Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Finale

On time, the National Anthem was sung, beautifully, by a young female teenager, winner of a Nationals Promotion. And, The Washington Nationals Manager, Frank Robinson, cried uncontrollably, throughout the song, unable to hold back his true feelings. Today, the FINAL DAY FOR FRANK IN A WASHINGTON NATIONALS UNIFORM.

This followed by Charlie Slowes, (Mr. "BANG-ZOOM GO THE FIREWORKS!!, ANOTHER CURLY "W" IN THE BOOKS!!"-- I LOVE CHARLIE SLOWES!!). Charlie's role today, dressed in a fine suit, to introduce today's honored guest, Mr. Robinson, himself. Slowes would introduce a special video recapping Frank's terrific 51 years in professional baseball. The RFK Stadium crowd of 29,044 applauding its approval of the key moments in Robinson's long career.

Upon conclusion, OUR MANAGER, Frank Robinson, would, slowly, walk onto the field, behind home plate, joined by his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Nichelle. Charlie would hand Frank the microphone, whereupon, Robinson went into a 10 minute speech, admitting how he doesn't like to talk about himself, but how fortunate he has been throughout his adult life. Breaking down in tears on more than one occaison, you had to feel for the man, a man that LOVES THE GAME OF BASEBALL, and wanted that love to end on his own terms, but, now, denied by The Washington Nationals.

As Frank continued to talk, there could not have been a dry eye among the faithful at RFK. The African Queen, flat out sobbing, uncontrollably. Me, trying to rub away the tears, flowing down my cheeks, behind my sunglasses. Even, SayHeyKlib, looked glassy eyed. It was hard not the feel for THE MAN.

When Frank finished his speech, to a rousing applause, Mets Manager, Willie Randolph, continuing to be a CLASS ACT, would march, in front of his entire New York team to Robinson, to thank Number 20 for one of the GREATEST CAREERS IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME!! Then, the entire Washington Nationals team, including the relievers running down from the bullpen, followed suit. It was touching, and really made you wonder why we were even playing this meaningless game.

Because when the game began, it was basically over before it started. The Nats, once again flat, Washington Starter, Ramon Ortiz, having absolutely nothing. Ortiz giving up 6 runs in the second inning, when 7 of the first 8 batters reached base on hits. This one was over, sadly, quickly. The Nationals had their chances to get back into it, early on, but with the bases loaded in the 3rd, Alfonso Soriano would then, pop to short to kill the rally. And, to the shock of just about everyone in attendance, was replaced in left field by George Lombard. The change happening so quickly, the RFK Fans had only a minumum chance to give Alfonso a proper ovation, many expecting not to see him in a Nats uniform in 2007. MICKNATS pissed, because he was the Southwest Flyaway Contestant today, and Soriano, his choice, would only bat twice.

Again, in the 4th, The Nats would load the bases against Mets Starter, Oliver Perez, only to see Bernie Castro line a shot to right field that Shawn Green made a face plant dive in front of the ball to make the final out. After that, Frank began to empty the bench. Ryan Zimmerman ran out on to the field, in the top of the 5th, to be replaced by Melvin Dorta. The Crowd RISING to give the Z-Man a standing ovation on his TERRIFIC rookie season. The Now, and Future Face of THE FRANCHISE, doffed his cap and waved, appreciating the fans gesture. Zimmerman's parents, sitting directly in front of Section 320, applauding the crowd for its efforts. Jose Vidro would trot off the field in the top of the 7th, to a nice applause, and even Felipe Lopez, FLop, despite his inconsistent play, would jog to the dugout, replaced to a nice ovation in the 8th.

The Nats would make the game 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth, when Ryan Church doubled and scored on a slicing liner to center by Bernie Castro. But, with two outs, and Frank emptying the bench early, only Chad Cordero was left to bat. The Chief, striking out badly to end the 2006 season. The Nationals not only starting this year by losing their first three games at home to the New York Mets, but bookending the home schedule by losing the final 3 games of the home schedule, also to the Mets. Finishing 41-40 at home for the second consecutive season at RFK STADIUM.

