Monday, April 02, 2007
Opening Day--April 2nd, 2007
When those two FA-18A Super Hornets missed timed their Ceremonial Flyover, arriving nearly one minute past the end of The National Anthem and Fireworks at RFK Stadium this afternoon, The African Queen looked at me saying:"That's not a good omen." On as a GORGEOUS AN OPENING DAY as you could ever plan, Our Washington Nationals came out flat. Nats Starter John Patterson just didn't have his best stuff, from the very FIRST PITCH. Florida's Hanley Ramirez made everyone in DC pay for bitching about Ryan Zimmerman being robbed on his win of last season's NL Rookie Of The Year Award. Ramirez banged out 4 hits while scoring 4 runs. And, The Marlins Miguel Cabrera and Dan Uggla HAMMERED OUT TWO TITANIC BLASTS into the upper deck. Sadly, this one was over early, Our Nationals losing Game 1 of The Manny Acta Era, 9-2 before an impressive crowd of 40,389.
Despite the loss, The African Queen and I enjoyed the day. As RallyTimeRichard stated after the game--"Its Baseball, Its Opening Day--How can anybody be unhappy."
Heading off from Alexandria around 10:30 AM, The African Queen and I cruised up I-395 crossed over to the SE/SW Freeway and came to a COMPLETE STOP, just before the South Capitol Street Exit. Nothing was moving in the left hand lane to reach the RFK Stadium Lot 8 Access Road. No way we were sitting through that. So, we decided to take the Pennsylvania Avenue Exit, crossed the bridge moving east onto the Anacostia Freeway North then exited Benning Road, cutting over to Oklahoma and drove directly into Lot 7 at RFK Stadium. Not a SINGLE CAR WAS IN LINE THERE. Total time from South Capitol Street--5 Minutes. From Lot 7, its just an easy drive through the parking lot to cut over to Lot 8 and our customary parking spot. Andy would tell us later it took him nearly ONE HOUR to reach Lot 8 from the SE/SW Freeway. Andy was an unhappy camper. He missed most of the first two innings.
Walking toward the Stadium, Sohna and I ran into Section 320 faithful Troy. Took some pictures and headed for the gates. Players from our Washington Nationals were handing out Red Curly "W" Caps. At the Main Entrance, Ryan Zimmerman and Chad Cordero were smiling away. Both Ryan and "THE CHIEF" recognized us right away. Cordero beaming that wonderful smile that I just love. Chad hammed it up with The African Queen and we wished "Z" good luck for 2007. As we walked toward the walkway to the lower concourse, we ran into Dimitri Young and Shawn Hill. Dimitri was kind enough to pose with The Queen. As we finished the photo I said to him "I only hope you the best for a nice comeback season." Young grabbed my arm, sincerely stating: "That's very kind of you." Shaking his hand now, I replied; "I mean it." Shawn Hill recognized me from our chat in Viera. Extending his hand, I shook it and expressed how much we have rooted for him to pull it all together this spring. Hill appreciated the comments, telling me he's ready for his first start, tomorrow night against these same Marlins.
Later, we ran into Ryan Church, Matt Chico, Chris Snelling and Ray King. Church gave me a nice high five while I told MY MAIN MAN!!: "You made it!! And, you're starting!!" Number 19 responding, " Yeah Man, I'm comfortable. I'm ready." Chico remembered The African Queen (I guess we sort of stand out as a couple). Matt grabbed her arm and gave a nice hug, while posing for a picture. During Spring Training, Chico had told us being a Starter in The Major Leagues in 2007 was his only goal. He felt he was ready. "I guess you proved yourself correct?" I asked. Matt responded, "I did well. (in Florida). Hopefully I can continue it on Wednesday (His first start also against The Marlins). And, any opportunity to meet up with Ray King was not to be forsaken. The African Queen and I chatted with him briefly, pleasantries were exchanged, and he graciously posed for a photo with Sohna.
From there, it was off to Section 320. The "Comfort Zone" was in FULL FORCE for Opening Day. Abby & Mike, "The Noise Boys"--SayHeyKlib, BangTheDrumNatly & RallyTimeRichard. MsZimmy & Shawn, SenatorNat, Troy and eventually Andy with his Dad, Jim. When MickNats had not taken his customary seat by 12:30PM, Neal (Our Famous Beer Vendor) stopped by, looked longingly at MickNats seat, proclaiming: "All these cans are getting heavy, where's he at?" Everyone laughed. MickNats made this game official in the bottom of the first inning. And, of course, what would any Nats Game be without MY BEST FRIEND--SCREECH!!! The "Down In Front" Chant began before Screech made is way in front of us. As usual, he took in all the love, Smooched the Queen and hammed it up with his "BEST FRIEND". Nothing like Screech!!
Many Nats320 readers stopped by to say hello. Thank you all so very much, especially to long time readers, Brian (with an "I"--see I was paying attention), Eddie Cunningham and Lewis. NationalsPower Blogger Joe Riley visited 320. The Curly "W"'s infamous Brandon stopped by for a chat (BangTheDrumNatly took the pix, the camera was Brandon's). And, for the very first time I met" jammingecono" ,The Banks of The Anacostia Nats Blogger and his friend Ross. I loved meeting you guys, so did The African Queen. RallyTimeRicard wondering whether we should have a special guest seat in Section 320 for visitors. We are going to consider our options.
