Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raising The Flag Of Victory

As Austin Kearns settled under the weakly hit fly ball off the bat of Pedro Feliz with two outs in the top of 9th, those remaining on hand watching were already cheering. A long awaited moment was about to occur. Curly "W" Number 1 was being Put In The Books!!

About Time.

Force 3 Military Opening Night was the appropriate backdrop as Our Washington Nationals provided a trifecta of force of their very own. A winning combination displayed tonight of Power, Pitching and Defense. Maybe there's something after all to those Alternate Blue with Stars & Bars "DC" Logo Jerseys--used tonight for the very first time. Worn with white pants, The Military & Patriotic Specials looked pretty sharp--like our famous Red, White & Blue Flag waving proudly throughout the evening's breeze over the leftfield wall in Centerfield Plaza.

But not as nice as Adam Dunn's cannon shot three run homer launched into Section 238, eight rows from the ScoreBoard Walk in the bottom of the first inning. One of those--'Can you believe what I just saw shots?" that had the announced crowd of 20,484 buzzing!! And well they should have as Our Number 44 absolutely crushed that fastball sent his way off the right hand of The Philadelphia Phillies Joe Blanton.

A Sonic Boom!!

An early three lead before the sun even set over the 3rd base stands that allowed Our Starter, the young Shairon Martis, to pitch from ahead, be comfortable and settle into a very nice rhythm. A Washington Starter for the first time this season going deep into any game was witnessed. Martis pitching into 7th and finding the defensive alignment behind him perfect in formation. A march to victory thanks to our troops--getting known more each passing day as that ever growing potent offense--which Washington let loose on The Phillies bullpen in the 7th & 8th Frames.

Precision, a military standard, practiced by Our Washington Nationals this evening. Whether it was Josh Willingham's Pinch Hit Home Run, or Elijah Dukes round tripper, or Alberto Gonzalez (yes, The Attorney General) homering down the left field line--4 Home Runs total--Our Manager Manny Acta was pushing the right buttons. Stellar relief efforts provided by Mike Hinkley, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan--2.2 scoreless innings pitched. And no defensive shortcomings. After a winless week of baseball, Instead of circling the wagons and just hoping for the best, Washington regrouped, came out swinging with a new lineup and a fresh outlook.

Fighting, attacking and being the aggressor--DC's team played competitively all night long.

Real Baseball Was Played At Nationals Park Tonight--almost perfect.

How Refreshing.

Final Score from Nationals Park were The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! were heard for the first time in 2009, Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Philadelphia Phillies 2 in nine enjoyable innings. Curly "W" Number One this cool night providing a sense of relief from the disappointment of the past eleven days. Beating any team after an 0-7 start would be nice, but beating The Defending Champions--even sweeter. That and the very fact that on Military Appreciation Night, Our Washington Nationals didn't surrender. They didn't raise the white flag. No not this time. In Game Number 8 of 2009, Washington raised The Flag Of Victory. The Red, White & Blue waving across their "DC" Logo Jerseys--proudly.

Game Notes & Highlights

Shairon Martis really looked good. He was aggressive, not nibbling around the corners. Martis went after The Phillies. Only one time, did he appear to waver and that was when while holding a slim 3-2 lead in the top of the 6th and falling behind in the count to the powerful Ryan Howard--he pitched around Howard--walking him. Then proceeded to retire Philadelphia successfully--getting Jayson Werth and Feliz sandwiched between a Raul Ibanez single. Shairon Martis pitched SMART BASEBALL tonight. He didn't beat himself. He wasn't intimidated and garnered the deserved First Victory of 2009.

Impressive performance which was also true of Joe Beimel. When Beimel was summoned into the game to pitch the top of 8th by Our Manager Manny Acta, Washington was still only up by two runs (4-2). Facing the heart of Philadelphia's order--Joe was rock solid. This lefthander, with the hitch at the top of his delivery, actually shows the ball to each batter moments before he lets go of the baseball. Never changing his motion mechanics on any of his pitches--Our Number 97 fooled Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard all in order. Utley doing nothing put swing at air. At times, one of Beimel's off-speed pitches only registered 70MPH on the speed gun. The ball thrown so slowly, you would believe the batter would have the chance to re-coil and swing again. But they couldn't help themselves. Shades of Livan Hernandez on the mound. Like Livo when he's hot--every facing batter is off-balance.

