Baseball Reflections
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Biking for Baseball All the Way to Nationals Park

Biking for Baseball [www.bikingforbaseball.org] is a youth mentoring organization that is currently cycling 11,000 miles to each MLB stadium this summer to raise funds and awareness for youth mentoring programs across the country. One of the riders, Chase Higgins @chaser_racer32, blogs about baseball games they’ve been to and general MLB throughout the trip.

Nationals Park has been home to the Washington Nationals since 2008 when it opened with a bang as the Nationals beat the rival Atlanta Braves on a walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman. Talk about a great way to open a new stadium. Nationals closer Jon Rauch had both a blown save and a win. The only reason that is notable is because he is the tallest player in baseball. B4B was in attendance when the same two teams matched-up in D.C. in a very important series for the NL East standings.

 

Prior to the game, the Nationals showed great class by honoring Chipper Jones for what was to be his last regular season game in D.C. It was cool that former Braves teammates Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa had taped interviews shown on the big screen praising Chipper’s Hall of Fame career. The Nationals honored Chipper with the bat he used for the first hit in Nationals Park history. The Nats had been displaying the bat as a part of their history and they wanted Chipper to have it. Ryan Zimmerman also presented Chipper with 3rd base from the park. It was a great scene and a very classy move by the Nationals.

 

Even earlier than the ceremony for Chipper, we got to spend some time on the field ourselves. The Nats were generous enough to lets us watch batting practice from the field. We saw the 19 year old phemon Bryce Harper take his huge cuts. We also decided that the Nats might be one of the best teams to watch in batting practice. Zimmerman was smoking some long shots, Adam LaRoche has a great home run swing, Jayson Werth can hit it long in BP, and that’s not even mentioning Michael Morse. Morse hit some of the longest home runs we saw to deep right-center field. He was mashing them!

 

Towards the time the Nats were wrapping up their BP session and the Braves were just taking the field, the sky decided to open up and drench D.C. with a little downpour. It didn’t look like the rain would last too long from our spot on the warning track, so we braved the rain until the grounds crew put the tarp on the infield. We took shelter in the inner bowels of the stadium with others who were watching BP from the field. After about 20 minutes of solid rain, we knew the Braves wouldn’t be taking BP and we headed to the concourse.

 

We explored the nice concourse at Nationals Park where there is a display on the history of baseball in D.C. The Nationals was also the name of the franchise that played in D.C. in the 1800’s prior to being called the Senators. The Senators played in D.C. until they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. A new franchise was created that same year as was called the Senators as well. They played in D.C. until they moved to Dallas/Ft. Worth in 1972 and became the Rangers. This fact can lead to some confusion because the Senators were a completely new franchise in 1961. The current version of the Nationals was originally the Montreal Expos before they moved to D.C. in 2005. Our nation’s capital is a great town for our nation’s pastime.

 

The new Nationals Park is a very nice stadium. It has all of the amenities you would expect from such a new stadium. Before first pitch, they serve $5 beers in the right field upper deck patio. We took advantage of a few of those while the rain subsided. The stadium has great sightlines and a very cool open area in the outfield for fans to mingle. Right outside the stadium in centerfield is a bar area called the Half Street Fairgrounds. It’s a very interesting open-air space that is bound on the perimeter by huge shipping crates. The only small issue I could complain about the layout of the stadium is the lack of a picturesque view. D.C. has some great sights, and the Anacostia River is located directly next to the stadium, but the view past the outfield wall is of a parking garage. Apparently from part of the upper deck, the Capitol building can be seen.

 

The game itself was a match-up of two of the top teams in the National League East. It wouldn’t be surprising if these two teams matched-up in the NLCS for a trip to the World Series. The Nationals were able to put up nine hits but they couldn’t seem to string any of them together off Braves starter Kris Medlen. Nationals starter Ross Detwiler pitched well, but some poor defensive work by the Nats in the ninth inning smashed hopes of a home team victory. It wasn’t a save situation for the bottom of the ninth, but Craig Kimbrel came on for the Braves and struck out the side.

 

We loved our time in D.C. and our 24th stadium was a memorable one. Unfortunately, the only famous politicians we saw were the 4 participants of the Presidents Race; George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Wikipedia has way too much info on the race; apparently it’s a pretty big deal at Nationals Park.

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