Results tagged ‘ nationals ’

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)

6/28/09 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Wow – its been two weeks since our last MLB game, and it feels like its been forever.  But we finally made it back out to the ball field on June 28th.

1a - kirby is 12.JPGI am dedicating this entry to my wonderful pooch, Kirby, who, due to a family vacation and this game that coincided with our return drive north, unfortunately had to spend his 12th birthday with his buddies at the Pet Spa & Resort.

Due to the fact we were returning from a family vacation, you’ll also notice below that Tim and I were accompanied by our lovely mother and wife, respectively, Colleen.  This was only our second game with Colleen this season — usually our games double as a way to give Colleen and “off-day” on the weekend — and her first at Camden Yards since J.J. Putz blew Felix Hernandez’s 8-inning shutout gem during the M’s first road trip of the 2008 season.

We usually drive South to Camden Yards and park in a parking garage downtown.  This day, we drove north to the game, and parked in one of the stadium lots off of I-395.  So our walk from the car to the field looked different — but from any angle, its always nice to gaze upon Camden Yards:

 
1 - approaching Eutaw.JPG

After reading the Happy Youngster’s entry for the June 10th Mariners game at Camden Yards, I realized that I have never taken Tim to the home plate entrance at Camden Yards.  So, we remedied that today:

2 - TJCs in Schaefer Circle.JPG

In this picture we are standing in “Schaefer Circle.” 

Its a nice looking main entrance, so I decided to take some pictures for a panaramic view: 
3  - camden main enterance panoramic.jpg

See those plaques on either side of the canopy-covered entrance?  Here they are up close and personal:

4 - camden plagues.JPG

(click to enlarge)

I’m guessing that it is not a coincidence that this plaque listing, among other individuals, Governing William Donald Schaefer is hanging about 30 yards away from “Schaefer Circle.”

On the drive up to Baltimore — or maybe it was leaving Baltimore, I’m not sure — Colleen mentioned that she took 700+ pictures during our vacation (we like taking pictures!), but that we didn’t get a single family picture.  Well, 3 minutes after entering the stadium, we got our first:

5 - family picture.JPG

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Two minutes later, we were in the kids’ play area and Tim was having fun:

6 - camden playarea stuff.JPG

Soon, the game started and we grabbed some chicken strips and fries, and some seats down the RF line.  Here was our view for about 4 minutes:

7 - cam rf foul panoramic2.jpg

We only sat here for about 4 minutes because it was too sunny for Tim.  He looked to the left and saw some shady seats that are under the second level overhang.  He suggested:  “Let’s go sit in the deep, dark shade.”  We obliged, and this is what it looked like:

8 - camden 1B-RF foul panoramic.jpg

Once we got over there and finished our chicken and fries, we grabbed some non-helmeted ice cream.  Here are a couple shots of our seats in the deep, dark shade:

9 - camden deep dark shade.JPG

Regarding the picture to the far left, I wanted to point out the large padding on the second level support beam above the back row.  To use a Tim’ism, I’m guessing there were a few heads *bonked* on that beam in the early days that led to the installation of that padding.

While we were sitting here, the Orioles’ Bird came to visit a young fan who was celebrating his birthday at the game.  Tim got a quick picture with the Bird:

10 - Tim and the Bird.JPG

But soon, as it always does, the flag pavillion a/k/a Eli Jacobs Plaza started calling Tim’s name:

11 - flags in Eli Jacobs Plaza.JPGWho is Eli Jacobs, you ask?  Well, according to the plaque above, he was the Chairman of the Orioles in 1992 when Camden Yards was built.  Ah, always great to name stuff after yourself!  I think I’ll continue to refer to it as the “flag pavillion.”

[SIDE NOTE:  I just wrote a big section that was magically deleted.  Yea technology!]

Before arriving at the flag pavillion, I took this picture of Nick Markakis.

 

11a - Nick Markakis.JPGWhy Markakis?  He was near by.  I don’t care about the Nationals or the Orioles, but I figured I needed a picture of someone playing baseball to properly demonstrate that there was some major league baseball taking place at the ball park.

 After snapping that shot, we headed over to the flags.  As you can see from the following picture, although Tim is a shoulder rider with me, he is a hand holder with mommy:

12 - walking and ice water.JPG

Check out that shoulder-top ice water service.  That kid has got it made!

