This is the first in a multi-part series this baseball season where I take my fan act on the road to cheer on the World Champions. My first road stop of the year was in our nation's capital for the second game of a doubleheader on May 16 between the Phillies and Nationals.
I had already trekked down to Nationals Park once before, last year during its inaugural season. It looks like a few things have been added, but I still have the same overall view of it: a nice place to watch a game, but very ordinary, almost like a minor league park.
Of course, the caliber of baseball being played by the home team serves to enhance the feeling that you are watching minor leaguers.
Along with two friends, I signed up for a bus trip through a Phillies fan website. After leaving Citizens Bank Park an hour and a half later than we were originally told, we pull into DC shortly after 5 pm.
There is a brief tailgate and then some fairly heavy rain as we walk to the park. Upon entering, I notice three new statues that have been added this year. They look like they belong in a Body Worlds exhibit. Ghastly.
The rain subsides and the tarp comes up. Everything is right on schedule. Looking around, I observe that the busloads of Phillies fans have completely overwhelmed the home crowd. There is easily a 2 to 1 ratio of Phillies fans to Nationals fans, and the crowd is far less than the announced attendance of 23,896.
The national anthem singer is a guy named DC Washington, which I find funny. Andrew Carpenter, making his first career start for the Phillies, is extremely shaky in the first inning and lucky to get out of it allowing only one run.
In the third, the Phillies offense gets going. After a Chase Utley RBI double ties the game, Ryan Howard's mammoth three-run home run sends the road crowd into a frenzy. Phillies fans are making a lot of noise, particularly our sections in left field that are completely filled.
Washington gets a run back in the fourth as I take an opportunity to stroll around and get something to eat. Again, nothing about the building really strikes you. Apparently, there's some things to do in the industrial-looking edifice attached to the stadium in left and center fields, but I don't go in there.
I come back for the fifth inning and witness Raul Ibanez hit his third home run of the day, padding the Phillies lead to four runs. A bases loaded walk extends the lead to 7-2. Things look good.
Carpenter comes out for the fifth inning and promptly works his way into a jam. Clay Condrey relieves him and allows a triple to cut the lead to 7-5. But he saves the day by striking out the next two hitters.
The game is moving extremely slowly, well over two hours old with only five innings in the book. My friend comments to me that it has actually turned out to be a nice night. Then Ron Villone takes the mound for Washington.
In what might be the slowest display of pitching I have ever seen, Villone takes what seems like 20 minutes to issue two walks and give up a single. Ryan Howard steps to the plate.
I feel a single raindrop. Within 90 seconds, we are scurrying for cover in a torrential downpour. In my mind, Ron Villone has caused this delay himself.
Not only are the Nationals bad, but so is their grounds crew, which loses control of the tarp and is unable to pull it over the infield until it has turned to mud.
There seems to be little possibility of the game resuming, but still we wait. A young girl, I'm sure with one of the Phillies bus trips, runs onto the field and slides across the tarp.
Her backside is mostly exposed as a security guard pulls her to her feet and ushers her off to jail. Another overexcited (probably drunk) Phillies fan runs onto the field and slides on the tarp 15 minutes later.
A few minutes after that, two more Phillies fans, one male and one female, run out at the same time. The male does a feet first slide into the home plate area, spraying a security guard. Four arrests is the final tally, at least from what I see.
We wait for over an hour and the game is still not officially called off, but we head back to the bus. The bus is nearly full so we are not able to all sit together.
I sit next to one of our group leaders, who does not look like he is doing very well. As we sit in awful DC traffic, he complains of motion sickness, with an assist from numerous beers I'm sure. He grabs a plastic bag and very quietly throws up into it.
The bus trip lasts for almost three more hours after that and we finally get back to Philadelphia just before 2 am. It takes me another 45 minutes to get home after dropping off my friend.
Chalk up another win for the World Champions, as the game was called off shortly after we left. A successful and enjoyable trip even with the adverse weather. And it's always fun to see your team play on the road, especially when it feels like a home game.