Sunday, April 04, 2010

Fresh Start To The New Season

UPDATE: The Stephen Strasburg Debut Jersey sold for $2000, according to reader Bill and a few others that have contacted us. Thanks.

The following all happened yesterday at Nationals Park's fresh start to the new season.

Following up John Lannan's answer about his disappointment about his university being eliminated early from the NCAA Basketball Tournament at the Town Hall Meeting with season ticket holders, Jim Riggleman deadpan responds: "I thought about going to Siena, but I decided to go to college."

The 1000 or so folks sitting behind the first base dugout bust out laughing. Charlie Slowes--moderating the Q & A--nearly can't control his giddiness. As for John Lannan, Our Number 31 pats Riggleman on the shoulder in appreciation of a line well delivered. Jim had caught everyone off-guard.

Teddy actually won the middle of the 4th inning Presidents Race--only to be disqualified for unnecessary roughness on that Cat mascot that had already tackled George, Tom & Abe!! Go figure? The crowd watching on South Capitol Street booed lustily.

During the top of the 9th inning, Cristian Guzman is playing right field and makes a nice rushing back, backpedaling over his left shoulder catch on a fly ball hit in his direction. Upon retrieving the ball, what's left of the crowd down the right field line cheers Our Number 15 wildly. "The Guz" sort of bows toward the crowd. And laughs!! Yeah, he did. It was funny, too.

The Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher, the ageless Tim Wakefield, again showed this afternoon how his flutter pitches are slower than a Livan Hernandez "woop di do" curve. But Wakefield's teammate, Daisuke Matsuzaka proved that his fluttering and stalling, before actually throwing any pitch, in the middle of his windup, can nearly put someone to sleep watching. Daisuke's pitching motion is mesmerizing.

And not sure exactly what he was doing, but while fans were meeting Washington's players on the field during the photo shoot portion of Season Ticket Holder Fan Appreciation Day, Our General Manager Mike Rizzo was just outside the Home Plate Entrance to Nationals Park shooting a very elaborate video. The crew was even using a jib--which rotates the camera while it's in motion.

Yes, the final exhibition of 2010 for Our Washington Nationals contained a little bit of everything--including the opportunity to catch up with some of our friends at Nationals Park not seen since the last game of 2009. Probably what most did not really expect--was a very large crowd. 37,312 the official count for this 6-1 loss to The Boston Red Sox. Washington Sawx'd again by New England's favorite baseball team. Really, does any Major League Team have fans that travel so well to other cities as Boston's? It's remarkable how--even for a meaningless game--Red Sox Nation posted up yet again. Their fans were not as dominate in force as they were last season during the 2009 three game set on South Capitol Street. But, Red Sox Fans again controlled the day and early evening in The Nation's Capital--at least while the game played out.

Before that final tune up though--the day was all about Our Washington Nationals and their fans.

For the second year in a row, Season Ticket Holders were invited to a special get together on the field with Washington's players and coaches. Center Field Gate opened at 11:30am and fans were directed to two photo stations set up on the field. Five pairs of chairs--each located on the 1st and 3rd base warning tracks provided the setting where for one hour--players from Our Washington Nationals sat in the chairs as attendees filed through to take pictures.

The appearance schedule went like this:

11:45AM to 12:15PM

1st Base Side:

Ryan Zimmerman/John Mclaren
John Lannan/Tyler Clippard
Matt Capps/Tyler Walker
Adam Kennedy/Mike Morse
Steve McCatty/Jim Lett

3rd Base Side:

Adam Dunn/Dan Radison
Ivan Rodriguez/Wil Nieves
Willie Harris/Willy Taveras
Jim Riggleman/Rick Eckstein/Pat Listach

12:15PM to 12:45PM

1st Base Side

Josh Willingham
Justin Maxwell/Garrett Mock
Cristian Guzman/Alberto Gonzalez
Brian Bruney/Roger Bernadina
Chris Coste/Mike MacDougal

3rd Base Side

Nyjer Morgan/Scott Olsen
Jason Marquis/Eric Bruntlett
Craig Stammen/Miguel Batista
Ian Desmond/Jesse English
Sean Burnett/Jason Bergmann

You had to choose wisely because unlike last season's Season Ticket Holder Fan Appreciation Day, there were no separate autograph sessions on April 3rd, 2010. In fact, there were no autographs at all. This funneled everyone to queue up for photos only and with the Fan Photo folks again taking pictures alongside those with their own cameras--the lines slowed to an absolute crawl. They barely moved.