Once we arrived in the flag pavillion, it was time for some fake pitching, batting and base running.  Interestingly, Tim pulled a total role reversal at this game — he was the pitcher and fielder a lot.  He is usually almost exclusively the fake batter:

13 - flag pavillion fake batting.JPG

In between our fake baseball games, we checked out the real baseball game on the field:

14 - camden RF wall.JPG

Moments after these pictures, the batter hit a solid line drive up the middle.  Adam Jones fielded it and made a beautiful throw on the money to O’s top prospect Matt Weiters.  The runner shown here standing on second base should have been thrown out by 20 feet.  Instead, Weiters missed the ball and the runner was safe.  You can watch the play by clicking here.

Weiters would later cost the O’s another run when he threw the ball into LF trying to gun a base stealer out at third.

But you know what?  I’m getting ahead of myself.  My pictures are out of order.  Let’s go back to the fourth inning.  At the time, we were standing in about the same spot as shown in the last pictures and the O’s were leading 1-0.

Up to the plate stepped big Adam Dunn — YAHTZEEEEEEE!!!!!  He flat out demolished a David Henandez pitch for a two run bomb.

You can watch the highlight by clicking here.

If you watch quickly (and know what to look for), you can see me scurry across the bottom of the screen chasing Dunn’s homerun.  Here are some screen shots with arrows pointing me out:

15a - Chasing Dunn MegaBlast.jpg

(As always, click to enlarge the photo).

And here are some pictures to illustrate where Dunn’s homerun went:

15 - Dunns MegaBlast.JPG

In the top right, the picture shows a reenactment of my view as Dunn made contact.  This was the definition of a “no doubter.”  Colleen was playing with Tim out of the way toward the RF foul pole and with the crack of the bat, I turned and sprinted toward the red “X” in the top right picture.

The arrow connecting the top left picture to the bottom picture are designed to give perspective.  The arrows are pointing toward opposite sides of the same orange flag hanging on a lamp post at the CF side of Boog’s BBQ.

After running to the X, I saw the ball land in the middle of Eutaw Street and start bouncing around.  The people out there had no clue what was going on.  And they seemingly all had lubricant on their hands.  About 18 fans touched the ball before a 25′ish year old guy eating at a picnic table at the base of the warehouse wall scooped it up.

When the ball started bouncing around, I headed down the narrow pathway to the left of the red X (behind sections 98 and 96) and out of the open gate shown in the bottom picture.  But I was too late.

The red arrow in the top left picture (featuring Colleen and Tim in the foreground) is pointing to the picnic table where the guy grabbed the ball.  The bottom picture is taken standing in front of the picnic table.  When I took the bottom picture, the guy was finishing his meal and re-telling the story of Dunn’s home run with his buddies — one of whom claimed credit for an *assist* because he batted the ball toward his buddy.  In reality, he simply missed it like 17 others.

For sake of clarity, the ball didn’t land at the picnic table.  That is just where it ended up.  It actually landed in the middle of Eutaw Street roughly at the mid-way point of Boog’s BBQ (or at least that is how I remember it).  I’m interested to see next year where they place the homerun ball plaque.

Speaking of homerun plaques, check out what we found out by Dunn’s HR’s landing spot:

16 - catching griffs bomb.JPGIn

The evidence of a monster Griffey blast from 1994.  (click to enlarge).

In the top of the seventh inning, we headed back to the bouncy house for one more bouncing session.  Meanwhile, Wee Willie Harris hit a homerun into the flag pavillion — ah shucks (but Tim was having fun).

After bouncing, we talked to an attendant and found out where the line would start for Kids Run the Bases after the game.  This was the sole reason we attended this game.  I was really excited for Tim to run the bases at our baseball home away from Safeco Field.

At the point, it was the top of the 8th inning and about 30 people were already in line.  Colleen wanted to get in line so we would be at the front of the line.  But I figured we had time to watch a bit more of the game.

So we headed to the seats right behind home plate and below the press box:

18 - press box area.JPG

Between pitches, Tim was having fun trying to reach into the press box.

Here was our view:

 
17 - camden field home panoramic.jpg

And here is family picture number 2 of the day (and number 2 of the vacation):

19 - family picture no. 2.JPG

I ended up talking Colleen into letting us stay until the game ended before getting in line for Kids Run the Bases.  See the red arrow?  It is pointing to a couple handicap accessible seats in the back row (actually in the cross aisle) where we sat for the ninth inning.

