Monday, March 31, 2008

Showing Character

Anytime you shut up Phillies Fans is a Great Moment. Defeating Philadelphia on Opening Day at their very own ballpark--icing on the cake. Two games into this 2008 Championship Season--Our Washington Nationals are undefeated. The first time they have been two games above .500 since late in The 2005 Inaugural Season. Just a short 16 hours after The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks gave New Nationals Park's--first game--a Hollywood Ending--Our Manager Manny Acta led Our Team onto the field at Citizens Bank Park--135 Miles up I-95--to ruin The Philadelphia Phillies Opener. Booed robustly was Washington while being introduced on the South Side--nothing like Philly Class--as Our Washington Nationals then turned the tide on The Phillie Faithful. By game end--Philadelphia's Finest Fans--The Most Obnoxious in Baseball--were giving their very own team--their usual grief. What a smile that brought to my face.

New York may be a tougher stage to compete on--but could any fan base possibly be as bad as Philadelphia's? Those Folks that would Boo Santa Claus--simply have ZERO CLASS. Nothing like DC's Team sending them all home late this afternoon upset after Our Washington Nationals trounced The Phillies 11-6.

Yeah--it's very early in a fresh season--but there were good signs today. Having to edit our news story on a 5:30PM Deadline--I was half watching the game--while trying to beat the clock.

Here are my thoughts:

Our Washington Nationals can hit!! For the first time since The Montreal Expos moved here--there are some legitimate batters in our lineup. 13 Hits at Philadelphia's Pinball Park--but there were some quality At-Bats. Hitters going the other way--with the pitch and showing power. Six Doubles today--helping to break this affair open in the top of the ninth. And remember--Wily Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes are both on The 15 Day Disabled List.

No one wearing that "Washington" Grey Jersey better than Nick Johnson--picking up where he left off his fine 2006 Campaign. Clutch hitting, Great Base Running and the ability to take a good pitch at the plate--in order to receive a better offering later. Our Number 24 could play the game at a near All-Star Level before his fateful accident. In short order--Nick's proving--once again--he is a quality Major League Player.

And just as expected--the resurgence of NJ--goes hand in hand with Austin Kearns. "Bluegrass" hitting to the opposite field--stroking some key hits and continuing to play a terrific all around game in right field. Jeff Francouer of The Atlanta Braves may have the better arm, but Our Number 25 is developing into the far better right fielder. Having no longer to worry about whether NJ will return and play--Austin Kearns is demonstrating the skills and ability so many believed he possessed.

Welcome back--both of you.

Even "The Guz" pounded out two hits from the top of the order today. Speaking of Cristian Guzman--he made some poor throws last night to first base--while playing shortstop. But, The Atlanta Broadcasters made an interesting comment this evening while The African Queen and I were watching The Braves take on The Pittsburgh Pirates from Turner Field. Remember that silly fielding error last night at New Nationals Park? During the top of the 5th--Atlanta's Matt Diaz stroked a lazy grounder right to Guzman at short. Our Number 15 didn't move in on the ball and let the bouncer play him. Unquestionably--"The Guz" could have made a better play. But Atlanta's broadcasters noted ON AIR that Chipper Jones told them the infield grass at New Nationals Park was cut--uneven. This fact making any hit grounder an adventure. Jones stating the manicure made the speed of any stroked baseball--sometimes difficult to judge.

It was an interesting comment. Is it true?

Now how about Lasting Milledge? Lastings--Buddy--If you wish to raise and flap your arm after hitting a home run in the middle of a baseball game--as you did this afternoon--that's fine with me. Because I know you fully understand and have the guts to stand up at the plate and possibly take one right up side your head--the very next time you stand in the batter's box. That's Brave--My Friend--and all the power to you. Stating you are not going to be backing down to anybody--I like that bravado--gutsy. By the way, that stroke ball was a BLAST--the type of stuff so many expect of you for years to come.
But Lastings, when you are rounding third base and heading home with the go ahead run--in the top of the ninth--and the game on the line. And--there is going to be a close play at the plate. And--Austin Kearns is signaling you to GET DOWN!! And--Our Number 25 is waving you to go to the outside of home to avoid the tag--YOU BETTER DO IT!! Trying to run OVER the tag is just plain dumb baseball. After Nick Johnson knocked one off the wall to give you that scoring opportunity--please don't waste it by giving The Phillies Catcher--Carlos Ruiz--a better chance to tag you out. Sliding--you would have scored easily. Standing up--you nearly cost Our Washington Nationals the rally. Besides--how many runners have broken their legs or ankles by attempting the same move?

