Posted at 9:39 AM ET, 09/24/2008

In Like A Lion, Out Lika A ...

Scott Watson

Bottom of the fifth over, I wanted a last look around.

A stroll through the concourse by Ben's Chili Bowl pulled me up short -- there wasn't a single person in line. Not one.

I actually checked the kitchen to make sure that their power wasn't out. Nope; full of food. Just no people.

I slowly scanned the other concessions. There were a few people buying beer, but that was it. Nothing else really moved. The season was really over.

So a quick valedictory address:

The stadium is clean, convenient, comfortable, and complete.

Yankee Stadium may have 26 World Championships, but we have great cupholders, and really wide seats [accommodating my assets] with lots of leg room, and our bathrooms are clean and eco-friendly. In fact, we have a vastly better stadium than either New York baseball team.

Okay, so I left my subtlety stick at home, and have hinted that a nice physical plant may not be quite enough to sell a ball team to a fickle, ever-changing city. But the Lerners know that.

Don't they?

Anyway, notwithstanding a season of griping, I'll say that Nationals Park is a great place to see a ball game, that there is sufficient parking and a convenient Metro, and that the Park's employees are largely a smiling, happy group. I particularly liked the team of Eastern-bloc émigrés who manned Cantina Marina; although I don't think the franchise can possibly stay in business with such short lines, it was great having those employees there, and I compliment their attitudes and service.

None of it will be enough to get me to buy even the most modest ticket plan, though. I've had it with the organization. But this blog was supposed to be about the stadium experience, and not my baseball apostasy. So I'll spare you.

MAN am I glad this season's over. Go Rays! {or Cubs! SOME lovable loser, since it won't be us. . . ]. And thanks for reading.


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Posted at 2:19 PM ET, 08/22/2008

Stadium Comparison: U.S. Cellular Field

Gillum Ferguson

On my extensive travels of the U.S. this summer on college visits, I was saved from having to suffer through yet another college tour when my family went to see a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field (called "the Cell") in Chicago's south side.

I had heard that the Cell was a hideous, dead-beat, waste-of-money stadium that ranked among the worst in the majors, but from what I experienced there it proved to be anything but. While I was there I took notes on comparing it to our own Nationals Park, and here's what I came up with.

Cons (of U.S. Cellular Field):
1. The only beer you can get on tap at the Cell is Miller Lite, end of story. If you want Bud, Heineken, or anything else, you can get it out of a can, for the same price of $7.50. The only time you see people drinking beer out of cans at a ball game is in the parking lot tailgating, not actually watching the game.

2. Watching a game at the Cell really made me appreciate the scoreboard we have here in Washington. The one at the Cell is tiny, didn't give any information, and had poor picture quality. But I guess when your team is winning, more people watch the actual game then sit with their eyes glued to the scoreboard waiting for the massacre to be over with.

Pros:
1.The food, or at least the pizza, gave much more bang for your buck: A full dollar cheaper and in the authentic, Chicago style deep-dish that all but a few of us pizza lovers drool over.

2. A little more food variety at the Cell, namely fruit salad and Mexican corn for those whose cholesterol levels won't permit them to savor a Ben's Chili Bowl.

3. I know this would be a hit in Washington: Margarita vendors walking through the stands with large packs on their backs waiting to sell you a margarita for a mere $8. With all the business executives, politicians, diplomats, and yuppies we attract at baseball games in Washington you'd think the Lerners would offer some fancier options in the stands than lowly beer.

4. Parking was extremely easy -- though about the same price at $22 -- mainly due to the dozens of attendants directing you through the streets of south side Chicago.

5. This is the biggest thing I noticed and something that Nationals Park lacks the most:
ENERGY. Granted the White Sox were playing their rivals the Detroit Tigers and actually win over half of their games, but it is something that we haven't seen in Washington since opening night. At home games there are bigger cheers when the away team makes a play than when the Nationals hit a home run.

