Baseball & The Cubbies in D.C. (7-19-2009)

On June 3, 2009, I knocked off work early and Tim and I trekked down to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C to witness a piece of history — Randy Johnson’s 300th career victory.  However, the rain put the kibosh on our plans.

July 19th was our make-up game.  Instead of seeing Randy Johnson’s 300th win, we saw Kevin Hart’s third.  It was a fun game — but as the math would reveal, it was about 100 times less memorable than if we would have got to see Randy’s big win.

The process of exchanging our rain out tickets for these tickets was made 50,000 times more difficult due to the inadequacies of the Washington Nationals telephone system.  I called them at about 4-5 different numbers I found on their website.  They all led to the same automated phone system.  No humans ever answered.  I was dumped into a “general” voicemail box and none of my calls were returned until I got creative.  Eventually the team store gave me the number 202-640-7000.  From that number, you can get a company phone directory.  I went through the front office directory on MLB.com and entered random Nationals employees into the phone directory.  The first 3-4 employees went straight to voicemail.  I was beginning to think that no one actually worked at Nationals Park.  Eventually, I reached someone.  She told me I could only make the exchange at the box office at the stadium and they wouldn’t hold tickets aside for me — just in case I didn’t show up.  So I was stuck driving 2.5 hours not knowing if they’d have any cheap seats to exchange for our cheapseats tickets.

When we got there, they didn’t.  All the cheap seats were sold out.  So we had to get tickets about twice as expensive as our original tickets.  This was frustrating.  I pulled out my card to pay the extra money for the more expensive tickets.  The guy asked me if I was buying more tickets.  “No.”  “Then you don’t need your card.”

It was the first good moment in the whole process:  they made a straight exchange for my cheap seats tickets.  This made me happy.  A small amount of redemption.  But the Nationals as an organization have a long way to go to get back in my good graces.  The handling of the rainout and then the unanswered phone messages and emails did a lot of damage.

Anyway, there is a game to report.  Let’s get to it.

To add to my already mounting frustration while heading down to the game, I missed the exit from I-95 to I-295.  So I had no clue how to get to the Park.  I saw an exit sign that said “To Naionals Park.”  So I took it.  Then I drove around totally clueless for about 15 minutes until I magically popped out of nowheresville and onto a bridge heading straight to Nationals Park.  This is what I saw:

1 - road to nats park.jpgWe entered through this entrance by the 1B line.  We’d never been around this side of the stadium, so it was good to see what it looks like over there.

We entered the stadium and there was a lot of hoopla going on — the Nats fans and employees were all jazzed up for the beginning of the game (FYI, we got there about 10 second before the Nats took the field):

2 - festive nats park.JPG

Often times, we walk into a game and Tim instantly informs me, “I want ice cream!”  Today to my surprise, he told me, “I want ice cream, after we eat lunch.”  He wanted chicken strips and fries, which interestingly is what we had at our only other game at Nationals Park.

We bought the chicken and fries and sat in the handicap accessible seats behind 1B field level seats.  This was our view:

3 - nats 1B chxfries seats panaramic.jpg

At our first game here, the attendants were dictators.  They checked tickets everywhere.  I had to sweet talk a guy to let Tim and I sit in the LAST ROW of the upper deck to eat Tim’s ice cream helmet.  I was happy to find the stadium much more relaxed at this game.

Here is Tim between french fries:

4 - serious tim.JPG

Tim was a little camera shy today.  He was all smiles and laughs all day except when the camera looked his way.  This is serious Tim.

I am excited for this entry because I felt like I got a lot of good action shots at this game.  Here is the first:

5 - johnsons on broadway.jpg

Okay.  So there really isn’t much *action* going on here.  But I wanted to get a picture of Nick Johnson and give him big SeaTown props.  Both today and at our last game at Nationals Park, N-John came to the plate accompanied by the sweet sounds of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse On Broadway.

Soon, the action picked up:  Alfonso Soriano hit a double:

6 - soriano doubles.jpg

Soriano seemed to be the only big name in the Cubs line-up.  I’m not up on the Cubs.  I’m not sure where everyone else was — no Aramis Ramirez and no Milton Bradley.  So my Cubs photos focused on Soriano.  He looks like he is going to hit a bomb on every swing he takes.

While sitting here, I noticed that the out-of-town scoreboard was telling a happy story:

7 - good news from cleveland.JPG

After eating, Tim wanted to go check out the play area in CF:

8 - mlb cheat sheet.JPG

The play area is the red and blue thing to the far right of the picture.  To the left, there are some big signs with all of the 30 MLB team logos.  Usually each stadium has the team flags or logos in order of the current standings.  Nationals Park just has the logos.  Not sure why.

 When we arrived at the play area, they had just told everyone to clear out.  Some kid had spilled some bodily fluids (not sure what) out there and they brought the hazmat trucks in to clean up.

So we stood in straight away CF and watched the game.  This was our view:

9 - nats cf field panaramic.jpg

It was a good thing we got booted out of the play area or we would have missed Soriano hitting a bomb in his second at bat:

10 - soriano bomb.jpg

In the interest of full disclosure, the top left picture is actually a foul ball right before the HR.  But the top right, is the actual HR swing.  A pretty sweet swing.  I thought we were in Chicago — the whole stadium went crazy!

