Home Run Hill at Funko Field. Credit: Jenna Vandenberg
Big-league dreams go right through Everett, Washington. Every spring, young baseball players in the Seattle Mariners organization say goodbye to their families and head for the minors, playing for teams in Modesto, Everett, Little Rock or Tacoma — all with hopes of getting called up to the majors and one day playing at T-Mobile Park.
History in the making
Back in 1987, Ken Griffey Jr. hit his first professional home run out of Everett Memorial Stadium while playing for the Bellingham Mariners.
When Julio Rodríguez, the 2022 MLB Rookie of the Year, played in Everett during the 2021 season, fans got an exclusive preview of this spectacular center fielder’s career.
Take part in the action
The best part of all this excitement? Your family can be there for a front-row seat to the action. For families in the greater Puget Sound region, Everett AquaSox games offer affordable family fun at the ballpark.
The AquaSox’s 2023 opening-night game takes place Friday, April 7, 2023. The season runs through early September, and single-game tickets are on sale as of Monday, March 13.
Family fun at Funko Field
In addition to nine innings of thrilling line drives and double plays, there’s plenty for kids and families to experience while watching AquaSox games at Funko Field.
Theme nights and giveaways
Back in 2019, the AquaSox announced a six-year partnership with Funko, the wildly popular Everett toy company. Funko received field naming rights and sponsors giveaways every Friday.
On Funko Fridays, fans receive a Funko giveaway. Funko Pop! collectibles of Mariners players and Freddy Funko in a baseball uniform have been particularly popular. Other giveaways have included Funko T-shirts, lanyards, sweatshirts and hats.
For special family fun, the AquaSox’s 2023 schedule includes theme nights dedicated to “Star Wars,” Marvel Defenders and honoring the military. Kids can run the bases after every Sunday game, and most Saturday games feature fireworks after the game.
Snag your tickets now for some particular summer games: A performer called The Amazing Tyler brings his balancing act to the stadium for games on July 15 and 16, making these games extra special for kids and families.
Ballpark entertainment isn’t only limited to just Funko Fridays and special theme nights. Between innings, action on the base paths includes racing mascots and remote-control car races.
More fun keeping kids entertained includes pop-fly contests, pizza box tosses and dance parties atop the dugouts. Sometimes contests feature kids racing around bases while adding jumbo shoes, jerseys or stirrups to their outfits. Before and during the game, mascots Webbly the Frog and Frank the Hot Dog are always around for pictures and high-fives.
The huge grassy field behind the first baseline seats is always teeming with kids rolling down hills, playing catch or simply running around. For a $5 wrist band, kids can play in the Fun Zone of inflatable bounce houses.
Families can buy tickets to sit on the Home Run Porch, a grassy knoll above right field. This is a perfect space where toddlers can roll around and their parents can still keep an eye on the ball game. A 15-foot Freddy Funko statue graces the hill.
On the opposite side of the field, kids line up to get autographs after games. Alongside the third baseline is a great spot to score autographs. Players are often eager to sign, especially if it’s early in the home stand. Autographs can also be collected before the game, but not once the game starts.
Getting into the game
Bouncy houses and Funko merchandise aside, AquaSox games are havens for baseball purists. Many of the ball players live with host families during the season, and these families are often diehard fans particularly invested in the game and cheering on their players. Season ticket holders hunker down in their seats, scorecards in laps, headphones dialed in to AM 1380, where Pat Dillion has been calling games since 1998.
Keeping score is a great way to keep kids engaged and foster a love for the game. Scorekeepers record each player along the left-hand side of a scorecard, and use a series of lines and numbers to indicate the outcome of each pitch. Older kids can easily pick up the basics, and younger ones can be given a sticker to place next to a player each time he reaches base. Baseball bingo cards are handed out each Wednesday, and fans can win prizes if plays on the field lead to a straight line on their bingo card.
Baseball lore and the path to the major league
It’s not often that you get to literally watch someone’s dreams come true, but that is what minor league fans witness every night at ballparks across America. For players, putting on that Everett AquaSox uniform brings them one step closer to playing in the majors someday.
