I can cross another bucket list item off my list, and another ballpark. Another city down, one less to go before I see them all. My experience in DC was a good one, so get ready for a photo heavy post with lots of commentary about baseball and everything else in between I experienced.
I always wanted to experience Take on Me at Nationals Park. I feared that for some odd reason with Michael Morse no longer a National that the team might not decide to keep it going after this season. I made it, I experienced it; and it was magical.
I’m an easy guy to impress, what can I say. Mix in one of the greatest 80’s tunes of all-time and combine it with an up and coming baseball city; and of course I’m in Heaven. Just an awesome tradition that was at the top of the list of things I wanted to experience.
This was my first view of Nationals Park from the Navy Yards area. It’s going to have a lot of expansion over the next couple years and a lot of residential development. It’s going to have the potential to be a great part of the city and reminds me a lot of Cincinnati around the park before Cincinnati built the Current at the Banks and added all the bars and restaurants. By 2017ish, when the Nationals may get the All-Star Game, I expect it to be fully built out.
Here’s the Frank Howard statue you see when you enter Nats Park from the outfield. He’s an Ohio State Buckeye, by the way.
Here’s the Big Train Walter Johnson, one of the greatest power pitchers ever. He went up against Babe Ruth many times and is buried in nearby Rockville, Maryland. One of my buddies I saw this weekend is from Rockville.
Here’s the greatest known Negro league slugger of his time, Josh Gibson.
I ended up talking to Ray Knight before the game on Friday night (sober) and after the game on Satuday night (very not sober). I told him I was from Cincinnati and asked him what it was like to play with Darryl. He said ‘who you mean Straw?’ and I said yes. He didn’t give me much. I wanted to hear about the broads and the booze and the cocaine. He said he was great. He had his 1986 Mets World Series Championship ring on. I asked him if he’s ever read The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman – my favorite baseball book. He hadn’t heard of it.
My Washington buddy Brent calls Knight and his show host the two stooges.
They do Chili in DC. Ben’s Chili Bowl is a big time ballpark delicacy. You’ll see a picture of how tasty it looks as well. And I’ll get more into this later, but DC is a great food town.
Here’s some of Ben’s Chili being served up.
Finally in the park, checking out the visitors bullpen and left field where Harper roams.
Here’s some homage paid to Jason Werth, who had a big weekend. Still can’t forget that home run he hit last year in the NLDS against the Cardinals to grant the Nationals a chance at a game five.
If Nationals Park is Camelot, it has it’s top knight. If Bryce Harper isn’t on this team I most likely don’t care about getting out to the park to see them right now. Since I think Harper could end up the Mickey Mantle of my kid’s lifetime, I wanted to say I saw him play at his home park. Hopefully this is the only uniform he ever wears for baseball in Washington’s sake.
Late in the game on Friday evening I got a shot of high-socks Harper. He didn’t get any knocks while I was there, and of course we left early because it was humid and hot and the Nats had the game in-hand. And then Harper got a jam-job RBI single. My luck.
That’s one point I want to make about DC this time of year – it’s hot as Hell out there. My Washingtonian friend Brent calls it a swamp. It is hot, it is humid, and you don’t really hear about that watching the games on television. You know it’s hot in the summer in Arlington (Texas) and it takes it’s wear and tear on the players out there, but it’s every bit as hot and humid in Washington this time of year. I had one beer Friday night and about five bottles of water. It was just too damn hot to drink.
Nice shot of the #NATITUDE hash on the wall and the mock lawn in center where Harper’s first home run landed.
A ballplayer and bad ass dude.
This was from Ryan Zimmerman’s home run in the second inning on Friday night. It was off Cliff Lee and ended up being a bomb. It’s tough to cover everything succinctly here, but on Friday night Cliff Lee went up against Dan Haren, and Haren pitched pretty well. He struck out seven batters and didn’t walk anyone (Dom Brown did hit a late home run) and Haren became the first pitcher in baseball history to have a win against 30 MLB teams.
If you look closely, you can see the respects paid to the past greats of the Montreal Expos Hall of Fame players as well as the greats of the past who played for the Washington Senators at that big ass yard called Washington Park. That’s the stadium Mickey Mantle hit his legendary home run (which would have landed in the Red Porch area) to give folks an idea what a Mammoth blast it was.
Just a shot of the press box, and the fickle weather looks like it’s about to think about raining. And the DC weather will do that. It’s sunny and then it’s suddenly going to pour hard for ten minutes. And don’t get me started on the drivers in DC. They’re absolute dicks. You will be cut off without them putting on a turn signal at 60 MPH. There will be bottlenecks of traffic that seem to last forever. There will be welcome wagons that hold your trip up. It’s a busy, busy city with a lot of streets and walkers and runners and dogs.
