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I went to Nationals Park and it was good

Aug 20, 2012, 9:47 AM EDT

Washington Nationals Michael Morse celebrates a grand slam home run against the New York Mets in Washington

I went to D.C. on Friday. The impetus for the trip: my friend, who does business development in the commercial real estate world, was gifted with the use of a luxury suite for the Nats-Mets game. She filled it up with clients and business contacts but, by golly, wouldn’t you know it, she had a couple of tickets left over for little old me.  Oh, providence.

It was my first trip to Nationals Park. Overall: it’s a good place. Not a top-top kind of place, but quite nice.  I think it probably needs a few more years to be lived in and experience the maturation of the Nats as a winning team and the Nats fan base as a whole before a fair assessment can be made, but it’s quite nice.  And even if it does skew a bit bland for now, that will change with time and history. And it’s way better to be a tad bland now than to manufacture all kinds of phony history and character when it hasn’t earned it. Random observations from a nice night of baseball:

    • It wasn’t just me and commercial real estate people in the box. Because my friend had a couple of extra tickets, I invited our friend D.J. Short and his fiance Christine, who live in the D.C. area, to join us. I’ve worked with D.J. for over three years and this was the first time I’d met him in person. The Internet is weird. D.J. and Christine are not, however. They’re pretty adorable actually. And D.J. is a pro: despite being a Mets fan and despite watching Johan Santana get let the hell up again, he didn’t curse the gods or kick anything. See: he even was a good enough sport to smile for a pic:


  • It was a pretty good crowd for the Nats, I’m told. Not a sellout, but it was the sort of crowd you could expect for most winning teams on a Friday night. And it’s not like it was driven by some promotion or anything. The giveaway was Nats caps with a beer logo on it, so kids couldn’t get them. The Nats are winning and the people are starting to show up. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
  • The park has big wide concourses and, from what I could tell from my stroll, a lot of food options. People talk about the Shake Shack a lot — and the line was crazy — but even the normal ballpark food looked varied and of high quality. I didn’t get a good sampling of the beers, but I pregamed a bit in the bar above left field, and they had some microbrewish options and, oddly, Peroni on tap. Can’t say I’ve ever seen Peroni on tap at a ballpark.
  • The crowd was into the game, but you could tell that it’s still a growing and learning fan base. Almost every time a fly ball was hit, the “that could be a home run!” roar grew a bit until someone caught it in non-necessarily deep left, right or center field. On the plus side, though, the crowd did cheer loudly and naturally at key moments — like when Michael Morse came up in a bases loaded situation — without prompting from the scoreboard (though the scoreboard did prompt often, just after the cheering had already began).
  • About that Michael Morse bases-loaded situation: just as he came up to bat, the woman behind me — who is not really a big baseball fan — said “he’s going to hit a grand slam here, I just know it.” I, the baseball expert who has seen things in this game, said “well, I suppose it’s possible, but I think it far more likely that he’ll hit a single to the opposite field. Two runs will score.”  Of course Morse hit a grand slam. The lesson, as always, is that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
  • Bryce Harper hit a homer. My inner fanboy cheered a lot, bro.
  • No one cares about this but media people, but I was shocked at just how high up in the stratosphere the press box is.  It’s waaay higher there than it is at any other park I’ve been to.  If people ever think Nats broadcasters are missing anything, you can probably blame the fact that they’re so high up that they have to rely on video more than anyone else.
  • My friend and I drove to the game, but we walked by the Metro station near the ballpark on our way in and out.  It’s conveniently located and clearly, based on the development around the park, it’s intended that now and forever the best way to get to games is to take Metro. That said, after the game was over, the crowd trying to get into the station was insane. Backed up all the way up the escalator and way out onto the sidewalk and the surrounding streets. Someone who uses it tell me: does Metro not run more trains than usual after games? Because that looked like a nightmare.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  Like I said, nice place. Obviously I’d get a good impression of it based on the fact that I sat in the luxury box, but it seemed like a good place to see a game even if you’re a peasant –er, I mean, even if you sit in regular seats.

