After that game, I wouldn't be surprised if someone buys the naming rights to Nationals Stadium. Yes, I went to see the most hyped baseball player in recent memory debut in the major leagues, and the most amazing part was that Stephen Strasburg lived up to expectations. Maybe even exceeded them. I don't think anyone would have suggested he could have thrown a no-hitter in his first start, but a 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, and 14K performance certainly validated the hype and should give the entire city of Washington something to root for over the next decade.
With Ryan Zimmerman, Strasburg, Willingham, a rejuvenated Pudge Rodriguez, and a solid roster, the Nationals are actually in the playoff chase in mid-June. Plus, they have Bryce Harper coming up in a few years. If they can hold onto all of those players, the Nats could be good for a long time.
The game atmosphere was absolutely amazing - it felt like it did before the World Series last year. The park was crowded, Strasburg jerseys were everywhere, and all anyone wanted to talk about was how FILTHY his pitches were. Well, I guess I have to review the stadium, too.
Location: Nationals Park is located close to Navy Yard, kind of east of all the major DC landmarks. It was a 20-minute walk from my pledge brother's, David Sawyer's, apartment just south of the Capitol. Most of the entrants seemed to come from the same center field gate, and that's really the only complaint I have logistically. It was really crowded in center field even an hour and a half before the game. The area around the park isn't all that bad, either.
Ballpark: Nationals Park is actually the first LEEDS-certified green major professional sports stadium in the US and was built in time from Opening Day 2008. It's got a pretty expansive spot in center field with a Build-a-Bear, where you can build your own Screech (Nats mascot), a PlayStation area, and an Exxon kids zone. It's got some sort of ivy in center field, which pretty much every park has now, and a rooftop bar that you can go to watch the game. It was relatively easy to navigate, as well, which I have come to find is a huge bonus when attending a park.
Josh Gibson statue
Behind the plate
View from the seat
Food: The food actually lags a little bit here - they offer a Ben's Chili Bowl, which is a local hot dog and chili spot that's REAL good, but outside of that, they don't offer anything special. The SCPI was $12.50 ($4.50 dog and $8 beer), kind of on the mid to high end of where I expect the final index to be. I had a half smoke on Sunday (a split chili dog all the way) that was really good, but didn't have anything yesterday.
Game: Best game I've been to so far. It had everything - the hype, the pitching, a come-from-behind win, and a cream pie at the end to top it all off. I also love the Nationals' take on the Miller Park dog races, in which they have larger-than-life Presidents running around the field. The crowd favorite is Teddy Roosevelt, who always seems to start out strong but always loses. From what I hear, I'm not sure he's ever won.
Well Strasburg got through the first unscathed and hit 100 mph on his fastball a couple of times, but what is really awesome about his repertoire is a sick curve ball that he throws about 80-82 and a 90-92 mph changeup. Not sure stuff like that has been around since Nolan Ryan. After he gave up a 2-R HR in the 4th, he got some run support via a 2-R Adam Dunn HR and the Nats never looked back.
Strasburg's first pitch
A closer look
Post home run. Stras ready to go again.
After his first MLB strikeout and the end of the first
First at-bat. Turned out to be a really awkward play.
Summary: Big thanks to David Sawyer, who made it out to the park with me. The game had so much hype, I was worried it wouldn't play out well, but I guess I shouldn't worry with Strasburg on the mound. His performance continued to play into one of the most memorable first halves MLB has ever had. I'm excited about going to the Orioles-Yanks tonight at Camden, but the Nats stadium and the game last night certainly have left an indelible mark on the memories of this baseball fan. I look forward to coming back and would love to see the Nationals in the playoffs this year.
Me and Soy Sauce. I need to shave.