SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Trip to Nationals Park

Sorry for not being as good a poster during the summer months, but the combination of work and trying to get some exercise have cut into my blogging time. In any event, yes, I'm still on the exercise program that I began late last year, and, well, my son and I had a fun time on Saturday night watching baseball at Nationals Park in D.C.



We drove to Washington on Saturday afternoon, got to our hotel, and then took the Metro to the ballpark. I did splurge on tickets, buying "President's Club" seats in the area right behind home plate. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to have a very special time with my eight year-old son and give him a fun night to remember (above all other fun nights, I suppose). And, sure, I wanted to give myself a great night to remember too.



The Metro is a great way to get to a ball game. We had to make one switch to get the the Green Line, and then we only had a few stops to get to the Navy Yard stop. From there, it was only a short walk to the ballpark (near the left field gate). Right away, we went to the Nats' store, as I had promised my son one souvenir. He easily decided on a Ryan Zimmerman t-shirt (even though the Nats' regular 3B is on the DL), and, outside, took off his orange Steve Nash practice jersey and donned the Zimmerman togs.



From there, we had hoped to walk around the stadium (we got there at about 5 p.m., a half hour after the outfield gate opened but a half hour before the entire stadium opened). Unfortunately, though a passing rainstorm hit, and we huddled near an entrance to a rest room for about 15 minutes while the storm passed. The storm meant that the grounds crew put the tarp on the field, ending the batting practice sessions and hopes for autographs or balls tossed from members of the Reds and Nats.


And then we made our way to where the Presidents' Club seat entrance is. We walked along the corridor behind the third base line and made our way to an elevator bank, where we descended to the first level of the stadium. We saw signs for locker rooms, and we made our way to the restaurant underneath the stadium, where a host greeted us, explained the food options that came with the tickets (I bought them on StubHub earlier in the week and didn't know, but all food was free save alcohol, and while I don't imbibe much I do not do so when I either have a long drive or am alone with the kids). It was still raining outside, so we were seated and then hit the buffet. Yes, my son had pasta with sausage and clam sauce and I ate grouper at a baseball game, along with rice and asparagus. It was still raining outside, and my son and I joked that at least we'd have a gourmet restaurant-like setting to stay dry were the rain to continue.

Before dessert we made our way to the far side of the restaurant, where a glass partition separated the place from an underground batting cage, where two Nats (one of them, I believe, was shortstop Christian Guzman) were playing catch. After watching this for several minutes, we returned for dessert. Then it was time to make our way to the seats.

But before you exit the Presidents' Club, you pass tables with dispensers for iced tea and lemonade. Once you get to the door, you see a table with bags of peanuts and Cracker Jack and boxes of peanuts. Before the table are two coolers full of ice and either bottled water or Coke products. We took a bag of Cracker Jacks and then made our way to our fifth row seats right behind the plate. We took photos, learned from an usher that the chance of getting autographs after BP was nil, watched the grounds crew take off the tarp, listened to an amazing ten year-old sing the National Anthem, and just soaked up the fact that we were in awesome seats five rows behind the plate at a brand-new baseball park.

The game was quite exciting. Yes, we sampled Dibs and nachos with cheese and hot peppers and then some more water and Dibs. No, we didn't eat everything, but we enjoyed ourselves on a boys' night out and watched some exciting baseball.

Sure, the Nats are a team of utility players, as a Nats' fan told us. Yes, everyone seems to play multiple positions, and the pitchers aren't great. The pitching matchup had journeyman Josh Fogg starting for the Reds and relative youngster Jason Bergmann on the mound for the Nats. By the middle of the game, the Reds were up 6-2, thanks to a 3-run double in the second by Joey Votto, the Reds' first baseman, a monster shot by Jay Bruce, the rookie star, and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Reds' backup catcher Paul Bako, getting the start this night. The Reds also benefitted from a great throw from CF by Corey Patterson to nail Nats' catcher Jesus Flores (remember the name; he can hit) at the plate.

We watched the Presidents' race, and, no, Teddy Roosevelt still hasn't won. On Saturday night, a nimble Abe Lincoln handily defeated Teddy, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. After this bit of entertainment, the Nats regrouped. They scored eight runs between the bottom of the sixth and eighth, thanks to excellent hitting from Lasting Milledge (HR), Ronnie Belliard (pinch-hit two-run HR), RF Austin Kearns and 1B Korey Casto. The place looked pretty full (at least 35,000), the joint jumped, and the Nats showed some pluck (if manager Manny Acta had a reasonable amount of talent, well, look out -- he can handle pitchers, and the players play hard for him).

After the game we followed the crowd to the Metro, thanking those in the President's Club whose nation's capitol version of southern hospitality made our night extra special. Several stops later, we were back in the hotel, debriefing each other on what we liked the best about Nationals Park and the Reds-Nats game.

Three home runs.

A suicide squeeze.

Staying to the end of the game and not leaving early to beat traffic.

Not having to drive to a game.

Too many errors by the Reds (Brandon Phillips' iron glove at 2B hurt the visitors, and Adam Dunn looks statuesque in left field).

Iffy pitching by the Reds' bullpen.

Hanging out with my son, talking baseball, eating Crackerjacks, having an awesome view of a baseball game, a father with his son on what turned out to be a nice summer night.

It was truly a treat.

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