey over,” Andrews said. “I’ll pin it on and then sew it. I don’t like being in the clubhouse, so I’ll have Jim deliver it. Sometimes we have to rush it.”
Her husband has the drive timed.
“If there’s no traffic and the parking lot isn’t filling up, I can make the drive from home to ballpark in 7 minutes and 40 seconds,” he said.
This pays off in “emergencies.” What kind, you ask?
“If a player is in a slump and is superstitious, he might change his number mid-week,” the seamstress said. “That means a quick sewing job. If a player tears his pants in a night game and there’s a day game the next day, I know I’ll be up late patching it.”
Some players develop a reputation.
“I’ll miss Matt Tuiasosopo,” Andrews said, “but he tore more pants than any other player.”
For this seamstress, who gets paid in free tickets to see the team she loves play 72 home games each season, there’s one other mouth-watering perk.
“We get a free meal each night from the ballpark concession stands,” she said. “And this year, we’ve got some really good concession stands.”
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638