Before my second Washington Nationals game, I decided to walk around the outside of the stadium to take in the sights. A day earlier, big crowds prompted me to quickly get into the stadium, but on July 3, I had more time.
I took a long walk around the entire stadium, and saw the team’s head office …
… a plaque recognizing baseball’s return to D.C. …
… and even the players’ parking lot:
(Range Rovers seem to be pretty popular among ball players.)
Here’s what the first base gate entrance looks like:
And here’s a panorama of the center field gate, where I entered for both games:
Today, the crowds weren’t so bad, so I was able to score a $5 ticket …
… when the gates opened, I went straight down to field level to watch some Nationals tossing:
(Sorry, this guy’s name escapes me.)
See these giant lineups?
They were for the team’s autograph signing day. Chien-Ming Wang (who I saw pitch a few days earlier on a rehab stint at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium), Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball and Alex Cora were all signing:
I decided to forget about standing in line for 20 minutes to get one autograph, and it soon paid off. A few minutes after I took the above photos, the previous day’s starter, Livan Hernandez, came out to sign:
I got him on a ball I snagged a few days earlier at a Minor League game:
After getting my autograph, I went down the to Lexus Presidents Seats, which run $300+ a pop. You can’t even cut through this area, so the photo below is as close as I could get:
I stopped and watched the Nats’ pregame radio broadcast in the center field concourse for a few moments …
… then went and got a loaded hot dog for lunch. I got one covered in mac and cheese and Fritos, and while it tasted OK, it was impossible to eat without making a mess:
I then took a spot up along the first base line …
… and watched Jason Marquis have an absolutely terrible outing:
This mound visit was either in the first or second inning. Ouch. Though he was 7-2 going into the game, Marquis could not make a pitch. He left after 1.1 innings after giving up eight hits, six earned runs and even making an error:
After a few innings, I went behind home plate to take this panorama:
When I write my official guide to Nationals Park for my website, you’ll get a comprehensive list of all the places to eat. But in the meantime, I have to share one cool feature I’ve never seen elsewhere:
Yep, onion and relish dispensers that you crank. (I wonder if I could convince my wife to let me get one of these for the kitchen.)
I spent a couple innings standing behind a railing in the left field corner, where I took this picture of myself:
Nationals Park has a ton of places like this. It’s nice because if your seating area is crowded, or if you just want to stand up for a while, you can go find a spot to watch:
The Pirates cruised to a 10-2 win in a game that was all over in the first inning, and after its conclusion, I took the subway back to my hotel. Waiting for my hotel’s shuttle bus, I struck up a conversation with another guy who’d been to the game. After I told him about my website, he told me how the last time he’d watched a pro game in D.C., it was in the mid 1970s. (The old Washington Senators, of course, left in 1971.)
I love unsolicited opinions. The guy then told me (disgustingly, I should add) what a horrible manager Davey Johnson is and how the day’s loss was on him. He said Johnson’s not ready to manage in the Big Leagues and how Jim Riggleman was slapped in the face by Washington management. I said I understood what he was saying, but giving the team an ultimatum can come back and bite you in the hind parts.
The guy completely flew off the handle, telling me I was wrong and how when you’re “only” making $600,000, the team’s taking advantage of you. “He showed them,” the guy said. I pointed out that now that Riggleman is making $0, the team may be having the last laugh. The guy was starting to ramp up his rebuttal (while his wife stood there and blatantly rolled her eyes) when our shuttle bus came. Saved!
With my visit to the nation’s capital now in the books, I had one last stop on my 12-game, 12-day road trip: A visit to Binghamton, NY, to watch the AA Mets.