This past week my son and I visited the brand new Nationals Ballpark in Washington, D.C. We attended Wednesday night's Florida Marlins at Washington Nationals game, just the third home game for the new ballpark. The Nationals did not look very good despite some strong early pitching by Jason Bergmann, and they lost 10-4.
The Nats may well pull up the rear of the National League this season, but their shimmering new ballpark is well worth visiting. To be very honest, I loved it.
I lived in Washington, D.C., from 1986 to 1994. For all of those years I would slog from DC to Baltimore -- first to Memorial Stadium and then to Camden Yard. In fact, I was at the first two Opening Days of Camden Yard. Had the Nationals Ballpark been around in those days, I have a feeling I would have gone into debt fast. I didn't have the money to be a season ticket holder back then, but if tickets were aplenty and the journey nothing more than a short Metro ride, I could not have stayed away.
There is a lot to love at the new ballpark. It is not one of those retro- urban ballparks that Camden Yard ushered in. I would describe it as sleek, contemporary, spacious but with intimate sight lines.
Without a doubt, Nationals Ballpark must have the best outfield scoreboard in baseball -- maybe in sports, period. It is an enormous, gorgeous, bright, high-definition scoreboard with live video, easy to navigate graphics and a great out-of-town scoreboard. I couldn't stop looking at it.
A few other highlights/observations of the new park:
- Its proximity to the yellow line of DC's Metro makes it very convenient. For a new ballpark, it blends in with the city well. You rise from the subway into an old neighborhood with a new ballpark. The Capitol is to your right and the park to your left. The centerfield entrance looms in the distance at the end of a narrow street.
- The staff was cheery and clearly excited. (One vendor, though, asked me how many innings there are in a ballgame as the night drug on.)
- Some might think it cliche but I loved the way food stands were given baseball names. Changeup Chicken. Baseline Brews. Slice Down the Line (pizza).
- At Safeco, I can listen to the live action from the broadcast booth but at Nats Park I had a hard time hearing the live action although there are TVs around the concourse.
- The bullpen is not very visible. You can see pitchers get up from the infield seats but you can't get to the bullpens as you can at Safeco or some other parks.
- The press box looks like it's up in the clouds. I was surprised how high and far removed it appeared from home plate.
The game started as a pitching duel between Bergmann and Scott Olsen but turned into a hitting fest in the 5th inning when the hapless Marlins teed off on Bergmann for 7 runs, two of them homers. The highlight, frankly, was the Major League debut of Burke Badenhop who retired three consecutive batters in the 9th to get the save.
Readers of CodBall play in the ballparks that I review, and many more will one day play in them as their careers progress. Check out my notes from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia and other points of interest.