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.

Other Highlights:

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.


Anonymous said...

How the %!#%!%!%! did you get to go to this game, it was suppose to be only for GW studetns & alums!? I know folks who could only get limited # tickets or no tickets even if they were one of the above!!! this shows you are nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Nationals organization!!!

Jim H said...

Now come on, Anonymous. (Nice moniker).

Mouthpiece? Yeesh.

SBF is a BLOGGER. He is not bound by any obligation to objectivity. He openly roots for this team, and has since day one.

If you've ever read this space, you'd also realize SBF works for a media organization (not in front of the camera or as a reporter). And the press had access to the game today.

This space is not an attempt at unbiased rational reporting. It's a BLOG...and one that helps inform all Nats fans about what's happening with their team.

SBF does nothing to hide his love of this team. He never has. He's forged some strong relationships with the Nats front office and players. That's to the betterment of having additional information to deliver here. Nothing wrong with that.

Brandon said...

Thanks so much for the tour! All the new features look really great. Can't wait for Saturday and Sunday's games.

Anonymous said...

And I thought you spent all your time in the Diamond Club!

Go GW Baseball!

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I would have believed SBF if he said he (or the African Queen) was a GW alum, but it was probably his media credentials that got him in.

As for "Anny", I won't give him the dignity of a reply, but I will say that I think the vast majority of Nats fans (and by vast majority, I mean 100%) do not begrudge SBF or J.D. (of J.D. Land) for getting into the ballpark first. I will see the park myself on the 29th, and then 11 days later on April 10th.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

SBF: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.

Here's my best guess as to the significance of the dates.

1859--This is when the first organized baseball team in Washington, D.C. began playing. The Civil War was two years away, professional baseball was 10 years away, and the National League was 17 years away---but the Olympics were playing ball in D.C.

1910--Who's the chief executive who first threw out a baseball on Opening Day? SHUT YO' MOUTH!!! But..but...I was just talking about---TAFT!!!

1924--The Washington Nationals win their first American League pennant and only World Series while in D.C. The next time they would be world champions would be 63 years later---as the Minnesota Twins.

1937--First All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium. Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean is injured by a line drive in the third inning that fractured his toe. Dean was never the same pitcher and he was out of baseball by 1941 at the age of 31.

1948--The Homestead Grays win their final Negro League World Series championship. Part of their season--and I believe some of their home World Series games---were played in Washington, D.C. It is their fifth pennant and third world title---more than any other Negro League franchise.

1961--The American League expands, placing a team in Washington to replace the original Washington Nationals/Senators who move on to Bloomington, MN to become the Minnesota Twins.

1971--The expansion Washington Senators play their last season in D.C. moving to Arlington, TX to become the Texas Rangers. [snark]To show their enduring gratitute for getting major league baseball, the good fans of the Dallas/Fort Worth area make history. The 1972 Texas Rangers are the only team in the history of major league baseball to draw fewer fans in their inaugural year in their new city than they did the last year in their old city.[/snark]

2005 The Montréal Expos move to Washington, D.C. becoming the Washington Nationals.

Chuck B. said...

Lighten up Anon.

For all the work SBF does to bring us this great blog, I think he deserved this perk, if you will.

Thanks for the great pictures, SBF.

I can't wait for the 29th and the 30th. I feel like I am 8 years and it is Christmas eve.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Chuck, you're nicer than me. Real Nats fans can and DO care about what SBF has posted in his blog, and that's a lot more than what I can say about Annie.

Unknown said...

Good work, looks like you both had fun...

Anonymous said...

Great photos. I am jealous. Counting down to opening day. And thanks Edward for the take on the years! There's no question the team made the right decision adopting Washington history instead of Expos history.

Anonymous said...


I noticed that there is something written on top of the visitors' dugout, but the top of the Nats' dugout is blank. Do you know if they plan to have something on the Nats' dugout by opening day? I assume that they do.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Mike Edgar: I would be surprised if the home dugout does not say "Nationals" in some way. It would be a total shocker.

Anonymous said...

Geez- i was hoping Clint was going to be gone this year.

Hopefully he took some speaking classes over the winter

Anonymous said...

The ushers really enjoy hearing the TRUTH from the ones that count the most OUR FANS! Thanks as always Pete