Hope Springs Eternal

Nobody Captures the Emotion of Opening Day Like This Mariners Fan

RE: Alex Tuttle's annual opening day email tradition.

By Eric Nusbaum March 30, 2023

It was March 2005, and Alex Tuttle couldn't contain himself. After a down year, the Seattle Mariners were about to kick off their season with some legitimate hype. Over the winter, they'd signed stars Adrián Beltré and Richie Sexson. They'd hired a proven winner in manager Mike Hargrove. They still had Ichiro. And best of all, a pitching prospect in Tacoma named Félix Hernández was waiting to take his crown.

Was this a perfect team? By no means. But it was a new year, a new beginning. So on opening day, Tuttle fired off an email to some fellow M's fans. “Hope springs eternal,” the then-25-year-old Mercer Island native wrote.

“I suppose I was just really feeling that naive sense of optimism at that time and wanted to share it with my friends,” Tuttle, a senior assistant city attorney for Renton, says now.

The Mariners finished that season 69-93. It was a slight improvement over the year before. It was also the beginning of something: a ritual, a creative exercise, a community. Every year since 2005, Tuttle has composed a "Hope Springs Eternal" email to mark the start of baseball season in Seattle. The list of recipients has grown from a handful of pals to a few dozen acquaintances to hundreds of people.

The nature of the emails has also changed. You probably know that, until recently, Tuttle’s email coincided with a historic run of futility by the Mariners. As losing seasons went by, the email evolved from a celebration to a meditation, from a meditation to a plea. Tuttle grew into his thirties, and then his forties, and the Mariners kept losing. They lost through cross-country moves, new jobs, breakups, marriage, parenthood. With each passing year, hope seemed more elusive, and yet more necessary.

“Back in the early days it was a way to connect with my friends over baseball,” Tuttle says. “Now it really is more than that; it’s about these bigger themes. It’s about hope generally and coming of age and all that. It’s a way to connect with people I don’t talk to all the time because you lose touch.”

Tyler Besecker, who went to high school with Tuttle, has been receiving the emails since the beginning. They don't see one another as often as they'd like, but Besecker looks forward to the email every year, in part because it captures the personality of his friend: witty, optimistic, and cerebral. The one thing they don't fully capture? "Alex is very loud. He's a loud rooter. He's got a booming voice, especially when he wants to heckle somebody." 

In time, the emails began to stretch further afield, covering everything from the British geologist Percy Fawcett’s fatal search for a lost city in the Amazon to the origin of the Han dynasty in China. But they have always built, in a roundabout way, to that same line, borrowed from the poet Alexander Pope: “Hope springs eternal.” 

I first encountered Tuttle’s emails in 2010, via my wife’s cousin Charles, who went to law school with him. That year’s edition was full of optimism about new Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who had supposedly built the team into a contender. (They would finish the season 61-101.) Eventually, I made it onto the recipient list myself.

The beauty of the emails, for me, was the discipline Tuttle had in coming back to his central belief, which was really the promise of sports fandom everywhere: that anything can happen. The emails were funny and over-the-top and also deeply reflective. They somehow had the feeling of a spiritual practice. “I honestly wondered if I would eventually disintegrate into an old codger, bouncing his grandchildren on his knee and boring them with stories of all the heartbreaking losses over the years,” he wrote in 2015, before launching into a rousing story about the repeated business failures that Harlan Sanders suffered before the launch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. For every winter, there is a spring.

This spring, opening day feels different for the Mariners. They reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001. There’s a superstar on the roster in Julio Rodríguez with more charisma and potential than anyone this city has seen since Ken Griffey Jr. The team is exciting, the vibes are good, and for the first time in a long time, fans don’t have to talk themselves into the improbable chance that this could be the year, because it plainly could.

Tuttle sees the same energy in Seattle that lit his passion for baseball in the 1990s. “I was coming of age and the Mariners were really good. I thought at one time, ‘They’ll never be bad again.’ I think that feeling is still inside me. It’s getting harder to access, though.”

The email is getting harder to write, too.

“In order to write well, I think, you really have to connect with the material,” he says. “It needs to tie together. It needs to mean something. It needs to have that right tone. It’s kind of an emotional process, the way I do it.”

The emotion, of course, is what keeps Tuttle and his readers coming back every year. And it will probably keep them coming back for years to come. For as challenging as the email is, Tuttle figures he will keep doing it at least until the Mariners, the only MLB team to never appear in a World Series, finally win one. Even that would not necessarily be the end.

He recalls watching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl some years ago, wearing his gear and yelling, and all the while simply knowing that, on some deep-down level, he was only going through the motions. It wasn’t the Mariners. It wasn’t baseball.

“You’ve gotta care,” he says. “You can’t just summon those emotions and those feelings. I couldn’t ever write a Seahawks email. I just couldn’t.”

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