A Visit to Nationals Park

On Thursday the 31st, I drove down to D.C. to see the Nationals host the Phillies. Not giveaway day, but another first-place team (the Nats). A fairly straight drive down Route 295. ON the way down, you pass a lot of exits for government and military facilities. Including – maybe (grin) – the “Employees Only” exit for the NSA.

Unlike Camden Yards, Nationals Park is off in the fringes of D.C., on the Anacostia River waterfront. Despite the stadium’s presence there for six years, there hasn’t yet been any significant development in the area. Still a lot of vacant lots and miscellaneous industry. One hopes that will change in the future.

Just north of the stadium is what looks like a low budget carnival/midway in a lot surrounded by shipping containers. A couple of carnival-type games, a music stage, and food and drink stands. Even though the place was well occupied when I was there, it still looked quite dismal.

The main entrance to the stadium brings you into a plaza in the left-centerfield area. There’s a clear view of the playing field, which makes for a nice welcome. The Red Porch restaurant is on the left of the plaza as you enter (towards center field). I gather it must be packed during games. I stopped in to eat before game time. The Cuban sandwich I had was big, meat-filled, tasty, and really, really, messy to eat. It almost literally dripped grease.

The main concourse has the usual ballpark food places – with two exceptions. There’s an actual coffee stand/cart, so you don’t have to get in line at a food stand to get a cup of hot brown liquid that just might be coffee. And there was also a small stand for a bakery, where you could get a Teddy Roosevelt cupcake. Sadly, I didn’t want to try to eat it at the stadium, and I didn’t think it would survive the trip back.

The stadium staff was great. Friendly and attentive, without being intrusive. The best I’ve yet seen at a ballpark. And you’ll see nods around the place to not only players from the Washington Senators, but the Montreal Expos and Homestead Grays (the local Negro Leagues team), too.

Now, to the game itself.

The stats and play-by-play:

Highlights, again courtesy of MLB.com:

As with the previous night’s game in Baltimore, I kept score. The scoresheet provided in the program was good – big squares, with lots of room to record things. A good thing, too. This was a very sloppy game (A sloppy game = a sloppy scorecard). There were 25 hits in total, and all but three of them were singles. Many, many pitching changes, too. I almost gave up on it, but I decided I’d see it through. Coming up with the totals and final box score, however….I left that to the professionals.

The general atmosphere was that of a rock concert. Loud music, and the players were presented on the scoreboard like rock stars. The announcer sounded like he was constipated: “Now batting…..Jayson hgwwWWERRRRRRRRGGGGTHHHGH!” Very annoying.

What was also annoying was that people were still getting to their seats in the third inning. Guys, you’ve missed a quarter of the game already! Considering what a ticket goes for, that’s an unconscionable waste of money. And it wasn’t just that I had an aisle seat – I paid attention at the Orioles game the next night. Everyone there was seated by the end of the first inning. I suppose it might be due to the National’s only being in town for less than ten years. Not enough time to really develop generations of devoted fans.

Another little annoyance was that with the scoreboard doing so much to make stars out of the players, there was no information on substitutions or replays. With all the pitching changes and pinch-hitting, it was really hard to keep track of things. And there were more than a few plays that needed or deserved a second look – like the play in the top of the eighth, where the Phillies’ Chase Utley was tagged out on a play that went 7-5-6-5 (bases loaded single by Marlon Byrd – driving in two runs – Utley went too far around second with the play in front of him – Nats’ third baseman got the throw from the outfield and started a rundown). I know I’m seeing a game live and not on TV, but there’s no reason not to do this when you have a giant video screen on the scoreboard.

I also noticed a strange smell – something like stale cooking grease – wafting over my area for the first few innings. I have no idea what it was, or where it came from. It wasn’t pleasant, but I wasn’t retching and gasping for breath from it, either.

The Nationals had their traditional “President’s Race”. They’ve added a Taft figure to the “Rushmore Four”. In the race I saw, Roosevelt got in front early as the other presidents seemed to get tangled up in each other. He was well in the lead going into the home stretch, only to be taken out by a “sharknado” a few feet from the finish line. Lincoln was able to win. I wonder – will they ever have “guest presidents”? A bespectacled Woodrow Wilson… two Grover Clevelands… I guess it will depend on whether or not they’ll be able to come up with a recognizable head.

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