Beimel was totally in control, which are Our Washington Nationals were throughout this entire night. 13 hits tonight by a re-juggled lineup. The top four hitters--Anderson Hernandez, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn combining to provide 8 hits, 4 runs scored and 5 runs batted in. Production seen both at the plate and in the field. An errorless ball game played tonight by Washington. Elijah Dukes looking comfortable in centerfield. Hernandez solid at second base. Alberto Gonzalez maybe one of best fielding shortstops in the game--filling in for the injured Cristian Guzman. Depth shown tonight, especially when Gonzalez floored everyone with his solo homer just inside the foul pole in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Everything Our Washington Nationals did tonight--they performed well. They looked like a team and they played like one. Nick Johnson with 3 hits and a walk batting in the two hole. From top to bottom--tonight's Washington Lineup had some spark.

In the top of the 9th inning, Jayson Werth popped up an offering from Joel Hanrahan--like way up--one of those Major League Popups. Ryan Zimmerman charged from 3rd base. Nick Johnson from 1st, even Hanrahan from the mound. But Jesus Flores WANTED IT. Turning around halfway between home plate and the pitcher's mound--Our Number 3 waved everyone off and then SET SAIL his protective helmet and mask--HE FLUNG IT HARD!!--right at Ryan Zimmerman's legs. As Flores caught the baseball to record out number one--Zimmerman swiftly reached down and caught Jesus' helmet and mask before it took him out. The Defensive Play Of The Game that would have hurt something awful if Z-Man had been struck. And found our friend Jim, visiting us in Section 218 tonight mentioning--"Maybe Zimmerman should at least get an assist on the play?" Ryan deserved something because his reflexes certainly saved him from potential pain. What a play and it will never be recorded in the scorebook--only here for posterity.

For Force 3 Military Appreciation Opening Night--Our Washington Nationals honored some of those who serve our country. There will be five additional Military Nights throughout 2009. Not only were The Blue Jerseys with Stars/Bars "DC" Logo and Cap worn, but two veterans recovering from injuries were given the honor of throwing and catching tonight's first pitch. Sergeant Rafael Delgado threw the pitch after which Our Manager Manny Acta and some of Our Ballplayers thanked these two gentlemen on the field before the game.

When The HDTV Scoreboard shows one of those "Know Your Nats" features. Is there any chance the video can be subtitled? Just like last year, for whatever reason, it's really hard to understand what the players are saying. Tonight's bit with Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn was not understandable. You can not hear them. The same with a feature involving John Lannan. Don't know why, but it just is, and has always been that way.

Staying with the scoreboard--why do the player's position say: Alberto Gonzalez "Short", not "Shortstop". Nick Johnson "1st", not "First Base" Really, it looks odd.

And as frequent Nats320 commenter SenatorNat mentioned the other day, flying high above The HDTV Scoreboard, three new white pennants honoring Washington's Three World Series Teams--1924, 1925 & 1933. Larger and easier to read than the one red 1924 flag that flew just above the scoreboard all of last season.

Teddy came charging out of the centerfield gate during the 4th Inning Presidents Race. Facing his usual stiff competition--Our Lovable Loser faded again. Only to see Tom and Abe put on a face-to-face sprint to the finish line. Just as the two Presidents reached the tape, Tom fell and Abe was originally declared The Winner. But one-half inning later, after further review, Tom was given The Victory--by a fallen hair.

Screech made his first appearance of 2009 in Section 218 during the 1st inning. Playing with the kids in attendance and stopping by to say hello to The African Queen and I.

Every Friday Night Home Game in 2009 is Miller Lite Party Night. $20 ($22 for Premium Games) gets anyone a Pavilion Seat and your choice of one drink (Water/Soda/Beer) to enjoy a baseball game at Nationals Park. The first Party Night this Friday Night when The Florida Marlins come to Natstown.

Before tonight's game a video tribute was given to the late Phillies Broadcaster Harry Kalas who died this past Monday at Nationals Park. The Phillies will wear a black patch with Harry's initials over their left breast uniform jersey for the remainder of the season.

