Nats Park Is a Sanctuary to the Sun

Scott Watson

To my druid ancestors in Scotland, I'm sure the sun had a celebrated personality and was the great giver of life, praised in songs handed down through the ages. For us unenlightened 21st century Washingtonians, it's a free source of light to be enjoyed from behind the tinted glass of an air-conditioned car or office.

But not in the eyes of the architects of Nationals Park. To them, the sun is clearly intended to be celebrated. Either that or they've got stock in Coppertone.

RFK, with its unusual curved-bowl shape and overhang, offered the tan and the pale some choices: During summer day games, you could sit down the third-base line and catch a few rays. Or you could opt for the first-base line, especially the upper deck, and huddle in the shade. Blondes and redheads worried about melanoma had a chance to hide while still enjoying the action. By the sixth inning of a day game, a lot of RFK was in the shade.

At Nats Park, all of the open space has a "price" for those who want to avoid being beaten by direct sunlight. I surveyed the park on Monday, which was a beautiful warm spring day. At the first pitch, only the uppermost regions of the 400 series of seats seemed to have any shade. (It was most pronounced on the third-base side.) By the sixth inning, that had extended to almost all of the 400 series. But the park remains a monument to open, airy, expansive . . . sunny baseball. For those who are sensitive, be forewarned.

P.S.: As I composed this entry, I simultaneously started mentally composing an e-mail to Stan Kasten, telling him that the Nats had missed a bet. The Scoreboard Pavilion is the perfect spot for a summer "mist" machine for patrons to cool down with and play in -- and maybe a water fountain/wading area, similar to the one in the Silver Spring Town Center, for the kids down near the playground. But I quickly came to my senses. Even in this day and age, people probably won't pay for a quick cooling dunk. What was I thinking?

By Scott Watson  |  May 27, 2008; 7:45 AM ET  | Category:  Scott Watson
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Or how about the shower stalls Bill Veeck used to have at Comiskey Park?

BTW, how come Grounds Crew hasn't done an entry yet on how many people detest "Sweet Caroline" being played at games? Nothing against the usher, but can't he learn to dance to ANOTHER song, particularly one not identified with another team (Boston)? Does anyone realize how ridiculously imitative it makes the Nationals look, especially next year, when the Red Sox likely visit D.C. for interleague play? Or do we locals have to kowtow to all the damn Ivy League Bosox fans who occupy D.C.?

Many of us hate "Caroline" more than Clint -- and that's saying something.

Posted by: Vincent | May 27, 2008 8:47 AM

Vincent doesn't like any sort of music played between innings. He believes the game should sell itself and everything else is useless and slows down the game.

However on the Sweet Caroline side, I have the feeling the Nats only have a couple of CD's which is why they play it every night. It's on both.

Posted by: Enlightened Fan | May 27, 2008 9:44 AM

Stan should really download some more songs on his iTunes. I will send him a gift card for that ASAP.

And re: "Sweet Caroline" - really, get rid of that now. Did you know creepy old Neil Diamond wrote that about a pre-teen Caroline Kennedy? Even before I knew that, I threw up in the back of my mouth a little whenever it was played.

Posted by: sid bluntley | May 27, 2008 9:53 AM

I agree with hating "Sweet Caroline."

Posted by: Lindemann | May 27, 2008 11:44 AM

My seats are in the lower part of Section 419, and I was incredibly comfortable during the game on Sunday. True, it was hotter on Monday, but I think I will enjoy my seats in the oxygen level even during the hottest days of summer. (I guess I will have to live with never catching a t-shirt, never being served a free pizza, and not being the occupant of the DC Lottery Luck Seat and being quizzed by Clint)

As for music and Sweet Caroline, I could live without any of it. You can barely talk to your neighbor, much less on a cell phone, when the music is playing. And the choices of "theme" music for players leaves much to be desired.

Posted by: Ed Ramras | May 27, 2008 11:44 AM

Death to Sweet Caroline.

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | May 27, 2008 11:53 AM

My seats down the 1st baseline yesterday were very hot to the touch and uncomfortable to sit in. We moved to the very top of the section to avoid the heat, as did many others. Maybe dark plastic wasn't the smartest choice. ALso, running out of bottled water by the 4th inning on a hot day? Good work

Posted by: Ross | May 27, 2008 12:37 PM

"Vincent doesn't like any sort of music played between innings. He believes the game should sell itself and everything else is useless and slows down the game."

Not true -- I like music at ballparks, if it's done right. But the songs used at Nats games -- with the exception of "Bustin' Loose" after home runs -- are overplayed and unimaginative, stuff that's been heard elsewhere. "Day-O" on a throw to first? Gee, how fresh. (Next year, they'll go back to "Volare.") How timid.

For example, instead of the overused "Shout" at the seventh-inning stretch, how about "Land Of A Thousand Dances" by Cannibal and the Headhunters (better than Wilson Pickett's version) or "Cynical Girl" by Marshall Crenshaw (a longtime D.C. fave dating back to the glory days of WHFS)? Find a song that can become distinctly Washington in a baseball context, a song no other team is using. If the Nats had come up with "Sweet Caroline" before the Red Sox, I wouldn't mind it as much.

Also, if you're not going to have a live organist at the park, a la Nancy Faust at White Sox games, don't play one at all. Canned organ music is dumb.

Posted by: Vincent | May 27, 2008 1:41 PM

Section 314, and most of the Gallery level behind home plate is in the shade, much to the chagrin of my sun worshipping wife.

And yes, when we once tried to grab a seat in the empty outfield sections late in a game so she could catch some rays, the ushers put the kibosh on that idea right away.

As for Sweet Caroline, I hate it too, but the mass of humanity seems to be singing along pretty loudly and lustily.

Posted by: Tom Brooke | May 27, 2008 2:18 PM

Was at the game it me or is the scoreboard up to its old tricks? After a batter came up a second time, there was no mention of his previous at bat. Same thing happened after a batter appeared a third time...

Are my decades-old peepers failing me? I thought the Nats fixed this?

Posted by: Annandale Annie | May 27, 2008 2:51 PM

"And the choices of 'theme' music for players leaves much to be desired."

Well, the players do get to pick their own at-bat music, so you know whose fault that one is.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | May 27, 2008 2:55 PM

We're pretty tired of Sweet Caroline up here, too. You can have it, really.

Posted by: Boston | May 27, 2008 3:13 PM

Annie--On Sunday I did not see any mention of past at-bats on the main scoreboard either. They just posted them on the auxillary (ribbon) scoreboard on the 3rd base side (I can't see the 1st base side from my seat), and even then, it was just after the 7th or 8th inning. Annoying, especially since I missed scoring the Brewers' big inning while I was getting my knish.

Posted by: Ed Ramras | May 27, 2008 4:09 PM

The Club seats are mostly in the shade all day, and the Suites are of course in the shade.

Posted by: Brandon | May 27, 2008 7:03 PM

You can take the team out of RFK, but you can't take the RFK out of the new park. Surly ushers, stupid right field gate not open to the public, running out of water. Sound just like RFK to me.

Posted by: DMan | June 5, 2008 12:31 PM

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