I actually thought this was kind of; different. I’ll stop short of saying it’s ‘cool’. But the Nationals apparently want to combat their fans who aren’t interested in the game. They must have taken note of this. You don’t see this in Cincinnati – thank goodness. It’s got to be because this is a new baseball town and people are there to socialize and waste a few hours. You’ve got your share of die-hard fans, sure. But people walking up and down the aisles have obviously been a problem and this is what the organization does to not disrupt the action. As a die-hard, I respect the notion and hope it never takes place at my home park in Cincy.
Ah, the damn presidents. They’re cool. They’re creepy. They’re organized chaos. Teddy didn’t win either presidents race. He came out in the lead on Saturday night and got chased in the opposite direction by a shark-nado type character. Whatever.
So I’m told D.C. is a HUGE foodie town, and a huge brunch town. We had to make reservations for brunch on Saturday morning at a cool little place called Belga Cafe in Capitol Hill area by Brent’s place. It was probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had. If you’re wondering, those are green eggs. So damn good. I’ve lived a sheltered life in Ohio where we don’t have places like this. Cut me some slack, foodies.
If you go to DC, take the time and spend the money to go out and enjoy some of the good restaurants.
Here’s our tickets to Friday night’s game. I was going to scan these, but I’m damn exhausted after that seven hour drive back (hungover, mind you). I’m finishing this post and hitting the sack.
After brunch on Saturday morning we walked about a mile over to the Capitol Building. That’s the first time I’ve been that close to it I think. I didn’t appreciate it in 8th grade when we took a class trip out there, because in 8th grade you’re more interested in tweaking your friends in the nuts and what girls are single and who’s going out with her now type of stuff. I think kids should go to D.C. when they’re seniors in high school so they can really appreciate it.
Here’s the Monument we saw on the way over to the Halocaust Museum.
This is the library of congress.
This is Ted’s Bulletin – and why is Ted’s Bulletin in D.C. a famous spot that I had my eye out for? Because this is where Bryce Harper likes to eat breakfast. My buddy Brent needs to start heading over there for brunch so he can catch the King of D.C. eating those homemade Pop Tarts everyone talks about.
We could have done anything on Saturday, but Brent had never been to the Halocaust Museum and I didn’t fully appreciate it my first trip there, so we headed over and checked it out to kill a few hours before the game. It was a very sobering experience.
You aren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but I had to snap this one of the dog. Isn’t this the SCARIEST DOG YOU’VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR LIFE? This fucker will tear your throat out. Yikes.
This was my passport I picked up, of Elya Rosenblat. As I learned through my tour of the Halocaust Museum, Elya did not survive the Halocaust. Brent’s passport guy did survive.
From something very somber and sad to something very bright and happy, here’s how the Nationals market their star at the park. It’s right next to the Stephen Strasburg poster. Strasburg threw today, and threw the first complete game of his career. Of course he throws on the day I leave town. And I get to see only Dan Haren and Taylor Jordan pitch.
This is where we began the game for a few innings. Overall, I give Nationals Park a B+. Nice, sleek park that is going to take some time to build tradition but when it does it should be one of the game’s finest atmospheres. There’s so many transplant residents in the city that it will be tough to ever have exclusively Nationals fans filling the seats on a nightly basis, but clearly the Nationals are trying hard to build a baseball palace both in and around the park, and I think the park itself has the character to be in the right direction and do that.
Now Harper didn’t get any knocks on Saturday – he didn’t hit the home run I drove 14 hours for – this picture was taken after he walked in the bottom of the first inning. But he did do something that reminded me of another all-time great player later in the game. With the game at 4-3 Phillies, Harper caught the Phillies napping; and it was a great baseball play. Tying run on third, everyone in the park is hoping Harper hits the long ball that puts the Nationals ahead. The Phillies are pitching him just to not let him beat them. He did the unexpected, and laid down a bunt that scored the tying run. A selfless play that ended up being a winning play, and reminded me of something I’ve seen Ken Griffey Jr. do in games – and sure – no one wanted to ever see Ken Griffey Jr. bunt. But it was a brilliant play by Harper that helped his team win the game. That’s what he’s all about when he’s out there.
Jayson Werth had a big, big night. We’ve had our history with Werth. Never really liked the guy much. But he’s having a nice season for the Nationals and earning that big money. His big home run on Saturday night was the biggest swing of the weekend and it won the game for the Nationals. It was the 1,000th hit of his big league career. In a way, I saw a Jason Werth milestone.
Any dude that walks to the plate to this tune is alright in my book. Even Werth.
We ended up on the Red Porch out in left center, and if you’re going to head out there to watch a game you better make damn sure you have a healthy bladder, liver, and kidneys. There’s a lot of boozing going on out there through the game, and it’s all standing room. We got after it and chatted about old times and memories, talked some Redskins (one of my buddies is a HUGE ‘Skins fan and recently spent his life savings on a Redskins Winnebago. Congrats Mead).
I closed the book on a Washington weekend going 2-0 at the park. I had a great time. I can cross another park off my list and I made another memory. Great weekend of baseball in D.C. and I expect to return in the not too distant future.