  1. ndbites34 - Aug 20, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    The Metro runs trains, but they wait until the trains are completely packed before taking off. Most of the problem is usually inexperienced riders not having enough $$ on their fare cards (the turnstiles won’t take the cards unless there’s at least $2.00 on them) and having to fight their way to the fare machines. Those lines are really crazy.

    And Shake Shack is pretty good, but the only reason I stand in that line is for my burger-craving pregnant wife.

    • Old Gator - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:22 AM

      What, no Ethiopian food at the stadium? In Washington? No hot dogs wrapped in injera and berber sauce? What the hell is that about?

      • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:59 AM

        Gator, you have to go outside to the Fairgrounds… on your way to the Park or after the game. You’ll be fine.

        What I don’t understand is the attendance in the ATL. So, it’s a 2.5 hour rain delay in DC, and of the 33,764 on hand, maybe 64 left. The rest sat on the ramps and in the concourses and ate (and ate and ate and ate) or watched the Atlanta game projected on the scoreboard. There are more folks, seriously, in the stands with umbrellas and ponchos cheering for Hanley Freeekin’ Ramirez and Shane Freeekin’ Victorino than there are in the stands at Turner Field, where it was 75 and so beautiful that Jason Heyward gifted the Dodgers with two balls lost in the sun. I’ve never been there, but is that a bad stadium or was there a f’ball game or something?

      • Old Gator - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        Natslady: Yeah, right – buy my doro wat from some tin and pasteboard stand where they don’t even include the egg. Bah. Phooey!

    • jea1978 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      Yeah, to me the key with the Metro is to roll into the… Fairgrounds? I forget if that’s the name for the new Bullpen this year… but anyways, roll into there and grab a beer or two and listen to the live music they generally have, while the metro crowd dicipates. Basically: just be patient.

      Shake shake is wildy overrated and the line is always insane. I’m lucky I don’t have a pregnant wife, because I don’t have to stand in that misserable line! I miss Five Guys, that was much better.

      • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

        Another thing the locals do is take the bus to another Metro stop (or to wherever they parked their car). The Circulator buses run every 10 minutes. They can get crowded but you can pay with your Metro pass or with an actual $1 bill.

        Before the parking lots were finished they used to run buses (free) from RFK to Nats Park. So you could park (free), tailgate if you so desired and make a leisurely trip to the game. It worked pretty well except if there was a soccer game.

      • voteforno6 - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM

        There’s a Five Guys a few blocks away, right next to a Subway.

    • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      There is another entrance, about three blocks away. It’s the same station, so you get the crowds on the platform, but you avoid the people at the fare stations. Also, they have notices–written and over the loudspeaker–on every game day at every metro station to please ensure that you have enough money on the fare card for the return trip, but people, y’know people

      You can park on the street if you hunt around…. Invariably, I’ll pull into a spot and be informed that “the meter isn’t working.” The meters in DC are electronic toys and of course they don’t work–they don’t work because it’s after 6:30 p.m. or it’s Sunday and you don’t have to pay! And the meter is smart enough to know that, and it tells you that, right on its face, if you um, read the directions.

      • jea1978 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:17 AM

        Nats lady, I’d hold off on bashing the Turner field crowds until we see what we pull in for this series against the Braves. There are a whole lot of tickets still available for tonight’s game. It’s a bad sign.

      • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM

        Yeah, I heard that on the radio, about tickets being available. A weeknight in August, tough on attendance as everyone goes to the beach or Maine. Not intended as bashing, just curioius. I read they might not be able to afford Michael Bourn.

      • natstowngreg - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        We’ve been using the New Jersey Ave. entrance since the park opened in 2008. From our seats on the LF side, it’s a bit of a hike, but it avoids the masses on Half St. The crowds herding to Metro Friday night were larger than usual, because of large attendance and a close game (fewer people than usual bugging out early).

        The announcements at the station said, if you’re using a paper farecard, you needed to have at least $2.70 on it. Probably in recognition of the $1 surcharge Metro recently implemented for use of paper farecards.