Every team in the MLB drafts players each summer. Those players usually spend a few years winding through the organization's “farm system” before the best of the best make it to the big leagues.
In the days following the draft, most Mariners prospects head to Modesto, California, where they play for the Single-A Modesto Nuts. The Everett AquaSox High-A team is the next stop. While most players spend the whole season in Everett, exceptional ones might graduate to the next level halfway through the season.
Julio Rodríguez played in Everett for only a couple months before heading to Little Rock to play for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. From there, players such as Rodríguez might be sent back to the Pacific Northwest to don Tacoma Rainiers uniforms for the Triple-A team. In both Double-A and Triple-A teams, players anxiously await the call from Seattle, hoping for the day they’ll be called up to the big leagues.
Sometimes major-league Mariners will get sent to play in Everett or Tacoma after an injury, as they are preparing to rejoin the big league team. Seeing Félix Hernández up on the mound for the Everett Aquasox or watching Cal Raleigh regain his homerun swing as a Tacoma Rainier is thrilling for fans. Minor league games provide a more intimate and up-close experience compared to watching from the third deck at T-Mobile Park.
For South Sound families, a Tacoma Rainiers game provides the same fun as an Everett AquaSox game. Cheney Stadium features a wiffle ball field and play structure as entertainment for kids who can’t quite sit still for all nine innings.
Rhubarb the Reindeer makes frequent appearances both on the field and in the stands. Tacoma Rainiers tickets for the 2023 season are already on sale now. Check out Copa de la Diversión or “Fun Cup” games specifically designed to embrace and welcome Latino communities to games. Tacoma also hosts a Pride Night, a WSU night, a UW night, and a K9 inning night when you can bring your dog to the park.
If you go ...
When: The Everett AquaSox season runs from early April to early September each year. Check the 2023 schedule online. Typically, weekday games and Saturday games start at 7:05 p.m., and Sunday games start at 4:05 p.m. However, every month has a couple of early weekday games, so be sure to check the schedule. Public gates open an hour before game time.
Cost: Tickets start at $10 for general admission seating. Kids ages 2 and younger enter free. Promos and specials can be found on the AquaSox website. Buy tickets online, through the MiLB app, or at the box office.
Parking: Parking is free in the lot off 39th and Broadway, north of the stadium. A smaller lot south of the stadium is also available. Parking fills up quickly on busy weekend nights, but you can usually score a spot in the north lot if you arrive about a half an hour early.
Tips for bringing infants and toddlers: Strollers are hard to get up and down stadium steps and cannot block walkways. If you must bring a stroller, consider sitting on the grassy field of Home Run Porch. Bring a blanket to sit on and keep an eye out for home run balls. There are diaper-changing tables located in the family restroom and in both restrooms at the ballpark. While the stadium is not excessively noisy, some families do bring noise-canceling headphones for little tots, especially on firework nights.
Carry-in-item restrictions: All bags must be clear and no larger than 12 by 12 by 6 inches. Diaper bags are permitted for guests accompanied by their little ones, and clutches smaller than 4.5 by 6.5 inches are also allowed. All bags are subject to search. No cans, weapons, glass containers, food or beverages (except for sealed bottled water of 32 or fewer ounces) are allowed. Lawn chairs, seat cushions and blankets are all allowed in the gates — and recommended!
Fun facts about Funko: Funko is a toy company that was founded in Snohomish County in 1998. Originally specializing in bobbleheads, the company introduced the toys that would become Funko Pop Vinyls at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. Fame, fortune and fandom followed.
In 2017, Funko Headquarters opened in downtown Everett. The flagship store features giant Funko statues set in carefully crafted forests, Disney castles, Batmobiles and “Star Wars” scenes. Kids and “Funatics” can purchase collectibles or have custom Funkos made in-store. Find Funko HQ at 2801 Wetmore Ave. in Everett. The Funko HQ store is open seven days a week, opening at 11 a.m., Monday–Friday, and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and closes at 6 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday, and 4 p.m. on Monday.