Nick Johnson may be the worst sliding man in baseball--but he would have hit the dirt--rolled over--and somehow ended up FACE FIRST. But, he also would have scored. Please learn from the experience.

Our One Time "Starter In Training" took the ball to the mound in Philadelphia. Matt Chico continues to survive in The Majors. Never overpowering, but somehow effective--he only walked one--gave up the usual Home Run--but stepped off the mound with the lead. Although--I didn't notice that much of difference in his newly re-found leg kick. Matt Chico's delivery looks pretty much the same as the one he used during his 2007 Rookie Campaign. Still, Our Number 47 loses command of his pitches at times--but seems to possess the ability to regroup and get out of most jams.

Saul Rivera may be one of the best unknown relievers in the game. The man with the rubber arm--ready to pitch each and every day. Whether you need Our Number 52 to stretch the game and get his team to the set up guys--or make the occasional save opportunity--is their anyone more valuable out of Our Bullpen? Rivera has accepted the role of Luis Ayala--2005 Vintage. Our Number 56 use to pitch every day possible--until he blew out his elbow at The World Baseball Classic. Again in Philadelphia today--some quality work by Rivera--shutting down a Phillies Rally after Ray King gave up the game tying two run homer--to Jimmy Rollins. Saul received the win for this game and deserves more accolades than previously given.

What should Our Washington Nationals do in Left Field? Willie Harris doesn't have any pop. He may well be very versatile--but Washington needs a bat in the lineup. Since he's available and unquestionably--has no fear--why not Justin Maxwell? At least until Wily Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes return from the DL. No time better than the present to test your future. Our Number 1 may offer some good skills--but Willie Harris will not be here--two years from now. Maxwell may well be. Sometimes--opportunity given results in a quality player rewarded and justly, into your lineup. No one can say Justin Maxwell does not deserve the chance.

Finally--fearing for "The Chief"--shoulder tendinitis is one thing--but a cortisone shot that makes you feel worse--a completely different problem. Chad Cordero is apparently hurting. Will Our Washington Nationals rush him back too soon? Please, just let Our Number 32 get 100% healthy. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" is of no use--if he can't command all his pitches. It's only the first week of the season--6 Full Months remain. Plenty of time for Chad Cordero to get well and help Our Washington Nationals in 2008 and beyond. The African Queen says her palpitating heart awaits his return.

Curly "W" Number Two of this young season was very gratifying. Not only because Philadelphia's Fans went home unhappy--but because Our Washington Nationals showed some fight--for the second consecutive game. Version 4.0 of DC's Major League Baseball Team has shown guts--character that goes along way toward building a successful team. While Philadelphia's Fans proved--once again--what characters they truly are.

Today's In Game Photos--(AP) Tom Mihalek

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stealing The Show On Opening Night

The Inaugural Game in a brand new ballpark. The Season Opener before a supposed SELLOUT DC Crowd. The unfurling of two gigantic American Flags on the field. The Heart Thumping Flyover by four F-16 Fighter Jets. The Singing of The National Anthem by a Renowned Opera Singer--a Native Washingtonian. And the tossing of The Ceremonial First Pitch by The President of The United States. All fine moments--all seven--highlights--for most any baseball game. But tonight--none came close to being Number One.

Because Our Franchise Player stole the show. Who else?
As he thrust his right fist high into the chilly night--a roar erupted like not yet heard at New Nationals Park. Ryan Zimmerman had Commissioned Our Washington Nationals New Ballpark--Officially. How fitting this result. Once again--The Bottom of the Ninth--became "Z" Time. As for the fourth time in Team History--Our Number 11 launched a game winning homer. A liner to deep left centerfield that JUST got over the wall to defeat The Atlanta Braves, 3-2, in the Inaugural Opener on South Capitol Street. Could this game have ended any better!!

"I just love that man!!" exclaimed The African Queen. Ryan Zimmerman setting off The Fireworks and Celebration--both on the field and in the stands. As The Entire Washington Team ran out onto the field to meet Zimmerman at the plate--Our Manager Manny Acta stood SMILING with fists pumped up in the air. As big of a moment as anyone could expect tonight. The New Ballpark was now ROCKING--The First Official Major League Game to count in the standings will now always be remembered for its action on the field of play--not for the Pomp and Circumstance which came before it.