The outcome of this game made no difference to the fan base, that after celebrating the storied career of Frank Robinson, went about hugging and thanking all their friends and family developed over the past season. I was honored to be approached by so many fans, not only Nats Fans, but fans of the Nats320 blog. Bryan, then Eddie Cunningham, regular readers, stopped by to say hello. At least 12 others, folks I have never met before, and had no idea they read my writings, stopped by the introduce themselves, including John from Section 421. Miss Chatter, from the Just A Nats Fan blog, walked by and we yelled at each other. Miss Chatter, sitting in the Discovery View Box today.

But, the best visit of all, were the boys from THE CURLY W, the fine blog that is linked from this website. Ben Folsom and Brandon Kriner, were the very first Nats Blog to recognize NATS320. Both enjoying my commentary. And, flat out getting a kick out of my musing about the "NEXUS OF THE NATS FAN EXPERIENCE"--Section 320. It was Brandon's 29th Birthday, and his buddies had purchased a suite for this affair. We chatted through a half inning of play, Ben and Brandon both gracious in their praise of my work. I was very touched. Despite some of the "NoiseBoys" being away for their midgame smoke, I was able to introduce them to the African Queen, MickNats, SayHeyKlib, RallyTimeRichard, and briefly, NatsDelNegro. NatsDelNegro, dissapointed that he showed so late that he didn't really have a chance to greet them. NatsDelNegro loves the Curly W Blog. Ben and Brandon surprised to learn that we have already made plans to move as one group into the Nats New Stadium on South Capitol Street. We cheer hard for our Nats, and, as we have learned, its appreciated greatly. But, having my digital camera right in my left pocket, I was kicking myself for not taking a team picture with them.
Of course, no Nationals Game would be complete without MY BEST FRIEND, SCREECH. After an inauspcious start with Section 320, Screech has come to be adored by the regulars. Its become traditional, SCREECH, coming up from the field as the game begins, stops by Section 318, to visit Iris and Biff, then, waddles on down the walkway, to 320, to a rousing rendition of SCREEEEEEEECH!! Screech always blowing kisses to the African Queen, HIS LOVE!!, shaking hands or hugging his BEST FRIEND--ME!! The sight of Screech Pointing that finger directly at me, in appreciation, IS FABULOUS!!

Later, I would walk up to the KIDS ZONE, during the 3rd inning, to personally thank Screech for all his efforts toward Section 320 during the 2006 season. It was important to relay how much Sohna and I appreciated his willingness to put up with all of us. The African Queen saying, ITS A MUST DO TODAY!! Screech, willingly, taking a PORTRAIT STYLE Photo with me that I will download online later. As silly as so many may think, WE LOVE SCREECH!! He is a perfect mascot. A great dancer, into the spirit of the game, can react to oddball comments with the best of them. We love his BELLY!! And, more than anything else, has put up with all of us in Section 320. "DOWN IN FRONT" becoming a TRADEMARK SLOGAN. So good, that when we chant it to Screech, he, ever so slowly, bends down, to the point of walking on all fours. MickNats believing its the funniest daily event ever at RFK!!

Screech stopping by in the bottom of the 8th inning to say his goodbyes for the 2006 season. No doubt, we will be in touch. Looking forward to seeing Screech in 2007, and for Many, Many Years to come. Screech, you are appreciated to no end!! Hope to enjoy your entertainment FOREVER!!!! Sohna LOVES YOUR HUMOUR!!

As The African Queen and I walked to Gate A today from Lot 8 before the start of today's finale, we were greeted by Alfonso Soriano giving out the giveaway Washington Nationals Tee Shirt. Sohna flat out THRILLED to see and meet her love. Soriano joined at Gate A by FLop, Nook Logan and Robert Fick. I would actually yell out to Felipe, "FLOP--YOU THE MAN!!" Lopez, to my surprise, raising his right hand, fist closed, calling back "YEAH BABY!!" If FLop only knew how much I criticize him. But, it was sweet, nonetheless.