We've stated this before and it's worth repeating again--The Fan Photo people get in the way during these events. The African Queen and I were able to complete the first session of the 1st Base Side group of players beginning at 11:45AM--including Ryan Zimmerman. But even after arriving with 10 minutes to go on the 3rd Base Side for the 1st session at 12:05PM--we not only didn't come close to reaching Adam Dunn's group--but only by five other fans--BARELY made it into the final session ending at 12:45PM with Nyjer Morgan's group on the 3rd Base Side. No doubt, others encountered the same issue. With only a limited amount of time allotted for pictures with the players and coaches, there has got to be a better way to make work flow better.

After the photo sessions ended--Charlie Slowes moderated a Town Hall Meeting with Jim Riggleman and John Lannan. The most important comment revealed by Our Manager when he stated he believes it's time for Washington to start measuring progress with wins in the standings--and not just through the talk of the development of it's youth. There was quite the applause from fans in attendance on that answer.

When the Town Hall Meeting concluded--everyone in attendance was invited to remain in the lower bowl at Nationals Park to watch batting practice for Our Washington Nationals. This opportunity provided the special time for us to catch up with many of our friends not seen since the end of the 2009 season. Baseball is a shared experience and yesterday during Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day our extended family had a reunion.

Of course, the two teams did eventually play a game. Unfortunately, the outcome decidedly favored Boston.

Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew both HAMMERED out deep home runs off Craig Stammen, early.

A Red Sox Rookie named Josh Reddick made one terrific dive on a drive into the gap to right centerfield by Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the 6th. The Defensive Play Of This Game that resulted in a sacrifice fly for Zimmy but ended Washington's only real opportunity all afternoon. Three double plays turned by Boston had killed every other chance.

Tim Wakefield was terrific on the mound for four innings. His teammate, Matsuzaka, was not as polished, but his pitching results were basically the same.

Washington's Craig Stammen pitched five complete after a rough start. And Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Jason Bergmann & Tyler Clippard combined to throw three scoreless innings. Other than those moments--not much else to say about this final spring game of 2010 because all the really good stuff happened when the ballpark gates opened at 11:30AM and before the first pitch was thrown at 4:05PM.

Final Score from Nationals Park--on arguably the nicest weather day in the history of the young ballpark--it was absolutely gorgeous outside--The Boston Red Sox 6 and Our Washington Nationals 1. The real games start on Monday, April 5th when The Philadelphia Phillies visit South Capitol Street along with The President of The United States. But Saturday's Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day and final exhibition of 2010 provided the fresh start. The opportunity for like-minded fans of the game to get into the rhythm of a brand new season.

Game Notes & Highlights

At one point while pitching on the mound, Daisuke Matsuzaka had a wardrobe malfunction and actually had to stop, walk off the mound and re-adjust his pants and belt buckle.

For the third consecutive year, Our Washington Nationals will salute those returning armed forces members rehabilitating in the greater Washington area. Yesterday, there was a new twist when Stadium Host Clint introduced the Greene Family. The Mother and Children were then surprised to watch a video on the HDTV Scoreboard as their husband/father wished them all well from his base overseas. Very touching.

Did you remember to bring new toothbrushes to Nationals Park for the "Bring A Smile To Haiti" Campaign? Sohna and I did and deposited ours at the "Gift In Kind" table near The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Kiosk in Center Field Plaza.

And speaking of the Dream Foundation--that Stephen Strasburg Spring Debut Jersey had reached a bid of $800 about one-hour before yesterday's game start. But we have no idea the final outcome--as the result wasn't mentioned during the game--unless we missed it somehow.

Also, proceeds from today's Dream Foundation Classic are provided to The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation's charitable work throughout the D.C. area.

The Scoreboard Walk walls near where Five Guys Burgers is located is now painted green. And that "Nats Fans 10" Blue & Red painted structure that My Best Friend Screech!! always stands on after every Washington Curly "W" has now been repainted--"Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk". The new logo doesn't stand out as well as "Nats Fans 10" did.