20a - jim joyce.jpgI had a plan.  And it involved this man:  Jim Joyce.

The Plan:  try to get the home plate umpire (Joyce) to give Tim a ball following the end of the game.

This was a feat I’d never even contemplated before reading about it on Zack Hample’s blog.  We’d come close once before at Camden Yards earlier in the season.  But we’d never succeeded.

The red arrow above points directly to the seat where I camped out.  Tim was standing next to me and Colleen was sitting in the next chair over.  When the Nats got two outs in the bottom of the 9th, I gave Colleen my glove and had Tim stand right in front of me.  I was hoping for a high pop up or a grounder so I would know the game was over before the umps could start walking off the field.  I got my wish.  Some O’s batter hit a weak, slow rolling broken bat grounder to short stop.  As everyone else sat there and watched, Tim jumped up onto my shoulders and we were 20 rows down into the stands before the short stop let the ball fly to first base.  We slid into the second row on the side of the umps exit tunnel (that brick opening in the two previous pictures shown right behind home plate).  Another father and son combo were in the first row right next to us.  Joyce walked into the tunnel and grabbed a ball from his ball holder bag:  “Here you go little guy” — and he handed it to the boy next to us.

Back into the bag goes Joyce’s right hand.  Out comes a beautifully rubbed up game ball.  And Joyce reaches up to Tim above my head — “Here you go.”

Success!


20 - jim joyce ball.JPG

Thanks, Zack!  We’re giving you an official assist in the score book for introducing us to the idea of post-game umpire hand-ups.

 But wait, the best was yet to come — IT WAS TIME FOR KIDS RUN THE BASES!

We exited the stadium through Gate D and found our place in line.  Colleen dealt admirably with the fact that we were about 10 times further back in line now than we would have been had we jumped into the line in the 8th inning.

The line worked out great because there is a patch of grass along the 3B side of the stadium:

21 - krtb line and peter angelos.JPG

And wouldn’t you know it, as the line started moving forward, Orioles owner Peter Angelos and his wife exited the stadium and cut throught he line directly between me and the person in front of me.  After I said, “Hi, Peter” and snapped his picture, Colleen accused me of being the papparazi.  FYI, “Peter” (maybe I should have gone with Mr. Angelos) didn’t respond.  Another interesting Angelos tidbit, P.A. opened the door for his wife as their driver watched.  Then he swung around to the driver’s side and had his driver open the door for him.

As the line snaked in to the stadium through the 1B side, I took some concourse pictures:

22 - camden concourse.JPG

Its a nice, wide concourse.  The only problem is that it is totally closed off from the game.  I think that Camden Yards was the first of the really nice new stadiums and the collective of stadium architects who work on these jobs didn’t figure out how nice the open-to-the-field concourses are until after Camden Yards was built.  Still, it is a great stadium.

This is the third Kids Run the Bases Tim has done this season — Citi Field, Nationals Park and Camden Yards.  Interestingly, the Nats have been involved in all three games.  Tim also ran the bases last season at The Jake in Cleveland.  At every other stadium, we have entered the stadium through a bullpen in RF, and Tim and I have gotten our picture taken standing next to the distance marker on the outfield wall in the RF corner.

I had serious doubts that would happen at this game because Eutaw Street is built into the stadium and is 20-or-so feet above the playing surface in RF.  Unfortunately, I was correct.  So we weren’t able to get our usual footage picture.

But we got some great running the base pictures — like these pictures Colleen got between 2B and 3B and I have stitched together to make a big Tim in motion shot:

 
24 - tim in motion.JPG

(click to enlarge)

And these pictures that I took of Tim touhing and/or approaching 1B, 3B and home (my 2B picture wasn’t zoomed and is essentially worthless):

23 - Tim runs the  Os bases.JPG

Somehow both Colleen and I managed to miss it with our cameras, but Tim slid into home plate!  It caught the field attendants off guard.  A bunch of them ran over to help him get up.  They thought he’d fallen.  But, nope, it was a slide.  He’d told me before hand he was going to do it.

