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Nats Opening Day Ups and Downs

At RFK today, the scoreboard said Mets 7, Nats 1. But Alfonso Soriano belted one out of the park and Ramon Ortiz looked good for three innings. Here's my own scorecard from the home opener:

Good: The new Red, Hot and Blue BBQ stand out at Section 300. Pricey, but popular and complete with both the vinegar sauce and hot stuff with a nice kick.

Bad: RFK remains the only stadium on Planet Earth without ice cream. (Sorry, packaged sandwiches and the always-reviled dippin dots simply don't count.)

Good: They've finally done something about the volume of the PA system, so you can hear the players being announced.

Bad: The sound mix is a mess and many of the produced bits on the big screen are accompanied by sound in which the background music drowns out all of the words.

Good: The Nats' impressive new TV announcer, Bob Carpenter, handled the Opening Day introductions.

Bad: The Nats have retained their stadium announcer from last year. A new owner should put this at the top of his To Do list.

Good: The Nats will be a frustrating team, but also an exciting one. Last year's anemic offense looks stronger, if only because Soriano can do so much. Rookies Ryan Zimmerman and Brandon Watson are likely to shake out as a real keeper and an incomplete player, respectively, but watching them grow into their new roles will be great fun. The pitching has gotten considerably worse since last year and that will be the struggle that makes this a long, long season. But we like long seasons.

Bad: Several fans said they hunted and hunted and couldn't find the half-smokes that we all fought so hard to get stocked last season.

Good: A happy, enthusiastic crowd greeted the Nats and even cheered Soriano, who behaved so poorly during the spring training dispute about what position he would play.

Bad: Vice President Cheney's appearance as the official First Ball tosser was marred by an embarrassing chorus of boos, tempered only slightly by some polite applause. Hate the policy, respect the office. Cheney didn't make matters better, sporting a surly attitude and wearing such a thick coat of armor under his Nationals jacket that he looked like the kid brother in Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story," the boy who gets so heavily wrapped up in sweaters and coats on a winter's morning that when he falls over, he cannot get up.

Good: A glorious, sun-drenched day ushers in the slower time of year, when evenings push their way into the space between the business day and the night. Opening Day marks the start of something warm and right.

Feel free to add your own ups and downs. See you at the ballpark.

By Marc Fisher |  April 11, 2006; 9:16 PM ET
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Good: That stupid "O" during the National Anthem has largely disappeared. If it must be done, save it for Baltimore (it's not appropriate at Caps games either, folks).

Bad: The 20-something-year-old idiots behind me, who sounded like they were from New York even though they were rooting for the Nationals, couldn't seem to say a single sentence without some form of a popular expletive beginning with "f." The idiot outside selling t-shirts referring to the Mets that used the Maryland fans' popular expletive that starts with "s" and rhymes with the "f" one also deserves dishonorable mention. Let the poor sportsmanship stay in College Spark.

Good: They seemed to have done a better job than last year of making beers other than the standard American pee-in-a-bottle readily available if you went up to the concourse.

Bad: The guy operating the cash register at the chicken stand near Section 220 appeared to be a trainee who had never handled money before. This should have been worked out before the opener. The two women at the Dos Equis stand weren't much better, as they seemed to be spending more time talking to each other than moving the line along.

Good: Placido Domingo sang probably the best National Anthem rendition I've ever heard. Let's bring him back more often.

Bad: The PA announcer forgot to tell us that the F-16 flyover was coming. I would have put my camera in rapid-fire mode, but instead I only got four quick pictures. (Agree with Marc Fisher's original entry that the PA announcer STINKS. We don't need to be told the batter's number each time he comes up--we can see it on his jersey! Tell us his position instead, especially for the opposing players we don't know as well.)

Good: The Metrobus shuttle to Union Station after the game worked great. I was at my office on 13th Street via Metrobus and the Red Line within 25 minutes of leaving RFK. I usually drive to games and will continue to do so, but this was a useful service.

