Rain keeps beating my Nats

Just before the start of the ’14 season, a big group of friends and I went to Nats Park to see the last spring exhibition. I walked from H Street to the ballpark as a mist turned into steadily pouring rain, and I had no umbrella. Two blocks away, I noticed fans starting to walk in the opposite direction. The game was canceled, and we were all so drenched and baseball-less.

Friends Becky and Kyle traded the tickets for a game last week. I walked from H Street again, again in a sprinkle that turned into driving rain and blowing winds. I had an umbrella this time, but the game’s luck was no better. Opposite-way walkers again began two blocks from the stadium. The game was canceled, and, wind beating umbrellas, we all were soaked.

So, let me pause to remember Opening Day, when we lost a close one but the afternoon’s predicted rain held off and we actually played some ball.

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(The arrival of instant replay deserves a pic. Even if the umps blew the call.)

Still-optimistic baseball in September

Post lede after the first game of the 1924 Series, via J. Freedom du Lac:

The lid blew off the top of all seething humanity yesterday afternoon in the bursting of the bottled, pent-up, hog-tied emotion of a great city’s populace that was comparable only to the eruption of a passionate volcano.

A giant carboy of sparking burgundy, personifying the spirit of youth and effervescing in all its joyousness, illustrates the mob psychology of the spectacle that was enacted by 40,000 human calliopes who were packed, jammed and sandwiched into Griffith stadium to watch two psysically (sic) perfect fighting machines battle for the baseball championship of the universe.

I love that lede. I love it so much.

But I’m left wondering, there after game one of the World Series, of what happens later. What happens after the World Series? What happens if one loses the World Series? What happens, after the eruption of a passionate giant carboy baseball volcano, if one falls a little shy of making the Series?

This year with the Nats, we’ve seen what sometimes happens. Magic is as magic does. The magic does not always return in full force. We’re not out of contention just yet, and I still haver my hopes up. There’s no denying, though, this season has been more of a struggle. There’s also no denying, though, that even a more difficult year of baseball is a beautiful one when you have hope. Shine, night sky or rain, there is always the chance racing presidents will run and victory will come to our Washington Nationals.

These photos are unremarkable, but I enjoyed every game minute. Nats Park may not be classically beautiful, but there are no not beautiful seats.

April 13:

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April 23:

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August 28:

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Bryce Harper, I’m there for you

I, too, once crashed into an outfield wall.

The year was 2005. The ballpark was Gannett’s. The game was softball. I had been doing decently in left field. Despite my lack of distance vision, I hadn’t misplayed any balls. Then, sprinting after a long, fast fly, I went face-first into the metal outfield fence. Apparently, I bounced pretty well.

But I also remember, a game or two later, chasing a ball and pulling up when I thought I was approaching the fence… only to find I was still 10 feet away from it. So, Bryce Harper, when you pulled up short a game or two later and allowed a big triple, I understood you. I’d been there, man.

I was also happy to see, though, that a game or two after that you made progress against the new fear and helped the Nats win the game.

Harper smashed an opposite-field home run off side-winding lefty Madison Bumgarner, the 12th homer of his age-20 season. He overcame his hard-earned aversion to outfield walls to make a crucial defensive play against the fence. He roped a double to right in the 10th inning. He scored the game-winning run — sprinting on a swollen knee freshly hurt on a sliding catch two innings earlier — on Ian Desmond’s single off Jeremy Affeldt, sliding in ahead of right fielder Hunter Pence’s throw.

“I was just glad I squared something up, finally, on this road trip,” Harper said. “I just really had been struggling ever since I faced the Braves and hit the wall.”

I personally have not had any chances to test my recovery from Fence Syndrome. But whenever that chance comes — a long fly-ball on the Metro, a metal fence in the middle of scrum, who knows — I’m ready.

Oh, it’s good to be back at Nats Park

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What a beautiful Opening Day. First, the sun came out, and it felt great. Then it rained, and it somehow still felt great. In between sun and rain, Bryce Harper homered in his first two at bats of the year, and Stephen Strasburg pitched three-hit ball over seven. Lori scored us a pair of great seats off the left-field line, and the Nats crowd felt as alive as it had amid last fall’s playoff run. We had waited for next year, and it had arrived.

