I arrived at Nationals Park by bus from RFK's parking lot just a half an hour of so before the gates were scheduled to open so that my brother Scout, our lawyer Mr. Ipps and I could take a walk around the outside of the new Nationals Park. The buses from RFK apparently have access to some roads inaccesible to the regular citizens, so after a road that at times appeared to be more of a walking/biking path, we emerged onto a highway and wound through several empty city blocks to the drop off spot, a few blocks from the stadium. (ed. note-Why a few blocks away? More on that later...)
After walking through several underdeveloped blocks in the surrounding waterfront area, Nationals Park came into view as we turned around one last corner and came up behind the GIANT scoreboard in right field. (Which is staggeringly big, really big.) My brother Scout, Mr. Ipps and I took a quick lap as we noticed the crowd gathering around the front entrance and by the time we'd reached the other side of the park, the gates were opening and we entered the park on the third base side through thorough, but minimal security.
"What do we do first?" I asked.
"As your lawyer," Mr. Ipps suggested, "I recommend we circle this level and sample some of the beverages."
"This is my first quote for the blog," Scout offers, "This is one pun-filled Park," Scout says pointing out the "Steak of the Union" kiosk.
(Sparkay asks in the comment section...)
Q "How much for a bud? Nick (Johnson) will crush the first home run at the new park."
A "I'm told the beer was $6.50, Sparks, but my friends were drinking Yeungling, so I can't quote a price on Bud. More on the first home run to come..."
The first thing I notice are the Hall of Fame pillars, which are painted with images of all of those who have gained entry into the hallowed halls. Frank Howard, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson...etc., and there are a number of walls with historical images from DC Baseball history, a full team photo of the 1924 World Series winning Senators team, and then we see...Batting Cages...the kind with a screen showing a selection of Major League pitchers on the mound and the pitch shooting right out of the pitchers hand...My Brother and I want a shot at Pedro Martinez...My Brother Scout goes down swinging after Pedro's first pitch is behind his back...and Pedro hits me on the second pitch before eventually getting me chasing a slider...(ed. note - "PEDRO!!!")
The next several hours are spent circling the stadium, checking out every inch, and by the time the game begins, we're all exhausted (ed. note - "Euphemism for drunk, though I personally don't partake and was really just tired."), and we settle into our seats in section 419 Row M and look down at the beautiful new park...THE GAME-
As the game gets underway, Odalis Perez throws a scoreless first, and Cristian Guzman starts things off in the Nationals' half with a single. Hudson throws a pick off throw by first and all the way to the wall, allowing Guzman to take third, and two outs later, Nick Nick, Johnson Johnson, doubles in the first run in Nationals Park, scoring Guzman and giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead. Austin Kearns...singles, Johnson, who beat a throw from right field to second base on his own hit, beats another throw home on Kearns RBI-single and the Nationals are off to a 2-0 lead after one.
Sparkay in the comment section...
"Was there any doubt? Noooooo, Rag Arm Hudson gives up the F I R S T rbi to...wait for it....Nick Johnson!!"(ed. note - "Sparks, you said first home run.)
Odalis Perez provided exactly the calming influence on the mound that Manny Acta was looking for when he chose his Opening Night starter. Perez last 5.0 innings on a cold, cold March night, allowing 4 hits, 1 ER, and 1 HR...The first in the history of Nationals Park to...Chipper JONES...(ed. note - "BOOOOO!!!!") 2-1 Nationals after four.
Saul "Sa-ool" Rivera, "Half-A" Ray King, and Luis "Set-up" Ayala hold the lead through eight innings of play. The Nationals bring on The Flat-Brimm...Wait, It's the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History, Jon Rauch coming on to close it. (ed. note - "MLB.com's Bill Ladson has the Cordero news in an article entitled, "Nats place Dukes on DL.") Rauch gives up a one-out double to Mark Teixeira. Martin Prado comes on to run for Teixeira, and with two outs in the top of the ninth and Prado now on third...the Nationals blow the lead when a Rauch pitch gets by new Nationals' catcher Paul Lo Duca, who can't pick it up to throw to the plate as Prado scores the tying run. 2-2 ballgame. Jon Rauch gets the last out of the ninth.
Guzman and Milledge go down...whispers start in the crowd "Ryan Zimmerm...Zimmer's up, it's Ryan Zimmer...THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Ryan "Walk Off" Zimmerman sends the fans home happy with a walk-off home run off Braves reliever Peter Moylan, that everyone in the park, including my Brother Scout, Braves fan and Source For All Things Baseball, knew was gone. (ed. note - "Scout did actually call the HR.) THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Nationals win...Nationals WIN!!!! 3-2 final.
The Nationals end Opening Night in 1st Place in the NL East. Ryan Zimmerman is clutch!!! Home many walk-offs is that now? Unbelievable, and the half of the crowd that stayed until the end was going crazy. Zimmerman starts the season off right, and ends the night with a dramatic home run that would seem cliched if it were written. But was painfully real for Braves' fans.
"I gotta tell you," My brother Scout says, "...even with the Braves losing, I think getting struck out by Pedro was the worst part of the night."
(ed. note -...And the question on all Nationals' fans minds...After the game, the Nationals have buses lined up and waiting for fans going back to RFK, and they put the buses two blocks down from the Metro station, so the crowd splits off and becomes reasonably manageable...In all, with the whole park emptying on the first night at the park, it probably took 30-40 minutes to get back to my car at RFK...and then three hours to drive home and now two hours to upload these photos and write this rambling post...here's a few more pics...Philadelphia tomorrow at 3:00, Open Thread to follow if I wake up in time...THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!!