And Charlie Slowes' radio call on 3WT--UNBELIEVABLE!! Sohna and I thought he was going to blow a gasket--an Instant Classic. How that man never runs out of air--when a game is on the line--quite incredible. Charlie raises the level like no one.

What a moment!!

And what a turnaround after Our Washington Nationals let Atlanta back into this game with two outs in the top of the 9th. If not for a passed ball--this affair would have probably ended with far less drama.

Resetting the scene.

Heading into the top of the 9th--Washington led 2-1 over Atlanta when, surprisingly, Big Jon Rauch entered to close this one out. Apparently, Chad Cordero was experiencing shoulder stiffness. So, on came The Wookie. After retiring Chipper Jones on a blistering shot right back into Rauch's Glove--Mark Teixera followed and hammered a fastball offering from Our Number 51 that looked to be going out of the park. But this shot to right centerfield--glanced off the very top of the outfield Video Wall. Now standing on second base with a double--Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox replaced Teixera with the speedy Martin Prado. A swap to give The Braves the best opportunity to score the tying run on any type of hit.

They didn't need even one. After Jeff Francouer moved Prado to third on out number two with a grounder to Ronnie Belliard--Washington Fans were now on their feet looking for the final out of this game. Only to see Atlanta's next hitter just stand at the plate and witness the game tying run to score--in front of him. As Big Jon's next offering--away and a little low--trickled right off Paul LoDuca's glove--to the backstop. Prado jogged home. Moments away from winning their First Game at New Nationals Park--The Braves had done it again and turned the tables on Our Washington Nationals. And to think--"The Most Thrilling Closer in the Game" had nothing to do with it.

You talk about deflating. The balloon had burst, The Atlanta Braves were about to ruin a Wonderful Night for 39,389 Fans at New Nationals Park.
Thankfully--Ryan Zimmerman plays for Our Washington Nationals. How much more does this young man have to prove--before EVERYONE realizes--Our Number 11 is maturing into one of The Finest Players In The Game!!

What a Game!! What an evening! Only Ryan Zimmerman could take away the thunder of The President of The United States. Our Number 11 had stolen the show on Opening Night.

As Sohna and I slowly headed out of the ballpark and home--all I could think about was how proud I felt. Appreciative to witness a great win; honored to see My Hometown--Washington, DC--shine so brightly tonight. And forever content--in knowing--that The Opening of New Nationals Park signifies that Major League Baseball competed by Our Washington Nationals will be played in The Nation's Capital for the remainder of my life--and beyond.

Game Notes & Highlights

Our Washington Nationals received the first hit--a single by Cristian Guzman to lead off the bottom of the 1st inning. And scored the first run when Nick Johnson fisted a two strike looper between Atlanta First Baseman Teixera and Rightfielder Francouer to knock in Our Number 15. Johnson would score the second run of the night for Washington when he slid across home--awkwardly as always--on a slicing liner down the right field line by Austin Kearns.

What is it with Nick Johnson and sliding? Well before his tragic injury--Our Number 24 continually looked undecided before heading into any bag. Almost side first with head down and always concluding with a roll over the bag--Nick's going to hurt himself again one day. Which reminded me of a conversation I had once with Team President Stan Kasten on this very topic. His response--"Yeah, he's got to quit doing that." Yeah--he does.

Unfortunately--Chipper Jones laced out the very first Home Run in New Nationals Park's History. Nearly an identical shot to Ryan Zimmerman's game winner--both blasts reminding me how much I loved writing about The Section Numbers when Home Runs were hit at RFK Stadium. The South Capitol Street Park so new--none of The Home Run Porches stand out--just yet.
Odalis Perez pitched OK. He wasn't dominating--but was effective. Chipper Jones touched him for that first homer--but no one else did. Tiring after five innings--Our Manager Manny Acta handed the baseball over to Saul Rivera and Ray King to get Our Washington Nationals to the 9th. Before--Chad Cordero's stiffness prevented him from playing--and setting up Jon Rauch for the eventual blown save--on that passed ball.

After a tough first inning when Tim Hudson was touched for the very first two runs in New Nationals Park's History--he settled down nicely. At one point he retired 19 batters in a row and showed why he is one of finest pitchers in the game. Hudson had his splitter moving well and Our Washington Nationals couldn't touch him after Austin Kearns singled in run number two.