The presidents make their way to center field…
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The unfurling of the flag…
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Continue reading Oh, it’s good to be back at Nats Park

Three games in three days exhausts — and restores

Yesterday, Saturday, my brain had a bit of a crash. So, worked on it in the morning with crepes and eggs. Worked on it in the evening with a nearly-Marianna’s-deep nap. Between the National League Division Series in town, a major project hurtling toward its final deadline, and a mix of travel and other work needs in the last month, the mini-crash was due. Just on the project and the travel alone, a month ago I had decided against another trip this weekend. I’d subsequently forgotten to stop adding more stuff.

But, putting my usual-but-heightened digital vs. existential concerns and my usual failed caring for my inner introvert aside for the moment, I think going to every game of the NLDS the Nationals played here was worth it.

Tickets came through luck, in a randomized Tickets.com waiting room. For the two games that interrupted the day, make-up work came before and after hours. With the games came so many nerves, but attendance itself kept last week and the last month’s accumulation at a manageable level.

Things I loved about going to the games last week? Going with so many friends and loved ones. Strangers encouraging each other about the team, in the stands and on the streets. Lines at my favorite concession stand staying short. The Take-on-Me hit. Innings where we struck out the side.

Suzuki’s reggae walk-up tunes and clutch hits. Harper trying everything to get himself out of a slump and succeeding. Amazing weather, in both hot and colder varieties. My dad getting ice cream. Lori getting hot chocolates. The Grishams texting relatives in Missouri. Eric’s binoculars. Teddy’s wins.

What might have been the perfect Curly W pretzel. The terrible red towels turning into red snow as we swung them. The perfection of Bustin’ Loose as a post-homer song, especially in the playoffs. Getting the opportunity (privilege) to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame on three days in October.

I can’t remember or name all the moments that made the series so great. But despite the ultimate baseball outcome, they added up. “Columns come to me every week; elections every four years,” Charles Krauthammer told the Times as games here began. “Playoffs in Washington? Every 79. Which would you choose? For God’s sake, Halley’s comet comes more often.”

Game 5 photos: Joy and heartbreak

Much has been said already. The game was a later one, starting at 8:30. The weather was windy and dipping near the 30s. The game was deciding. Every free moment that day was spent talking about what might happen.

Every free moment the day after was spent talking about what did happen.

The streets were more packed than I’d ever seen them around the park.

The crowd inside was a record, and friends Jym and Eric joined us.

Continue reading Game 5 photos: Joy and heartbreak

Game 4 photos: One of the best games I’ve ever seen

The first professional baseball playoff win in Washington in decades.

The game was maybe the best-played game I’ve seen in person. It was certainly one of my favorites, up there with seeing the early Zimmerman walk-off against the Yankees with my family and seeing Randy Johnson pitch a gem years old with my dad at Wrigley. Lori and I secured quality seats down the left-field line, where the stands curve to give a great view of the whole field, and went with her folks, both of whom, much like my parents, love a terrific baseball game. The air was chilly. No one minded.

Celebrating the early LaRoche home run. 

The game was consistently intense. The LaRoche homer made it clear this day was not the previous, run-less day. The pitching said the same. Starter Detwiler only gave up one in his six innings, and the feeling that we were in it, that we deserved to be there, was insistent. When Zimmermann and Clippard followed and each struck out the side on limited pitches, the new momentum was enormous. I’d never seen a stadium on edge for so long.

Continue reading Game 4 photos: One of the best games I’ve ever seen

Game 3 photos: Wins for the weather and Teddy

The first professional baseball playoff action in Washington in decades. We lost 8-0, with all of our pitching failing and the bats looking no better. But it was a lot of fun to spend the relatively warm afternoon outside at the park with my dad and two friends from work. October shouldn’t be about spending a fun afternoon outside, but I liked it. Would take it any day.

Pre-game crowds!

Pre-game stilts!

Continue reading Game 3 photos: Wins for the weather and Teddy