Saturday, August 30, 2008
As Joel Hanrahan stepped to the mound tonight at New Nationals Park, I stepped into The South Capitol Street Ballyard for first time during this homestand. Thanks to the very fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON visiting Denver, Colorado over the past week decided to book a flight today. The Denver International Airport was packed! Delays, Gate Changes, Cancellations, with seemingly every single plane taking off fully loaded--especially those trips coming to Washington, DC. (The Media alone, including us, were paying some serious excess baggage fees this Friday)
Our 1:44PM Flight moved to 3:40PM, eventually 4:05PM (Mountain Time), and put my goal of attending tonight's game between Our Washington Nationals and The Atlanta Braves in serious jeopardy. Not taking off from DIA until 6:05PM Eastern, Our United Airlines Flight did not arrive until 9PM at Dulles International Airport. 45 Minutes later, the television gear was retrieved, then shuttled to my car in Daily Parking Lot 1.
AND THE RACE WAS ON!!
Could I Make It? The passion was running high.
No matter the circumstances, no matter the score--my goal was to make it to New Nationals Park by the end of tonight's game. No way I was going to miss Four Consecutive Complete Games. As I started up my car, 3WT was tuned in, Charlie & Dave, pleasing to my ear, stating Our Washington Nationals were already up 7-3. This affair was in the top of the 7th inning. Odalis Perez had just been replaced by Charlie Manning.
Could I make the 31 Mile Trip from Dulles to New Nationals Park before the final out was recorded?
A New Game was at hand. A Challenge to beat the clock--knowing it would take a good 45 to 50 minutes to reach South Capitol Street. As the game progressed, I found myself distressed. The timing was not good as I traveled down The Dulles Toll Road, onto Interstate 66, through Rosslyn, onto 110, and past the Pentagon. The 7th inning had finished. The 8th inning was coming to a close.
Sadly, it seemed this effort would result in failure.
Then, as I turned onto Interstate 395, moving toward the South Capitol Street Exit on the SE/SW Freeway, Steven Shell got into trouble in the top of the 9th. A one out hit-by-pitch to Kelly Johnson followed by a walk to Gregor Blanco had given new opportunity. Our Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire trotted out to the mound--not only to calm Shell down--put to give Joel Hanrahan the better chance to warm up--properly.
Game tactics which found me know cruising down South Capitol Street and parking just a short walk from New Nationals Park. Preciously Needed Moments which gave me the time needed to move inside the park. Our Number 38 was on the mound, now having concluded his warmups, facing New Braves Centerfielder Josh Anderson. Moving swiftly and spotting The African Queen visiting with Our Friend Pat, I headed over to surprise them as Anderson grounded into a force out. "The Guz" fielding the hit ball and tossing to Emilio Bonifacio for the second out of the final frame.
Only one out now remained before this game would officially conclude. I had to reach their seats before that 27th out of this affair was recorded for The Braves. With Martin Prado now at the plate for Atlanta, Anderson, having reached on a fielders choice, ran to second base on Hanrahan's first pitch in the dirt to Prado. Defensive Interference, which gave me those illusive moments to reach Sohna and Pat. As they sat chatting, I bellowed out: "So, have I missed much excitement so far?"
Sohna was so surprised, she jumped up to kiss me right away. Pat, smiling broadly, stood to strongly shake my hand. "We were just talking about you and your trip," said Pat. "Yeah, we were wondering whether you were going to make it?", replied The African Queen. Together, they filled me in on the game at hand, and all turned our attention to Joel Hanrahan. Intently, we watch Our Number 38 take his 7th Save of 2008 and third from this very week--by recording the final out this game on a called check swing strikeout. Together, Sohna, Pat and I stood and clapped and High Fived over a nice moment.
Our Washington Nationals had won--their fourth in a row. And I had made good on my promise. I was there, in a seat, when the Final Out Was Recorded.
Curly "W" Number 50 of 2008 was another TEAM WIN!! for Our Washington Nationals. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! celebrating a young team playing some excellent baseball over the past four days. And signaling, when you make the effort, with passion--anything is possible. Just like, what seemed like, my never ending trip this afternoon and evening to attend--at least a few moments of Our Washington Nationals Game against The Atlanta Braves.
