Thursday, September 14, 2006
Why, and How, I Became a Nationals Season Ticket Holder in Section 320
When it became official that the Montreal Expos were relocating to Washington, DC, there was only one thing on my mind. I was going to be a season ticket holder-no matter what--with GOOD SEATS.
The Washington Senators of my youth, left town after the 1971 season, moving to Arlington. Not just across the Potomac River to Arlington, Virginia, but Arlington, Texas, in the Metroplex, between Ft. Worth and Dallas. Less than 2 years later, in late 1973, I was thrilled to learn that, Joseph Danzansky, then Chairman and CEO of Giant Food, was buying the Infant San Diego Padres and moving them to Washington, to play in our Nation's Capital. The Padres coming into MLB in 1969 along with the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots and THE MONTREAL EXPOS. But, just as everything was about to be signed, sealed and delivered, McDonald's Owner, Ray Kroc, swooped in, purchasing the team, leaving the Padres in San Diego. There actually is a complete Jersey and Cap Prototype existing today for the 1974 Washington "Padres". It used to sit at Giants Landover Headquarters, until Danzansky's passing. The Baseball Hall of Fame has the uniform now.
Washington, DC never really got another whiff of Major League Baseball, not in my teen years, nor my early adult life. But, during my early 20's, I was fortunate enough to be playing baseball, professionally, in ironically, the Texas Rangers Minor League System. Playing 1st base, I was a decent player, not great, excellent fielding skills, could hit, with power, but a slow runner and mediocre arm strength. Nonetheless, I was able to advance to AA Ball, was known for focusing and delivering in the clutch, until a horrific accident left me with 2 broken collarbones, separated shoulder, and no further baseball career. The Rangers released me in 1982. I loved the game, but had no future in it, so I turned my eyes to television, where I still work today, in the most enjoyable and exciting travel job imaginable. I continued to follow the game closely. Seeing many players I played with, or against in the minors, have decent, sometimes terrific Major League Careers.
As the years passed, my age advancing well into my 40's, Washington had yet to re-establish itself as a Major League Town. Yeah, there was alot of speculation and rumor. Not many people in the DC area could believe that MLB passed over Washington for TAMPA--YES--TAMPA/St.PETE in the last round of expansion teams. The Devil Rays have been terrible, both on and off the field. Tampa Bay only really qualified for a Major League team because so many other teams, most notibly-- The San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox used Tampa/St.Pete for leverage to get new stadiums in their respective cities. The State of Florida sued on behalf of the Bay area--the awarding of a team, the compromise.
And, as most people are fully aware, The Baltimore Orioles, well before Peter Angelos owned the team, catered to and eventually drew fans, lots of fans, from the Greater Washington DC market. In the early 80's, the Orioles were no longer EVER called the Baltimore Orioles. They were THE ORIOLES. The team Never again has worn "BALTIMORE" across their road jerseys. The Orioles drew 3 million fans for the first time. Mostly thanks to baseball deprived fans in DC and Northern Virginia. Around the time the Orioles last won the World Series in 1983, Edward Bennett Williams, former Washington Redskins Owner, owned the team and many, fully expected the Orioles to move from Old Memorial Stadium to DC. The State of Maryland fought it hard, using Lottery Ticket Money to eventually build Camden Yards. No one. And I mean NO ONE, could possibly be angry about that stadium being built today. Camden Yards changed the way ballparks were built. Getting away from the MULTI-PURPOSE stadium, like RFK, and getting back to traditional, baseball only, grass field parks. Helping make baseball a family event once again.
Admittedly, I was a BIG Orioles Fan. Seeing Cal Ripken jump for joy after snaring that final out of the 1983 World Series against the Phillies was a BIG MOMENT of my sports fan life. Loved Eddie Murray, John Lowenstein, Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey, Jim Dwyer ( to me, the best pinch hitter/super sub of my time), even Big Tim Stoddard. Earl Weaver waddling out of the dugout, turning his cap backwards, jawing away with the Umpire--PRICELESS. So many others. The Orioles were a Professional, Proud Organization. The Oriole Way was special. And, I loved every minute of it.
The African Queen will tell you, back in 1985, when she first met me, I watched EVERY SINGLE Orioles game. Followed them closely. Loved watching, then HTS (HOME TEAM SPORTS), Orioles broadcasts with Mel Proctor, John Lowenstein and Tom Davis. I was fortunate to work Oriole games for HTS for 2 seasons. Still think it was the best baseball broadcast of its day. Lowenstein was flat out, OUT OF CONTROL FUNNY!! The most enjoyable man I ever met in the game. But, only attended, in person, about 10 games per season in Baltimore after my HTS time ended.