In the top of the second--Atlanta Catcher--Brian McCann laced a liner down the right field line--heading into the corner. As always, Austin Kearns got a good jump on the ball. Knowing the nice angles Our Number 25 takes to any hit baseball--it was surprising that McCann decided to run on Austin. Kearns picked up the bouncing baseball and fired a one hopper to Ronnie Belliard--who turned and tossed to Cristian Guzman to throw The Atlanta Catcher out. Austin's effort and the relay by Ronnie--was The Defensive Play of This Game.

Of course--there was plenty of action before this Season Opener even began.

The most anticipated was The Presidential First Pitch. To most everyone's credit--George W. Bush was not overly booed. In fact--there were far more cheers than jeers. After Ryan Zimmerman was introduced to greet The President, along with Our Manager Manny Acta--Our Number 14 received the high toss from The President of The United States. A Tradition Deep Rooted in Washington's History was revived tonight. Hopefully, for every baseball season opener to come in DC--The President will return.
During the announcing of Our Washington Nationals Players, Coaches and Staff to come out and line up on the first base line, Master of Ceremonies and Hall of Famer--Don Sutton--inadvertently forget to call Matt Chico's name. The sight of Our Number 47--jogging out to join his teammates--while Mr. Sutton said "The Tallest Man in The Game--Jon Rauch!!"--funny. Matt Chico is far from being 6' 11". Chico--halfway onto the field--did a turnabout and headed back to the home dugout--even his teammates were laughing.

Washington DC Native and Opera Star--Denyce Graves sang The National Anthem and followed that effort with "God Bless America" in the 7th.

If New Nationals Park seats 41,888--how is 39,389 a sellout?

Teddy lost again in The Presidents Race tonight--by forgetting which way to go. Our Lovable Loser headed out the centerfield gate and ran toward Atlanta Braves Centerfielder Mark Kotsay--while GW, Tom & Abe ran around the warning track. GW winning easily. But Teddy DID find his way to Section 218. Surprising EVERYONE--including me--when he posted up during the 8th inning for a rousing rendition of "LET TEDDY WIN!!!" Which finally helped break the ice and get our fellow Section Seat Holders more into our fun. In the first two games at New Nationals Park--they haven't seemed to grasp the vocal ways of Our Former Section 320 Ways. THANK YOU TEDDY!! Come back again--until we get these others ON BOARD AND INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE FUN!! Some people just have to learn the hard way.

And did you pick up that FREE PROGRAM & SCORECARD? "The Nationals Inside Pitch" was handed to anyone wanting while entering the ballpark tonight. Handbook style and 32 pages long with glossy cover. Yeah, I know it's filled with ads, but its free and a nice way to score any game--without having to buy a $10 Program each and every time you enter the ballpark. Free Parking at RFK with a Free Shuttle. Free Program to enjoy. Good efforts to help keep the entertainment costs down for families.
Speaking of costs--concession lines again were far too long--costing time away from the game. Twice this evening--we attempted to purchase food from a vendor, but were unable to. No way we are missing an inning or two--just to buy food. For the second straight day--we encountered a Credit Card problem. This time--the cashier claiming their system was too overwhelmed to handle all the processing. Odd.

Those long concession lines continued to clog up concourse and walkways for a second straight night--even in The Stars & Stripes Club. At the start of the third inning--I attempted to walk out of Club Level--to visit a friend in Section 232--not very far away. 10 Minutes later--I finally reached my destination. There was virtually no movement. Between Full Time Concessions on the outer walls, the portable carts inside, Trash Cans and other bins--everyone was squeezed together. The moment reminded me of The Tokyo Subway System. We needed those guys with the push sticks to get everyone moving along.

Hopefully--this coming week Our Washington Nationals can work out the kinks of New Nationals Park--while Our Team is out of town.
Finally--Sohna and I ran into Matt Haas and his wife Susan tonight in The Stars & Stripes Club. Matt, The Project Director, for Clark Construction and New Nationals Park--was BEAMING!! "I have not had a happier day in my LIFE!!"--exclaimed Matt. "I am so very proud of all we accomplished. What a job!!" Susan stating: "You have no idea what the completion of this ballpark means to me. I get my husband back!!" (Laughing)

PS--Again thanks to so many more readers of Nats320 who stopped to say hello to Sohna and I tonight.