Nothing like passion, the wanting to be there, just like Our Players are beginning to show--once again--in exciting style.
Final Score from New Nationals Park, where Pat says REAL BASEBALL FANS have showed up all week long!! Our Washington Nationals 7 and The Atlanta Braves 3.
Game Notes & Highlights
Although I did not see it in person, Dave Jageler raved about Ryan Zimmerman's diving stop to his left on a sharply hit grounder by Martin Prado in the 7th. A sure run scoring single, if not for Our Number 11's continuing excellent fielding over the past week. Sohna believes "Z" is playing, defensively, just as effectively as many of Our Fans have come to expect of him over the past two seasons.
On another note, I really enjoyed reading commenter Steve's take on Our Fan Base in yesterday's post while traveling.
Here are his written words:
The game last night was fantastic! One of the best since baseball returned to D.C.!
On people leaving -- I don't think more people leave than any other park watching a non-playoff contender play in its home park (except Sundays when there's more kids at the park). The way the ballpark is built, you see everyone leaving at once. I've been to many other parks and there's not one exit to see everyone leave. People are so quick to criticize Nats fans, I don't know where all the bitterness comes from. Who are we threatening?
On another note -- it's clear that we fans cannot depend on the media nor the team to get baseball to truly catch on here - winning will help, but, until then, it falls to us fans, if we want baseball to stay here and thrive, to talk up the team, invite friends to the game and the beautiful park, get our places of employment and youth teams and scout groups and neighborhoods to take group outings to the park.
It's going to take grassroots evangelizing to get people to see what a great game baseball is and how relaxing and fun a day at Nationals Park is. It's up to us, Nats fans. The Lerners aren't going to do it, Stan Kasten's not going to do it, the Washington/Baltimore Post, burying the team's great sweep in the bowels of the sports page sure isn't going to do it, the national media - full of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Baltimoreans won't do it. Only us. Take folks to a game. Ask them to listen to Charlie and Dave on the radio and watch MASN with the sound down. If we love baseball and want it to be anything more than a small market, perennially losing venture, we have to act. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. It's up to us to make sure baseball in Washington works this time around.
I really enjoyed reading Steve's comments. There is a tremendous amount of truth to them. It's going to take Fans, not the media, not the owners, to fall in love with The Greatest Game. Winning always helps, but no Franchise in the game survives without a fan base. The Cubs haven't won anything in nearly 100 Years (although they are serious contenders this season). The Rays, The Rangers, The Mariners, The Brewers, The Astros, The Rockies and The Padres have NEVER WON THE WORLD SERIES--neither did The Montreal Expos. Yet, all are thriving franchises today.
Except for The Expos in their final years in Montreal--all of these teams have (Had In Montreal's Case) built solid fan bases. People willing to attend many games of their favorite home team every season. No matter the loses. No matter the poor play.
These people are baseball fans. Aficionados of the game which Washington definitely has in place--despite the written reports of late stating few are watching or listening to games of Our Washington Nationals on Radio & Television. Washington has a solid growing Fan Base that has room to grow, but like Steve states and Sohna and I believe--we don't understand the bitterness. Only 20 of the 30 Teams in Major League Baseball have won A World Series In My Lifetime--and I am 49 Years Old. Even more amazing than The Cubbies streak, San Francisco and Cleveland winless strings are even more mind boggling. Those two franchises have built some great teams--and won nothing--but they haven't alienated and whittled their fans bases down to virtually nothing.
Neither have Our Washington Nationals.
Every single team goes through a rebuilding cycle--Our Washington Nationals are experiencing that painful growth early on in their brief history. What is doesn't mean--is that they will not be successful soon.
Finally, I just wanted to give thanks to the many fans of Our Washington Nationals who were kind enough to stop by and say hello and see how Sohna was doing while I was away this week at The Democratic National Convention. Your thoughts and efforts were very much appreciated by The African Queen and I.
Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Nick Wass