  2. umrguy42 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    “My friend and I drove to the game, but we walked by the Metro station near the ballpark on our way in and out. It’s conveniently located and clearly, based on the development around the park, it’s intended that now and forever the best way to get to games is to take Metro. That said, after the game was over, the crowd trying to get into the station was insane. Backed up all the way up the escalator and way out onto the sidewalk and the surrounding streets. Someone who uses it tell me: does Metro not run more trains than usual after games? Because that looked like a nightmare.”

    I had the same problem last time I went to Busch Stadium (III), in ’06. My friend and I took the Metrolink in, and had to stand in a crazy line after the game to leave (and hope like hell we were in the line to go west, and NOT the one to go over to the East Side…)

  3. pestiesti - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    I’m not from DC, so I’m not an expert, but when I took Metro to and from the game it seemed like the long line was caused by the bottleneck at the turnstiles and escalators and not by a lack of trains.

    • natstowngreg - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Having used that station many times to get home from Nats games, I agree. There have been games where Metro has run few additional trains, but those are rare.

  4. danaking - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    There’s another way into the Navy Yard station, past the one everyone uses, turn right, and up a couple of blocks. The platform will still be jammed, but you’ll get right in and can view things from above to pick your spots. Check the arriving training information. I caught a break a few weeks ago by taking a train heading out of town for a stop, then riding an empty training back toward the ballpark.Didn’t take me any longer than waiting for the next regularly scheduled train, and I had a seat squared away before the crowd got on.

  5. akismet-e6748cca3a16ea6e8283008d25583adc - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    A good review of our home ballpark. The Peroni on tap is odd too: I’m pretty sure that’s new this year. The stadium has cycled through concession management companies 3 times already, looking for a group that actually does their job well and cares. Perhaps that’s where the odd beer comes from.

    The marquee food establishment in the stadium has to be Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC establishement for 50+ years which opened up with the stadium. But I’m don’t believe its on the club/suite levels, so you may not have gotten to it. Next time.

    Would like to hear your thoughts on the commercialism factor in the park; I feel like its not as blatantly in your face with ads (say like Shea stadium and other newer parks). But i havn’t been to that many of the new stadiums to get a real sense.

    Last thing: a comment on the fan base. DC is inarguably a football town. Despite the Nats having the best record in baseball local sports radio is still absolutely dominated by Redskins talk. But, the town will adopt a winner. Call it “johnny come lately” or “bandwagon fans,” but if a team is winning, they’ll come. The Caps have been drawing like crazy lately and now suddenly the Nats are drawing. As you say; that’s the natural order of things. I’d like to think though that the core Nats fan base, those of us that kept our season tickets while the team lost 100games two years in a row, are in fact knowledgeable and give the team’s fans some street cred.

    • kiwicricket - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      Peroni is not odd. Just not common in a Baseball stadium.

    • natstowngreg - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM

      Correct re: lack of Ben’s Chili Bowl in the Stars & Stipes Club. A couple of years ago, they had a place that sold Ben’s chili dogs, but that didn’t last. Concessions are OK in the club, but nothing special. It does have 2 bars, which are open a half-hour after games. Better cuisine means ponying up the extra cash for one of the clubs behind home plate.

      Every team has front-runners. But the front-runners vary in their level of support. The front-runners of Washington have begun to turn out in large numbers for the Nats, as they have for the Capitals. Will they reach the levels of “baseball towns” like Boston and St. Louis? That remains to be seen. But the signs are promising.

      • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        I went to the Stars and Strips club yesterday on my STH pass, first time I’d been in there. Didn’t fancy it much, crowded and only a few seats with a view of the park. Seemed to be the same food as outside unless I missed something. Also, TOO COLD. Since I was wet going in, I was now wet and FREEZING. What is the point of living in a humid subtropical climate if you a/c your butt off?

      • voteforno6 - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:29 PM

        The food in the Red Porch restaurant is actually decent, if a bit pricey.

      • natstowngreg - Aug 20, 2012 at 7:22 PM

        You got it about right on the food and seating. They’ve actually removed seating since last season. The Stars & Stripes club’s main advantages are (1) the seats are good. Ours overlook 3B (the shady side of the park); and (2) the ability to go indoors during rain delays (over-air conditioned or not).