After meeting up with Tim again, we got Family Picture No. 3 on the day (and a nice field attendant is smiling with us):

25 - on field family picture.JPG

As we headed off the field, I took some shots for an on-field panaramic view…

 

28 - cam 3B field panoramic.jpg…and I took our customary dugout shots…

26 - camden dugouts.JPG

(visitors dugout above (3B) and Orioles below (1B))

…and some random shots:

 
27 - more baltimore stuff.JPG

Top left, visitors’ interleague on-deck batters’ circle.

Bottom left, artificial warning track with hidden drains circling the field.

Top right, a chart I spied under the Nats’ bench that read “Nationals vs. Orioles Pitchers.”  It has all of the regular Nats batters along the vertical axis and each of the O’s pitchers along the horizontal axis.  When you connect the columns and rows, it tells you how each hitter has done against a particular O’s pitcher.  For example, Adam Dunn is 1-3 with a HR against Brad Bergesen.  I asked someone in the dugout if I could have it.  But he said he isn’t allowed to touch anything in the dugout.  I told him it was garbage.  He didn’t care.

Bottom right, this was actually taken after we left the stadium.  Tim and I are standing in front of a sign that is on the RF end of the warehouse.

Before leaving, Colleen took one more picture of us — our first ever (I think) at the 1B dugout:

29 - camden 1B dugout.JPG

And finally, we hit the road on the final leg of our return from vacation journey.  As we headed to Rt-83, we said our good-byes to Camden Yards — we may not be back to this fine baseball facility until next season:

30 - goodbye camden yards.jpg

Next up for us:

July 2 – Mariners in the Bronx

July 3 – Mariners in Boston

July 4 – Mariners in Boston

July 5 - Mariners in Boston

 

Season Fan Stats:

14 Games (plus one 5+ hour rain out with no game)
5 Stadiums
(Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field and Nationals Park)
12 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,
Braves and Padres, Dodgers — and sort of the Giants)
10 Ice Cream Helmets (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets and Nationals (2))
9 Baseballs (5 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies, 1 Umpire)
3 Divisions Closed Out (So far in Tim’s Life — AL West, NL East, AL West)

1 Player Autograph (Ryan Perry)
1 Player Photograph (Ryan Perry)
 
7,953 Miles driven/flown to games (season)
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), Orioles Bird (2), 3 Presidents (Nats), Screech (Nats))

Phillies at Nationals Park (5/17/09)

This entry was supposed to be titled “Moyer’s 250 Bid – Take 2.”  Unfortunately, our bid to see Jamie Moyer win the 250th game of his career failed before we even left for the game.  I learned on Saturday night that Chan Ho Park would be pitching Sunday, May 17th in Washington, D.C. rather than Jamie Moyer.  Moyer is a great pitcher.  But its tough, even for a great pitcher, to get a win in a game you don’t pitch.

So Tim and I would have to focus on our other two main goals of the day – (i) checking out Nationals Park for the first time and (ii) participating in Kids Run the Bases after the game.  Our pursuit of those goals met with great success, as explained in detail below.

Nationals Park can be both incredibly expensive and quite affordable, depending on how you want to “do” the stadium.  For example, parking in the garage connected to the stadium is FORTY BUCKS!!!  That’s ridiculous.  On the other hand, the parking route we took was both an adventure and totally FREE!  You see, the Nationals have arranged for their fans to park for FREE at RFK Stadium and then take a FREE shuttle bus to a point about 2 blocks from Nationals Park.  Here is what it looked like:

rfk bus.jpg

Here is our first view of the Park walking from the bus:

1st stadium view.jpg

Here is our first view of the field as we entered the Park from the LCF entrance:

1st field view LF panoramic.jpgAs you might know, I am a Mariners fan.  But alas, I did live in Philadelphia for three years and I have no NL allegiance, so i bought a Phillies BP jersey back in 1999 or so.  I doubt I’ve worn it since 2000.  But this was only my second Phils road game, so I thought I’d give it a try wearing the Phillies jersey and my Reading Phillies hat to see if some nice Phillies player would reward me and Tim for coming to see them on the road.  Now, wearing the visitors’ jersey/hat even if you hate the team is a classic “ballhawk” technique.  I am not a ballhawk, but generally I have no problem with the ballhawks doing it.  But, personally, I felt dirty as heck wearing Phillies stuff, even though I was there rooting for the Phillies.  It just hurt me right down to my Mariners core (in fact, I couldn’t do it without wearing a M’s shirt under the Phils jersey).  Anyway, more on that later. 

