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Take me out to the Nationals ballpark

Take me out with the crowd!

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack. Buy me $1 hot dogs and a tall beer.

I don’t care if it takes forever by Metro to get back!

Let me root, root, root for my hometown team; if they don’t win (and they didn’t), it’s a shame (and it was).

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out at the old ballgame!

Yesterday, I attended my first game at Nationals Park as the Nats took on my hometown heroes, the Detroit Tigers.

Grand ballpark anchors Navy Yard

Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals, is situated along the Anacostia River in Navy Yard, an up-and-coming section of Washington, D.C. The ballpark opened in 2008, just three years after the Nats arrived in Washington, reviving the name of the ballpark where the Washington Senators played in the early 1900s. The Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol can be seen from particular areas of the stadium’s upper decks, and it seats more than 41,000 fans.

Inside Nationals Park

Inside Nationals Park

In addition to Major League Baseball’s first LEED-certified green ballpark, the Navy Yard neighborhood includes the historic naval shipyard. It is not unusual to see officers in their white uniforms here. Although the U.S. Navy has utilized the area for hundreds of years, this quadrant of Southeast D.C. still hasn’t come fully alive.

Walking around the neighborhood yesterday, I saw several modern apartment buildings with large “Now Leasing” signs. As my roommate Amanda and I searched for a place to eat prior to the game, it appeared our only two options — Gordon Biersch and Justin’s Cafe — were full.

Dubbed the Capitol Riverfront, the surrounding area is going through a major gentrification phase as loft apartments are constructed and marketed toward D.C.’s young professionals. Plans for the waterfront include a public marina for boat docking, more restaurants and shops in a repurposed industrial manufacturing complex and a Harris Teeter grocery store coming mid-2014.

Getting to Nats Park

Nationals Park is convenient to access via public transit. Yesterday, I took the Metro to the Navy Yard-Ballpark stop along the Green Line. The trains are crowded before and after Nats games, but the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority runs more trains along the Green Line during these times. If you are not familiar with the D.C. metrorail system, you can use a trip planner on the WMATA website to determine your route to and from the ballpark. From the Metro station, it is only a short walk about the distance of two city blocks to the ballpark. A number of Metrobus routes and the Circulator bus also service the ballpark and Navy Yard. For the Circulator bus, rides cost $1 and local riders can use their SmarTrip card.

What to do when it rains on your parade game

It has been an unusually gloomy week here in the D.C. area, so much so that Tuesday night’s Nats game against the Tigers was postponed until Thursday afternoon. It drizzled and showered on and off throughout the day yesterday, and I worried that the Wednesday night game came would meet the same fate. Still, I donned my Ralph Lauren boat shoes, grabbed an umbrella and hoped Mother Nature would cooperate.

Get out of the rain at the Red Porch

Get out of the rain at the Red Porch

Well, that on-and-off shower turned into fully-on rain by the time I exited the Metro station. Due to the lack of restaurants and that everyone else also wanted out of the rain, Amanda and I ended up heading straight into the ballpark to find a dry spot. Inside the ballpark, you have a few dining options. As you enter through the park’s main gate, you’ll see the Red Porch, a bar and restaurant. As you walk past the Red Porch, rounding the corner to a concessions area, you’ll find shelter from the rain, standing picnic tables for a break and a variety of food and drink to kill time during a rain delay.

If, however, the game you’re attending is rained out, you’ll have to find time to attend the make-up game. Due to increasing attendance this season, following the Nationals’ success as the 2012 National League East division champs, the organization changed its policy regarding rainouts. Now, if a game is rained out and rescheduled for another day, tickets are honored only at the rescheduled game. In the past, ticket holders could choose to attend a different game. However, the Washington Post Express reported in its print edition today that the Nats reversed that policy for ticket holders of Tuesday’s game due to backlash on social media. Those fans could either attend the Nats V. Tigers game at 4:05 p.m. today, or they could opt to attend a different game this season.

Beer, baseball and mobile ordering

Sipping Summer Shandy dreaming of warmer weather.

Sipping Summer Shandy dreaming of warmer weather.

It wouldn’t be a night at a baseball game without a tall beer (if you’re at least 21 years of age, of course). The concessions actually offer an impressive selection of alcohol. I opted for Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, dreaming of warmer summer nights, but other premium draft options included Blue Moon and another Leinenkugel selection for $9. Of course, you’ll also find the domestic staples in bottles for about the same price. I did not notice a booth for these breweries, but I’ve heard Nats Park also offers brews from DogFish Head and Flying Dog Brewery. Wine and mixed drinks are also available. But, I’ll warn you that I’m using the term “wine” loosely here — it’s Sutter Home.

$1 dogs!

$1 dogs!

While beer is always marked up at a ballpark, the hot dogs luckily weren’t. One of the ballpark’s promotions is $1 hot dogs as part of an effort to create value for the fans. Sure, the dogs are a bit shorter than your usual ballpark frank, but for a buck … who cares? Just top it with some mustard, and you are good to go. Or Ketchup, relish and onions, whatever floats your boat.

Concessions also include your usual suspects: soft pretzels, peanuts, nachos, chicken tenders and fries. But, unique to Nationals Park, concessions also include a U Street classic, Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Too lazy or too enthralled with the game to leave your seat? No problem. Now you can place your order using your smartphone, and your food is delivered to your seat! A group sitting the row ahead of me tried it, and, I have to admit, it seemed pretty convenient.

Let’s play ball!

Around 7:20 p.m. last night, just 15 minutes past the scheduled starting time, the infield tarp was rolled back and a stadium announcement stated the game would begin around 8 o’clock.

Rolling the tarp back signals the end of the 57-minute delay is near!

Rolling the tarp back signals the end of the 57-minute delay is near!

It was Marine Corps Day, and pre-game festivities included a Marine throwing the ceremonial first pitch and “The Star Spangled Banner” performed by the Marine Corps Band.

The Marine Corps Band performs the national anthem.

The Marine Corps Band performs during the pre-game.

Our seats in section 141 were located directly behind right field, providing us with excellent views of newly acquired Detroit Tiger, Torii Hunter, who scored the Tigers’ lone run off a Miguel Cabrera single. Sitting behind the outfield was both exhilarating and frightening when balls appeared to be beamed straight to us — like Bryce Harper’s solo homer in the fifth inning.

Right fielder Torii Hunter scored the Tigers' single run.

Right fielder Torii Hunter scored the Tigers’ single run.

During a break between innings, we watched the Racing Presidents. These life-size bobble heads of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft race against each other and sometimes other mascots. This is a fun and quirky tradition, definitely a fan favorite. You can even follow Bill and Teddy on Twitter and check the presidents’ standings (though they haven’t been updated yet for 2013.) To be honest, I have no clue which president won last night’s race. It all seemed a bit chaotic.

George hangs with the crowd at Nats Park

George hangs with the crowd at Nats Park

But, I do know that, in the end, my Tigers lost 3-1. It was Jordan Zimmerman’s night.

Wish you were here,


P. S. You can now follow along with my travels on my NEW travel and lifestyle blog, The Epicurean Traveler!


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