  6. frenchysplatediscipline - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    I moved from the area the year the park first opened so I never got to see it. However, I used to go up to see the games at RFK and (at least during the week) the best option for me was to drive to the Pentagon (I was in No. VA) and take the subway. No crowd, no hassle. Of course that was before the Nats were good and before most of DC had taken notice.

    Good description of the park. I have always wanted to go back and catch a game because it looks impressive on TV.

    However, I hope that Atlanta comes to town and absolutely DEFILES that place for the next 3 days 😀

    Go Braves!

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Oh another BIG plus not mentioned here – I have heard from friends they serve Dogfish at Nats park.

      Would like nothing better than to be there tonight with a cold Dogfish, a bag of peanuts, and an unhappy home crowd…

      • jea1978 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        Dogfish is only served in the centerfield Red Porch bar, but it is there.

        I love Dogfish, but drinking one on a typical brutally humid DC day sounds terrible to me.

        We’re going to take down the Braves this weekend! I’ll be at all three games, and drink a Dogfish each game in honor of you and your losing Braves. Enjoy fighting for that wild card!

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Ha. Enjoy. I am insanely jealous. Yeah I’m weird – I love a good IPA, ESPECIALLY on a hot and humid day. Go figure…

      I would like to be the first to extend you my condolences on having to sit through 3 painful losses this week.

  7. kiwicricket - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    So you invite D.J and his fiancee along because your friend has spare tickets to a box, but the catch is that you make him wear the same shirt as you? Did you wash it before making him wear it?

    • deepstblu - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      D.J.’s shirt doesn’t have a pocket. That’s how you can tell he’s not the alpha blogger.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      Yep…and as Deep stated previously…
      We all know the Alpha Blogger wears a pocketed T-Shirt as well.
      I do think it is very sweet of them to color coordinate however. They look like a cute couple!

  8. richardmzhlubb - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Funny you mentioned the crowd reaction to fly balls. I was at the game Saturday night and was wondering whether the crowd had a collective lack of depth perception, given how they oohed and aahed at every medium depth flyball.

    • jea1978 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      I think the fly ball thing is natural though. I remember being in Fenway years ago and seeing the crowd rise cheering for what turned out to be a pop out to the firstbaseman off the bat of Mo Vaughn.
      The crowd handled the game Saturday perfectly, especially showing respect to the game E Jax pitched.

      • natslady - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM

        EJax pitched great. Never saw that kind of domination from him, at least, not so far this year. He lost focus once, after he almost hit a guy with a high inside pitch. So that was the walk and the dinger, and, really, too bad. Niese was even better, and for some reason the Mets’ bullpen was good all weekend.

    • bmorelikeme - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      Have you ever listened to a Nats broadcast? Bob Carpenter gets so freaken excited for flyballs to centerfield.

      • jea1978 - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        Carpenter is terrible. I’m not a fan. F.P. was terrible last year, he is passable this year, but that might just be him being slightly less bad than terrible, and it seeming passable because he was so bad last year.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM

        I had hoped that Carpenter and FP would calm down their fanboy perspective now that the team is actually good. It’s been a big disappointment for me. I had assumed that they were doing their job, to talk up the team and overrate the prospect and overlook the flaws. I assumed that once the team got good, they’d offer more honest assessments. They really haven’t.

        I like this team, but there’s an obvious litmus tests of their ability to look objectively at the roster: Ian Desmond. Desmond hits a lot of home runs, has a lot of RBI, and is young and flashy. All things to like. But he plays lousy defense, swings at the first pitch too often, and draws few walks. You would never learn those things listening to MASN.

        As far as MASN is concerned, it’s a wonder they ever lose.

      • kinggw - Aug 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        Carpenter is the play by play guy for the Nats so there is going to be some homerism involved. In fact, I cant think of any play by play guy that doesnt engage in that from time to time. A bad example of homerism was Smoltz on the TBS broadcast yesterday making up every excuse in the world for the Braves and Minor. I grew up on Harry Kalas and even he would wax poetic about Mickey Morandini and Kevin Stocker every now and again.