Washington's John Patterson labored through 80 pitches and when Miguel Cabrera just flat out CRUSHED that last JP pitch into Section 446, row 4--Number 22 was done the day, charged with six earned runs in less than 4 innings. Rule V Pick Levale Speigner was called on by Manny Acta to make his Major League Debut and calm the storm. Now wearing number 36 (instead of 69 from Spring Training), Levale pitched well before tiring during his third inning of work, walking in a bases loaded run. But, when Micah Bowie came on to relieve Speigner the game was over. With the stocky Dan Uggla at the plate, Bowie tossed in a pitch, no harder than 85 MPH and Uggla just BLASTED THE BALL, nearly 7 rows deep into Section 552. Not one defensive player on the field moved. Everyone turning to watch the MAJESTIC FLIGHT OF THAT BALL!! Uggla's Home Run one of the longest at RFK since the return of baseball to Washington. How Dan Uggla could power that pitch out on a soft toss, just mind boggling! With the score now 9-2 in the seventh inning, many fans got up to leave.
For Our Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman continued to show what a terrific young player he is. Zimmerman tripled in the first off Florida's Dontrelle Willis, roping a liner over Marlins rightfielder Joe Borchard, and singled in the sixth. Later, in the 8th with the game well out of hand, Number 11 ran hard, all the way down the left field line, near the camera well, for a foul pop by Miguel Olivio. While balancing himself on the protective railing, Zimmerman stretched out to retrieve the ball for an out. It was the finest defensive play of the game.
But, it was Dimitri Young that showed the most promise today. Young doubled to deep left in the 4th, setting up Washington's First Run of the Season on a sacrifice fly by Brian Schneider, scoring Austin Kearns. And, in the 6th, Dimitri briefly gave Nats Fans some hope when he followed Zimmerman's second hit of the game, and a Kearns single to rope a deep liner to right center, scoring Ryan (making the score 6-2) and putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with No outs. Unfortunately, Schneider, Church and Chris Snelling all were retired easily by the overpowering Dontrelle Willis. Power lefthander Willis, pitched a solid six innings. And, showing what a fine all around talent he really is, snared two liners right back to the box, to kill rallies. He didn't get a hit today, but Dontrelle is one of the finest hitting pitchers in the game today.
As bad as any loss can be, the injury bug made today's loss feel a whole lot worse. Centerfielder Nook Logan hyper extended his left foot on a deep drive to right center by Uggla in the fourth. And was replaced by Chris Snelling, Church moving to Center while "Yoda" (Snelling) took his place in left. Later, "The GUZ" pulled up with a slightly pulled hamstring running out a grounder to Cabrera at third in the bottom of the 5th. Josh Wilson replaced Cristian Guzman at short. Both are day to day.
Unfortunately, Snelling's insertion into the game proved costly, defensively. Weak hitting Florida Centerfielder, Alejandro De Aza would loop a liner to left in the top of the seventh inning. Number 8 for Our Nationals (Snelling) took the wrong track to the ball, believing the ball was heading in front of his position, only to realize the ball was lining back over his left shoulder. The hit ball glancing off his left handed glove and rolling all the way to the left field wall. De Aza now standing on third with a generously called triple by the official scorer. The ruling should have been an error. "Shades of Alfonso Soriano last April," I stated to everyone in Section 320. "Maybe even worse," came the response from MickNats. That play was butchered. And, led to two runs, a Sacrifice Fly by Pinch Hitter Aaron Boone, for Willis (I wonder what Nats Assistant GM & VP Player Development Bob Boone was thinking at that point about his son, Aaron) and then the FABULOUS HOMER by Uggla that closed out the scoring.
Despite the loss, for Washington Nationals Fans, one of the real great joys today on the field, was the appearance of that Loveable Loser, Teddy Roosevelt. The "Rushmores" would christen the first President's Race of the Season before the bottom of the 4th inning with Teddy--Zip Lining down from the roof of RFK's Right Field. From Section 320, we could see Teddy standing there during the top of the 4th, harnessed in and waving to the crowd. But, the sight of that humongous head jumping over the Upper Roof and catapulting down the zip line was great. Thomas Jefferson won the race, but Teddy the hearts of fans, today. What a SIGHT!! When Abe and GW made appearances in Section 320 during the 7th inning, our entire contingent chanted--"Let Teddy Win!!", "Let Teddy Win!" Lincoln and Washington joined in the fun, fist pumping to the beat.
Any day with baseball is a joy for me. Opening Day is always a moment to be treasured, especially the last one ever at RFK Stadium with 80 degree sunny weather. Badly, I wanted Manny Acta to win his very first game today as Manager of Our Washington Nationals. His enthusiasm alone, made Manny deserving of the honor. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Though I am not deterred, The Nationals need to play a sharper brand of baseball. They did not look good today. Time to forget about this one. Shawn Hill steps to the plate on Tuesday Night. The Season begins anew once again.
HAPPY OPENING DAY!!