The last time I witnessed someone hit a home run on the first pitch of a ballgame was high school. I last saw a grand slam in person in high school as well. And the last time I saw Mike O’Connor look as young as he looked tonight was — I think — a Gonzaga at Mount St. Joe’s doubleheader in 1996. The final damage tonight was 11-0, Marlins.
We cheered for Mike as always, but it was an ugly night. That first-pitch homer clearly got in his head. As the Post noted (in reporter Chico Harlan’s unfortunate first game on the beat), the start was Mike’s first since late 2006. Only down that run when he got the inning’s third out, he trudged off the field with his head down and may have been the last player to make it into the dugout. He had control problems as the game went on, dumping a bunch in the dirt. When Manny finally gave the hook, Mike was standing behind the mound. He couldn’t have looked more overwhelmed.
The rest of the Nats didn’t play much better. We managed three hits and continued to look defensively lackluster. As has happened at every game I’ve seen so far, several outfield hits appeared more playable than we played them. In other news, the Nats ejected — or almost ejected, hard to tell from the other side of the field — a fan who threw back a home run ball. Later, in the top-of-the-dugout karaoke contest, a kid who tried to sing Gwen Stefani as Johnny Cash lost to a girl whose microphone didn’t work.
But what made everything better? Great seats. My dad picked up four in the lower bowl, the best seats we’ve ever had for the Nats, and Rob came down from New York for Mother’s Day weekend. Despite the odds, the least in her favor since the Cooper-infamous ’93 Memorial Stadium incident, my mom was not hit by a foul ball. The seats made 11-0 more amusing than painful, and we had a good time in the gallows. The weekend weather turned around to be some of the best we’ve had at the stadium this year.
A note for fans going to weekend games in the next month: The gameday Metro conditions were some of the best I’ve had. As WMATA warned everyone about new delays for track work, no one paid much attention to the “shuttle trains” option running between L’Enfant and the Navy Yard. But they were as smooth as regular service, running every few minutes. If you were coming from Virginia, there was no impact. If you were a Red Line person, you had an extra transfer but no more issues.
A nice bonus was ending up in the Metro’s testing car for the dark-rubber flooring. (See more about the test floors.) The surface was solid, attractive and even more non-slip than I expected. I’d have to try the car a few more times, but this ride felt like the end of Metro carpet to me. The relative emptiness of the car and the surprise of the shuttle train working out so well may have helped.