Bad: The scoreboard operator is still incompetent. The Mets' lineup was missing the number 2 hitter, the wrong player was shown as being up at bat several times, and the count was often wrong. This underscores the point about the bad PA announcer--don't ask us to rely on the scoreboard for the players' positions given how often the scoreboard is wrong!

Posted by: Rich | April 11, 2006 10:06 PM

I just want to echo the terrible scoreboard and PA announcing remarks (particularly the PA emphasis on position, which actually matters, versus jersey number, which is pretty moot and is clearly visible on their jerseys).

Between the undynamic-duo of terrible scoreboard and announcing, the Nats are easily one of the hardest to score teams I've run across.

Posted by: John | April 11, 2006 10:19 PM

That's funny that Fish thinks we should hold the office of vice president in some level of respect that would prohibit us from booing. Please. If you're a politician and make a public spectacle of yourself, you deserve what you get. And Dick got it.

Posted by: Frankie | April 11, 2006 10:46 PM

I interpreted his point as being that it's low-class to boo the Vice President before he even throws the pitch. The poor pitch he threw deserved some level of heckling, no doubt about it--but to boo him just because you may not like his politics is dumb. There are far better, more effective, and more appropriate ways to heckle a politician you don't like. (The exception being Linda Cropp, who deserves whatever abuse she gets at RFK because the issue in her case is directly tied to baseball.)

Posted by: Rich | April 11, 2006 11:15 PM

I cannot stand this P.A. announcer, either. He is from the "contrived generic" school. Give us someone distinctive...and no, it doesn't have to be a Bob Sheppard "voice of God" (who are one in a million to begin with). I'd settle for a good, solid announcer who doesn't insult my intelligence, along the lines of the excellent Dan Baker in Philadelphia.

Wasn't able to hear all the game; I hope "Sweet Caroline" has been retired. If all the damn Ivy Leaguers in town want to hear it at a ballgame, let 'em go up to Boston and pay the $90 tickets. We don't want to be Fenway South, thank you.

Posted by: Vincent | April 12, 2006 3:07 AM

Good: RFK was much easier to get into than last year's opener with the metal detectors

Bad: The $6.25 smoked sausage had a bun that was exactly the same bread they used on our high school lunch cheesesteaks 10 years ago...but those rolls were fresher

Good: The Blue Moon beer stand right outside section 131

Bad: The obnoxious Shrek-looking Mets fan taunting little kids with his Mets hat/shirt/sneaker combo every time NY scored a run. High class...

Posted by: RL | April 12, 2006 7:48 AM

Vincent--"Sweet Caroline" was not played yesterday.

Posted by: Rich | April 12, 2006 7:50 AM

We should respect the office of vice-president enough to boo the living daylights out of Cheney until he resigns and someone that respects the institutions of our country takes his place. When I'm standing in front of his empty office, I'll applaud.

Posted by: Ryan Avent | April 12, 2006 9:34 AM

Good: The people booed an incompetent twit who happens to hold the office of Vice_President.

Bad: Fish whining about it.

Good: At least he admitted that it happened, and why.

Horrible break in journalistic ethics: Nakamura downplaying it, and blatantly lying in his article as to the motivations...pretending he was only booed because of the bad pitch. Apparently the crowd was made up of the College of Predictive Knowledge, given the booed before during and after the bad pitch.

Posted by: John | April 12, 2006 9:40 AM

Telling baseball fans they should not boo an unpopular politician is absurd. The fact that he is VP is no different from any other elected official, despite the perks. Here are three other good reasons to boo with gusto: 1)Cheney would be considered a war criminal in any other society except ours, which has its head in the sand. 2)Cheney was partly responsible for the wounds of the soldiers who stood nearby. 3) Any American male who cannot throw a baseball better than that and tries anyway deserves public humiliation.

Posted by: chris | April 12, 2006 9:46 AM

Good: It was a perfect day for baseball

Bad: I missed the 6th, 7th and 8th innings waiting in line for a smoked sausage because the woman working the stand had apparently never handled money OR smoked sausages before.

