NOTE: This was a post I meant to finish a week ago. Then life intervened.
In the past three weeks I’ve checked two items off my baseball bucket list and saw the most amazing comeback in my 40+ years of watching this always fascinating sport. We’re now a little more than a week past the all-star break, the traditional midway point of the baseball season, so it seems appropriate to unleash a few thoughts on you, dear readers, in reverse chronological order to the way they happened.
The All-Star Game is Great Fun: Washington hosted the 2018 MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park earlier this month. Almost by a fluke Andrew and I scored great seats. A colleague—who is British—was given two tickets by a former colleague of his from National Geographic. (Remember that Nat Geo is now owned by FOX, which was televising the game.) Not caring a great deal for the American pastime, he offered them up to me. For free! Which is how Andrew and I landed in section 133 in fantastic seats for the game on a beautiful Tuesday evening.
I love Nats Park when there is a big crowd on hand, and this one was a sellout (even at the outrageous prices). It was great to see all the different jerseys on fans supporting every team in the league. We often see Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, and Orioles jerseys at the ballpark, but we sure don’t see many Trout, Altuve, or Verlanders on this side of the country. I ran into Kiki, a friend from St. Albans, in the long line in the clubhouse store, as we were both successfully seeking All-Star gear. The player introductions were terrific, with a big welcome-home for the Buffalo, Wilson Ramos (boy could we use that bat this year). Seeing 29 Medal of Honor winners come out to be recognized before the game and having one of them throw out the first ball to Bryce Harper would stir the heart of even the most cynical. A male quartet sang an absolutely gorgeous version of O Canada. A mass choir formed a flag on the field and sang the national anthem (pre-recorded, but that was okay…the quality was better). Flyovers. Max—the hometown hero—striking out the first two hitters before Mike Trout works him for a 9-pitch walk. The man-child Aaron “Here Come the” Judge stroking a monster tater off of Max in the second to put the AL up 1-0. A pretty decent presidents’ race where Teddy was taken out by a flying rabbit (had to be there). Lots of home runs. Even more strikeouts. (Welcome to baseball in 2018.) Neighbors in the seats nearby from Atlanta and Los Angeles. Everyone just thrilled to be there. Not really caring who wins, but just enjoying seeing these monster lineups (especially on the American League side) go up against pitchers throwing 96-100 mph because they knew they only had to do so for one inning.
I’ve always wanted to attend an All-Star game, but when I checked the ticket prices this year I balked. I’m still saving up in hopes that I will get to a World Series game in Washington before I die. But to have the chance to go this year in our hometown team’s park, in terrific seats, and enjoy it all with Andrew was more of a treat than I even imagined. It is a memory to treasure.
Chalk Up Another One: Earlier this month I was in San Diego for a conference. Of course I had checked to see if the Padres were in town. Yes! Playing the Dodgers. Yes!! Since this was one of my stadiums still to be checked off the old bucket list, I invited three friends to join me for a game where monster pitcher Clayton Kershaw was going against the hometown nine. It really wasn’t much of a match with the Dodgers getting a blowout win, but the ballpark is beautiful and the weather in San Diego is close to perfect every day.
For those keeping score, here is the list of ballparks visited:
- Atlanta Braves – Fulton County Stadium (multiple visits in 1980s; never got to Turner Field before they tore it down, but this counts given my rules; don’t want to go to the new one…hate that they moved it to the northern suburbs)
- Baltimore Orioles – Camden Yards (multiple visits in 1990s and 2000s)
- Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (1988)
- Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field (1964, 2007, 2012)
- Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field (2013)
- Cleveland Indians – Progressive Field (2014)
- Colorado Rockies – Coors Field (2008, 2013)
- Houston Astros – Minute Maid Park (2016)
- Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium (2009)
- Los Angeles Angels – Angels Stadium (2016)
- Milwaukee Brewers – Miller Park (2005)
- Minnesota Twins – Target Field (2014)
- Oakland A’s – Oakland Coliseum (2008)
- Philadelphia Phillies – Citizens Bank Park (2008)
- Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park (2013)
- San Diego Padres – Petco Park (2018)
- San Francisco Giants – AT&T Park (2012 and 2014)
- Seattle Mariners – Safeco Field (2009)
- St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium (old – 1993; new – 2012)
- Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field (2012)
- Washington Nationals – RFK (multiple times) and Nationals Park (multiple times + part of a season ticket group since 2012)
And here is the ballparks remaining to visit list:
- Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field
- Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park
- Detroit Tigers – Comerica Park (I’ve seen it from the outside, but haven’t made a game.)
- Los Angeles Dodgers – Dodger Stadium (This is the only park that family members – Claire and Andrew – have seen before I have had the opportunity. In Claire’s case, three or four times, no less. That’s just not fair!)
- Miami Marlins – Marlins Park
- New York Mets – Citi Field (I think this is an easy one to do, but it never works out.)
- New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium (I know – how can I not have made it to Yankee stadium yet?! Just goes to show I’ve never been a big Yankees fan)
- Texas Rangers – Texas Stadium (Seen from the highway but no game yet)
- Toronto Blue Jays – Rogers Centre
Every Time the Nats Give You Hope…: Right after the July 4th holiday, Andrew and I went to Nats Park to see the Nationals play the lowly Miami Marlins. So what happens…well, the Nationals fall behind 9-0. Just about the time we thought we’d seen enough, our guys start an amazing comeback. Suffice it to say that the 14-12 Nationals win was the wildest I’ve ever seen live.
Of course, you’d think that would build momentum. But you would be wrong. This weekend is a perfect example. After winning three straight, they have the Marlins on the ropes in Miami, only to lose a bitter 2-1 game in 10 innings on Saturday night, and then look brain-dead in losing 5-0 today.
This year is feeling a lot like 2013 and 2015…and that’s not a good thing. I miss Dusty.
It will be interesting to see if the Nats are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline on Tuesday. I have no idea what they’ll do, but if they don’t do something quickly they will not be playing in October this year.
The dog days of summer have definitely arrived when it comes to the Nats. But anytime you get to go to a ballgame – especially with one of your children – I’ll take that no matter how the hometown nine are playing.
More to come…