So, as we entered the stadium, we saw a bunch of Phils stretching behind 3B.  So we headed over there where this was our view:

DC 3B paroramic view.jpg

We headed down to the field level where they have a little trough (for lack of a better term) where there are just a couple seats in a big aisle).  We watched the guys warm up amongst a sea of Phillies fans:

running anthem.jpg

Yep, to the left, that is team leading (pick an offensive category) Raul Ibanez warming up his legs.  To the right, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins stand in front for the national anthem while Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz and a trainer stand behind them.

 After the anthem, the guys started playing catch and running (sorta) sprints:

jimmy and ryan.jpg

In the photo to the left, you can see Jimmy Rollins playing catch with Chase Utley (off camera) and Ryan Howard playing catch with Shane Victorino.  After a few mintues, Jimmy and Shane set their gloves down on the foul line with the balls sitting on the grass next to them.  Then they started running sprints.

To the right, you can see that, after finishing playing catch with Victorino, Ryan Howard came over to the stands and started signing autographs for 5-10 minutes.  As you can see, almost everyone down in the trough bunched up next to Howard in hopes of getting his autograph.  We didn’t have a pen or anything worth getting the former NL M.V.P. to sign, so we stood our ground.  The difference was, after Ryan started signing, we were pretty much standing all alone, no more sea of Phillies fans surrounding us.

Tim was on my shoulders (where his Mariners shirt was hidden behind my head).  I was wearing my Phils jersey and R-Phils hat.  We looked like a nice father-son Phillies fan combo.  Jimmy Rollins took note.  When he was finished running, he grabbed his glove and ball and took a couple steps toward the dugout.  He then stopped, turned back toward us and fired his baseball directly into my glove.  Nice – our first ball EVER from a Phillies player:

jimmy ball.jpg

A few minutes later, the game started.  The baseball we got from J-Roll looked the same, but I looked different:

M's Jimmy Ball.jpg

J-Roll shouldn’t feel as if he got duped.  We still rooted for the Phils.  I just had to show my true colors during the game.  Also, I did put my R-Phils hat back on after Tim got chocolate ice cream on his fingers and I thought he would get the white portion of my M’s hat chocolately.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Like usual, we had some cheap tickets.  Not SRO, this time we were apparently high in the rafters of the RF foul territory stands.  We never went to our section.  Instead, we started walking around getting to know the stadium.  Let me tell you something, unlike the team that plays there, Nationals Park is beautiful.  Despite a couple negatives, it instantly ranks right up among my favorite ball parks.

Why don’t we take a look around?  This is reverse order as we walked, but how about we start behind the plate in the third deck:

DC Home Plate 3d Deck Panoramic View.jpgThe second deck from the concourse behind first base:

DC 1st Base 2d Deck Panoramic view.jpgThe second deck RF corner (foul):

DC 2d Deck RF foul panoramic view.jpgThe second deck CF:

DC 2d Deck CF panoramic view.jpgAs you can tell, its a beautiful park.  In addition to checking out this great park, Tim and I also had a goal of testing out our new digital camera.  It has a great zoom – both optical and digital.  Here are a couple pictures taken from various locations in the Park:

jimmyx2 ryan and chase.jpgOn the left (upper and lower) is Jimmy Rollins.  I took these pictures on back-to-back pitches from the spot where I took that last panoramic in center field.

At top right, Ryan Howard is seen batting in the first inning.  I took that picture from just behind the RL foul pole.

Below Howard, is Chase Utley also hitting in the first inning.  I took this from the field level concourse behind all of the seats a little bit down the line from first base.

How about another panoramic?  Here is CF from the field level concourse:

DC Field Level RCF Panoramic View.jpgOkay, now, I took all of these panoramic views while walking around in the concourses circling the stadium.  Although fans in their seats usually aren’t paying a lot of attention to the concourses, they are an important part of any stadium.  Bad concourses make a stadium feel cramped.  Open concourses from which you can see the field make the stadium feel bigger and they let fans maximize their time at the ball park (ex:  they can still watch the game while standing in line for some food).  Nationals Park has GREAT concourses.  HUGE.  Mostly all open.  Not crowded.  Excellent.  Here are a couple examples:

DC spacious concourses.jpg

Walk these great concourses and eventually you’ll find yourself in biggest open area I’ve ever seen inside a ball park:

CF area.jpg

The Field Level CF panoramic a couple pictures ago was taken on the opposite side of that escalator.  The Second Deck CF panoramic and the pictures of Jimmy Rollins batting a couple more pictures above were taken from the second deck just to the left of the big “DC” sign and under the picture of the Nationals celebrating (they must have won a game?).