Finally--before tonight's game, Sohna and I decided we were going to check out The Red Porch Restaurant and eat dinner there. Arriving around 5:40PM, we noticed about a dozen or so people waiting in line outside to get in. Fine, we waited for our turn--only to find out that line was--To GET INTO ANOTHER LINE and the second line was to be seated at a table. And of course that would be at least one hour before we were seated? Really? The Park wasn't that crowded, but there were a good many folks in The Red Porch. So Sohna asked if we could sit at the bar? Sure, go right ahead said the lady at the door. Finding seats at the bar, we were then told no food is available at the bar--only drinks. Not being beer drinkers, we ordered two glasses of wine. The Bartender serves up two plastic cups with about 3 sips in each. And then proceeds to tell us that will cost $20. When we question the charge (The Stars & Stripes Homestead Grays Bar sells a cup with actual wine in it for $8 each), The Bartender responds that's the price. She then gives us a bill that reads we ordered Brandy Shots. We question that and are told--the registers are not working right--that's the price though--which it isn't. But what made matters worse was seeing others order beers and cocktails and see the bartender just throw out some price--always way too high than what anyone was expecting. We just paid our bill and left, but something's just not right there.

Of course since we didn't eat at The Red Porch, we decided to get something in The Stars & Stripes Club--but since the line was too long and wasn't moving at The Anacostia Grill--we passed. Later in the game, one guy sitting behind us mentioned he spent 15 minutes in line to buy a soda and hot dog, then had to wait because no hot dogs were ready. And another fan told us there were no peanuts for sale at The Anacostia Grill--even though it's listed on their menu.

This couple purchased The Crab Louie Sandwich for $18. Take a look at how long that cardboard serving boat is. They were laughing over the fact they were hitting each other with the ends of the holder--very large serving and they had two.

InGame Photos--Charles Dharapak (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Edward J. Cunningham said...

It's good that the Nats finally won, but it's frustrating to read about the problems with the concessionaires. Could the Nats maybe bring back the guys who ran them LAST year?

VCUAlum Kyle said...

What a great curly "W" last night.
It was even more special for me b/c I had 3 of my buddies over and my 2 cousins over for a grill out to watch the game. All wearing some Nats gear, we cheered our team on to victory!!!

I will be making my 1st appearence to Nats park Saturday since NatsFest and SBF you got me a little worried now about the Red Porch. I was going to grab lunch and a few beers there before the game with friends and family, now after reading your post I am hesitant. Thanks for the update!

Positively Half St. said...

What a relief. It is now possible to imagine them winning more games, and it is becoming clearer that we finally have an offense for the first time since the team arrived in DC. That will be fun to watch.

Thanks for keeping the faith while so many of us were afraid to watch anymore. Oh, and I still love your commercial.

Kevin said...

I wish they would display pennants honoring the Homestead Grays Negro League titles as well.

Anonymous said...

The concessions are a huge problem this year. I figured that Opening Day was the issue but it sounds like this is a trend. OD was insane trying to get food. How about hot dog vendors walking the aisles? I have yet to see ONE.

Andrew Lang said...

The team got to dine on steak after the game in the clubhouse. Winner winner STEAK dinner!!!

Shairon Martis pitched a gem and another big point in the game was that PH Homer by Josh Willingham.

Very nice!!!

An Briosca Mor said...

Apparently those Crab Louie things are only available in the clubs. I walked the concourse before the game looking for a stand that sold them and never found one. So I ended up going to a Senators Sausage that had absolutely no line, and still had to stand there in front of the counter for a good three or four minutes before one of the several employees on the other side decided to end their committee meeting and deign to take my order. Note to Levy Restaurant Group: Tell your employees they have only two tasks. Prepare food and serve food. No staff meetings are needed to complete either of those tasks.

I can certainly see why the lines are so slow once the game starts and there are more people waiting. Boy do I miss Cantina Marina. Not only was their food reliably tasty (they had the only good fries in the whole ballpark) they knew how to take an order and fill it quickly.

DCNats said...

If anything, the concessionaires are worse this year than they were last year. Ridiculous and bush-league to be sure, but don't forget you can save the hassle of dealing with the headache by bringing your own food into the stadium. Stan, i hope you're reading this. Would it be too much to ask you to resign?

Screech's Best Friend said...

AnBrioscaMor--The Crab Louie is suppose to be available at the former Red, Hot & Blue Stand sandwiched between Noah's Pretzels and Hard Times Cafe. But I didn't check last night to see if that was the case.

Until we saw the long line in Club Level last night, we were going to purchase that Club Louie too.

Jeremy said...


