Saturday, April 30, 2005

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Last night I had two firsts: My first National League ballgame and the first time I've seen a MLB pitcher hit a home run.

A friend of S---'s was coming to town for some bankruptcy lawyers convention and part of the convention package included nosebleed seats for last night's Nationals–Mets match up. Because of an early schedule the next day, the friend had two tickets but no desire to spend a night at the ballpark. So, S--- got the tickets and I got to tag along; I told S--- I'd buy the beers, but, because of Passover, he wasn't partaking ...

[ASIDE: Yes, I abandoned Evelin and Celeste for the night, but Evelin said they didn't mind; Celeste didn't want to talk to me, however, when Evelin called at bathtime just before the first pitch — I think she was a bit jealous.]

The last time I went to RFK Stadium was during the 2002 World Cup, when the U.S. faced Germany in the quarterfinals. They opened up the stadium early for the 6:00 a.m. (UTC-5:00) match, which was being shown on the stadium Jumbotron. It was a good game, even though Germany won, and a lot of fun. The crowd was energized and players from the Washington Freedom were on hand to try and gin up interest in women's professional soccer. I ran into C---, the brother of one of my coworkers, and got to enjoy the game while only being a little late for work. (It definitely was a better match that some of the earlier games that I had to wake at 2:00 a.m. for to watch in Spanish or the ones I had to try to watch via the line-by-line commentary I was getting from the talkSPORT website.

Prior to that, I'd only been there for a few HFStivals. The Nationals game was quite a different experience.

Our seats were quite high (Section 524, Row 8) and along the third base line and it was surprisingly hard to tell where some of the hit balls were flying. Regularly, when a foul was headed into the sections below us, it appeared to be traveling more along the first base line. Balls hit hard and high into center field looked certain to be headed out, but instead they were easily caught no where near the warning track. What was clear to see was how fast the pitches were flying (even though only a few pitches broke 90 mph). I've usually had seats situated somewhere in left field with a head-on view of the plate. From that perspective, the ball doesn't seem to travel nearly as quickly as it appeared to from last night's seats. What was hard to judge was the strike zone.

At first it looked like were going to be in for a bad night for the Nats, with Liván Hernández struggling some in the 1st inning, but he settled in for the next seven innings giving up a few hits here and there, but no more runs. And, in the sixth, he had a solo homerun; the first time S--- or I could remember ever seeing (in person or not) a pitcher do that.

The stadium itself remains an old structure, but it wasn't bad for a ballgame. What I found really interesting, in terms of infrastructure, was that you could see some of the lines in the grass and the track where some of the seats swung out of the way to convert the field from a baseball diamond to a soccer pitch.

The sad thing was that I have one Met and four Nats on my fantasy team, and none of those players had a very exciting night. It did cause me a few conflicted moments during the game, however ... I wanted Hernandez to pitch his way out of his 1st inning jam, but if Cliff Floyd had gotten a three-run homer instead of a one-run sacrifice fly, it would have earned me more points (and being at in the cellar in the fantasy league is getting old ...)

Although I hope we'll get to a Boston–Orioles game at some point this summer, the only game I have tickets for thus far is for a Portland Sea Dogs match up against the Bowie Bay Sox in May. It's AA ball, but the Sea Dogs are running hot right now, and are fielding seven of the Sox's top ten prospects. So we should be in for a good game ...


T. Carter said...

Point taken, however, I've seen a few NL games (and interleague games at NL parks) on TV or heard them on the radio, and never seen/heard a pitcher go yard before ... Actually the funniest bit, is Seo, the Mets' pitcher, was just throwing fastballs right now the middle of the plate figuring Hernández wouldn't be able to hit anything and then BOOM!

mc said...

Hey there, the Sea Dogs are my hometown team! They've been doing fabulously, from a business perspective, ever since they came to Maine, but when they ditched the Marlins and became a Sox affiliate a couple years ago, they really took off. They play in a great little stadium, with $6 tix that often sell out. Enjoy that game...

T. Carter said...

I'm really excited about the Sea Dogs (both in general and this upcoming game). They don't get down to Bowie more than once or twice a season, so it's not like I get too many chances to see them, but it's a great team this year (talent-wise; I'll leave the business analysis to a professional like yourself)!

Actually, business-wise, I think minor league ball is doing a pretty good job in a lot of markets of using the "future stars" marketing meme, low ticket prices, the occasional odd promotion, and decent-to-good baseball to lure in fans.