Monday, September 24, 2012

My Great Day At The Ballpark

In a fit of generosity, my brother decided a while back to buy me a ticket to see a Nationals game. We are both stubborn, rabid baseball fans, the kind who illicit lots of eye-rolling from our friends and family when we get started quoting the starting lineup on opening day for the 1955 Yankees, or when we hold forth on the various theories concerning the philosophical underpinnings of the sacrifice bunt. So, I have been totally geeked up about this game for weeks now. The plan was for my best friend, my brother-in-law and me to meet Donnie at the centerfield gate around noon yesterday. This would involve us riding the infamous D.C. Metro from Franconia to the Pentagon, switching from the blue line to the yellow line, then switching once again to the green line at some place called “L’enfant Plaza” and then cruising into the Navy yard station that drops you off a mere 200 yards from the center field fence. To my amazement this potentially disastrous trek came off without incident, so at roughly 12:15 I spotted Donnie’s waving hand amongst the sea of red curly W’s. The sky was bright blue, the sun was out and it was 65 degrees.

We spent an hour or so enjoying the beautiful ballpark. Not only is National’s Park gorgeous, the atmosphere was buzzing with the enthusiasm that only comes with being a contender. The Nats have the best record in the big leagues. I’ve watched at least parts of all of their games on MASN and now I was finally getting the opportunity to see them in person. The magic number was 6 at start of play on September 23. All year I have watched the dominant pitching staff make National League hitters look silly. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzales, Jordan Zimmerman, And Edwin Jackson make up a rotation that has been the envy of baseball. So who do we get to see towing the rubber on this beautiful day??? Some guy named Chien-Ming Wang. I should have viewed it as an omen of things to come, but, lost in the moment, I celebrated the diversity that is big league baseball in 2012. It was time for lunch.

We settled on Hebrew National hot dogs, a side of nachos and a Sam Adams Oktoberfest draft. Then it was time to go find our seats. Donnie had told me that we would be sitting on the second level between home plate and first base. I naturally conjured up images of myself catching numerous fowl balls off the bats of fooled Brewer right handed hitters. What I hadn’t counted on was A. the inability of Chien-Ming Wang to fool hitters, and B. the physical impossibility for a baseball to travel from the field of play to the location of our seats. See, my brother is not able to buy baseball tickets or anything else on-line. He says that this is because he is afraid someone will steal his identity. What that actually means is…he doesn’t know how. If he did he could have gotten on the Nationals’ fine, easy-to-use website and picked out a seat that in fact WAS on the second level between home plate and first base. No, Donnie prefers talking to a real person, the human interaction crucial to our well-being. So, he bought our tickets from “Flo” in promotions.

We began our climb at roughly 12:55. We were in section 321. The signs were confusing. There were rumors of an escalator, but we couldn’t find it. Instead, we took the winding switchback walkways and followed the arrows pointed upward. After twenty minutes or so, and after passing the disturbing skeletal remains of a long dead Senators fan, we finally arrived at our seats. We were on the front rail of the nose-bleed section roughly a thousand feet from the first base bag. Bob Uecker was making fun of our seats. But, it didn’t matter. We were at a big league baseball game, and I was having a blast. Then it got ….weird.

Suddenly for no apparent reason a whole section of fans in section 450 burst into hysterically raucous applause. The four of us immediately began to squint down at the field to see what we had missed, but there was no one on base and nothing of import had transpired. However, two batters later the Nationals turned one of the most amazing, exciting double plays in the history of the game that ignited the crowd into a frenzy. Later, from an usher, we learned that the fans in section 450 were a group in town for the National Association of Psychic Mediums convention ( NAPM ). A couple of innings later, the NAPM crowd let out an ominously deflated groan. We watched Bryce Harper lose a ball in the sun two batters later. These people were spoiling the game for us! It should be against the law for the clairvoyant to attend baseball games Meanwhile, our man Wang, displaying the most laborious windup in history, did not impress. During the long delays between him getting the sign and actually pitching the ball, I found time to Google this mysterious man from Taiwan. I discovered that late in 2006 Wang revealed that he had discovered that he was the biological son of a man who he had always thought was his uncle. The Taiwanese press apparently had a field day with this revelation. Mysteriously, Wang has struggled to get hitters out ever since.

By the fifth inning I was ready for more food. I laid down $20 for a chili covered bratwurst with cheese and onions drizzled over the top just because. As I was settling back into my seat, the psychics were exasperated by some soon to be revealed catastrophy. Sure enough, Jayson Werth proceeds to lose a ball in the sun and two more runs score for the Brewers. The good news was, Donnie was slowly but surely getting over his altitude sickness, and was reporting that feeling had returned to his extremities.

Yes, the Nationals lost the game 6-2. And yes, our four seats just happened to be the only seats in the stadium that remained in the shade the entire game, and yes, the high winds whipping off of the Anacosta river did enter into the stadium through section 321, and said winds were responsible for most of our nose bleeds and head aches, the bottom line was simple…we had a great day at the ballpark.