The black strip at the top center (where it says “GET YOUR”) is the “Red Porch.”  I’m not quite sure what the deal is with the red porch.

The building to the right is a massively expensive parking garagle.  The openings on the ground level are various fan attractions.  The one with the yellow sign is a “stuff a bear” type place where you can make your own Nationals mascot.  The “Strike Zone” at the far right of the picture has a batting cage where the ball shoots out of a video screen.  When we watched it, Randy Johnson was pitching and the ball would shoot through the screen through his hand.  Pretty cool.  In the back, there was a similar game with pitching.  I watched a guy pitch to Larry “Chipper” Jones.

And right behind me as I took this picture?  The play area:

playset in CF.jpgTim loved this play set.  From a father’s perspective, it seemed better than the playset at Safeco Field, but a not quite as good as the playset at Citizens Bank Park.  The worst part about it is that it is massively far away from the field and there is no TV to watch the game.  It would be perfect if the Nats would follow the Mets lead and put a BIG SCREEN on the back of the scoreboard for all of the parents watching their kids play in the CF play area.

Anyway, back to the tour.  Here is a post-game picture from the deck of the aforementioned Red Porch:

DC Red Porch Panoramic View.jpg

And here is a picture looking at the Red Porch from the 1B field level seats:

Scrolling Bar on Red Porch.jpg

Well, look at that…I stand corrected.  The “Red Porch” is really called the “Red Loft.”  Hmm…I’m wondering if that is the upstairs and the downstairs is called the Red Porch.  I definitely heard someone call it the Red Porch during the game.  Anyway, in the last panoramic, Tim and I took the pictures standing under the “Red” in the “Red Loft” sign in the last picture.

The only bad part of the concoures at Nationals Park is that the Red Porch/Loft cuts off all view of field as you walk from CF to LF (or vice versa).  Same thing with the field level concourse behind home plate.  Its just like Citi Field.  They have field level suites and a restaurant that cut off all view of the game for *commoners* walking behind home plate.  But I like the way the Nationals did it more than the Mets.  The Mets concourse is like a dark cave that feels like it is 100 yards away from the game.  The Nats concourse is bright and airy and it has a team store entrance and big pictures on the wall telling about the history of baseball in Washington, D.C…check it out:

DC Behind Home Plate Field Level Suites.jpg

But, back to the outfield.  Here are some interesting statues on the back side of the Red Porch/Loft:

statutes in motion.jpg

Well, look at that.  I am right. The field level is called the “Red Porch” (as shown in the middle picture behind Frank Howard (who by the way shouldn’t have swung at that pitch, he’s reaching too far!)).

Note, PNC Park in Pittsburgh also has a Josh Gibson statue.

Back to the panoramic views, here is the RF corner from the third deck:

DC 3d Deck LF Foul Panoramic View.jpgThis picture leads to the final negative point about Nationals Park:  the ushers guard the seats like they are made of gold.  I had to sweet talk an usher to persuade him to let me and Tim sit in the BACK ROW of the LAST SECTION in the UPPER DECK!  There is a fourth deck starting a little closer to home plate.  But where I took this picture, we were literally sitting in the back row of the highest section at the greatest distance from home plate down the 3B line.  Is that ridiculous or what?

So how did we get to sit in these coveted seat?  I told the usher Tim’s ice cream was melting, we were all the way across the stadium from our seats, and I was looking desparately for a standing room spot with a standing counter where Tim could sit and eat his ice cream…but there are none in the third deck down the 3B line.  So in the face of melting ice cream, the usher relented and let us take the empty seats in the empty row in the highest and most distant seats from home plate.

