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Seattle Mariners president talks ending postseason drought, Amazon partnership

Seattle Mariners President Catie Griggs sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to discuss engaging fans during the team's first playoff appearance in 21 years, the Savannah Bananas, and the team's stadium partnerships with Amazon.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: The last time the Seattle Mariners played a playoff game, we were still renting movies from Blockbuster Video, including the first "Harry Potter" flick. It was 21 years ago. And Friday, the longest postseason drought in American professional sports comes to a close. Let's talk about it with Mariners president of business operations, Catie Griggs. Catie, great to see you. Your star player, Julio Rodriguez, had not yet turned one the last time this happened. How do you describe the excitement level in Seattle?

CATIE GRIGGS: I mean, it's palpable. It was incredible on Friday night if you saw it on the faces of our athletes, and the fans, in the stands, and in basically homes throughout our region. I mean, it really was a moment of celebration for this city. Getting that monkey off our back was incredibly important. And now we can focus on bigger and better goals.

DAVE BRIGGS: You are clearly the lucky charm in your first year. Hopefully someday, being the only woman president in Major League Baseball is not a big deal. But it is now. With the only one that has that title, what do you want young women to learn from your rise to this point?

CATIE GRIGGS: I think I'd say you don't have to be anything unique. It really is important to be yourself. But with that being said, it's helpful to see someone like you and know that there are people that can do it. And therefore, you can do it.

DAVE BRIGGS: I hope so. The journey has been an interesting one for you. You enrolled at North Carolina State at 14. You went to Turner Sports, you worked for the Atlanta United FC Soccer Club, and now the Mariners. What's the common thread throughout that journey?

CATIE GRIGGS: I've been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to be surrounded by mentors who have helped support me as I try to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never could have scripted the career path that I've been on. With that being said, I've really built a career around learning and trying to find places where I didn't have experience, get that experience, and see where it took me. And I've been incredibly fortunate that it's taken me here to the Seattle Mariners.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yeah, you weren't really focused on baseball. You weren't necessarily a baseball lifer. So how'd you wind up as president of the Seattle Mariners?

CATIE GRIGGS: Baseball has always been a part of my life. I actually played little league as a kid. My neighbor had a batting cage in his yard. And we were always out there playing. So it's been something that's been part of my life since I was little. The Durham Bulls were my team growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina. So baseball has always been a passion of mine. With that being said, for me, it's about the fans. It's about, how do we use sports to bring our communities together?

And baseball, we have 81 regular season opportunities to do that throughout the year. And we're really excited here in Seattle to hopefully bring folks together many more times throughout the postseason as well.

DAVE BRIGGS: And because of all those games, it's probably the biggest challenge in bringing that fan experience. Because there are so many games, it's led to some interesting innovations with the Mariners and Amazon. Tell us about that.

CATIE GRIGGS: Yeah, no. For us, it really is about ensuring every single fan has an incredible experience. And one thing that anyone who works in sports or anyone who's been to a venue knows is lines can be a real challenge when you're bringing tens of thousands of people together on a game day. So with [? our ?] partnership with Amazon and their Just Walk Out technology, we rolled out a, what we're calling our walk off market at the beginning of this season.

And it's something where our fans can swipe their credit card, walk in, get food, concessions, some tchotchkes, and then walk straight out and avoid the line altogether. And it's something that we've seen tremendous returns so far.

DAVE BRIGGS: Oh boy. What a huge difference. So it's not just you. The league is making some changes. They're adding the pitch clock to help that fan experience next year. How do you think that'll help from the fan experience? And what else can the game do to appeal to a younger audience?

CATIE GRIGGS: Yeah, I think they're making a lot of moves that I'm really optimistic. We'll ensure that that fan experience stays fresh and meets the needs of today's fan. With that being said, I think one of the opportunities we have, and you've seen it here in Seattle this year, you referenced Julio earlier, is really we've got tremendously engaging, charismatic athletes on our squad. And so for us, we recognize when you're looking at Gen Z, you're looking at Gen Alpha, these are cohorts that grew up on social media. They know what's real. They know what's fake.

They care about authenticity. And so for us, it's, how do we ensure that we're showcasing our athletes for who they are, the silly, the fun, the competitive, bringing that to life in a way that resonates with both current fans as well as people who haven't yet discovered their fans?

DAVE BRIGGS: Speaking of the silly and the fun, I don't know if you know about the Savannah Bananas. They're an exhibition team down in Savannah. They have more TikTok followers than the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers combined. Is there something that can be learned from what they're doing and applied to Major League Baseball?

CATIE GRIGGS: I think the Savannah bananas have done an absolutely phenomenal job of creating an experience. And so when you're looking at this, what they're doing, they're bringing the fun back to the sport. And for us, whether you're looking at exactly how we do it, I suspect it'll look a little bit different.

But whether you're looking at the celebrations that happen after a home run, whether you're looking at about the celebrations that happen after a winner, the ways in which our athletes get along with each other, get along with our fans, a lot of that fun is something we focus on a lot in terms of bringing that to the forefront and ensuring that whether you're at the ballpark, you're watching from home, or you're consuming on social media, you're getting a sense of that. So I think what the Savannah Bananas are doing is awesome.

DAVE BRIGGS: Another fan evolution is you took advantage of the work from home concept with work from the ballpark. Tell us about that. And do you see this returning?

CATIE GRIGGS: Yeah, we'd love to. I think it was something we saw tremendous interest in in our marketplace, which was a lot of fun. We recognize people are doing all sorts of different things and are working from a variety of locations. And really, this was an opportunity. We saw some folks who were here taking Zoom calls from, or Microsoft Teams calls, from the actual ballpark itself. We also saw some people who are having team meetings there and bringing people together.

It really is about how do we leverage the incredible asset we have here at T-Mobile Park to ensure that we're creating an experience that works for everyone. And we know for day games, a lot of folks have to work. So if you got to work, we can give you a pretty cool backdrop to do it.

DAVE BRIGGS: Innovative and inflation proof, you guys are offering tickets and a meal for 20 bucks. How was that done at the Major League level, let alone on an expensive city like Seattle?

CATIE GRIGGS: Yeah, no. Look, we are tremendously fortunate. We talked about the 81 regular season home games earlier. That means we have a lot of ability to welcome in our community. And we realize our community represents a lot of different people with a lot of different economic abilities. We believe we have an opportunity and an obligation to be a place where everyone can come together. And that means we need to price things accordingly.

So on our value games, we have tickets as low as $10. And you referenced our value menu, which we rolled out this year. For $3.00, you can have a refillable soda, a hot dog, popcorn, peanuts, red vines. It really is something where we're intending to ensure that all of our fans, regardless of who he, she, or they are, can come, can have a good experience, and can afford to come back again.

DAVE BRIGGS: All right, Catie, I promise you this. Yahoo is coming out to the all-star game 2023 in Seattle to see all these innovations. We'll see you there. Deal?

CATIE GRIGGS: Can't wait to host y'all.

DAVE BRIGGS: All right. Catie Griggs, president of the Seattle Mariners. Congratulations. Best of luck in the postseason. Good to have you.

CATIE GRIGGS: Thank you. Thank you.

SEANA SMITH: You better take me with you on that trip.

DAVE BRIGGS: I promise. You in?

SEANA SMITH: I'm in.

DAVE BRIGGS: We'll set up shop.

SEANA SMITH: It's an easy sell. Yep, I like it. Maybe we'll do the show from there a few days. It'll be a lot of fun.

DAVE BRIGGS: I hope the boss is watching.