Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Dry Run
The "Pinging" sound of metal bats was odd. Only a few thousand were in attendance. And the final score really wasn't what this afternoon was all about. Today--Our Washington Nationals opened New Nationals Park with a special match up. George Washington University played St. Josephs in the first baseball game ever played on South Capitol Street. The Dry Run set up to test whether the new ballpark is ready for Prime Time on Opening Night--March 30th. The African Queen and I were not going to miss it.
Did New Nationals Park ever look nice!! Wide expansive walkways, clean sightlines--clear of obstructions with Neon Lit Concession Signs standing out along the Main Concourse. The Playing Field--pristine green. The Sound System--Loud. You could rarely understand the words being spoken over the P.A. at RFK Stadium. At New Nationals Park--that's not going to be a problem. Even inside the Glass Enclosed Diamond Club--you could clearly hear what was being said.
At 1:05PM "Let's Play Ball" was heard and The First Pitch in New Nationals Park History was delivered. The Game was on. And while these two college teams tested the playing field-- Sohna and I sampled the facility.
But not before running into, seemingly, all our friends from RFK Stadium. Officials, Ushers, Security Personnel, Concession Workers--and of course--MY BEST FRIEND!! SCREECH!!, Clint, The NatPack--and Nats320 Cub Reporter--Tom (doing his best imitation to usher The African Queen across the Baseball Alter). Old Home Week began this afternoon. The greetings, hugs and laughter--made the day. Everyone on deck to check out the new South Capitol Street Digs--but fondly remembering all the goods times we spent together on East Capitol Street.
Without missing a beat--The African Queen and I felt like no time had lapsed between baseball seasons. And when we started up the First "LET TEDDY WIN!! Chant in the 4th inning--all was back to normal. Of course Teddy came up short once again--as George--Surprise, Surprise--won The Very First Presidents Race at New Nationals Park. Although, Our Lovable Loser Embraced The Love again--His Hearing of that Great Chant--Let Teddy Win!!. Let Teddy Win!!" raised Teddy's Spirit. Really, everything was back to normal. Fun was at hand--over baseball. Only Our Washington Nationals were missing.
Today--all patrons were limited to The Main Concourse. No Upper Deck, No Club Level or President's Club Seating Available. But, anyone could stroll completely around the new ballyard's main seating bowl. There was alot to see, view and take in--and that's what The African Queen and I enjoyed the most--exploring.
Nothing more special than The PNC Diamond Club. Located directly behind Home Plate--this facility a steep upgrade from the one at RFK Stadium. The 1924 World Series Bar, The Vintage Baseball Artwork (recreations), with some seriously nice food offerings.
Centerplate has upped the ante at New Nationals Park. Executive Chef Michael Snead sent out some nice choices today. Salmon with Dill Sauce, a terrific Lean Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry, Orange and Fruity Chutney, Baked Ravioli, Chicken Wraps, Quiche, Sauteed Vegetables and a very fresh Spinach and Greens salad, crumbled blue cheese on top. Nice stuff and well appointed. Nothing looked overcooked or unsavory. The dessert table--to die for--Raspberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Brownies, Fruit Tarts, M&M Cupcakes, among others. What a difference from Aramark's work at RFK Stadium (and yes Tom--SBF is writing this food review this time--not The AQ. Tom understands the fun of that statement).
But nothing beat the sizzle of the Half Smoke. The smell, the sound of a new ballpark being born today.
And anyone there had to love the neon signs. Art Deco--at it's best. The Greens, The Blues, The Reds and Yellows. If someone had added in some Glass Brick--The 1940's & 1950's could be relived. During checkout at any concession stand--Our Washington Nationals have implemented a credit card swipe machine. Just flash your card and your purchase is instantly paid for. No worries about having that extra cash now. No greenbacks needed to enjoy the food--including Curly "W" Red Sundaes (at $5 a pop).
The HDTV Scoreboard--just stood out. The Sight of Our Manager Manny Acta displayed answering a series of questions between innings--very funny. As always, this Most Charismatic of Men showed his lighter side. When asked what his first job was, he replied: "Watering Plants at a Nursery." Favorite Food? "Steamed Cabbage made by My Mom!!" (laughing) You just got to love a guy like that!! He's serious on the job--but also understands the fun of the game.
Most every column surrounding The Main Concourse is covered right now, awaiting an unveiling, Artist Renditions of Hall of Fame Players. Some of these wrapped columns showing what Baseball Great will be displayed on them. My understanding is that the only Non-Hall of Fame Player to be depicted is MY FAVORITE PLAYER OF ALL TIME!!--Frank Howard. Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson were two ready to be shown.
As a gift from Our Dear Friend Richard--Sohna received an Autographed Baseball signed by The Entire George Washington University Baseball Team. The First Team, to not only play at New Nationals Park--but Win. Yes, The Colonials won this affair 9-4. Do we call this victory--another Curly "GW" In The Books? Charlie--any help would be appreciated.
Ticket Holders were given a George Washington Racing Presidents Bobblehead (the same one as given out in 2007), along with a fabulous Full Size Poster of Our Washington Nationals 2008 Schedule with Promotions. This was nice, produced on heavy, quality cardboard and suitable for framing. Hopefully, Nats Fans can pick up one of these--at a later date--it's worth having.
The Gift Shops weren't open, nor The Kid's Strike Zone--but once everything is operable--did you know you can Build Your Own Screech?!! The Build A Bear--Screech Workshop!! I think The African Queen and I might attempt to tailor Our Best Friend!!--one day. One Fan telling Sohna--as his young son attempted to get into the jungle gym: "I know I am not going to be watching much of the game, as I will be spending alot of my time here in the Kids Section."
Outside New Nationals Park--a tribute to Washington's Baseball Past. A series of important years in DC's Baseball History are engraved on the sidewalk leading into The Home Plate Gate. To their side--Monuments--explaining the dates importance. This Section was roped off--as construction is not complete--but the dates shown included 1859, 1910, 1924, 1937, 1948, 1961, 1971 & 2005. We would have loved to check out the details, but couldn't--next time for sure.
Finally, outside New Nationals Park--Red Curly "W" Bike Racks. Another form of transportation--they look nice--but will there be security? Yes.
Sohna and I enjoyed today's visit. You might not be able to see any of Washington's Historic Landmarks from the Main Concourse--but it did not take away from the simplistic beauty of Our New Ballyard. No it's not 100% ready, but good enough for Opening Night--March 30th. As Our Good Friend Tom noted: "The Sightlines-Clean, directly looking out to the field." Tom sat in many different places today--as he always does in ballparks--and found no bad seats for watching baseball.
Today's Dry Run offered a glimpse into what's in store for Fans of Our Washington Nationals. First Impressions--very nice and comfortable. As much as we loved RFK Stadium--New Nationals Park is NOW the place to be.
At the conclusion of this afternoon's affair--Principal Owner Mark Lerner and Team President Stan Kasten appeared especially giddy with today's events. Mr. Lerner, as well as, other members of his family are alumni of George Washington University. The reason GW was given the honor of playing the first game today.