Sports

The upper deck

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

You wouldn’t guess any of these kids spend much time in the choir room at Thomas Jefferson High School – at least you hope they don’t.

No American idols in this group.

But their off-beat, off-pitch rendition of the familiar baseball tune, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was met with a resounding spattering of applause –– and plenty of smiles –– from the crowd at Tuesday’s baseball game between the Raiders and Puyallup High School.

“Everyone heard us in the dugout and stuff,” said senior Mandy Wolf from her spot underneath a blanket on a couch that was found on the side of the road. “It was pretty cool.”

Chicago’s Wrigley Field has the “Bleacher Bums.” Now, Thomas Jefferson has “The Upper Deck.”

“I think that is the name we are going with,” said Cam Warner. “That is, until we come up with something better.”

Warner and fellow senior, Aaron Bradford, came up with the idea of constructing The Upper Deck before the Raiders’ baseball team started its spring schedule, and got some help from fellow seniors Paul Klingburg, Kyle Murray, Jonny Angel and Taylor Landurd.

The TJ baseball field was refurbished last year, and the scoreboard that used to sit in right-center was torn down, leaving a void, they decided. So they built a deck that sits right on top of the 6-foot tall right-centerfield fence.

“Honestly, I don’t know where we came up with the idea,” Warner said. “We just figured out what we were going to do and started building.”

A few hundred nails, screws and 2x4’s later, The Upper Deck can now seat 15 comfortably.

In a day when luxury suites at Safeco Field go for $1,600 a game, all it costs to sit in The Upper Deck is a few burgers, a couple bags of chips or a six-pack of Coke.

Can life get any better?

“They are quite a sight out there,” said TJ baseball coach Mike Church.

A sight that the coach doesn’t mind looking out upon from the Raiders’ third-base dugout. Since “The Upper Deck” has taken up perch in the trees behind the fence, the Jefferson Nine is playing like one of the better teams in the rugged South Puget Sound League South Division.

The appreciation Church and his team have for The Upper Deck was in plain sight after a 7-0 thrashing was laid upon the hated Vikings from Puyallup Tuesday afternoon. This is the same Puyallup team that has used the upstart Raiders as a proverbial bump in the road during past baseball seasons.

Following Jefferson’s shutout, The Upper Deck was paid the ultimate compliment a baseball team can give – the Raiders lined up and tipped their caps, exposing hat-hair and all.

Since “The Upper Deck’s” construction, the Raiders are respectable 3-1 in the division and vying for one of the division’s playoff berths.

A position the program hasn’t been in for awhile.

“We are a team on the rise,” Church said.

The Upper Deck is the definition of make-shift and won’t win any architectural awards.

“We just kind of started building,” Warner said, while trying to get the charcoals in the bottom of a hibachi barbecue started. “We kind of rounded up wood from everywhere.”

The area around Thomas Jefferson is littered with new housing developments, which are currently under construction. And when you have new houses being constructed as quickly as possible, there is always leftover lumber, which Warner and Bradford didn’t mind asking the builders for.

The pride of “The Upper Deck” came from one of those sites. A six-foot long, yellow “Oversize Load” sign serves as a platform for the baseball tradition of hanging of the “K’s” after a TJ pitcher tallies a strikeout.

Make-shift or not, the 15-person structure serves its purpose – it provides a spot for TJ students to watch the Raiders play baseball.

And it seems to have developed a special type of vibe that seems to emanate up from the 3/4” particle board deck. A special mojo, to take the Mariners’ catch-phrase, that requires anybody sitting in “The Upper Deck” to have a good time cheering the Raiders to victory.

“The Upper Deck” has some perks that the fans sitting in the bleachers behind home plate don’t have. Most notably a barbecue laced with hot dogs and hamburgers, a radio, potato chips, coolers filled with ice cold pops and no parents or teachers.

“We wanted this to be our signature from the class of 2003,” said Bradford. “We are going to leave it up as long as it doesn’t get torn down.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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