Tonight's InGame Photos

Zimmerman celebrating at home--Nick Wass (AP)
President Bush First Pitch--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
Zimmerman arm thrust--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
Zimmerman Home Run Swing (Mike Mangan--Section 320 Faithful)
Guzman First Hit (Mike Mangan--Section 320 Faithful)

Opening Night Thoughts--In Their Own Words

The construction of New Nationals Park has been a team effort. The District Of Columbia financed and built the South Capitol Street Ballyard. Our Washington Nationals, refined and assisted in the design--while thousands of workers--labored to make tonight--March 30, 2008--A Special Moment For Baseball Fans in Our Nation's Capital. With this big moment now upon us--I thought it might be fun to gather Opening Night Thoughts--from many of the Big Players involved in the process. Everyone I asked--thankfully agreed to give me their comments.

With that, here we go with Opening Night Thoughts--In Their Own Words.

Principal Owner Mark Lerner

"This is an incredible dream come true. I have wanted to be involved on a personal basis working on a stadium--in my hometown--since I was a little guy. We (The Lerner's) as a family are very lucky because this is a 'Dream Come True' for all of us. The entire family has been involved--one way or another--working behind the scenes to make this happen. We will continue to work, behind the scenes--to hopefully make this Franchise the very best in baseball. We are not going to stop anywhere short of what our goal is. Which is to make The Washington Nationals--The Best!! On Opening Night--I can't wait for The National Anthem, standing with The Fireworks going off--getting that classic fisheye photo. I am looking forward to that. And standing at the front gates--when we first open the park--just watching the many faces entering. I just want to stand over in the corner and just watch peoples faces. The Joy this place will bring them for many generations to come."

Team President Stan Kasten

Opening Night is an important milestone. A terribly important milestone. But, we still have a big job in front of us. We want to build a franchise that makes all of us proud for the long haul--that means on the field and off the field as well. Sunday night is terribly important because Our Fans can not have the experience, they need, until we got this right. We are also mindful we are still building the team on the field. The progress we have made so far has been great. But, also recognize, we have only traveled a short distance and we still have alot more to accomplish."

Our Manager Manny Acta

I don’t’ really know how to answer that question. I will not know until I first step out on the field during the announcing of The Starting Lineups. But, I can tell you that when I first stepped on the field at the Montreal Olympic Stadium Opening Night—my first game in The Big Leagues (as third base coach for The Montreal Expos)—they played the National Anthems and I just wanted to cry-because that was the actualization of my dream. I am FINALLY in the Big Leagues. So, I can’t answer that until Monday Morning or after that game. But, it's going to be special.”

Mayor Adrian Fenty

"The Opening of this ballpark means alot to me as Mayor to have a city that can be able to rally around a professional baseball team--like we have with The Washington Nationals. To have this project completed under one of the most aggressive construction projects in history--is something I take great pride in. Personally, having grown up in the city without a Major League Baseball Team to have one back now in The City--for not only my kids--but so many other youngsters and families for years and years to come is gratifying. Personally, Professionally as Mayor--I believe this is a HUGE DEAL. I look forward to standing out on that field Opening Night--Proudly."

Greg O'Dell--Executive Director DC Sports & Entertainment Commission

"Hopefully--it will be a big sigh of relief!! (Laughing). But, it will be a culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work by everybody. I will be forever grateful over what was accomplished. 22nd months to complete a job that normally takes 25. All the partners have worked together to make this happen. Many believed we could not do it. Well, we did it!! And for that--I am very, very proud."

Bill Hall
(For nearly 15 Years--Mr. Hall volunteered his time to help bring baseball back to Washington, DC. A lawyer by trade with Winston & Strawn--Bill is Baseball Chairman for The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission. He helped negotiate the contract that brought The Montreal Expos to DC).

"On Sunday Night, I will feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment. A long journey has successfully ended and a new beginning starts. Our own home team--right here in Washington, DC--in our New Stadium--that will provide a lifetime of pleasure for countless generations of young and old. It's a very, very happy day. All's well that ends well. This (project) has ended as well as could possibly be."

Chrystal Stowe--The Director of Community Affairs and Business Development--Smoot Construction

"I've become very emotional over the ballpark during the past week. Having been on site since those very first shovels were ceremoniously dipped into the ground 22 months ago and to look up now at all we have accomplished. I might cry. I am so very proud of everyone. What an effort. I will always look back on this assignment as special."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The First Game

If you hung around New Nationals Park a good 25 minutes after tonight's First Game by Our Washington Nationals--you would have enjoyed one of best moments of the entire evening. A test for what's coming tomorrow on Opening Night-- A FABULOUS FIREWORKS DISPLAY. Yes, Bang!! Zoom!! Went The Fireworks!! from directly behind The Centerfield Plaza. Everyone still on site--turned to look. This was good stuff.

