M's fans flock for chance at tickets

"It was a mob scene to rival, in theme if not in spirit, the one made by the Seattle Mariners at home plate last week as they won the American League division playoff series.This scene, however, took place Sunday morning at the Pavilion building, and involved some 400-plus Mariner fans. Camped inside and out, they were in desperate hope of departing with treasured tickets to Games 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series games across the water between the hometown M's and the New York Yankees.I decided there were only three good reasons for getting out of bed early on a Sunday morning - my wife, my church and good baseball tickets, said Bainbridge resident Gary Marcy, who joined the ticket-crazed throngs. And church was later and my wife was in bed.Trouble was, the same scene was being played out at some 150 other Ticketmaster outlets around the Puget Sound, and with just 19,000 tickets available for each of the two games slated for this Friday and Saturday, competition and tempers alike were bound to be hot.We knew there would be a short window of opportunity to purchase tickets, and that the ticket supply would dwindle fast, said Jeff Brein, Pavilion co-owner and operator of Bainbridge Island's Ticketmaster outlet. It was literally 'Beat the Clock.'Baseball fans arrived before dawn, with blankets, books and lawn chairs in tow, expecting that their fortitude would be rewarded with the first shot at Safeco seats.What they didn't know, however, was that Ticketmaster had decided late Saturday night to institute its rarely used random lottery system.That system decreed that instead of a straight line for tickets in order of arrival at the box office, a drawing would be held to determine the order by which fans would be entitled to stand in line - with no guarantee that anyone would get a ticket.As with Ticketmaster's other outlets, Bainbridge's was not allotted a block of tickets - just one pipeline among the 150 to place ticket orders as quickly as possible, thus thinning the odds considerably for even the most diehard of hardball fans.A few folks were angry, and I don't blame them, Brein said.The lottery began at 9 a.m., with the masses sent outside to take a double ticket for the lottery. They then filed into Bainbridge Cinemas' largest theater, with free concession beverages, whereupon Brein selected a cute little girl from the crowd to draw lottery tickets from a barrel.As winners were announced 20 at a time, those gathered began to form what Marcy called instant consortiums among themselves. The idea was that if one member drew an early lottery winner, he or she would buy tickets for the others under the eight-ticket-per-person limit.With the alliances came long lines at the Pavilion's lone automated teller machine - and the frantic passing of cash between the haves (those who had cash or plastic handy) and the have nots (those caught short of both cash and credit cards).These are baseball fans, remember, said Bainbridge resident Chris Case, also caught in Sunday's confusion. They know the value of teamwork. And hustle.The tickets went as fast as predicted. By 10:35 a.m., blocks of eight seats together were no longer available. Twenty-five minutes later, only scattered single seats remained. Less than 15 minutes later, it was official - both games had sold out.After that, we can keep trying, but it's like redialing a busy phone number, Brein said.Marcy was among the unlucky ones, but he took the setback in stride.I was having so much with this experience, he said. When my (lottery) number finally came up, I jumped up and down and shouted 'I won!' like a little kid.He added: I was going to offer to refuel the KIRO chopper or something for a look at the game. But instead, I'm just going to save my money and watch it on TV.Case, who also struck out through the lottery system, had a happier ending. She ran into a friend who had lucked into a high lottery number - and who also remembered that Case had been the only one to offer her cash had she come up short.The friend told Case she would make sure she got two tickets for Game 4.It was all I could do not to 'woof' and hug her in the lobby, but I recalled that my allied friends were way back in the line, and a display of celebration seemed out of place.I woofed loudly in my car, all the way home.Brein, however, will be among those watching on television.If I was seen at a Mariner game by any of the 500 people who stood in line, they would have every right to be mad at me, he said. Our employees get in line for tickets like anyone else. "

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