Friday, September 29, 2006
A Wonderful Morning--Last Night
The rain just kept on coming, starting at 5:30PM as I walked to the Capitol Hill Metro Station, heading to RFK Stadium, to meet up with the African Queen. And, the rain didn't stop until 10:45PM, well past the scheduled start time of 7:05 for last night's Washington Nationals/Philadelphia Phillies baseball game at RFK Stadium. Many ticket holders didn't show up in the first place, and as the torrential rains continued, more and more went home, unwilling to wait it out.
Those that did, were treated to one of the most unique ballpark experiences in the history of Major League Baseball. MLB ordered the game to be played, fearing a potential backlog of makeup games this coming Monday, October 2, and moving back, the start of Baseball's postseason.
The sight of a cleanup crew, first sitting, in line, straight up from bottom to top of the upper deck, in Section 552, seat 1 of every row, then standing up, as one, with their trash bags, walking their entire row, ringing the Entire UPPER DECK, picking up trash, before the game even began, PRICELESS!!
When this game finally began at 11:30PM there was less than 200 fans in the stands, mostly ALL PHILLIE FANS, everyone sitting in the lower bowl of the stadium, most in the first five rows surrounding the field, between the dugouts. Section 320 complete with 7 regulars: The African Queen, MSZimmy, JohnnieDamon, MickNats, NatsDelNegro, SayHeyKlib and myself. Joined in Section 315 by Iris and Biff and finally Colleen and Jeff with "Curly W", their rally monkey from Section 217. The NATIONALS TRUE FANS, sticking it out, through thick and thin, each and every night, as usual. If the Washington Nationals ever inducted FANS into a TEAM HALL OF FAME, all of us better be the FIRST INDUCTEES. We earned it tonight--for YEARS TO COME!!
Phillies fans were their usual crude selfs, making a ton of noise, starting at the BottomsUP brewery behind Section 317 before the game and continuing throughout the late night. These fans would BOO the NATPACK, Jeer-My Best Friend, Screech. Flat out, give it to the Nationals relievers walking slowing to their right field bullpen before the start of the game.
Tonight, also featured a tremendous Presidents Race, with Thomas Jefferson making a fabulous face first dive on the warning track, dazed, helped up, finally finishing the race, dead last, even behind the lovable loser, Teddy Roosevelt. Then, as the "RUSHMORES" slowly walked up the aisle behind the Phillies's first base dugout, were WILDY GIVEN CRAP by the classless Phillie Faithful.
All resulting in the MOST SURREAL NIGHT/MORNING I have ever experienced at a baseball game. NatsDelNegro turning to me in the top of the 9th saying, "I just can't believe it, when I look out at that Washington Nationals Clock in rightfield, and it says its 2AM!! Its just mindnumbing!"
THE FEELING, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS AFFAIR, NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN, BY ANYONE LASTING IT OUT!!
For its EVER CONTINUING SUPPORT, in good and bad times, Section 320 was honored by the Washington Nationals throughout the game tonight, each and every sitting member receiving gifts and prizes from the NATPACK for devotion to OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS.
Sohna kicked it off by participating in the SouthwestFlyaway--unfortunately, her love, Alfonso Soriano, sat this one out. MickNats would win the $50 Red,Hot&Blue Gift certificate for answering the DC IQ question correctly. I would win the $50 gift certificate to Modells for answering all 4 questions correctly in the "AROUND THE HORN" Triva. All seven of us would receive 2 tickets each to the October 14, Washington Capitals/Atlanta Thrashers Hockey Game at Verizon Center and T-Shirts during the 5th Inning T-Shirt Launch. And, we all were, surprisingly, the ESPN ZONE LUCKY ROW!! Colleen would receive an autograph Ryan Church Baseball for Ryan's second inning blast into the Upper Mezzanine, just below Section 462.
But, the finest reward of the night came during the 7th inning stretch, when the NATPACK offered MsZimmy and Myself the opportunity to stand on the NATS 3rd Base Dugout with them to sing "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME". After singing the song and tossing T-Shirts, only to NATS FANS, I turned around, walked over to Alfonso Soriano, leaning against the top railing, stuck out my right hand, palm down, yelling "ALFONSO!!" Soriano immediately responding, slapping my hand with "SORIANO!!!" Mike O'Connor and Austin Kearns chuckling. Me then saying,pointing: "YOU THE MAN!!" Alfonso points right at me in appreciation, then looks at O'Connor and Kearns, smiling mightily, saying "thats one those guys up there chanting each and every game!!" MsZimmy looking at me like, "WOW!!--THAT"S COOL!!" And, you know what, IT WAS!!!
None of us could ever thank THE NATPACK, enough, for their generosity tonight. We LOVED THE ATTENTION!!