A fitting conclusion to another fine evening enjoying baseball with Our Washington Nationals--never does the experience get old. From the very first moments Sohna and I stepped through The Centerfield Gate at New Nationals Park this afternoon--fun was at hand. Our Washington Nationals were playing that first game at New Nationals Park. And yeah, I know, it was "MERELY" an Exhibition Game. But, the fact that The African Queen and I had been fortunate enough to experience the build out--first hand--by The Clark/Smoot/Hunt Construction Team--did not take away from any of our enjoyment. This Fresh Experience as 34,635 showed up for Major League Baseball on South Capitol Street to take in the new sights. Back for the fourth consecutive season in The Nation's Capital--many of those on hand--we were very thrilled to view the new facility.

Especially--when not 15 seconds into the new park--"The Let Teddy Win!!" Chant was bellowed out. Yes, by total chance, Our Lovable Loser was standing directly in front of The African Queen and I. Teddy feeling the love once again. Even Abe, so into the joy--he insisted on posing with The African Queen. The sight of Our Racing Presidents brought back fond memories of the many hours spent on East Capitol Street--with our friends--sharing baseball.

Tonight's affair provided the opportunity to catch up, relive the past and look forward to the fresh times ahead--in a spanking new venue. Of course--no baseball season can OFFICIALLY begin until The OFFICIAL FIRST POUR--provided by Section 320's Number 1 Beer Man--Neal. The Best Beer Hawker of All TIME!!--looking mighty sharp in his new Vendor Hawaiian Shirt with Red Curly "W". Nice Shirt-- got to get ahold of one of those. Of course--the relocation has separated the entire Section 320 faithful from RFK Stadium--many of us no longer sitting on the same level. Yet, that did not keep many apart tonight. Throughout this 2 hour and 27 minute game with The Baltimore Orioles--Sohna and I found ourselves greeting many of our friends. Five long months after Our Washington Nationals last played a baseball game in DC--it was like we had never missed a beat.
Friends are friends--and many times for life.

Yes, there was a game played tonight--but the action on the field played second fiddle to the activity in the stands. Precious the sight--of watching fans surveying the scenery. Nothing like a first impression--and except for some rather long concession lines (more on that later in this post) not many were paying attention to the exhibition. The Ballpark was the star tonight--and it was basking in new found glory. Of course--Our Washington Nationals won the very first game in New Nationals Park, 3-0. Jason Bergmann pitched a good 5 innings of shutout ball--giving up one hit. Garrett Mock and Mike O'Connor closed the door. And Nick Johnson was warmly welcomed back by Our Fans with two hits and the first RBI in Stadium History. The sight of Our Number 24 hard--pop up--sliding into second base on a throw--the most promising sign of the night. Nick Johnson is back and ready to play. Nothing else on the field mattered more tonight.

Which was fine with The African Queen and I--because today was all about New Nationals Park. On March 29th, 2008, Sohna and I first experienced the fully completed Stars & Stripes Club. What a difference from just a few weeks back. This two tier Club with the nice view out toward The Anacostia River was better than expected. Two nice bars--The Homestead Grays Bar & Nats Bar. A Brick Oven Pat's Pizza--Anacostia Station with the Traditional Ballpark Fare and The South Capitol Grille serving up a entire assortment of offerings--including The Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smoke. Also--two Serving Stations--providing upscale meals from The Presidents and Diamond Clubs. One plate offerings--tonight a Pasta Bar with Shrimp and a Turkey Sandwich with extras. Some Quality stuff--not junk.

Our food choices this evening--Turkey Sandwich, Pat's Brick Oven Pizza, The Noah's Curly "W" Pretzel and "The Dinger". Gifford's CEO Neal Liberman providing Sohna and I with his Washington Nationals Foundation Special Creation during it's initial offering. On a cold night--the chill of ice cream going down--a nice feeling. "The Dinger"-- Two real chocolate cookies with all natural vanilla ice sandwiched in between at $5 a pop. During the hot summer time--they should sell like hot cakes. We liked them--alot.

There is so much to cover from today--so please find below our thoughts of the many experiences by us for New Nationals Park's first game--beginning with transportation.