I know it is hard to get excited about a losing team (I've only rooted for one my entire life) but when the fans get into the game it makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Hopefully in the coming years both the team and the fans will help make Nationals Park as fun a place as the Cell.

By Gillum Ferguson | Permalink | Comments (6)
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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 08/15/2008

The Annoying Guy in our Section

Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard

In light of recent events--a losing record, a frustrated team and an even more frustrated fan base--I can't help but wonder: What is good baseball behavior?

Where I come from--Philly by way of New Jersey -- it is acceptable to curse, kick and scream at your team and fellow fans. While it isn't my style -- OK, maybe I curse at the umpire who makes a bad call -- I wonder what others thought about good and bad baseball behavior.

During a recent home stand, I suffered through what I call the 305 whistle. A fellow season ticket holder in section 305 whistles a loud, two-index-fingers-in-the-mouth whistle each time a Nat steps up to bat. With at least three at bats an inning, times nine innings, one's eardrum begins to suffer. I suffer in silence and only occasionally complain to my husband (who also finds the loud, piercing whistle annoying). But no one else seems to say anything to the regular whistler and occasional offender (he has, in the past, gotten kicked out of the park for making racially and culturally insensitive comments about members of the opposing team).

When I returned to the park for the series against Cincinnati, 305 W was not in attendance. I was immediately relieved, but I was more surprised that our fellow seatmates were just as relieved. The regulars in 305 started to talk about how much we hate the whistling and the annoying comments, and we shared our observations about his behavior shifts when he brings a family member to the game rather than a friend.

I left the game that night wondering why we hadn't banded together before to ask him to stop whistling... none of us care for it very much and we don't see how it adds value to the game, but we don't want to ruin a fan's experience even though I suspect the whistler has ruined the experiences of others.

What are your thoughts on baseball behavior? What is too much and when are we being too hard on our fellow fans?

By Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard | Permalink | Comments (10)
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Posted at 10:01 AM ET, 08/ 8/2008

A Little Winning Goes a Long Way

Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard

I have to admit that when a friend asked why I had not posted a blog entry in the last month, I changed the topic of conversation to something much less frustrating: like the current state of our economy. Gas prices and the housing market were a whole lot less stressful to talk about than my dear old Nats. What had my Nats done for me lately? Nothing. The Nats appeared indifferent to a win and I was indifferent to the box score.

Then I realized what I had become... I was a fair weather fan, and there is nothing I hate more than a fair weather fan.

When the Nats hit their rocky patch, oh say back in May, I still supported the team. When the Nats approached the All-Star Break with not a hope in sight, I stopped going to Nats Park. Now I could say that I have a lot happening in my life right now--my home is mid-remodel and we have a baby on the way--but the truth is that I just couldn't stand to see my boys lose.

And then I went to the park last Friday night.

Suddenly their was life among the bleachers. The wait staff was smiling and I was less intrigued by the array of bugs that inhabit the stadium and more intrigued by the play on the field.

Say what you will about my fair-weather attitude and its sudden shift, but the sweep did more than boost my interest, it brought life back into a quickly deflating ballpark. Stop by when the Nats return to the District next week and see what I mean. Maybe I'll see you there.

By Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard | Permalink | Comments (4)
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Posted at 9:57 AM ET, 08/ 8/2008

Value in the Value Pack

Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard

Last week my husband and I visited the park for the first time in nearly a month, and all I wanted was a ball park hot dog... and a win. (Spoiler alert: I got both!)

As we made our way up the escalators to the 300-level, I suggested we stop at Nats Dogs for a hot dog and a half smoke. While we patiently waited in line, we looked at the menu and noticed an item that was new to us: the Nats Dog Value Pack. Had this value pack been offered before? Regardless, the value pack was $7 and it was more than just a hot dog--it had to be a deal!

We got to the front of the line and asked what we got with our value pack, and the answer shocked us: a hot dog, French fries and a drink. I immediately ordered the meal, lest the kind man realize his mistake.

In the end, we got a Ben's half smoke, a Nats dog, a perfect portion of French fries and a soda just a tad bit smaller than the regular size that we share, oh, and a win, for $13.