And finally, the new Flippin Pizza at Nationals Park is pretty good. We sampled their cheese slices--thinly crusted and all natural--they claim. At $5 per slice, the line inside The Stars & Stripes Club was long during the entire game.

All Video & Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Jenn Jenson said...

Thanks for your comments about the inefficiency of the photo sessions. I met a friend at the Park before 11:30 and we only made it through one line, missing 3 of 4 photo opportunities.

In addition to getting the Fan Photo people out of the way (maybe by creating a different station for people who want Fan Photo to take their pictures), it would have been helpful to have more than 2 lines. Each line would have fewer photo opportunities, but they would move faster and fans would have a better chance of getting shots with their favorite players and coaches.

A little thought about shadows also would be welcome. Especially when an event only lasts an hour, the Nationals can figure out where sunlight will come from and set up stations that allow for better photos. (Players' caps create shadows that cover their faces.)

It was still fun, of course, but the secret to more successful events is learning from past events and thinking more carefully about what fans might want.

Bill said...

The jersey sold for two thousand dollars. The announcement was shown of the scoreboard.

Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

The presence of so many Red Sox fans is merely an indication of the nature of New England's economy and its stature as a bastion of higher education. The over-35 fans (i.e. the ones with humility) are now in Greater D.C. because that's where the jobs are. The under-35 fans (i.e. the ones that can rival, if not surpass, Yankee fans for insufferability) are generally the ones that adopted them as their team while going to college or graduate school in the past 12 years or so.

Nate said...

Th auction was very poorly run. During the fifth inning, there were a bunch of people in line waiting to submit a bid, and they shut off bidding before the people in line could write their names down. The jersey sold for $2,000 and the foundation could have gotten $6,000 if they had run the auction competently.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Just one comment about the game itself. Who was the genius who thought it was a bright idea for BOTH teams to wear blue jerseys? A few times my attention slipped and I was tricked by the crowd into cheering against the Nats. You had to look carefully at the color of the pants to figure out who was whom. Was it really out of the question to ask ONE team to wear a white or gray uniform?

(There were two times though I deliberately applauded---albeit with a golf clap---outstanding defensive plays the Red Sox made. The Yankee fan who sat in front of me---who was a credit to both his city, favorite team, and sport---did the same.)

Thanks again to SBF for the wonderful pictures he took of me! Yes, I really do look that goofy in real life. *blush*

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Really, does any Major League Team have fans that travel so well to other cities as Boston's? It's remarkable how--even for a meaningless game--Red Sox Nation posted up yet again.

I do not doubt that many of the Red Sox fans in attendance last night had ties to New England, but don't assume that everybody travelled 500 miles. I firmly believe that many of the Red Sox, Yankees, Steelers, and yes---Cowboys fans---who attend games in this area were also born and raised here as well.

paul said...

Just to give you a sample of Red Sox Nation, about 20 faculty members at one of our partner schools attended the game. About 70% were Sox fans, all transplanted to DC in the last five years.

It was great to see a full house, regardless of the allegiances. I'm guessing a slightly smaller percentage of Sox fans appeared than during the series last year, but since the Nats fans had nothing to cheer for, it was hard to tell how many Nats fans there really were.

I'm now glad I was late for the autographs. I'm sorry I missed the Nats' BP, though, as last year this event was the only time I saw Nats' BP all year, and Adam Dunn put on quite a show. It was pleasant sitting in the stands before the game and reading a very funny book about baseball in Japan, "You Gotta Have Wa," but what's the deal with the music and cheesy Clint-ish entertainment? The music is not the worst or the loudest I've heard at a sporting event, but I'm not sure what kind of demographic the team is aiming for. It did not make me want to come back early again.

Watching the entire lineup fail to get a ball out of the infield against someone born in the LBJ administration was flatout embarrassing. Regardless of the "meaningless" status of the game, it was pretty depressing watching the feeble offense. (Dunn's cued single down the line doesn't count. Which reminds me, how about the Dunn-ster with the diving stop? Not even a mention as a game highlight! Perhaps he will be a 9-inning player after all.)

One more question: Is Reddick available???