At the Main Gate, which has two entrances, we ran into Austin Kearns and Ryan Zimmerman on the southbound side. On the northbound side, there was Chris Schroeder and Chad Cordero. The Chief, classy as can possibly be, shaking my hand, pating me on shoulder, and smiling, appreciably in the few seconds we hand, taking a quick picture with THE AFRICAN QUEEN. The Chief is flat out COOL!!.

Sohna and I then proceeded to Gate F, right behind Section 320, where Jason Bergmann and Saul Rivera were gracious enough to sign the giveaway tee. The tee that Sohna and I have decided to use in an attempt to get all the Nats players to sign. We enjoyed the effort and opportunity. Especially since security and team officials were hustling fans through the gates quickly, not allowing many to stop and pose with the players. But, those same security and team officials realizing WE ARE THE DEDICATED FANS, attending every single game, nicely giving us leeway to meet and greet the Nats players. It was appreciated, to no end.

When the game ended, the entire Nationals team and coaches stayed out on the field, awaiting the arrival of the 40 lucky fans, playing the $10 per entry lottery, to receive the SHIRT OFF THEIR BACKS!! from the players. NATS320 regular, Mike, won and received, graciously, Micah Bowie's Jersey. The best $10 he had ever spent.

Frank Robinson would then appear from the 3rd base dugout, slowly waking across the field, waving, to everyone left in the crowd, taking in the adoration. Finally, stepping down into the 1st base, visitors, dugout. With that, the 2006 Washington Nationals Season came to an OFFICIAL END.

Sohna and I headed over to talk with our other season ticket holder friends, Colleen and Jeff. Colleen, also having attended every single inning of every single game in 2006. We posed for pictures, chatted about getting together over the winter. Notice the Red, Blue, Red, Blue Symmetry to this photo and the fact that Sohna is holding her "Curly W"--BuildABear, and Jeff is holding their "CURLY W"--Rally Monkey. WE talked about going to Nats Spring Training in 2007, just 18 weeks away. Yeah, I am a diehard. We also ran into Janet, another NATS320 reader. Janet and I running into each other walking to the Capitol South Metro Station on more than one occaision, this summer. Janet also wanting to meet THE AFRICAN QUEEN.

Finally, with Screech, standing on 3rd base, HIGH FIVING kids running around the bases for the Final Pepsi Diamond Dash of the season, I yelled out to Tom, from the NATPACK, saying Goodbye, then pointed to Screech. Screech, then turning around, surprised to see his best friend. "SCRREEEEECH!!" I yelled, Screech rubbing his eyes in tears, blowing kisses to the African Queen, pantomining to email him!! Which I will. Sohna and I waved goodbye to Screech. Then, hugged Colleen, Jeff and Janet--Goodbye. With that, THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2006 SEASON WAS FINAL!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think part of the reason why the Senators didn't retire uniform numbers was because the really great Nats played without uniform numbers, and the next great Nats players with uniform numbers were active players when the team moved to Minnesota. Ditto with the Senators when they moved to Texas.

At one time, I thought the Nationals should retire Harmon Killebrew's number, but he (through no fault of his own) will be remembered mostly as a Minnesota Twin. Frank Howard, on the other hand, played only one year in Arlington and spent most of his career in Washington. In 2008 when (hopefully) the new stadium opens and the Texas Rangers come to town (we played in Arlington in 2005 when the N.L. East faced the A.L. West), I think it would be great if the Nationals retired Frank Howard's number. We'd have to clear this with the Rangers and the Yankees (Howard's boss), but if they give the OK, it would be as wonderful a promotion as retiring Frank Robinson's number, which should take place next year when the O's come to town.

Eddie Cunningham