The Nation Reports

Behind Enemy Baselines: Nationals Park

[Edit.: We love publishing accounts of games that members of Redleg Nation attend in ballparks across the country. Loyal member Anna Trainer, who is originally from Cincinnati, was fortunate enough to take in Monday night’s exciting 15-inning victory at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Anna was trained as a biological anthropologist and has listened to Reds games during excavations! Anna was kind enough to share her recent experience at Nationals Park with us. Thanks, Anna! — SPM]

If playing in an away stadium can be thought of as playing “behind enemy lines,” then we can all agree that Monday night the Reds withstood a harrowing 15 inning siege. Luckily, the Nationals’ stadium is a pretty decent place to be for nearly five hours.

I moved to DC from Ohio a little over two years ago, and have attended nearly all of the Reds games here in the District. The stadium was completed in 2008 and was the first green LEED certified major league sports stadium in the US. The stadium feels new and is a great place to watch a game, with lots of food stands and open areas to congregate and watch.

The area surrounding the stadium, near the Navy Yard, has not always been the best of neighborhoods, and even now there is not much to do there. However, they do have one place that is a must-stop before every game: The Bullpen.

Bullpen

Similar to Cincinnati, the area surrounding the stadium was devoid of eating/drinking options for a long time, even though there was a lot of empty space all around it. At some point, a group of enterprising folks got together, stacked up some unused shipping containers, got some beer and food vendors to set up shop, and The Bullpen was born. It’s basically a big area for baseball tailgating, with picnic tables and corn hole boards and is a perfect spot to prepare for the big game.

Monday night was an exceptional night for a ball game. With temperatures right around 70 and no humidity, arriving at The Bullpen about an hour before game time seemed like the right thing to do. I was joined at this game by my boyfriend and his cousin, all of us born and bred on tales of the Big Red Machine and whose earliest Reds memories are of Eric Davis home runs and Barry Larkin diving catches. Oh, and Chris Sabo’s goggles.

Surrounded by the usual assortment of DC Hill workers, with their Bryce Harper jerseys on top of their dress shirts and ties, we had a frosty beverage and then headed into the park.

Entrance

Because of the perfect weather, I was surprised that the stadium never looked more than half full. Nats games were once described to me as “The city’s biggest bar with a baseball game in the middle” and although that reputation has diminished since the Nats recent success began, it seemed to hold true on Monday night. This could be largely attributed to the long list of injuries on both rosters. For DC, a baseball game without Bryce Harper is like a football game without RG3…barely worth watching!

Our tickets were for one of the first level outfield sections, but we didn’t sit in them until the 9th inning. Little did we realize that we’d still have plenty of time to sit there! One of the best things about Nationals Park is that they have an upper deck standing area, similar to the Reds Moon Deck, that is free and open to anyone possessing a ticket. We were able to grab a table near the railing and had an unobstructed view of the game from right around Center Field.

OutfieldView

The first twelve or so innings of the game may not have been overly exciting to listen to, as I usually do, but actually getting to attend the game makes every long fly ball and Billy Hamilton break to second very dramatic! The double steal of Brayan Peña and Todd Frazier to score the first run had us all yelling our heads off. The weird circumstance where Billy got caught trying to steal home looked really strange live — I didn’t realize he thought there had been a balk until I read the game recap. Aroldis Chapman’s blown save in the 9th felt like a disaster. Overall, it was an eventful game to watch live!

There are unique features of the Nats stadium that you only experience if you are at the games. I always enjoy Jason Werth’s walk-up music, which in early innings is the Game of Thrones theme song and in later innings ominously becomes the theme from The Walking Dead.

One of the best parts of taking in a game at the Nats’ stadium is the nightly President’s Race. The race features an impressive ensemble of mascots — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and, new this year, Cincinnati’s own William Howard Taft. I was personally disappointed that Taft’s costume didn’t feature some extra padding. In my experience, Washington almost wins, but on this night Teddy ran out of the stands and body slammed Abraham Lincoln to the ground, resulting in a rare win for the Bull Moose. You could tell it was going to be a strange night when “Abe” was clotheslined by “Thom Tom” and “George” and a head popped out of his chest, Aliens-style.

One unfortunate aspect of attending a game at Nationals Park is that the game is often cut off early for those of us, like myself, who use public transportation to get to the stadium. The Metro cuts off train service on weeknights at midnight, whether there is an exciting game in extra innings or not. Sure enough, in the top of the 12th inning, they put up a notice on the scoreboard that said, “Last Metro Train Leaves in 20 Minutes”! Much to my sadness, this meant that we had to abandon the game early, with the Reds’ fate undecided. We streamed out of the stadium with the majority of the remaining fans, to wait for the last train.

Even riding the last train home is a fun part of the game. Because DC is a city of transplants, I was not surprised to find myself surrounded by as many Reds fans as Nats fans. Although we may have moved far away, it’s always reassuring to find that the love of Redleg Nation truly does stretch across the nation! We made it home just in time to turn on the MLB radio app and hear Marty announce that this one belonged to the Reds. It was a great night!

Anna

Thanks to Steve for letting me write this post, and to Ryan for letting me borrow some of his pictures!

9 thoughts on “Behind Enemy Baselines: Nationals Park

    • Yes – the Metro station is about a block away from the stadium. In fact, it is right next to the Bullpen that Anna mentioned. I used the Metro on Monday (and also had to leave early) and again on Tuesday (when I wish I had left early). The Metro is easy to use, convenient, and relatively inexpensive.

      • Thanks. When I lived in Bethesda, I remember hearing that something like 80 percent of the people who attended basketball or hockey games used the Metro. I know that station is basically below the arena (I used it once or twice). The subway is really convenient to Yankee Stadium, too. I wish Cincinnati had a convenient form of mass transit that could get me from the suburbs to GABP and back.

        • When I was there, I parked in Alexandria and took a boat to the stadium. Fun on the way there, but a little tedious on the way back (it took 45 minutes).

  1. I went to a Reds/Nats game in 2009. I found the stadium to be completely unremarkable; it was stifling hot and there were bugs everywhere; the food was awful; and the Reds lost a miserable game in which the winning runs scored on a dropped fly ball.

    However, the trip was worth it, because the previous day, I spotted Aaron Harang, Micah Owings and Chris Heisey walking around the National Mall and had a nice chat with them. Good times.

  2. Nationals Park seems similar to GABP in many ways except Cincinnati has the Banks and downtown nearby while the area near the Navy Yard is rather undeveloped. Also the handicapped parking was a long way from the stadium.

  3. A little late on the comment, but thanks for the write-up. Really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed my trip to Nationals Park last year, but unfortunately missed the Redlegs. Glad to hear it’s still a pleasant place to take in a beer near a baseball game.

  4. Thanks Anna, its pretty cool that Redleg Nation is represented in the nations capital. Really enjoyed reading your column, well done. As a transplanted Cincinnatian myself, just wondering if you miss Skyline Chili and Frisch’s Big Boy as much as I do. Oh! and LaRosa’s Pizza and steak hoagies. Go Reds!

  5. I am a native Cincinnatian who moved to DC a couple years ago as well, Anna. I have been to a couple games at Nationals Park and have never had a bad experience. I park at the Navy Yard because I am a government employee, but most people do take the Metro, as it is really close to the stadium. The Bullpen is a great spot to grab a beer before the game and you learn that there are a ton of Reds fans in the DC area!

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