Friday, July 17, 2009

An Outlander at Nationals Park

My second Red Sox road trip of 2009 took me to Washington DC, to see Interleague play between the Red Sox and the Washington Nationals. The game took place at the one-year-old park that the Nationals call home, Nationals Park. It's a beautiful place! Lots of those open concourses, enabling you to watch the game and still enjoy the concessions. They have a great spot in center called the Red Porch - it opens a half hour before the regular beer concessions, so we became quite familiar with it! And it has cool, circular signage on top. Also fun is the Race of the Presidents! Poor Teddy Roosevelt always finds a way to lose.

We went to two of the three games. The Sox had won Tuesday night, and Wednesday's game was another victory, 6-4. Lester pitched well, and even laid down a sac bunt. Nick Green was nearly killed by a flying broken bat - he actually had to fend off the bat, which ended up, jagged end down, next to him. Scary. Hitting Coach Dave Magadan was tossed out of the game for arguing balls and strikes, and then coming out of the dugout onto the field. Exciting! And it beat the record-setting attendance of the night before, with a paid attendance of 41,530 - a new record.

Thursday, we did the Park tour. This is one of my favorite things to do when I'm on the road. You get to see all the places a "regular" fan doesn't see -- the Press Box, the dugout, the ritzy party suites. Invariably, when we do one, the tour is packed with Red Sox fans -- and this was true in DC. As for the Park itself, it was opened in 2008 - but there is a long-standing tradition of baseball in Washington. But because they were without a team for so long, many of the locals have shifted their allegiance to the Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals have a great venue, and hopefully, the fans will start to come.

After the tour, we wandered past the White House - so we DID see a non-baseball site! As we walked back to our hotel (the Red Roof in Chinatown - good location near a Metro), we stumbled onto this oasis for a short break: the Capital City Brewing Company. Traveling with Kelly is a beer education!

The Thursday night game was absolutely awesome! The Nationals had handled the sales for this game via a lottery - you registered for the opportunity to buy the tickets. We missed out - but when they did a second wave of ticket sales, we got in. The pairs were sparse - but Kelly managed to score two in the President's Section. We were in the first row behind home plate!! Our tickets also allowed us to have a "free" dinner in the Lexus Presidents' Club, of which we took full advantage. We spent part of our pre-game time enjoying an incredible buffet: prime rib, pork tenderloin, awesome vegetables, a huge cheese tray, desserts... Enjoyed while seated in an air-conditioned dining room, cloth napkins and all!

The game itself? Well, it was John Smoltz' debut as a Red Sox pitcher! I had been waiting for months for it - and it didn't disappoint. Oh, I know, Smoltz gave up four runs in the first inning. But he settled down after that - striking out the side in the 5th. Unfortunately, the offense was absent - even Rocco's homer in the 9th couldn't save us. Oh, well, if you can take 2 out of 3 in a road game series = good!

After the game, the President's Club was open for over an hour. Which was great, since the crowd of 41,985 (a new record) was all headed to the Metro at the same time! We sat and had some refreshments, and were able to watch the post-game press conferences through a window in the Club! Cool! And then head to a much less crowded subway.

A fantastic road trip - but it didn't end there. Friday morning Kelly and I hopped planes for Atlanta - and three games against the Braves!

Here are some photos:

Note: If you click on the picasa icon in lower right of frame, you can go to the full-sized album.

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