After I attended an extremely cold Marlins at Nationals game in early April, I spent three months away from Nationals Park. As luck would have it, my cousin Justin came up from South Carolina to visit us and was more than happy to go to a Nationals game with me, especially since he had never been to Nationals Park. In addition, Stephen Strasburg was scheduled to start Tuesday night against the Brewers. The only star that wasn’t aligned for us was the weather. The whole D.C. region has been suffering under seemingly-relentless wet weather over the past several days, and I was all but certain that BP would be cancelled.
However, we got lucky in the ticket department as we scored $15 seats in the Stars and Stripes club level, a $60 value. Traffic also was not an issue, and we got to the park around 4:50, just in time to watch batting practice not happen.
There was a slight drizzle, but certainly nothing substantial enough to affect the game itself. We meandered over to the left field seats just to check out the field and the bullpen, and to check for any glove-trick-able balls, but no luck. The gap in the wall in front of the Red Porch was empty as well.
A side note here: Nationals Park over its short history has been notorious for weird policies and inconstancies in fan treatment. Instances range from events dramatic as Zack Hample’s ejection for a completely fabricated accusation, to things seemingly trivial like section guards checking tickets in the upper deck while the park is half-empty. For this game, the staff was surprisingly pleasant and cordial, and we were never questioned before the game while exploring different sections. But for some strange reason, the guards felt the need to persistently remind us that batting practice was cancelled whenever we entered a new section, as if we couldn’t tell by the huge tarp on the field. They must have not known any reason why fans would want to be in the outfield seats without BP going on. It was rather perplexing.
Back to the action: we also checked the gap behind the wall in right field, but the only things to be found were beer bottles, cans, and puddles. After a few minutes, two players emerged from the bullpen and began playing catch:
In the photo on the right: the player on the left with his arms raised is calling for a ball from a worker in the bullpen, and the security guy to his right was also patrolling the region. The player on the right had a warm-up shirt over his jersey, making him nearly unidentifiable, and the one on the left was a bullpen catcher. I determined that the pitcher on the right was likely Fernando Abad, and before I could even finish communicating this sentence to Justin, he screamed, “Fernando!” at the player, who promptly turned and waved. We waved back and that was that–mission accomplished.
When Abad finished throwing, he gave the ball they were using to the bullpen catcher, who promptly retreated to the dugout. But Abad walked back towards the bullpen, where he picked up two balls that the guard in the ‘pen had appeared to have rubbed up for game condition. Abad is from the Dominican Republic, so I asked him to toss me a ball in Spanish, and he promptly gave a good toss. I had to make a backhanded catch over the railing, but nothing spectacular.
In the picture above, the red rectangle indicates where Justin and I were standing when Fernando tossed the ball up. And if you look closely, you can see four baseballs sitting atop a silver cabinet inside the black circle. Every player on the field was using a ball at this point, so those four were just sitting there. I thought about trying to glove-trick at least one, but there were guards at the top of our section, in the bullpen, and on the field. Justin really wanted me to try, but I figured I’d at least get scolded, if not reprimanded.
In the ball-snagging department, that was it for the night. But Drew Storen signed autographs after he was done throwing, and I got his very…interesting signature. I really don’t know how else to describe it. As far as the art of the autograph goes, this falls into the symbol or picture, rather than full name, category. Spoiler alert: Drew Storen was the losing pitcher of the night. When I showed this signature to my grandmother, she promptly responded, “Well it’s no wonder that he lost the game, it’s clear that he was on something if that’s supposed to be his name!”
The tarp finally came off the field at around 6:30, and we made our way up to the club level where I noticed a unique item at one of the concession stands: chocolate bacon. It sounded more like a novelty at the Texas state fair than a ballpark snack. Justin bought it with a “why not?” philosophy. The bacon was cold and thick, and the chocolate was frozen on top. There was also a strange spice on the meat that added a kick, contrasting the sweet chocolate. It was weird.
As for the game itself, Stephen Strasburg threw seven shutout innings, and recorded eight strikeouts, all of which he finished on his curveball. But the Nationals couldn’t get their bats going, and were shutout by 5 different Milwaukee pitchers. The game remained scoreless until the eighth when the Brewers exploded for four runs on four hits, and pinned the loss on Drew Storen.
All-in-all it was a fun day finally getting back to the Park. Of course, thank you Justin for taking me up! He enjoyed his first baseball game in D.C.. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to another Nationals game this month, and then in August and September when the Marlins come back to town. In addition, I will be visting Turner Field in August for the first time since I was a toddler.