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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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