        I like FP and Carp, I don’t see anything wrong with them being excited about whats going on with the Nats. This is a new and very exciting time for the Nats, should they be stolid about it? Ill take FP over the likes of Dibble and Darling any day. Its nice to have someone that has roots in the franchise.

        18thstreet you are nuts and couldnt be more wrong. Desmond is pretty good defensively and is leaps and bounds better than he was a few years ago. You must not listen to MASN often because they always make light of Desmond’s first pitch swinging. Whether you care to admit it, Desmond was the best shortstop in the NL before he got injured. He was having a better season than Reyes, Castro and Furcal. Thats not too shabby. The Nats are winning. Stop being so overly critical and enjoy the ride.

      • voteforno6 - Aug 20, 2012 at 1:32 PM

        They are far better than the people that do the White Sox games.

  9. number42is1 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    you didnt try the Strassburger?

    • lapsncaps - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      They only have it every so often, and they usually announce it a few days prior. I have actually not heard an announcement about them in a while actually. Who knows, maybe i keep missing it. But out of the few games I have been to, they have not had it.

  10. joshfrancis50 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Looks like a couple of tough hombres right there.

  11. redguy12588 - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Is there a luckier franchise than the Nationals? I propose that there is not.

  12. runteddyrun - Aug 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    Nice review – if you walk on the outside of the second level on the third base side, you can see the Capital.

    I will be there tonight – big series for the NATS!!!

  13. ayblincoln - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    The Navy Yard metro station was there well before the stadium and is simply not big enough. Seems dangerous to me. I always drive, park in the $5 lot and walk a couple blocks. Cheaper than metro too.

    • wlschneider09 - Aug 20, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      Allow me a stupid question, but where is this magical $5 lot?

      • pdowdy83 - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:01 AM

        Up Capital street near the McDonalds under the highway overpass. It is $5 for most games and $10 for premium games. Takes about 5-10 minutes to talk to the park from it but it is definitely the way to go. You can exit out of it and hit the interstate without any traffic 95% of the time.

      • wlschneider09 - Aug 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM

        Thanks for the heads up. I’ve always taken the metro for fear of traffic, but I think your plan is definitely worth a try.

  14. vcupats - Aug 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    The Red Loft bar in left-center is a pretty good scene on a nice day. Every time I go in with a standing-room only ticket I just watch from up there.

  15. keithbangedyermom - Aug 20, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    They were lucky only in that they sucked at the right time to get two once-in-a-generation players. For example, Houston will pick #1 again next year and Carlos Correa and that pick next year wont be nearly as good as Stras and Harper. It was indeed perfect timing.

    • pdowdy83 - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      It wasn’t luck. It was all part of Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden’s “plan” for rebuilding…

  16. coryeuc - Aug 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    One of the few things Metro does get right is keeping trains open a bit late if a game goes into extra innings or is delayed. No matter what, even with Metro’s utterly ridiculous hours, you’re able to get home. Pretty sure the team pays for it, though.

  17. genericcommenter - Aug 20, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    I see that HBT has uniforms for its bloggers, and apparently they are required to be worn out to any public function where the site might be represented.

  18. personalspaceinvader - Aug 21, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    Does anyone else feel the overwhelming urge to push Craig to the ground or knock some books out of his hand? Maybe give DJ a noogie or something? Call them both out in front of the unattainable girls they like? I don’t know. I have this bully complex leftover from high school I guess.

  19. dcandbmore - Aug 21, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    I was at this game for my birthday (it was my first Nats game since they were in RFK Stadium and I was 8 years old) and it was pretty awesome. Being also a huge Orioles fan, I liked it much better than Camden Yards. While Camden has more of a retro-baseball feel to it, Nationals Park is much more open. While walking around the concourse, there is great food as mentioned, but you are able to to see the game no matter where you are. The atmosphere was exciting, and I agree that people cheer for fly balls but sometimes its hard to tell whether or not it is just a fly ball, especially is you’re in the outfield as my seats were. Both the grand slam and Harpers homerun were about 20 feet away from me. The Metronome was definitely crowded but it adds to the expierence and I enjoyed this game and was excited you were there too, Craig!

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