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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

An almost perfect Opening Day

What a day, what a day. If the Marlins hadn't played so well, and if John Patterson had brought his best stuff, it would have been just perfect.

I brought my good friend Randi, who is a big baseball fan. She always roots for the Nationals except when they are playing her hometown Orioles (she's from Baltimore, so I can't hold it against her). We got there early (11:00) got decent parking and proceeded to sunblock-up for a beautiful afternoon in the sun.

On the way in, we drove by the Tidal Basin and saw the utter EXPLOSION of cherry blossoms. They were at peak, and it was an awesome site. They only last a few days because there's usually a harsh wind or a rainy day which decimates the blossoms, but they reminded me of Marlon Brando's line in "Apocalypse Now" where he's recalling seeing some land along the Mississippi around Ohio as a kid and it was covered in gardenias - "It was like Heaven opened up and filled it with gardenias" or something like that. Well, that was the land around the Tidal Basin. Glorious.

We also thrilled to spot the new stadium rising up over the other buildings as we drove along I-295 crossing South Capitol Street. Very impressive!

The highlight of my day was getting to meet Miss Chatter and DCSportsChick and their husbands, and sharing mimosas at the official JustaNatsFan tailgate. Miss Chatter knows how to tailgate, and everyone was in high spirits. Also present was William Yurasko and his buddy Fritz, both of whom I met last season. It's great to meet up with so many other members of the Nat-mosphere. We didn't hang around too long, as we wanted to get settled.

I actually brought a gift to the stadium for Don Sutton in honor of his birthday, and also as a little "Welcome to Washington, D.C." token of my esteem. I won't say what it was, except to say that I needed the help of a nice MASN guy named Eric to get it inside (Let's just say that I never would have gotten it through the gate on my own). I also sent a few treats to Bob Carpenter and the MASN crew in the booth. I spend one of the happiest days of my life in the booth with Bob Carpenter and Tom Paciorek last September, and I'll relate that story here someday. This was just my way of welcoming them back for a new season. I knew that Don Sutton had met some Nats fans down in Viera, but I wanted him to know that we were glad that he was here and show him some appreciation. I know that he got my gift because when I went back to work yesterday, one of my co-workers told me that Don had called to thank me. Of course, I was at the game, but it was darned nice of him to call. Hopefully, I'll get to meet him sometime and shake his hand. I never saw him play, and I never heard him broadcast for the Braves, but his commentary and analysis of our pitchers has me riveted, I've been learning a lot by listening to him, and I'm happy to have him here. After I attend a game, I like to go home and watch the recorded broadcast so I can relive it a little and also listen to Bob and Don, so I can gain more insight. (Yes, I'm that geeky).

While I was up by the press cafeteria, I got to say hello to Ellie, who guards the door at the press cafeteria better than Cerberus in mythology. She's a wonderful person, and I always say hello when I go up to the terrace to get food. She loves her job, and believe me, she's good at it!

The next step was to go to the Main Gate to buy a program and Opening Day souvenirs from my favorite vendor, Rico. Rico has that booming voice that I've sometimes heard from the parking lot (I'm not exaggerating) shouting, "PRO-GRAMS! EVERYBODY GET'CHER PRO-GRAMS!" He is the nicest guy in the whole stadium, and he even got to go to the Super Bowl in January courtesy of the vending company he works for (I can't remember the name) because of his hard work. I always walk up to him and ask the same question, "Excuse me sir, but what are you selling today?" and he proceeds to let loose with a big, "PRO-GRAMS!" It's a happy little tradition I started last year. I'll get a picture of Rico sometime soon, I didn't want to bother him too much on Opening Day, he was happily busy.

Next, we went to our seats, and I proceeded to give them a little wipe-down with a wet, red rally towel from last season (hey, they were dirty, winter wasn't kind to them...). I went to get snacks, and on the way, I stopped by section 320 to meet Screech's Best Friend and the African Queen from Nats320 blog. They are as wonderful as they seem on that blog, really nice folks. I hope to get to know them a little better as the season unfolds.

Got some dogs, got some sodas and settled in to watch the game. The festivities on the field were fun, watching the distinguished guests throw out the first pitches and the two F-18 's flying over, the Army honor guard, the bands, the fireworks... what could be better?

As I'd screwed-up Randi's hotdog (a condiment failure on my part) I had to leave after the 3rd inning to go foraging for food, and there were some difficulties - long lines (not a problem, just an observation) and one of the hot dog stands I went to, the hot dogs were going so fast that I had to wait while they cooked more. I also looked for my favorite beer vendor, Howard. Howard is impossible to miss, and I hadn't seen him anywhere, so I went to ask if he was around, and I was told that he was, but that he was probably working the upper deck. Reassured, but unwilling to go racing up to the 400's for 2 beers (hey, I had to get back to the game!) I went to the Blue Moon stand and picked up two draught white beers. It's good, refreshing stuff. Last year, they served it with orange slices (kind of a Blue Moon tradition) but they weren't in evidence this day.

One odd stadium-problem I encountered was, low water pressure in the men's room sinks. Not initially, but before I went to buy beer, so that was around the 4th inning. Did someone forget to pay the water bill? It was at a trickle. Poor old R.F.K. There are some things about it that won't be missed a year from now.

Whilst foraging for food, I MISSED THE PRESIDENT'S RACE! I wondered what all the shouting was about, and it was Teddy rappelling from the roof. RATS! RATS! RATS! Oh, well, at least I got to see it on the T.V. broadcast I'd recorded, and Nats320 got some great photos.

Between missing the President's race and not being able to find my camera (though Randi brought hers, and I'll toss those up here as soon as she gets them to me) it is apparent that I, like the Nats, am hardly in mid-season form, and have some work to do on my timing and preparation.

I was pleased to see that the stands filled up a lot more by about the 3rd inning. On a day like yesterday, with temperatures in the high 70's, clear and sunny, there is no excuse to not sell out Opening Day. It's embarrassing. Okay, so the Marlins aren't the St. Louis Cardinals, or even the Cubs or the Mets, but still, on Opening Day it shouldn't matter if the visiting team is the Toledo Mud-Hens, if you are a baseball fan, you go. No paltry excuses accepted. Granted, it's tough to sell out 45,000+ seats in that stadium (the new stadium will hold fewer people) and it's only happened a few times, but make an effort, people! In all fairness, it looks like about 40,000 tickets were sold, so I'll give a B+ for effort.

It's a shame that the Nats lost. I really wanted the last Opening Day at R.F.K. to be a win, I wanted Manny Acta's managerial debut to be a win, but alas, it was not to be. Perhaps it's best to get that first loss out of the way so as not to get our hopes raised too much. It was a cold reality check on an otherwise warm day.

Dear God, I'm happy that the baseball season is back.

1 comment:

DC Sports Chick said...

Thanks, it was great to meet you and your friend too!

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