Since the Mariners became my favorite American League club in 2014, I’ve tried to intercept them on the east coast when possible. A rare Seattle-to-D.C. trip made May 23 the 2017 installment of Steve, Ben, and Jack take on Nationals Park.
Jack and I met our friend Harrison at the Springfield metro station, and from there the three of us trekked up I-95 to meet up with Ben, who is now a veritable D.C. yuppie, at the park.
And that turned into Ben calling us a few times to inquire of our whereabouts since he lacks patience and basic understanding of northern Virginia interstate congestion. He did assist us, though, because the dicey weather made me question batting practice.
“I did some reconnaissance and determined that batting practice had not actually been canceled by the threat of rain. I then patiently waited as they took their sweet time.”
Ben, Jack, and Harrison made usual jokes about me being too old to shag home runs, but I made them camp out with me at the Red Porch anyway for the 45-ish minutes we observed batting practice. After I stepped on his fancy suit shoes once, Ben realized it was probably best he sit in a row I was not patrolling for home runs.
With Ben dressed to impress at his federal internship and Harrison and Jack apparently too masculine to don gloves and hope for some luck, I was the only one getting in any sort of physical activity. It was all for naught, though, because not much came our way.
Thus began the culinary portion of our evening!
Nationals Park’s newest major concession stand, See. You. Tater., was my location of interest. It serves tater tot bowls topped with various meats and delicious accouterments. I got one called “Backyard Barbecue,” which included pulled pork, mac and cheese, and crispy onions. Filling? Yes, I shared the final remnants with my three amigos. Healthy? Absolutely not. I didn’t even have an appetite for Five Guys fries post game because of the extra weight I tacked on thanks to the tots and meat.
My friends settled for Senators Sausages, always a safe ballpark option, and marveled at my unusual choice.
After we ate, a steady rain began falling and never really let up for the remainder of our stay.
I purchased tickets in the mezzanine level, section 316, for two reasons. One, ticket outlets seemed slightly more expensive this year than in years past and I knew it wasn’t worth it to shell out too much for seats alone. Second, I picked the section because I knew it was the best foul ball spot in the upper deck–just offset from the imaginary line between the left fielder and the plate.
We made it upstairs well before first pitch, Jack audibly grumbling about the wet downtime we had to endure, and got a commemorative picture. This is now the fifth year in a row I’ve attended a game with Ben and Jack. Paul, when are you re-joining the gang?
Jack wasn’t the only one grumbling, though. On about the sixth pitch of the game, we heard a voice behind us yell “can you move the umbrella, you’re blocking my view of the plate?!”
Ben had deployed an umbrella several minutes before the game got underway, so why we were just hearing about it a few pitches in beats me. He ended up stowing it some time later. Then, when the rain picked up again he used it more conservatively–draping it behind his back to be less obtrusive.
But we still got a complaint. “Can you move it a little to your right?! A little more! Now down some!” It sounded like the grump was just messing with Ben, but he actually wasn’t.
The top of the third inning brought my personal highlight. Seattle catcher Mike Zunino fouled a pitch from Joe Ross straight towards us. I could tell I was going to be able to make the catch, but then realized I may have some competition. A gentleman, who was sitting one row in front and one seat to the right of me, scooted over and outstretched his arms. I wasn’t going to let my dad’s 2009 barehand robbery of my glove come back to haunt me again, so I just stretched farther. I used my glove to fend off his hands as the ball came in. And with that, I caught my first ever Major League foul ball on the fly.
An inning or so later, rain falling even harder, we elected to cut our losses and walk the covered concourse.
If you ask Ben and Jack, it is a long-standing tradition for the two of them to indulge in mid-game drinks at the Red Porch, which offers tables with a one-hour time limit and $5 soft drinks with unlimited refills. They claimed that I was once a miser against this tradition and only recently began accompanying them. Let the record, aka this blog, show that they have just twice patronized the establishment and I have indeed accompanied them once.
We made it to the center field restaurant in the fourth inning only to be met by four ladies at the hostess table coldly exclaiming “we’re not taking any more names,” repeatedly until we understood that despite the open tables we saw, we would not actually be getting a seat. Not in the fourth inning, not in the eighth inning. We were out of luck.
Ben wants you to know:
“Also, Red Porch employees are lazy.”
We camped out for the rest of our time in left field, watching the Mariners offense flounder under the dominance of Joe Ross, the Nationals starter who was making his first appearance since an early-season demotion. Ross surrendered just one run in eight innings.
Washington’s offense gave him plenty of support. Anthony Rendon hit two home runs, the second of which was part of an eight-run fourth inning for the Nats. Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth also homered in that huge frame.
Zunino, my foul ball donor, put the Mariners on the scoreboard with a home run of his own in the sixth inning–the only run Seattle mustered all game.
Washington won 10-1 in my 2017 season debut at Nationals Park.
This was the start of a baseball-filled week for me. After my comrades departed on the metro, I drove to my cousin’s house, where I spent the night. The next morning, I shipped up to Boston for a game at Fenway Park. Stay tuned.