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While Seattle Mariners vie for the playoffs, the Tacoma Rainiers already have something to celebrate

Taylor Trammell has had a lot to smile about. He hit a game-winning triple that gave the Tacoma Rainiers the Triple-A West Championship.
Carlos Osorio
The Associated Press file
Taylor Trammell has had a lot to smile about. He hit a game-winning triple that gave the Tacoma Rainiers the Triple-A West Championship.

In the Pacific Northwest, we don’t often get to watch baseball in October. As the Seattle Mariners fight for their first playoff appearance in 20 years, their minor-league team to the south already has something to celebrate.

The Tacoma Rainiers clinched a Triple-A West Championship on the road against the El Paso Chihuahuas last month.

Since then, it has been a somewhat muted celebration. But outfielder Taylor Trammell, who hit the game-winning triple to bring home the title, says it’s still an important one.

“It’s outstanding the fact that we got to bring something back to this city,” he told KNKX Public Radio, from the dugout at Cheney Stadium this week. “I’m not sugarcoating anything when I say this: We genuinely love our fans. They’ve been there every step of the way. You look forward to playing in Tacoma.”

Tacoma’s minor-league stadium is special — more intimate than T-Mobile Park in Seattle or any other ballpark in the majors. Even with pandemic protocols in place, first-year manager Kristopher Negron says fans were as loyal as ever this season. And that matters to his team, he says, to have the city behind them.

“Some people didn’t even play last year because of COVID,” Negron said Thursday, ahead of one of the team’s final games of the year. “The group of guys we got together truly is special. To have everybody come here together, putting a great product out on the field the fans can get excited about, and then winning the championship.”

Now, the players get to celebrate that title with their loyal fans. The Rainiers play their final games Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. It’s part of the so-called Final Stretch, a sort of season after the season to make up games rescheduled due to COVID.

And the team will be watching what they can of the Mariners this weekend, says Negron, who played for the M’s in 2018 and 2019, when he retired as a player.

“It’s unbelievable to watch,” Negron said. “I feel like as soon as our games are done, everybody’s rushing to get to the TV to watch the endings of the games.”

The Rainiers had an incredible run of their own en route to their 7-3 championship victory Sept. 18. As of July 19, Tacoma was 33-30 and 6.5 games behind Reno. In the two months that followed, the Rainiers’ record was 39-15.

After a couple of really tough years, Trammell says this team and their fans have given each other hope.

“It gives people something to cheer about,” he said. “There really hasn’t been too much light at the end of the tunnel. It’s exciting just to see the love, the passion, the happiness.”

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.