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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Walking in the wind: Nats allow Braves victory, 1-0, fall to 3-11

First of all, I blame myself for this loss. I jinxed the team.

I got to Nationals Park early and walked around the place a bit, just taking in the sunny, but breezy, weather and talking to friends, and then I happened to see team president Stan Kasten walking towards me. "Are we going to sweep?", I asked, making a sweeping motion with my invisible broom. Catching my eye, he asked, "What?" I repeated my question, and Kasten quickly put his finger to his lips and went, "Ssshhh!" I had to laugh, but I didn't realize how right he was going to be.

The Nationals demonstrated once again that they are a pretty good team for the first eight innings, as starter John Lannan battled the Braves Jair Jurrjens, scoreless inning for scoreless inning, and the bullpens continued to blank each other through the eighth inning. The game was moving along quickly, probably to the relief of shivvering fans whi might have forgotten to dress warmly for the evening.

Then came the ninth inning. Neither Garret Mock, nor Mike Hinckley were able to get more than two men out, and managed to walk three batters, including the winning run.

Talk about frustrating. Some losses are harder to swallow than others, but probably none more so than the ones where your team has chances to win and cannot capitalize on them, and when your team hurts its own cause. Walking batters is a pitcher's sin, and isn't tolerated for long.

I was glad to get out to the park early, hoping to catch Nationals batting practice. Unfortunately, I wasn't in time, and only caught a little bit of Braves practice instead. I ran into "Coach" Ron Simms, usher extraordinaire, and spent some happy moments catching up with him. He showed me his daughter's wedding pictures and his we talked about his improved health and other things. Suddenly, a batting practice ball landed in the stands near us. I looked at Coach and he said, "It's all yours". So I went and searched for it and spotted it about the same time as a visiting Cubs fan, and I managed to beat him to it. He and I talked, he was a nice guy and we discussed the ballpark a bit. I decided to give the baseball to Coach Simms, because I knew that he would give it to a little kid and make them happy.

I also got to catch up with Mr. Charles Wells, who supervises ushers, and Tony, another usher. These guys really enjoy their jobs and like helping people.

I finally ran into Roy, who still works the Diamond Club, and then went upstairs to see his wife, Ellie, and catch up with them. They are the sweetest people, and getting to spend a few moments swapping stories with them is always a treat.

I feel as though I'm almost caught up with my entire "summer family". That means a lot to me, it makes each visit to the ballpark just that much more special.

I bought a program, and was pleased to see that it was wrapped in plastic, to protect it from the anticipated rain (which never came, thankfully). That was a nice touch, one that I really appreciate. Another example of the organization trying to pay attention to the little details.

My friend Mark showed up to take in the game with me, and we got caught up from last season as well. I bought some Hard Times Chili Mac with cornbread (an old favorite of mine) and , having not had any lunch, I couldn't resist the chili nachos, which I shared with Mark. My souvenir soda came in a cup with the season schedule on it, which I'm glad to see again. The cups from the first couple of seasons had the schedule on it and I really liked that, it was a great feature that's often useful.

Before the game, I ran into the girls from We've Got Heart, and they introduced me to Mike from Nationals Fanboy Looser. Nice to see more of the Nat-mosphere in attendance.

Well, not a great game, unless you enjoy pitcher's duels (which I do), and the way they lost was just awful, but now I can add that experience to the list of, "Strange things that I've witnessed on a baseball field."

Now I can put away my scarf, gloves and Nationals jacket until late September (October? Someday...) as by the time they return, it will be May and warm.

A well-needed day off and then up to brand-new Citifield and the New York Mets for the weekend. That ought to be interesting.

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