I'm posting this here because I know that Stan actually reads this blog. Stan, you truly have to understand... I don't care what it takes, even if it means raising the pay a buck above minimum wage or threatening to pull the contract with the concessionaire mid-season and inviting them to take you to court. Bottom line is this concession thing is a total frigging joke. Not to mention the fact that the team has a vested interest in the sale of said concessions so that they can get a cut of it. Between "employees" who seem to feel that the customers are merely a burden who infringe on their ability to shoot the bull with their co-workers about their plans for that evening after work and a concessionaire who can't even supply sufficient food for a paltry crowd at the ballpark, something truly has to give. We all gave Aramark terrible grades, but honestly, at this point, Centerplate and Levy aren't doing a whole heck of a lot better, if any better. If this doesn't get fixed once and for all, and soon, I know I'm going to go back to my RFK routine and bring Subway into the park. A whole lot cheaper and more reliable.

An Briosca Mor said...

"The Crab Louie is suppose to be available at the former Red, Hot & Blue Stand sandwiched between Noah's Pretzels and Hard Times Cafe. But I didn't check last night to see if that was the case."

That's exactly where I first went looking for it, and if they have it there they don't list it up on the menu board. Maybe you have to go up and ask for it, or maybe like getting Peking Duck in a Chinese restaurant you need to put in your order 48 hours in advance.

Although to be truthful I fear what might have happened had I seen it on the menu board and ordered it. On Opening Day, I went up to one of the Nats Dogs stands and ordered a Buffalo Dog, which was listed on the menu. It took them a good while to figure out what it was and how to put it together.

Really, if you asked me for two words to describe the typical Nationals Park concession employee, I'd have to say dazed and confused. Apparently they went through training before the season, but you sure can't tell it. Last night I was actually thinking that I miss the RFK concessions. Sure, they had a limited selection, but more often than not I could find something edible that you could get served fairly quickly (e.g. Mezzanine Food Court, Dominic's Sausage). Except for Ben's and the sadly departed Cantina Marina, I haven't found that at Nationals Park. Stan, are you listening?

Suz said...

Waiting for a Nats concessionaire order is like watching underwater tai chi. Bringing food in (and not buying theirs) is the only way this will change.

C.G. said...

I think Levy is going a fine job. Last night at I went to the deli by Section 222 and the turkey sandwich I got was really quite good. Sure, it was $10.50 which is obscene but we are talking about stadium food here. The staff was friendly, they made the sandwich relatively quick, and the whole experience was really pretty good.

I understand the frustration that some of you have with the staff of these restaurants. However, you need to remember that they aren't going to be hiring incredibly amazing people for these positions, they are going to hire people who for one reason or another need a minimum wage job. Not to mention the fact that the stadium isn't even open consistently to offer full time employment. You get what you get with these things. I have been to sporting events all over the country and don't find the staff at Nationals Park to really be any better or worse than the staff anywhere else. Are there going to be long lines sometimes? Of course. But if you were responsible for serving hot dogs to thousands of people and putting up with rude, drunk, stupid fans from time to time you'd get tired of it, too.

Another thing that confuses me is the whole concept of the Red Porch Restaurant. SBF, is the restaurant open to anyone with at ticket to Nationals Park? If so, I can see how the restaurant would be overwhelmed constantly, being one of the few sit down restaurants in the ballpark. I respect the right of people to sit down and enjoy a meal in the stadium before the game, but I sort of wonder, what's wrong with just grabbing a dog and a beer and enjoying the atmosphere from your seat. Again, not that I have any personal problem with the restaurant but it seems challenging from a logistical standpoint.

Screech's Best Friend said...

C.G.--Yes, The Red Porch is open to everyone that visits Nationals Park. The reason behind The Red Porch is to take the popular Red Loft Bar above it to another level. There are a few other ballparks that have similar sit down restaurants within their confines. From the crowds at Red Porch last night on a night the park was only half-full at best, showed the interest fans must have to do something different. Nothing wrong with that. And its gives fans another reason to show up earlier at the ballpark.

Sean said...

SBF, you are correct about the bar staff both at the Porch and the Loft. I ordered a vodka tonic at the Loft and was told it was $12 for a non-premium (Smirnoff) drink. ($12!) I said no, that's the price for premium drinks. (Grey Goose, Jack) The bartender said no, that's the price for the Smirnoff drink. Twelve dollars for a single weak Smirnoff drink is crazy. Needless to say, that was the last drink I bought there, and the probably the last I will buy there all season. These kinks should have been worked out after the exhibition game.

Unknown said...

The 2 times I have been this year, well I guess the only 2 games, the service has been fine. I haven't waited in line for more than 5 minutes, and the workers knew exactly what they were doing. I have yet to see a problem.

Sam R said...