Did I mention that I love my new camera?  Check out these floating ball shots I took from straight away CF:

11 - floating balls.jpg

After we got these shots, it was time for the play area:

12 - playarea.jpg

The most frequently broken rule?  No. 8 — no food or drink in the play area.  The violators:  Moms and Dads.  Not this one.

After a little while, play time was done and it was off to the RF seats for us.  Here is an interesting picture of Tim that I took through his seat:

13 - thru seat.jpg

Can you tell what Tim is doing in this picture?

The Answer:

14 - nats ice cream helmet.jpg

In the picture to the left, Tim is holding out his spoon after telling me to take a picture of his ice cream.  By the way, for the first time ever, he went with Cookies’n’Creme — and he loved it.  In the picture to the right, Tim is all concerned that I missed getting a picture of the ice cream on his spoon.  He was very invested in that shot and was upset by the idea that I might have missed it.  As you can see, I nailed it!

This was our view from our ice cream seats:

15 - nats rf ice cream seasts panaramic.jpgAfter I cream, it was time to try to catch a home run:

17 - hit it here.jpg

Unfortunately, Adam Dunn couldn’t quite find the seats in this at bat:

18 - dunn done.jpg

[NOTE:  click on picture to enlarge.  You'll be able to see the ball in the top picture right at the bottom of the "T" in "Tickets."]

Check out all of these empty seats:

19 - empty seats.jpg

See the yellow circle at the bottom right?  That’s where Tim and I sat for the ninth inning.

So, all season, I’ve been trying to get a good action shot of an outfielder catching a fly ball.  Its harder than it sounds because you don’t know when a ball will be hit to any given outfielder.  Somehow, I got two decent shots at this game:

20 - running catches.jpg

In the top picture, the ball has just hit the leather of Soriano’s glove.  In the bottom picture, you can see the ball a couple feet above Adam Dunn.

While we were sitting in these seats, we noticed the Nats bullpen catcher would sometimes throw his warm up ball into the stands after warming up Josh Willingham in RF.  Tim wanted to play catch.  So we decided to give it one shot at a ball before going to find a spot to play catch.  It worked like this:

21 - nelson robledo to TJCs.jpg

As far as I can tell, the Nats bullpen catcher is former career minor leaguer, Nelson Robledo.  We were sure to thank Mr. Robledo for his kindness.

Then it was off to play catch by the batting cages in CF:

22a - playing catch.jpg

In the middle picture, Tim is showing his pitching leg kick.  He just learned his pitching motion in the last couple weeks.  I didn’t teach it to him.  He just copied what he saw me and other pitchers doing.  He does a full wind-up at time too.  These pictures are poor quality because we were in a dark hallway type-area.  Eventually, we were told not to play catch in there — “BOO, NATIONALS!  BOO!”  If we can play catch in a busy area of a bustling new Yankee Stadium without incident or reprimand, surely we should be able to play catch in an empty area of Nationals Park.

Next, we headed up to the Red Porch to watch the game with the party people in the house.  People were having a good time up there.  This was our view:

24 - nats red porch panaramic.jpg

…and here is what it looks like up on the Red Porch:

23 - red porch.jpg

Next, we headed over to the seats behind the Cubs’ dugout.  Here is a panaramic from the top of the aisle:

25 -nats cubs dugout panaramic.jpg

When I took this picture, Tim was sitting on my shoulders.  I was sure this guy in the yellow shirt and Nats hat to the far right was going to kick us out of the section and tell me to take Tim off of my shoulders.   Last time we were here, that is certainly what would have happened.  However, he did just the opposite.  He told me, “You have your hands full, why don’t you grab a seat.”  Excellent idea.  Thanks.

I grabbed some seats in the fourth row.

They gave us an excellent view of Notre Dame football start Jeff Samardzija:

26 - samardzija.jpg

Hey, did I mention that future Mariners Hall of Famer, Sweet Lou Piniella was in the house?

27a - Sweet Lou.JPGIt was game time for the Nats.  Despite sending their best hitter to the plate…

27 - last hope.jpg

…Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!

28 - congrats cubs.jpg

And it was time for Kids Run the Bases:

29 - nats 1B side track.jpg

The gal standing on the grass by first base in the Nats jersey is in the process of shouting, “MARINERS!!!”  I didn’t get her back story, but she said the Mariners are her favorite team.  Good to see we’ve infiltrated the Nationals!

Here is Tim at first base:

30 - run first base.jpg

Tim ran about 10 feet passed first base and than stopped.  He turned around and he yelled that he wanted me to run with him.  He came back over to me and I explained that only kids can run the bases so I couldnt’ run with him.  In an odd twist, Tim decided he didn’t want to run without me on this day.  So we just walked around the track and looked at everything.

I got this picture of the Nats doing some field touch-ups:

31 - painting W.JPG

And with that, we left Nationals Park for the final time this season.

But before heading home, we decided to go see a few other attractions in the D.C. area — you might have heard of them:

32 - capitol area.jpg

Tim loved the fountains at the WWII memorial.

