Friday, April 15, 2005

Too-Long Ramblings From The Game

What a game! What a night. It was really surreal sitting there in the stadium. I didn’t quite know what to make of it, but I could tell that I had one of those uncontrollable half-grins on my face. It felt right!

The stadium looked a lot nicer than I was expecting. One of the things I love about baseball is the color -- the intense green of the grass; the crisp whiteness of the uniforms; the hideous blackness of the Diamondbacks’ god-awful uniforms; the cerulean color of the sky at first pitch, and the way it disappears into the murkiness of twilight, and eventually into a fuzzy black color that plays tricks with the lights.

The corridors were what you’d expect from a stadium built in that era: dingy concrete. They were pretty narrow, but I didn’t really have a hard time moving around. The concession stands where scattered, and some were irregularly placed. And others seemed to have a mass of humanity in place of a line. I didn’t buy anything, in part because of the lines, but it seems like the waits were long, and the people sitting near me were complaining that they had run out of lots of stuff by the middle of the game. (Hello, Aramark! You knew it’d be a sellout!)

I was surprised at how good our seats were, all things considered. I was in the upper deck, 500 level, just to the foul side of the fair pole. I had a straight, clear view to the plate and could make out location and type of pitch pretty easily. The seats in dead center look like they’d be great for pitch ID, although there, the outfield fence disappears behind the overhang. In my section, just the left field corner was obscured, along with the home bullpen. I didn’t see where Vinny’s home run landed, but there was no doubt it was gone, even before the crowd went nutty.

Getting to the stadium was simple, at first. I met my friends at the Capitol South station, and while I was waiting for them, trains passed by every minute and a half, or so. Each was packed with red-wearing fans, and those getting on had to push, elbow, and bulldoze their way on.

When we got near the stadium, it was stop and go for a while. With the crush of people getting off the trains, it was taking extra long. And once on the platform, it was another sea of humanity, as there were only two escalators going up. (And one stationary presumably going down, at least until the crowd took that one over too.)

Once on the street, you walked along a fenced-in area, where the scalpers, but mostly scalpees, were out in force. I was tempted to just dump those two extra tickets I had, not knowing if they’d work. But, I resisted.

At the stadium, it was hurry up and wait, all over again. There was a long line to get through the metal detectors, as everyone undid their jackets, emptied their purses and bags, and trudged through. It probably took close to 40 minutes to get through. But, I made it, eventually.

After that, it was a breeze getting in the stadium and up the ramps to the upper nosebleeds, but not before I made a short detour. I ran down near home plate just to see the field from that level. I ran into John from Nationals Pastime there, who had brought his daughter. I can’t wait to see his pictures from his seats, the lucky bastard!

During the game, there were some glitches with the scoreboard and the sound system. The Navy’s Sea Chanters sang a mostly a cappella, mic-less version of God Bless America. The person in charge of balls and strikes routinely loused it up --either calling things wrong, or neglecting to update the board. (In fact, in the ninth inning the crowd exploded when Chad Cordero got a called third strike for an apparent strikeout. Too bad it was a 2-1 count!)

The Auxiliary scoreboards went dark for an inning or two. Just a hunch, but initially it read “D-Backs at Nationals” and later, immediately after the outage, that was changed to “Arizona at Washington.” I think AZ has been known to complain about teams using the D-Backs abbreviation. They may have requested that that be changed, fouling everything up.

The PA Announcer did a decent job, but he was a little late in announcing some batters. For one of the D-backs, he turned into a commercial fast-talker while the pitcher was in his windup. He also seemed caught off-guard by some of the pinch-hitters. “Now Batting… (PAUSE) Alex (PAUSE) (PAUSE) Cintron.” I can live with that, but what I don’t like at all is what happened in the ninth inning, where he didn’t announce a defensive substitute. If I hadn’t read it in the post, I wouldn’t have known that Sledge came in for Guillen in the ninth. The fans need to know that sort of thing.

At the start of the game, they didn’t play any of the canned music and applause cues, but as the game went along, they became more incessant. That needs to stop! The crowd showed plenty of life on its own without being cued. I think that if you do that, people stop applauding on their own, waiting for the right time from the Stadium Gatekeeper.

What they do need to do is put in-game performance for the batters up as they come to the plate, like what Camden Yards does. (It’d be nice if they used OBP and SLG on the scoreboard too) I wouldn’t mind a radar gun either, but that’s not the end of the world.

At one point, someone unfurled a banner from the upper deck that read, “Dear Peter Angelos, You suck! Signed, Everyone.” I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did before they made them take it down.

Getting out of the stadium wasn’t quite a breeze, but it was simple. Just follow all the other people to the exit. Instead of tempting fate with an overly-crowded Metro, I just walked back down East Capitol Street to where my car was parked on 5th. It’s about a 20-block walk, but given the lines in Metro, it’s probably quicker. I’d actually recommend that -- if you park near Lincoln Square (it’s 2-hour parking, but that expires at 8:30), it’s a pretty short walk. You avoid the crowds and the expense of parking. And, there were plenty of open spots, actually.

Alright, I’ve rambled on enough! It was a pretty damn good night, as I’m sure everyone there would say -- even those watching on TV, or listening on the radio enjoyed it, I’m sure. Now, what I’d really like is to recount this same journey in October! That’ll come in time though!


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