Oh What a Night at Nationals Park!
I love to people watch. Coffee shops are good, but metro rides on the way to the debut of Nationals Park are even better:
- You got your enthusiastic 12-year-old, complete with a mitt and a blue & red Nationals “crazy hair” wig…..along with his suspiciously effeminate father, who was wearing a purple-blue jacket with a pink collar, glasses with frames you’d expect to see on a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the 1960s, and a tan Nationals hat. “It’s opening day son!…Time to break out the tan Nats hat!”
- The couple of mid-60s white women with beauty-parlor dyed hair and pudgy mid-Western décor hustling and bustling into the green line train from their blue/orange transfer at L’Enfant Plaza. Beware of such determination to find one of the few open seats for a two-stop ride…. women with their own seat cushions don’t mess around.
- Finally, you got your average white guy along with his average white girlfriend projecting that uncomfortable white guy smile at the sight of some black folks tusslin’. He appears to convey his delight at the hijinks, but we all know he wants to charge out of the train like George Kostanza at a child’s birthday party.
And then there was exiting the Navy Yard Metro station where riders were “treated” to the anti-George Bush protesters. Purposeless crazies like these folks give a bad name to free speech. Most reacted negatively to the protesters, whose main goal seemed to simply prod those with differing opinions. Here are some overheard quotes directed at the protesters:
“Not the time, not the place…this is a baseball game.”
“Well, it’s Washington, DC – I guess this is to be expected.”
“Kiss my little white ass you Commie.”
“Anywhere else they’d lock you…..anywhere else, they’d lock you up brother.”
The side-effect was that the Bush protesters distracted from a cause which is much more deserving of attention, saving Positive Nature (read about it from the Washington Post)….along with the four-piece bluegrass”ish” band there to greet fans with a down-home musical score for the walk to the ballpark.
On to the stadium….
Nationals Park has a much closer feel than RFK…..then again, RFK was like playing tee-ball in a massive air plane hanger. And a stadium built around a baseball diamond rather than a football rectangle will obviously increase the sense of a communal environment.
While once semi-accepted at RFK, the sparse “O’s” which came out during the national anthem received a plethora of groans. For those not familiar with the DC/Baltimore area, a tradition started at Orioles games in B-More where fans would yell “O” at the beginning of the ‘O say, does that….’ part of the Star Spangled Banner as a tribute to their hometown team. As the Orioles games used to be frequented by many from the District (and Maryland, and Virginia), this tradition became transplanted to RFK…to Bullets/Wizards games as well. Over the years, the enthusiasm has died down considerably. I’m in agreement with the groans – recognition of a crappy Baltimore baseball team at a DC venue should cease and desist.
Tourists are great for the DC economy and they are always welcome….but my 2 Lincolns is that I hate them. Not all tourists, but those who neglect common sense in their obliviousness to a new area. Unfortunately, most tourists fit the bill. The first and foremost rule of travel is to be aware of and respect the way life works in the cities you visit. And I’m not even touching upon the prerequisite horrendous appearance of said tourists.
But last night in the new Nationals Park, we were all tourists, faced with the overbearing need to consume anything and everything in our paths of vision. Maybe this all led to the quiet nature of the stadium. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was my seat location, but the expected “buzz” was often missing. Then again, the acoustics might just need a little breaking in as fans get their bearings.
Chubby White Girl: “I went to a party the other night…..it was off the chain!”
Semi-Dorky White Guy: “Off the chain? I don’t even know what that means?” (possible sarcasm….it was hard to detect)
Chubby White: “It means that Charley hooked up with his 10th Arlington Young Democrat.”
D-White Guy: (sounding a bit jealous) “So, they all know this, but still give him a pass?”
I opted for a dog smothered with Ben’s Chili (but not from the actual Ben’s Chili Bowl vendor). It wasn’t bad, but fell far short of what I desired. Line planning also seemed to be a neglected aspect, at least in the Stars & Stripes area where space wasn’t as abundant as in the regular concourse. First nights can expect to have their hiccups…running out of Bud Light, chili, etc. But I observed the staff to be as friendly and cordial as one could ask.
Later, I made my way out to the right field area. Five Guys, along with their stadium-escalated prices, seemed to be more than I could handle at that point. I opted for the Cajun Cord Dog from Cantina Marina. Not bad for the $5 price.
As usual, there was the ‘Bottom of the 7th Beer Cut-Off Rush’ – A Cantina manager declining the attempts of a hustling drunk: “Nope, my supervisor’s supervisor’s contracted supervisor says ‘no’.”
I need many more experiences to provide a complete investigative report. Until then, take the food tour with the DC Sports Bog.
About the Game
Could you have asked for a more perfect ending? If it wasn’t for Lo Duca’s bobble in the top of the 9th, allowing a run to score, Zimmerman probably never gets to the plate. The only disappointing aspect of the fairy-tale ending was those who left a 2-1 game after the bottom of the 7th inning. Of course, being the District of Columbia, there should be no surprise that many in attendance were part of the “there to be seen” contingent. The fact that the Boston or New York (or St. Louis) faithful would shutter at giving their teams the same treatment is disappointing nonetheless.
Overall, I, along with most, were wowed. Nationals Park looks like a championship stadium. There is plenty of surrounding room for development which will enhance the stadium community and the fan experience. And the team is in good hands. Yes, the Lerners are in it to squeeze as much money as possible for their family name ($7.50 beers), but they do seem to believe in customer service and top-notch Major League Baseball entertainment. I saw team president, Stan Kasten, canvassing the concourses late in the game. Kasten’s attentiveness to opening night led him to sacrifice witnessing Zimmerman’s game winner. The franchise seems to be in good hands and baseball can now be considered “officially” back to Washington, the District of Columbia.
- 10 Best Things About Nats Park (And Five Worst) [Raw Fisher]
- Finally, a Foundation Built for Winning [Thomas Boswell]
- A ‘Storybook Ending’ [Washington Post]
- A ‘Home Run’ for DC [Washington Times]
- Zimmerman 3.0 [Nationals Journal]
- Lapping Up a Major Victory, And Luxuries, at New Stadium [Washington Post]
- Giant Racing Teddy Attacks the Braves [DC Sports Bog]
- Stadium opening beyond politics [Washington Times]
- What Do You Get For Your $611 Million? [Raw Fisher]
- Opening Day [DCist]
- Zimmerman Wins It For Nats [DC Pro Sports Report]