Here is Tim and his ice cream and, in the distance, the Washington Monument:

ice cream helmet and WA monument.jpg

There is a big walking ramp down from the third deck to the field level in the LF corner.  As I stood on that ramp, I took the picture of the Washington Monument to the right above.  I said to Tim (sitting on my shoulders), “That’s the Washington Monument, Tim.”  Two seconds later, some random 50′ish year old white-male-American walks up to me, “Are you serious?  That’s the Washington Monument?  Cool!”  He was dead serious.  It was p-a-t-h-e-t-i-c.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I posted this panoramic tour in reverse order of how Tim and I actually walked.  We really came from CF to RF to home plate, to an ice cream stand in the third deck behind 3B and then out to the LF corner.  On our walk from the ice cream stand to the LF corner, I spotted the Capitol Building from the concourse:

The picture to the right above is also taken from the ramp down to field level.  But, once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before heading down the ramp, I tested my camera out a bit more.  Here are some more action shots:

Jimmy Hits Foul.jpg

Here we see J-Roll take a pitch and then hit another foul.

raulx3 shane.jpg

The top right picture of Raul Ibanez was also taken from the third deck in the LF corner.  The others were taken elsewhere…as should be evident.  In the bottom right, I’ve snuck a picture of Shane Victorino in with three Ibanez pictures.

Pretty much every swing I took a picture of at this game resulted in a foul ball, a foul pop out, or an infield pop out.  No hits or homeruns to speak of.

Okay, so it was time to head down that ramp.  From the ramp, I took this cool picture of the concourse going from the LF corner out to CF:

LF Concourse Area.jpg

Note the vegetation growing on the roof of the concession stand.  This prompted Tim to tell me that there are no plants growing on our roof because, “Our roof isn’t flat.  Our roof is a triangle.”

Once we got down the ramp, we stood for a little bit behind the LF seats where we saw the Presidents race:

Presidents Race.jpg

After the race, the Presidents headed out to CF and took pictures with fans.  They were mobbed by people.  I really wanted a picture with Teddy Roosevelt, who looked hilarious, but it wasn’t in the cards.  The Presidents were a big hit at the game.  They have George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt…and someone…I have no clue who the fourth President is.  Anyway, the Nats also have a silly looking eagle named “Screech” (I think).  But he is a pretty weak mascot.  The Presidents were far superior.

After the race, we headed down into the LF seats and got a picture of the visitors’ bullpen (shown here with an inside-shot of the Nats bullpen):

Grass Turf Bullpens.jpg

This Phillies fan in the middle looked somewhat protective of the Phils’ bullpen.  Note, the visitors’ bullpen (to the right) is grass, but the Nats’ bullpen (left) is turf.  I’m not sure why this is, but my guess is that there is access through the Nats’ bullpen to a big tunnel system under the stadium.  Possibly they drive vehicles through the Nats’ bullpen from time-to-time and put in turf so the grass wouldn’t get torn up.  Just a guess.

We then headed back to the second deck in RF where we got one of the stadium fanfoto gals to take a picture of us with my camera:

TJCs in DC.jpg

Finally, we settled into some seats for the last 2-3 innings of the game.  The ushers had apparently lost some of their motivation.  He easily slipped into some really nice seats down the 1B line.  Here was our view:

DC 1B Field Level Panoramic View.jpg

See that light stand all the way across the stadium in the LF corner?  See that last section of seats on the third deck that hide the left side of the light tower?  That is the section where I had to persuade an usher to let us sit for a couple innings (and to be clear, in case I wasn’t earlier, at first, he in fact told me that he “couldn’t do it” when I asked him if we could temporarily sit in the back row).

Anyway, there was no one else in our row in this section down the 3B line.  However, there was a group of maybe 8 young 20s’ish year old Nats fans sitting two rows behind us.  Tim flirted it up like crazy with two young gals.  At the time, the Nats were winning 6-5 and the gals (and their whole group) were all smiles and giggles.  Here is Tim cheesing it up for the ladies:

 
Tim in DC 1B Field Seats.jpg

Tim’s new friends’ mood changed abruptly in the top of the eighth.  With runners on first and second and no outs, Pedro Feliz laid down a nice bunt toward third.  Zimmerman and Jesus Colome converged on the ball.  Either could have grabbed it.  Colome did and he made what seemed to be a perfect throw to first where second baseman, Anderson Hernandez, was covering first.  By my first hand account, the throw was perfect and Feliz should have been out at first.  Instead, Hernandez jumped out of the way of the ball and let it sail into foul territory down the 1B line.  Both runs scored and Feliz made it to third.  Anderson said he could not see the ball because of the crowd.   I guess he isn’t used to having more than 10,000 fans scattered throughout the stadium.  Amazingly, they gave the error to Colome for making a perfect throw that Hernandez simply failed to catch.