This concession thing really amazes me. I see a constant theme here in the posts and on the Nats Fan message board that there may be one or two concession workers who are trying but there are many more who just seem interested in getting paid for standing around. If there is a line bigger than two people no one should be standing around. Hustle, take the order, quickly grab the product, wrap it and give it to the customer. But that doesn’t seem to happen. I watch one person take the order while two watch him amble over and get the product, then come back, then go get the drink, then come back then ring up the total if the register is at the counter. A poor division of labor. Back many many years ago when I worked at McDonalds regional managers showed up unannounced and timed how long it took for patrons from time entering the line to when they walked away with their food. If you took longer than company approved time lines ( I think it was two minutes in line and one minute at the counter) there was hell to pay. I never see any thing like that going on at the stands. As for products on the menu but not at the stand, well that should never happen. It isn’t a secret when games are to be played. 30 mins before the gates open concessionaires should verify they have all menu items or get them before the gates open to the fans or post a sign prominently that said product is unavailable. This isn’t rocket science. I would invite the Levy Group to come over to the Pentagon and watch how the McDonalds employees work a crowded line and believe me during lunch time they go through lines at the Pentagon that rival anything at Nationals Park. A lot of fingers seem to be pointed at the Labor pool so incentivise the workers. Have comment cards, any worker who gets a kudo from a customer gets some reward. Stands with the fastest processing time during a game get rewarded. Hell, I’ve fixed this problem with five minutes of thought I am sure folks who claim to be professionals could fix it too.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!


SenatorNat said...

I have a contest idea for this blog: identify the team pennants on top of the roof in the order they are flying starting with the Baltimore Orioles barely visible from the Centerfield Plaza deck on the left and going around to what looks like the Florida Marlins on the far right...The contest is intended to demonstrate that they are not visible inside or outside the stadium!!

Best batting order: AHernandez 2B; Guzman SS; Johnson 1B; Dunn LF; Dukes; CF; Zimmerman 3B; Williamham RF; Flores C

Let's Go Nats. All Amusing.

Jim H said...

I've noticed in my two trips to the park this year that Hard Times in the food court is as quick as can be. Hardly any lines and they move you through, quickly.

Frito Pie, Three Way Chili, Chili Mac, Nachos...and I think they do Hard Times. Not the healthiest, but certainly the speediest and evidently least frustrating path to full.

At least that was my experience last year and so far at the first two games this year.

another Josh said...

Seeing the alternate uniforms hurt my eyes. They didn't go with the red batting helmets and the multicolored logo was hard to distinguish, especially small on the hats. I normally like players that wear their pants high on the calf (it looks more like a baseball player instead of someone wearing pajamas), but with the red socks it just looked bad, like some players could only find half of their uniform and only threw on whatever was lying around.

Hopefully the team realizes they won the game with talent, not because they wore these jerseys which need to find the back of a closet and stay there.

Sec 317 said...

You're right, the concessions are a joke ... the scoreboard remains a frustratingly slow work in progress ... it truly makes you wonder who they hire to manage what should be a basic operation for a MLB team.

As for the Red Porch restaurant ... similar experience on Opening Day. Long lines with many open tables ... waiters weren't told to be there until 2pm was the story. I wonder why even have table service? Wouldn't it be a better experience to just be able to order something from a counter and grab an available table? Who has the time for a table service restaurant if you want to be in your seats for a 7:05pm start? Most people are lucky to even be out of work and through the gates by 7pm. Again, it's amazing how short-sighted our front office can be at times.

An Briosca Mor said...

"I've noticed in my two trips to the park this year that Hard Times in the food court is as quick as can be. Hardly any lines and they move you through, quickly."

My experience is that there aren't really any service problems with the stands that are branches of regular establishments, e.g. Ben's, Five Guys, Hard Times, etc. The service problems are with the stands that were Centerplate operated and are now Levy operated, e.g. Nats Dogs, Senators Sausage and the like. This points to the problem being with the concessionaire and their training and management of employees.

John R. said...

I just stumbled upon this blog entry of three weeks ago, so I apologize for commenting so late. But I do agree that it was hard to understand the Nats players on the Know Your Nats video. I complained about that at the last game I was at and my 12 year old daughter said, "Why don't you read the screens in the bullpens?" Oh. Good point. I haven't been back since then, but I assume that everything is "captioned" on those screens, so I suppose the "Know Your Nats" feature is as well. Isn't it?

Screech's Best Friend said...

John R. I am going to have to check that as I have never noticed the captioning of the Know Your Nats audio on those bullpen screens. Thanks for letting me know.