Nationals Open New Stadium in Dramatic Fashion

I couldn’t help but think, as Ryan Zimmerman rounded first, his fist triumphantly thrust in the air, that I would not have written the ending quite as well as it had come out. With the remaining crowd on their feet and cheering, despite the bitter cold and wind, the new ballpark became the Nationals new Home.

Left Field Crowd (Tight)

I arrived at the Stadium in 40 minutes today, some hour and twenty minutes more quickly than our Saturday debacle, and after making it through a thorough, yet friendly, search of my person and camera bag, it was onward into the stadium. The Braves were taking batting practice. The concourse was full of Nats Pack handing out game booklets and stadium information, as well as a number of photographers taking fan photos and capturing the new ballpark.

I settled into Section 108 to watch the Braves put on a hitting show. The ball was carrying well into the outfield, and several lucky fans got souvenirs to take home. Around 6, I headed up to get a Kielbasa and a Coke from the stand at the top of our section. There was a bit of a line, but 15 minutes later I had dinner and was a happy guy again. Tiff went for sodas around 6:30 and had a bit of a wait, but everything was happy for the most part. My frustration came at 7:15 when I waited 40 minutes for a Half-smoke All-the-way from the Nats Dogs concession. While the Ben’s Chili Bowl line was horrendous, the other hotdog stands still carry the signature half-smoke with Ben’s Chili, but the line was bad. It moved, sure, but sporadically, and it seemed that concession workers were still getting a feel for their roles, as I saw many people bumping into each other. The only thing they seemed to be short on was popcorn. Tasty as the half-smoke was, it wasn’t worth a 40 minute wait.

I hear the other lines were pretty long as well, but I suspect much will get better as we get further into the season.

The Nationals, despite a solid first inning of offense, went 24 batters out in a row, between their last hit in the 1st and Zimmerman’s homer with 2 outs in the 9th. I was hoping for a bit more offense out of the club. But, the pitching held true, and kept the Braves from doing little to catch up to the 2-0 lead. Lo Duca’s passed ball in the 9th was a real heartbreaker, and at least one guy in our row wondered what Rauch was doing on the mound instead of the Chief. But in the end, it didn’t matter. Part of me wondered, as my friend Ben said to me later, if we weren’t all in some shared hallucination, seeing what our minds wanted to happen, instead of some sadder truth. I’m thankful it was real.

Row of Seats Asking for a Ball Beer Man Darryl Waiting for a Ball

Let Teddy Win! Nats Pack Girl Warehouse Bunting Left Field Concessions

Read on for a status report on the ballpark

So, it’s time for some grades, and there’s always room for improvement. With out further ado…

Metro: A-

The only reason I give the minus is the charlie foxtrot that we had getting to the park on Saturday during the crush. It took 2 hours to get from Courthouse to Navy Yard on Saturday at 3pm. Unacceptable. However, getting home that night, and, indeed, getting to and from on Sunday, was nothing short of incredible. 40 minutes, all told. Metro handled the crush of people at the end of the game with nothing short of amazing logistics. Well done, here’s hoping it keeps going.

And, were the platform escalators broken already on game day? Really? For real? Who makes these things…

Getting Inside: B+

I know, the Secret Service and the metal detectors crufted it up on Sunday. But, overall, not bad. I like the short walk from the Metro to the new stadium. Let’s liven it up with something more than just a construction site and an abandoned brick warehouse, please? Not so fun. Ticket takers doing a pretty decent job, but some of them hadn’t used the new hand scanners before and that slowed things down in Center Field. If you’re coming in elsewhere, get ready for a bit of a wait as there are fewer turnstiles and fewer security guys to do the search of your bag

Seating: A

I tested out seats in the 200s, 300s and 100s on this weekend’s trip through the ballpark. They’re all wider than RFK (much welcomed) and the cupholders are a nice touch. Seat pitch is a little shallow as you go upward, but still, pretty respectable.

Concessions: B-

It’s not the variety. There’s plenty of variety, that part is fantastic. It’s the practice. It’ll get better. It will, I think it has to. As teams get to know their concessions, they’ll get a better idea of how to move through lines quickly. Hopefully they’ll get the hot beverage thing sorted this week before the next homestand, as they won’t use it again until September rolls around. I’m really glad to see credit card terminals at many of the stations, but guys, get the sign/no-sign thing sorted as well. I should either have to sign everywhere (please, no.) or not anywhere (yes, please.)

Ushers and Roaming Vendors: A+

The right combination of friendliness, efficiency and availability. Everyone was happy to be there, happy to be seen, happy to sell you stuff, or clean off your seat. Fantastic. Let’s keep it up. I know powered-bottle-top-remover-guy was there on Saturday, and again Sunday, but then he was selling pop-top cans and bottles. Glad to see some familiar experienced guys out there.

Egress from the Park: A

It was as easy to get out as it was to get in. There was a short walk up Half Street to the Metro, and the staff there handled the throngs with aplomb. No one was too crazy with the crowds, and that’s to be respected and honored. Good job, Metro, for keeping people flowing.

The Nationals: B+

I know, hard grader. Two errors were seriously costly tonight, and that’s hard to ignore. Keep the team active and happy, and we’ll see you again in two weeks. Major ups to Odalis PĂ©rez for his excellent start tonight, and to the bullpen for keeping Atlanta in check.

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