When this happened, the stadium exploded with Phillies cheers.  But the people sitting behind us never uttered another word.  Their win was gone

We actually missed the ninth inning and the Phillies win because we were lined up outside the RF side of the stadium — it was time for Kids Run the Bases!  We were toward the front of the long, long, long line of kids.  As we waited in line, an usher told me to take Tim off my shoulders, “you know, for safety.”  Okay, whatever.

We started our run the bases experience with our standard picture by the RF wall footage sign:

DC 335 RF Sign.jpg

Tim then stretched his legs with some pre-bases sprints down the RF foul warning track:

DC RF Foul Warning Track run.jpg

I took a shot of the Nats’ dug out (shown to the left, with the visitors’ dug out on the right):

DC Dugouts.jpg

Then Tim was off to the races:

tjc at 1B in DC.jpg

The Nats seemed to have 100 people out there on the field working.  It was impossible to navigate the warning track and get even a half-way decent picture of Tim rounding second, which was HIGHLY dissapointing.

But I got a great shot of Tim rounding third:

tjc rounding third in DC.jpg

Then it was impossible to get a good shot of Tim scoring at home plate — that is more standard, I’ve never got a good picture of Tim at home plate yet in the three run-the-bases Tim has done so far.

We took a couple more shots as we left the field of play:

DC Field picts.jpg

So, that was it.  Our game experience was essentially over. 

Sad.

Very sad.

Particularly because the next weekend would be our first weekend not to go to a game this season.

In fact, we wouldn’t have another game until May 31st.

Sad.

We walked around the LF seats a bit more.

We looked at the visitors’ bullpen close up outside of the watchful eye of that concerned Phillies fan.

We went up to the Red Loft where we took the pictures for that panoramic up above.

Then we sadly headed toward the CF exit, the same one we’d passed through just 45 minutes before to line up to run the bases.

At the bottom of the exit stairs, we turned right and we started walking down the street.

We spotted the end of the run-the-bases line.  Only 30 yards long now.  Those lucky kids still with all of that fun ahead of them.

We walked sorta close to the wall as we passed down the wide sidewalk.

Tim was on my shoulders again.  That same usher who told me to take Tim down “you know, for safety” was still standing by the line.

She had to recognize us.  We’d just spoken with each other 45 minutes ago.  Everyone at the game was wearing bright red Phillies and Nats gear, and we were wearing dark blue Mariners gear.

But then she uttered seven magical words that let me know she most certainly did not recognize us, “Does he want to run the bases?”

I respond, pointing, “Oh, is this the line?” (as if we’d been looking for it for the past hour).

“Yeah!  Have fun!”

“Sweet!”

Tim was officially (I certified it OFFICIAL), the last kid to round the bases and touch home plate and I got a great shot of it:

Tim Last to Touch Home in DC.jpg

It was pretty awesome.  All of the Presidents, Screech and a boat load of Nats employees were on the field (again preventing a good picture at 2B), and because he was the last kid, they all followed Tim to home plate.  As you can see, as he stood at home, he was surrounded by employees and mascots all cheering for him.  Very satisfying.

Plus, because we were last, we were able to right a past wrong — we got that coveted picture with Teddy Roosevelt — and it is a keeper:

TJCs and Teddy R.jpg

A great day!  We give Nationals Park two thumbs up.

One more game note:  we saw Sergio Escalona make his major league debut and earn the first win of his career pitching the 7th inning for the Phillies.  The day before the game, Escalona was assigned to the Reading Phillies.  Good job, Sergio.

Season Fan Stats:

11 Games (double digits!)
5 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Citi Field and Nationals Park)
11 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Phillies, Mets, Nationals,   
Braves and Padres, Dodgers)
9 Ice Cream Helmet (Mariners (4), Phillies (3), Mets and Nationals)
5 Baseballs (2 Mariners, 2 Rangers, 1 Phillies)
3 Divisions Closed Out (AL West, NL East, AL West)
5 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2), The Bird (O’s), 3 Presidents (Nats))

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