Good: I arrived at 12:50 or so, and was able to buy tickets, get through security and make it to my seat before the game started (missed the chance to boo Cheney, though)

Good: The people that sell the tickets and man the security lines, like last year, are unfailingly polite and friendly. It's a great way to start the whole experience.

Posted by: L | April 12, 2006 9:53 AM

there was ice cream (soft serve) up in the 500s. we were in 527 and got some in the concourse a couple sections over, though it was a little TOO soft and was almost liquid by the time we got back to the seats. i saw a TON of people eating dippin' dots though (bleh).

Posted by: imgoph | April 12, 2006 9:58 AM

FYI, the Red Hot & Blue pulled pork sandwiches were awful -- dried out to the consistency of cardboard.

Back to the Italian sausages for now.

The beer garden at the Red Hot & Blue stand looks REALLY promising though. The attendant said it will be open to the general public after opening day.

Posted by: Georgetown | April 12, 2006 10:39 AM

I second the soft serve availability in the 500s.

Around the 7th, the hot dog concession ran out of buns... I thought that if you bought in bulk, you didn't have the ten dog - eight bun dilemma.

Posted by: Union Station | April 12, 2006 10:51 AM

In addition to several of the good comments already posted (running out of buns, soft-serve on the upper concourse, and Cheney)..

Good: Metro's (free!) shuttle to Union Station was great and should be repeated for all games.

Bad: Metro single-tracking and infrequent service on the Blue-Orange Lines before the game. Lay off the track work (or at least turn trains around elsewhere to fill in gaps) when you know ridership will be high. They claimed trains would be every 6 minutes (insufficient to start with), but they weren't.

Bad: No free Washington Post Express scorecard. Was I just too early or have they stopped doing the baseball Homestand issues?

Good: A few more food options and even some of them in the stands (though mostly in the lower bowl).

Bad: The concession stand personnel and planning seem not to have gotten any better.

Inexcusable: Still no owner, still no TV, and still no notion of customer service by the team.

Posted by: nashpaul | April 12, 2006 11:05 AM

Please, Marc, this administration, and particularly this vice president, spends far too much time in a protective bubble. Didn't you hear that Cheney requires hotels where he stays to have the television pre-tuned to Faux News, so he'll seldom hear a discouraging word? It's quite fitting that, when he emerges from his secure undisclosed location, the public should give him a rare accountability moment.

Posted by: Richard B. | April 12, 2006 11:53 AM

You people spend far too much time whining about your misguided politics, and I mean that for BOTH sides of the aisle, conservatives and liberals. It's a friggin' BASEBALL GAME. Enjoy the game for the game (and the food if you can get it) and quit crying about who's in power or who's not.

Posted by: Rich | April 12, 2006 11:59 AM

Good: I was able to arrive at 12:30 and buy tickets.

Bad: I was able to arrive at 12:30 and buy tickets. Game should have been sold out!

So much of yesterday reminded me of the Senators...empty seats...bad baseball by the home team...

Also, what was bad about Cheney? The fact that he threw out the 1st pitch, or the fact that he was largely booed for it? To me, those are in both goods...the spring on of the (battery mate, in this case, of the) president starting the season, as well as the honorable tradition of registering dissent non violently.

Posted by: Frank | April 12, 2006 1:01 PM

It doesn't really take much time to note that Cheney is a schmuck, and I'd boo him 81 times if he came to every game.

See, Rich, that took like 12 seconds.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2006 1:27 PM

My point was that it's pitiful that you people can't stop obsessing about politics for long enough to enjoy a ballgame on a beautiful day like yesterday. Sometimes I think the clowns in this city must wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, "Ahhhh, how shall I hate [fill in name of politician] today?"

There's more to life than politics, people.

Posted by: Rich | April 12, 2006 2:14 PM

I saw quite a few kids in the 500 level with ice cream cones. Can't believe they brought them with them to the game.

