Mariners fans created the ‘Maple Grove’ for Canadian James Paxton, and he loves it

A small group’s joke has turned into a detailed operation at Safeco Field that is growing, with even more signs and more fans chanting, “eh.”

A group of Mariners supporters just wanted to annoy some Blue Jays fans when Toronto played at Safeco Field in June. That was the plan.

All of the hoopla that has followed — from accepting a potted maple tree from the Mariners to receiving maple bars from James Paxton on the field prior to Seattle’s game on Tuesday — has simply been the bizarre, but enjoyable, byproduct of what started as a joke.

When Seattle played Toronto last season, two longtime Mariners fans, Daniel Carroll and Megan Shear, brought signs to the game to torment the Canadians who were coming down to watch. The posters ranged from reminding the fans of how the Sounders beat Toronto in the MLS Cup to saying that milk bags are pointless.

When the Blue Jays headed to Seattle this season, Carroll and Shear planned to create a similar environment. It just so happened that Paxton, who is Canadian, was Seattle’s starting pitcher that day. The group of fans ran with it, and the Maple Grove began.

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Imagine a smaller, fan-driven version of King’s Court, the cheering section of yellow-shirted fans every time Felix Hernandez starts. That’s how this group of fans landed on the idea of creating a similar scene for Paxton. Instead of spectators holding up signs that say, “K,” these Mariners fans have signs that say, “eh.”

“That was one of the best ways we knew to honor a starter,” said Hillary Kirby, a graphic designer who became the creative mastermind behind the Maple Grove’s signage.

Paxton remembers the first time he saw King’s Court, and he said it gave him chills. He never thought something remotely similar would be created by fans for him.

Each time Paxton throws two strikes, the group chants, “eh,” and Paxton could hear them…

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