Eventually, we had to hit the road to head home.  We had directional difficulties on the way down, so we decided to have some more on the way home.  This is an easy drive.  I’m not sure what the hecked I was thinking.  All I had to do was head up I-695 and connect to I-83 in Baltimore.

Sadly, I missed the I-695 turn off from I-95.  No problem.  I figured I’d just head into Baltimore and connect to I-83 downtown…by this:


 


33 - holy baltimore batman.JPG

The Baltimoreans decided it would be an excellent idea to put a street festival on the street leading to the I-83 entrance.  Hey, no problem.   I was looking for an opportunity to detour all around downtown Baltimore.

Oh, well.  Here are our goodies for the day:


34 - nats goodies.JPG

[Note:  Ball from Robledo, ice cream helmet, exchanged ticket showing $0.00, and Nationals give-away of insulated lunch bags].

Season Fan Stats:

19 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
7 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park)
14 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Cubs,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
15 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets, Nationals (3), Red Sox (3) and Yankees)
18 Baseballs (12 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Red Sox, 1 Umpire, 1 Nationals) 
4 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, AL East, NL West, NL East)
 
3 Autographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jason Phillips, Ryan Perry) 
2 Player/G.M. Photographs (King Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik, Ryan Perry)
 
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats) — Honorable Mention: The Green Monster statue bench)

8 Comments

Awesome as always. And you were able to feature my Cubbies. Sweet!

Their stadium looks amazing on tv, and it looks just as good in your pictures. I’m impressed on the shots you got. The ball being pitched, a guy getting thrown out at first, Dunn catching a ball in right. Pretty neat. I need a new camera now!

Tim seemed much more low key than we’ve seen him in the past. Maybe because he knew he was watching bad Nats baseball!

My dad and I know Samardzija. Dads work together. I got his auto on a ball for my birthday, which was pretty cool.

Glad you guys had fun. Looks amazing.
http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

Great recap! I especialluy like the picture of Tim holding up his glove, as if to tell them to hit the ball here! Greatness! A little surprised at him not wanting to run the bases, but you can’t fault his reasoning! Nice work all around, except for the driving!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

Good re-cap. Except for the fact that Seattle was beating us at the time you took that picture of the score board. :}
Oh well! http://tribechick.mlblogs.com/ -TC

Todd,

Love reading your blog. My son and I (along with some other family members) were at this game as well. It was his first MLB game (he is 16 months old), and we are huge Cubs fans so it was nice to see them get a win for his first game. We were sitting about 5 rows behind were Dunn hit his home run, so you were pretty close to us at one point during the game. I can’t wait to take my boy to several more ball parks, looks like you and your son have a great time doing this together. Keep up the great blogging!

Matt

Jeff Samardzija was my favorite Notre Dame Player next to Brady Quinn, at the time.
-bettencourt
http://yankeefaninri.mlblogs.com/

Great entry once again. Enjoyed it as it brought back great memories of our visit to National Park last month (Little Teemo’s first visit to a big league baseball game). It was great to run the bases, snatch baseballs and for the most part hang out at a MLB game. Even the little fustration with getting info from the Nationals office (Hope they can turn in around and start taking better care of the fans soon).

The pictures you have are amazing as usual (was also checking your Phillies entry – and shots of Jamie Moyer pitching were right on).

Look forward to the next adventure with Tim.

Todd

RAYSFANBOY – Hey, I’m happy to feature your Cubbies. I’ll do it once more this season – Aug. 14th. Thanks re the pictures. I was quite happy with the action shots – particularly the Dunn catch. FYI, I use a Canon PowerShot SX200IS. Its pretty awesome, and small so its great for games.

BRIAN – I loved that too. Tim hasn’t quite figured out that they don’t hit the ball where requested. Although, that would be pretty sweet if it worked!

INDIANSLOVE – Thanks. Actually, the Mariners win was one of the highlights of the day! But, what has happened these past two days in Seattle. Aye, aye, aye….

MATT – Awesome to hear from you. Glad you enjoy the blog. A win in a kids first game is key! Congrats to your boy. That was an ideal game to have as a first game as a Cubs fan. An away game, but tons of Cubs love. I particularly liked it when the Cubs fans all around the Cubs’ dugout started chanting “SWEEP, SWEEP, SWEEP!” You don’t get that too much from the visitors club!

BETTENCOURT – Yeah, he was a stud at ND.

HAWAII TODD – Thanks! It is a beautiful park. Thanks for mentioning Jamie Moyer. If you dig into my old entries, you will see that he is my all-time favorite pitcher. The guy is pure awesomeness. I can’t wait until we get to see him pitch next…who knows when that will be….hopefully at least once more this season. Hopefully at our next game, which sadly isn’t for two more weeks, August 9th against the Marlins.

Todd-
that’s an incredible blog posting. The sights, the sounds, the memories…ahhhhhh. My favorite picture?? The one of Tim with his glove held high waiting for big Adam Dunn to deliver!

I want to try to make it out to D.C. over Labor Day weekend. Not quite sure, yet. This post put me a little closer, I think!

“Happy”

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