Posted by: Arlington | April 12, 2006 2:52 PM

I managed to enjoy the game just fine, after booing Cheny for a few seconds. People here are commenting on Fisher's remarks, how stating a disagreement with him detracts from the enjoyment of the game does not connect. We're well aware that there's more to life than politics. That's why I was at the game. I didn't ask for Dick Cheney to show himself.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2006 6:57 PM

Hey, Marc, for those of us who can't bite into a solid stick of ice cream without searing pain running through our jaws, Dippin' Dots can be quite the treat.

Posted by: Sensitive teeth | April 12, 2006 7:06 PM

This sentence is too good for a newspaper (nice writin' Marc Fisher):

A glorious, sun-drenched day ushers in the slower time of year, when evenings push their way into the space between the business day and the night.

Posted by: | April 12, 2006 8:16 PM

Good (and all that really matters): You don't have to drive to Baltimore to catch a ballgame. Baseball in DC is great, despite the many minor irritations, and will only get better as ownership, TV, and stadium issues get worked out.

Bad: The minor irritations. I paid over $13 in ticket charges on a $32 purchase, including a charge to print my own tickets (thought that saved them money). The concessions lines in the upper deck concourse are still hideous; they've had a year to figure this out now. Can we not get a competent vendor for this service?

Cheney: The real issue for me is whoever made this decision is totally out of touch with the local community and just points once more to the need to get the ownership deal DONE. Whatever one thinks of this adminstration, they have never been shy about their disdain for Washington, DC. A real local hero should have thrown out the first pitch.

Posted by: Danny McGoldrick | April 13, 2006 11:28 AM

I didn't go to opening day because I didn't want to be incovenienced by someone for whom I didn't vote as vice president. However, I did go to Thursday's matinee and Marc is spot-on about the dreadful PA announcer.

Am I the only person who's noticed that once both teams go through their first turns at bat, the announcer just announces the names and numbers of the players afterward? Also, when a player is pinch hit for, he never says who is being batted for? And because he never announces where substitutes are hitting in the batting order, it's impossible to keep score unless you're listening to the game on radio?

Not all of us first-time rubes when it comes to having a team in Washington. I was 16 when the Senators left for Texas and taught myself how to score a game. But at then we had Phil Hochberg as the stadium announcer who paid attention to things like pinch hitters and lineup changes and who didn't scream at patrons during the whole game.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 14, 2006 7:54 PM

I am a die-hard Democrat who hates Bush/Cheney, but I did not boo and thought it showed a real lack of class, and established a really bad precedent. It is a long, long tradition (going back to Taft) for Presidents, et al., to throw out the first ball at a Washington baseball game --a non-political tradition that we should want to encourage and continue. Opening Day is a time when we should put aside our politics and appreciate that the person holding the office representing all of the American people (or, this year, his immediate surrogate) is present to make the event really special.

The many years without baseball in DC led to presidents throwing out the first pitch at other venues -- a tradition that can easily be continued if presidents find DC to be a hostile venue. Wouldn't we feel really snubbed if both Bush and Cheney had thrown out pitches elsewhere, but not here?

The precedent is awful: Now, if the next president is a Democrat all the Republicans will feel obligated to boo, and it will never end. Worse, Republicans will only want to throw out balls in red state parks, and Dems at blue state parks.

I would be really surprised if either Bush or Cheney throw out the first pitch in DC next year (especially if their approval ratings remain so low). I predict the First Lady will be sent, or worse, no one representing the WH, relegating DC to small-time status once again, even after we got a team.

Posted by: Democrat against booing | April 18, 2006 10:49 AM

Cheyney's a big boy, he can take it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2006 1:51 PM

Not to rain on anyone's parade. But is it any wonder that baseball is such a second tier sport these days. You would think that "baseball" fans woul have more to talk about than who threw out the first pitch. Not to alarm you. But your team lost the game! That seemingly should be more important.

Posted by: Baseball Skeptic | April 19, 2006 3:16 PM

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