Washington Nationals versus San Francisco Giants
June 09, 2008
Though twelve years, ten months, and two days had passed between games; four-thousand six-hundred and ninety days; my newfound quest to see every stadium was again underway. This time I was excited, my goal officially in my mind and launched. The short drive from Emmitsburg, Maryland to Nationals ballpark seemed to take days, though it was really only about 90 minutes. My excitement was just so intense that it actually slowed down time. It was also contagious, as my high energy amped up the others in the car with me. I was anxious to see the Giants, whom I had loved during the Will Clark era, and I had heard the brand new ballpark in Washington DC was a great place to see a game.
We parked our rental car at RFK stadium and took the free shuttle to Nationals Ball Park. We met a scalper on the short walk from the shuttle stop to ball field, paid him twenty bucks a ticket, and headed to our seats at field level on third base side, 12 rows back. Best scalper experience ever.
After purchasing hot dogs, peanuts, and soda pop, we took our seats and watched warm ups. I began to realize that many of the names were foreign to me. I resolved to do a better job following all teams, not just my favorite Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
As I stood to sing along to the National Anthem, it dawned on me that I was in the Nation’s capital, singing the nation’s anthem, at a game regaled as America’s past time. I may or may not have gotten teary eyed. Or maybe it was allergies?
My excitement and anticipation did not have to wait long to be satiated, in the top of the first inning the Giants got some offense going with a Randy Winn double to deep left center field. The double drove in Ray Durham.
I made a silent pact with myself to cheer for the home team whenever I visit a stadium, so I began to root for the Nationals. “Let’s go Nats,” was the cheer. In the bottom of the first inning, my pseudo fanmanship was put to the ultimate test when I got to witness my absolute favorite play baseball-the catcher sniping a stealing baserunner. Benji Molina caught Elijah Dukes trying to steal second. I was so excited to witness this play that I could have left the game satisfied right then. Lucky for me I stayed, because only minutes later Molina did it again to the very next baserunner, Lastings Millege. I was absolutely loving it. I may or may not have teared up again.
As the innings continued, there were more hits. There were some runs, and there were a lot of foul balls. I wondered to myself just how many balls are used at the average MLB game and promised myself to look it up later. According to a book about random baseball facts, the average life span of a baseball is 6 pitches. An average of 60 balls are used in a game. (Need reference)
My mind again drifted back to the black-top of Gompers Circle, my neighborhood. Our sandlot. I remembered a very famous foul ball, the one that careened way outside of our makeshift third baseline, and found itself smashing through the basement window of the Fotheringham’s home with ease. My first impulse, as the ball rocketed off my bat in the wrong direction, was to run as if I had just hit a home run, except instead of following the base-path I wanted to run straight to my downstairs bedroom where I could shut the door and pretend nothing happened. Never mind the 10 other players that knew what had happened. Never mind my conscience. Who’s to say what is right and wrong anyway? Was it my fault they built a house so close to our baseball diamond? Common sense and responsibility won the battle, and I reluctantly owned up to the responsibility. The remaining details escape my memory, but I am positive that I paid for that window.
In the fifth inning a newly called-up pitcher, Tyler Clippard came to the mound for the Nationals. The score was tied at one run each. Washington had tied it up the previous half inning with a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly to score the runner from third. Clippard allowed hits to each of the first three batters. Ray Durham hit a double. Randy Winn battled through a long at bat-full of fouls-to also hit a double, scoring Durham. THe third batter, Molina, doubled to score Winn. Giants now led 3 to 1, and Tyler Clippard was banished to the land of misfit toys. I later learned that Clippard had been called up that day to replace Garrett Mock who was called up from triple A the day before, and subsequently got rocked by Giants’ batters. Mock was shipped back to Columbus, and Clippard was called up. I wondered if Clippard arrived back in Columbus before the end of the game?
The Nats scored again in the 8th inning. Molina tried to pick a runner off at third base, but this throw was off the mark and the throwing error gave the runner enough cushion to score. Sometime before that, I had gone back for another hot-dog and bought a mini souvenir bat as well. I decided at that point to buy souvenir bat from every stadium. The game ended with a score of 3 to 2, Giants win.
I returned to Nationals ball park one month and one day later, on July 10th, 2008. I bought tickets from a scalper once again and sat in nearly the same seat. I ate another hot dog or two, and again sang the anthem-without tears this time. I sat and watched a very boring pitchers duel. The Arizona Diamond Backs were in town, having a very mediocre season to this point. There were quite a few strike outs on each side. Both starting pitchers pitched late into the game. The Diamondbacks scored a run in the 6th, and another in the 7th, and the 27,000 or so fans began to empty the stadium. Not me. I was staying put to the final pitch. I loved the cool summer evening in the stadium, the light sea breeze that blew in from the outfield was refreshing. Besides that, there is not many places to be better than a baseball game.
A quick 2.5 innings later, it was the bottom of the 9th and the game seemed over for the Nationals. Looking around the stadium you would have thought it was over. Suddenly, a couple of errors by Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds allowed the Nats to tie the game. There was absolutely no offense all game, and then a couple poorly timed errors evened the score. The Nats got another runner in scoring position, but couldn’t get him across the plate. We’re going to extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, the D-Backs came alive, scoring three runs, including one off the bat of Reynolds in a sort of redeeming fashion. Reynolds hit an RBI double, and then later scored a run himself. Middle of the 10th, and the score is now Diamondbacks: 5. Nationals: 2. In the bottom of the 10th, with even more fans leaving, the Nationals caught fire. A runner had scored, and a couple more were on base. Austin Kearns hit a double, scoring two runs. Kearns now found himself at third base, with one out. One wild pitch or a sacrifice fly would win it for the Nationals. The sixteen fans that were left were ecstatic. The next ball was hit to Reynolds and I had visions of error number three, but he fielded the hard grounder cleanly and threw Kearns out at home. The next batter grounded out as well, which took us to the 11th inning. The Diamondbacks stayed hot in the eleventh, and scored two more runs. The Nationals couldn’t answer these runs, and lost after a very exciting final three innings.
I loved it. I couldn’t remember a more exciting game than that one. Even though the first three-fourths of the game was a yawner. America’s past-time, in America’s capital, in a brand new stadium! My goal of thirty stadiums seemed even more exciting and the possibilities of what I would experience at each game were endless.