I couldn’t take it any more.
Watching the first two Pirates games on Pittsburgh’s recently updated Root Sports Channel, had me very pumped up. Both games were competitive with great starting pitching. It’s safe to say myself, along with many others, are pumped up about the now 2-1 Buccos. They head to St. Louis for three games with the Cardinals and arrive back in PNC Park Thursday for the home opener.
That is too long.
My friend Andrew and I packed up and ventured to Washington, D.C. for the rubber match between the Braves and Nationals and our first taste of big league ball this season.
Our nation’s capital is really hopping this time of the year. For good reason because it may be the prettiest spot in America in the springtime. The cherry blossoms were out from every stretch of the city. In full bloom, they were beautiful. It was a great way to welcome us back to a place where all citizens should visit at some point in their lives. The trees were also a perfect gateway to a great day of the national pastime.
Adorning my Expos shirt to honor the fallen franchise, we arrived at Nationals Park right as they gates opened.
It was a beautiful day for a game.
Temperatures flitted with 60 degrees but remained fairly enjoyable. There was a slight chill and a majority of shade in the stadium but it was the perfect setting for a game in early April.
Our first view of baseball batting practice from the stands in left field. Nats Park is very underrated when spoken of comparing it to other ballparks. In my opinion, it is the fourth best place for baseball behind St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, San Francisco’s AT&T Park and, obviously, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. We stayed for a lot of batting practice, and while I’m not into the ballhawking scene it is entertaining to see others lay out for balls. The best part is seeing the happy faces of small kids receiving a big league ball.
Every Sunday in D.C. is “Signature Sundays.” There was a sparse crowd that early for the 1:35 game so we thought, what the heck, let’s chat it up with some ballplayers. Relievers Tyler Clippard, Brad Broderick, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett were waiting for fans on the dugout. This is me with former Pirate Sean Burnett. He was very outspoken, trashing the organization from his time with Pittsburgh. I confirmed it. He did say he enjoyed his time, but its not a baseball town. Come on Pirates, change his mind this year.
Like I said, Nationals Park is a great place to watch a game and an even better museum for the great game of baseball. Honoring their former comrades of Montreal, Joe Carter and Andre Dawson are forever engraved in the walls of the stadium. And in a very cordial move, it honors a slew of Hall of Famers on the polls around the main concourse. As you can see, I had to grab a pic of “The Great One,” Roberto Clemente.
Milwaukee has the Sausages. Cleveland has hot dogs. San Diego has Friars. Colorado has dots. Of course Pittsburgh has pierogies, but no racing item in Major League baseball is more politically correct than the presidents of Washington. Now, I am a loyal homer, but the race here is very anticlimactic. The jumbotron pre-race video is very funny but the race itself does not correlate with the goofy antics of the presidents, themselves. Come on, look at Teddy Roosevelt.
Andrew and I noticed the crowd in Washington is very intelligent. And we’re not necessarily referring to baseball smarts. A majority of the crowd looked like college professors and there were many people wearing local university attire to attest to that. Some fans even brought books to read during the game. We had great conversations with some people at the game. D.C. is a melting pot for many people across the country so being a Nationals fan looks to mean that they play second fiddle in many hearts.
The game itself was a laugher in the home team’s expense. For the Nationals, the most rewarding part of the game may have been the Virginia Harmonizers who sang the National Anthem and God Bless America in the 7th inning. They were a great male vocal group who performs for the president. The game was an 11-2 shellacking. The Braves we
re paced by a six run 8th inning where they batted around. There was great production from top to bottom. Tim Hudson also pitched a gem. He surrendered just three hits in seven innings.
The baseball fun didn’t stop there.
We jumped on the beltway and made the 45 minute trip to Camden Yards. There was not a game there as the Orioles were finishing up a series in Tampa, but there was still much activity in the stadium’s vicinity. I felt like we were in the opening scene of “Rookie of the Year” as workers were hustling preparing the ballpark for the team’s home opener against the Tigers.
Andrew is a Yankee fan. His family is embedded in the pinstripes and their loyalty never wanes. Being in an AL East foe’s stomping grounds didn’t stop him from enjoying himself, though. As Babe Ruth’s birthplace, Baltimore is a historically rich baseball town. The statue honoring the Babe proves just that.
After a lap around Camden Yards we called it a day and left the area making the three hour trip back to Morgantown, West Virginia. It was a little somber leaving a day that was filled with baseball, but it served as a prelude to the glory that this Thursday will hold. It’s opening day in Pittsburgh. The faith is still growing for fans across the nation. If your team is undefeated, congrats. If your team has yet to win a game, that’s why they play 162 games. The season is still young but many eyes have opened with sparks of hope seen inside.
This really is the most wonderful time of the year.