When Our Washington Nationals announced The Nats Express would begin running 3 hours before first pitch for this First Game at New Nationals Park--Sohna and I decided to try the new service. 15 Buses were awaiting. Arriving at 2:45PM at RFK Lot 8--we gathered our belongings for the trip to South Capitol Street and boarded THE VERY FIRST Nats Express Trip. Total time from Lot 8 to 3rd & M Streets SE--7 Minutes. I timed it. Then, another Seven Minute walk to The Centerfield Gate. Upon completion of tonight's game--there was no problem returning back to RFK Stadium. The moment we stepped on The Nats Express--we were back inside our car at Lot 8 and driving on The Southeast/Southwest Freeway heading back to Alexandria--in 10 minutes total time--no backups. The Nats Express worked for us and it was free. Although, Lot 8 lighting seemed significantly dimmer than the previous three years when Our Washington Nationals played at RFK Stadium.

Along the way--walking into the ballpark tonight--we stopped by The Newly Renovated West Entrance to The Navy Yard Metro Station. Although, Sohna and I did not use Metro Service Today--the station seemed to be running fine. Others will have to inform us how that part of the transportation process worked.

Once inside--Mayor Adrian Fenty tossed the Ceremonial First Pitch. Jason Bergmann threw the very first game pitch to Brian Roberts. And The HDTV Scoreboard looked wonderful. After a while--we wandered around the ballpark. The Centerfield Upper Terrace was interesting and the wind was absolutely howling. It was 10 degrees colder up there than down below--frigid. But, we enjoyed the view. Tomorrow--we are going to check out The Red Porch and Red Loft in Left Centerfield.

Our Racing Presidents no longer run from the right field line to home plate on the warning track. For the first time in the 4th inning's running--GW, Abe, Tom & Teddy--entered from The Centerfield Fence--were introduced individually--and raced from centerfield--around the warning track toward first base. Tom won handily--Teddy finished last.
Of course the surprising sight of "TEDDY" hanging out on the Terrace Level of The Stars & Stripes Club did not go unnoticed. Once again--"Let Teddy Win!!" was bellowed out for all to hear. How in world did they get his gigantic head up to The Club? He wouldn't fit in the elevator. But now since I have seen him there--Teddy better come surprise The African Queen in Section 218--nothing less will be acceptable.

My Best Friend Screech!! got lost tonight looking for his Best Friend. After yelling down to him directly below us--Screech visited Club Level. But, couldn't find the right section. When he finally showed up two sections over from us--the sight of Screech holding up his rather large girth to get past folks in aisles to meet up with The African Queen and I--priceless. The one aspect of RFK that many may miss at New Nationals Park was the cross traffic around the lower bowl. At New Nationals Park--there is no such movement. An adjustment that many are now making.

Of course--not all was perfect. The Concession Lines were mighty long. At one point on the Main Concourse--first base side--it was virtually impossible to pass through the queue--to walk somewhere else. The passage was blocked. On Stars & Stripes Level--the narrowness of the passage at either end of this Club--clogged up--as patrons awaited to order food at Anacostia Station and South Capitol Grille. No, that wasn't good--but I am not going to fault the tweaking that needs to be done to make the concession operation more efficient. This was just the first day of full operations.
But, what Sohna and I will not stand for--is incompetence. After checking over the choices in The Stars & Stripes Level--The African Queen decided to order the specially carved Turkey Breast Sandwich--with chips and pickle. That part of the process went fine. Then--the order took a serious turn for the worse--when the cashier had NO IDEA--how to operate her register for a Credit Card Payment. After 10 swipes of my credit card, she calls over someone else. That person--could not figure it out. Now 10 minutes into this process--the original cashier wants us to wait another 15 minutes for a "SUPERVISOR" to show up and figure out the problem. You can bet the lineup of customers behind was stacking up. Eventually, we decided to pass on the meal--later a Centerplate person personally cleared up the matter with us.

But that snafu is just a minor detail. Overall--we enjoyed our experience tonight in the first Major League Game at New Nationals Park. What was your experience like?

PS--We bought the new Nationals Gamer Jackets today. The Therma Fleece lined weather model with Red Curly "W" on the side. Nice and comfortable. Even in the brisk winds tonight--this jacket held out the air.

PSS--Sohna and I appreciated the many fans who approached us tonight to thank us for the effort put forth in The Nats320 Blog. Thank you all so very much for the nice compliments.