And, as usual, Section 320 gave it their all this morning. All seven of us combining to OUT CHEER the throng of Phillie Fans ringing the field. 7 loudmouths, with empty beer bottles clanking against the concrete and chairs (BUDWEISER BOTTLES, by far, the best noise makers, we know from experience). NATSDELNEGRO providing his usual rythem and percussion. No doubt, we were at the top of our game for this one. Singing LOUDLY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to RYAN ZIMMERMAN, so loud that THE WASHINGTON POST even mentioned it in their game recap today, online. The CHEERING NEVER ENDING!! The few remaining Ushers stopping by, telling us, how much they were enjoying our effort. SayHeyKlib, completely out of voice box by the end of the game.
SCREECH appeared right at the start of the game, to a CHORUS of "WE LOVE SCREECH, WE LOVE SCREECH". Screech, lovingly, taking in all the adulation, hugging his BEST FRIEND, blowing kisses to the AFRICAN QUEEN, and hanging out, until, bravely moving into the Phillies Fan Section to put up with their crap!! Screech came out of it, with all feathers still attached, to a great relief of all of us.
And, yeah, they did play the game, and it was a tight, well played affair. Mike O'Connor getting the start for Washington, going 5 strong innings, giving up just three hits, 2 walks, and one unearned run, scored by the Phillies Abraham Nunez on a fielding error by Ryan Zimmerman. O'Connor followed by 4 Nationals Relievers, Billy Traber, Saul Rivera, Ryan Wagner and finally Jon Rauch, to close it out. Giving up just 2 hits, no walks to Philadelphia. Shutting down the mighty, Ryan Howard. Howard striking out twice in three offical at bats, no hits, drawing one walk.
Nook Logan would fly back to the centerfield wall in the second inning, on a drive by Pat Burrell, at the last possible moment, with the ball just over the fence, Nook would stretch his glove over the wall, retrieving a SURE HOME RUN!! It was a nice catch. But, the most exciting play of this game occured during the bottom of the 5th, when Church singles to lead it off. And, with one out, Henry Mateo would ground sharply up the middle, to the left of the second base bag, where shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, dropped the ball. Church and Mateo safe. Bernie Castro was next, and laced a liner to left, Pat Burrell charging in from left for Philadelphia. 3rd Base Coach, Tony Beasley, gave Church the go sign, and the race was on. Burrell heaved a terrific throw, Church sliding, feet first to the right of home, trying to avoid the tag of catcher, Chris Coste. It appeared that Church was safe, but home plate umpire, Paul Navert, called Ryan out. PHILLIE FANS ERUPTING!! as this out at the plate kept the game tied. Frank Robinson, quickly as the man can move, rushed out to argue the call. Navert telling Frank, Church had slid past the plate, not touching it.
But, The Nationals would put this game away for good in the 6th. Nook Logan singled to left, leading off. FLop, with Logan running, liner to left, Logan rounding second hard, easily advancing to 3rd. With the Z-Man at the plate, Lopez would steal his 43 base of the season. Z would hit a dribbler toward Ryan Howard at first. Howard hesitated for some reason, delaying the throw to first. Zimmerman, running hard all the way, just beat the toss to first. BASES LOADED, NO OUTS!! Jose Vidro stepped up, lacing a liner, unfortunately, right at Chase Utley at second.
At that point, Phillies Manager, Charlie Manuel, came out to replace his starter, Jon Leiber, with lefthander Aaron Fultz to face lefthanded, and hot hitting, Brian Schneider. Down 1-2 in the count, SCHEIDERMAN would not fail, ropping a single down the right field line. Jeff Conine running to his left, quickly, to pickup the ball, but not soon enough, as Logan and FLop scored easily, making the score 3-1. Section 320 going NUTS!! Along with about 50 of our closest Nats FANS and FRIENDS!! PHILLIE FANS SITTING ON THEIR HANDS, SHUTTING UP!! Its was juicy!! Although Church nor George Lombard were able to get Zimmerman home, the Nats had a convincing lead tonight. And, when,THE WOOKIE, Big Jon Rauch, came on to face the heart of the Philadelphia lineup, Utley, Howard and Conine in the 9th, this win really was never in doubt. This game ending at 2:06AM!!
The GLORIOUS sight of those 150 or so Phillie Fans walking dejectingly up the aisle, exiting RFK, Nats Fans jiggling their key chains, telling them to head for their cars back to PHILLY, Section 320 waving and singing the "NaNaNa--GoodBye" Song,enjoyable to no end.
THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS WERE DESTINED TO WIN THIS MORNING!! A game that is memorable on so many levels. Even after getting home, I was too jacked to go to sleep right away. Finally falling asleep at 4AM, getting up at 8AM, at work at 10AM, writing this, lovingly recapping the memories of a TERRIFIC BALLPARK EXPERIENCE.
As I said to MickNats on the way home, this will be the first time I have ever attended a Early/Morning-Night DoubleHeader. Mets/Nats, less than 8 hours from now, all in the same day. I can't wait for this baseball day to continue!!
IT WAS A WONDERFUL MORNING--LAST NIGHT!!