How can anybody not Enjoy, remembering that night in September, 1995, when Cal broke the All Time Consecutive Game Record against the Angels at Camden Yard. Always Dramatic in the clutch, Cal would homer that night and then, make a MEMORABLE jog around the field, receiving adulation from, not only the home crowd, but the entire California Angels team. Hall Of Famer, and Angels Coach, Rod Carew--giving Cal a very warm Thankful Embrace. Rafael Palmeiro pushing Cal out of the dugout to start that memorable jog around Camden Yards. Cal Ripken saved baseball that night. A night never to be forgot. Then in 1997, The Orioles were DESTINY's TEAM, the best team in baseball, sure to win the World Series, only to see Armando Benitez blow up BIG TIME in the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians. I all still pissed at Benitez to this day.
Once Angelos took control, the chances for Baseball to relocate a team here were slim and none. As the Angelos Orioles put a stranglehold on baseball in Washington and killed his own teams fan base with poor decisions, I followed the Orioles less and less, hoping that one day, ONE DAY!! My HOMETOWN would receive its deserved Major League Team. Its well documented how, really by the GRACE of GODS, the stars all aligned to, finally, relocate the Expos to Washington as THE NATIONALS.
The African Queen and I were in Santa Barbara, California when the announcement, by MLB and the DC City Council took place in late September, 2004. Sohna couldn't understand my TOTAL JOY about the moment. I picked up the USA Today newspaper and right on the front page, was a shot of Mayor Tony Williams, wearing the Curly W red cap, along with Jack Evans, with the Banner Headline: BASEBALLS BACK IN DC!! Me, jumping up and down, uncontrollably, tears steaming out of my eyes. A life long ambition was coming to fruition.
Sohna vividly remembers me showing this newspaper headline to just about anyone that would listen to me. Even went swimming in this terrific outdoor pool, right on the water, in downtown Santa Barbara, showing everyone, folks I had NEVER MET BEFORE, the headline. I was JACKED!! At dinner that night, I told Sohna that I had vowed, since my earliest adult life, to be a SEASON TICKET Holder for any Washington, DC baseball team. She thought I was crazy. Sohna also didn't know that I had been on a season ticket holder list by Washington DC Baseball for some time.
The Washington Nationals Owners, MLB, decided to hold some sort of lottery, to decide who would get the best seats at RFK Stadium. Since I was already in the original pool of season ticket wannabees, I figured that I would get great box seats. Was I ever disappointed when I was given Section 202, row 12, near the foul pole down the right field line. The Politics of Washington had come into play, and I had been trounced. Was I ever unhappy. Sohna could not believe how it affected me, I talked and moaned about it each and everyday. For 2 straight weeks, in December 2004, I went to the trailer at RFK Stadium to bitch, whine and cajol anyone that would listen to me. The former head of tickets for The Nationals, David Cope, actually, finally told me that "I was a NOBODY" I could take what was offered or nothing at all!!. I was steaming now. There was no way I would lose out to some lobbyist that does not care one IOTA about baseball.
One Ticket Rep, told me off to the side, knowing that I am in the Media, to use whatever connections I had to pull strings, so I did-right away.. It was amazing how quickly things changed. Within 5 hours of being told "I WAS A NOBODY" I received a call at home, from my ticket rep. New Seats had surprisingly come available, in Section 320, Row 4, seats 14 & 15. I quickly looked at the RFK Seating Diagram. These seats looked promising. Knowing how hot and blistering the summer heat can be in DC, I asked whether these seats were under the overhang. They were!! Finally, I asked the ticket rep, whether, by just saying yes or no, whether there had been some pressure from up above to work this out for me. He responded: "Yes, I will do anything I can to help you!!" I laughed to no end and immediately sealed the deal for the new seat offerings in Section 320. The African Queen happy that my 2 week moaning and groaning over.
Little did I realize at the time, how fabulous these seats really were, directly behind the Nationals 3rd base dugout, sitting among the most rabid and sensational fans I could ever expect to share the night with. I was hooked from the start, and despite first sharing my seats with others, quickly started to attend every single game possible. It took about 6 weeks for Section 320 to finally take its shape, everyone getting to know one another. 12 season ticket holders in all, the Original Section 320's. The Seating Section I am proud to be a part of. A Section that makes every single home game fun, whether we are winning, or has been the case, this season, losing--losing badly. MickNats and I are the staples of Section 320. We both attend virtually every single game. Win or lose, bad play and all. We are THE DIEHARD FANS of the NATIONALS--although MickNats has me beat on the Nationals Jerseys and Tees--but just barely. If we are not there, others start to wonder. The world seems not right when He or I are not at RFK.
Sohna and I enjoy each and every game in attendance at RFK. We just can't watch a home game on TV. We love spending the night with our friends-- talking baseball, bitching at Frank, screaming AT and For SCREECH!!, chanting, cheering and getting everyone on the 3rd base side involved, vocally in the game.
ITS A GREAT JOY BEING A TRUE SEASON TICKET HOLDER AT RFK STADIUM IN SECTON 320!!