The value pack really is a great value.

By Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard | Permalink | Comments (6)
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Posted at 8:33 AM ET, 08/ 5/2008

Site-Wide Blog Outage: Starting Today at Noon

A quick FYI from washingtonpost.com management: This blog, and all blogs on the site, will undergo an upgrade from noon ET Tuesday till about 3 pm ET Wednesday. You may see a limited number of posts on some blogs in that time frame, but you will not be able to comment. Some blogs -- like this one -- will not have posts or comments at all till tomorrow afternoon.

The upgrade will allow our staff to address some sorely needed technical issues.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience.

Jon DeNunzio
Sports editor, washingtonpost.com

By Jon DeNunzio | Permalink | Comments (1)
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Posted at 9:08 PM ET, 07/30/2008

You Can Find Me in the Club

J.P. Finlay

I felt guilty as I walked to the dessert table. I complained all season about people sitting in the Presidents Club, the best seats in the house, not actually in the seats for the first pitch. Here I was, with seats six rows behind home plate, and I missed the first pitch. Now I know why.

The Presidents Club was certainly my most extravagant sporting experience. Upon entering the stadium, you are escorted to an elevator where you descend to the field level, walk across a red carpeted hallway and into the dining room. The dining room looks as swanky as any K Street $100-a-head restaurant; lofted ceilings, dark cherry paneling, silver cutlery, pleasant servers, flat screens littering the walls. This is a world away from the 45-minute wait for nachos upstairs.

Sitting at the table, the media room for postgame press conferences was over my left shoulder, while the batting cages for in-game BP were just down to the right. Both were enclosed in glass, inviting those in the dining room to watch.

The buffet was vast; the roasted pork with fig chutney was my favorite. The cost of food is allotted into the ticket, and because my ticket was free, I approached the buffet like Kobayashi walking into Nathans.

Continue reading this post »

By J.P. Finlay | Permalink | Comments (11)
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Posted at 1:22 PM ET, 07/18/2008

The Damaged Psyche of a Semi-Fan

Scott Watson

In Thomas Boswell's most recent online chat, he said: "I think, in stock market terms, this is "the bottom," or close to it. This winter, some semi-fans may not renew their tickets at Nats Park. Then, perhaps, more of the best seats in the house__and within various sections__ will be returned to their rightful owners."

I'm one of those "semi-fans" who is unlikely to renew.

Continue reading this post »

By Scott Watson | Permalink | Comments (24)
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Posted at 3:49 PM ET, 07/14/2008

Thanks, Pretzel Guy

Scott Watson

Just a quick "thank you" to the popcorn / pretzel guy working behind Section 238 last week (he declined to give his name, saying he was "just doing his job"). Your good service is appreciated.

Continue reading this post »

By Scott Watson | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Posted at 3:45 PM ET, 07/14/2008

Really, Really Pathetic Stats

Gillum Ferguson

As many of you know, Nationals Park has a great big scoreboard out in center field. If you've ever heard team president Stan Kasten or owner Mark Lerner talk, you'll eventually hear something about how amazing the scoreboard is.

Unfortunately, our "great and amazing" scoreboard is putting up some of the most pathetic stats you'll ever see.

Just look up at the scoreboard when a National comes up to the plate. Ignore the low batting average and non-existent power numbers, but look in the top center of the scoreboard.

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By Gillum Ferguson | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Posted at 11:41 AM ET, 07/ 8/2008

The Other Nationals are Pretty Great

Rachel Gibson

I went to my first Potomac Nationals game on the 4th of July. It was exactly like the big Nationals only cheaper and the team played better. I was completely charmed.

Highlights:

Elite, Field Box Seats: $13
An attendant toweling off our seats, another taking food orders from our seats: priceless.

The manager, Randy Knorr, is also the 3rd base coach. My friend Amelia said he's also the mayor and runs the Post Office.

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By Rachel Gibson | Permalink | Comments (0)
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