Behind the Foul Pole: My Trip to Nationals Park
It was a Tuesday night. The Washington Nationals had just drafted Stephen Strasburg from San Diego State and Drew Storen from Stanford University. Rain had been pouring down since 5:30 PM that evening, with severe thunderstorm warnings ranging from Maryland to Northern Virginia.
Unfortunately for me, I had purchased a ticket to the Nationals game at work earlier in the day without looking at the weather report.
After many debates with myself, I decided that I would try to attend the game, and pray that it was not rained out by the time I arrived.
By the time I got through traffic and arrived at Metro station (the subway in DC for those who do not know), it was already 6:45, and the train was not going to arrive for another nine minutes.
After it arrived, it was constantly stopping due to a power failure at one of the Metro power stations. You can only hear the phrase "Hold on folks, we will be moving shortly," before you realize that shortly is more like five minutes.
I reached the Navy Yard Metro Station around 7:35, but by that time I knew the game was delayed. As I ascended the escalator, I saw hordes of fans going back into the station. This got me worried. Did I really just spend over an hour of a commute (and $3.50) to arrive at a rained out baseball game?
I exited the station and walked towards the fantastically built ballpark. I was met with an announcement that the Nationals would try to play the game that night. Upon hearing that, I decided that I would walk around for a bit before I looked for my seat.
The only ballparks I have visited in my life are Fenway Park, (Old) Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and the Roger's Centre. Nationals Park is a completely modernized stadium that is exciting to be in.
They have plenty of concession areas, even though food is priced ridiculously high. They have a seating area, a video game station and multiple team stores throughout the park. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with what I saw.
By 8:20, I decided that I was going to venture over to my section, section 107. While walking over, I saw that they were taking the tarp off of the field. I heard an announcement that they were going to play the game, and the first pitch would be approximately 8:50.
I was excited. At least after my long journey and time wasting, I did get to sit down and watch a game.
I walked down to where I thought my seat would be, but from what I saw, there was no row "X" in section 107. There was a row "X" right across in section 106, so I stood there.
An attendant came over to wipe my seat down and asked if this was my seat. After telling him the situation, he said I was actually much closer.
Unknown to me, section 107 actually continues down closer to the field, and actually right in the front row!
Unfortunately, seat nine was right behind the foul pole. Now, it wasn't all bad, the only view that was blocked was of the shallow outfield, but I was still pretty annoyed.
I had paid $24 for that seat, which was supposed to cost $15 after the discount code I used. Yes, I paid $9 in fees by buying a ticket on-line and printing it out (the free Will Call option was not selectable on-line).
I could have moved, but I would have had to move back a few rows since the seats in my area were mostly filled, surprisingly.
As the game got closer to starting, I started realizing that the experience I was going to have at Nationals Park was nothing like the ones I had at Fenway.
There are many gimmicks at Nationals Park. They have a long intro for their team, like you would see at an NBA game. Also, like an NBA game, they have those "make some noise," moments in order to get fans excited about a pitch.
I'm used to Fenway Park, where fans are on their feet every time there are two strikes on a batter, or if its a big moment situation.
Every inning it seemed like the Nationals were doing a contest or giveaway with fans. They also had the "Presidential Race," which is similar to the Brewers' Sausage Race, except only with presidents instead of food.
The Washington Nationals are not a good ballclub yet, even though I do see some success for the club on the horizon. They do not have the same luxury as the Red Sox or Yankees, who can sell tickets based upon team reputation alone.
The Red Sox and Yankees do not have to have gimmicks to keep folks interested in the game, because their teams are talented enough to do that on their own.
This is not a fault of the Nationals organization though. Despite their many blunders—and boy have their been blunders—they are doing a good job of keeping fans interested in what is happening on the field.
Upon my exit after the Nationals 3-2 loss, I noticed that there is a lot of development going on in the area. Hotels, apartments complexes, and stores are all planned for the area right outside the ballpark.
When this construction is complete, going to Nationals Park will be a whole day experience for some, filled with good shopping, good eating, and mediocre baseball.
The Nationals organization is going to flourish in a few seasons. They will begin attracting a lot more fans to the stadium. The team will inevitably improve, especially when their young players get a little more experience.
Although it may not look like it, the Washington Nationals are actually on the right track. It may take a few years, but their train will eventually reach the station.
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