Thursday, April 10, 2008

Visit to Nationals Park tonight: Remembering RFK and Griffith Stadium (and Nats lose to Marlins, 4-3)

I was lucky enough to get a $45 “gift” box seat on the third base side tonight at Nationals Park, for my first visit to the completed Nationals Park on the Anacostia River in Washington.

The Nats lost their seventh straight, 4-3, to the Florida Marlins, who swept them. They are 1-3 in their new home. They started 3-0 and are now 3-7. Remember the 1962 “new Senators,” who started at 2-0? I didn’t expect them to get swept at home by the Marlins. They are now 1-3 at home and, except for opening night, haven't proved "home field advantage." They have yet to complete a game at home with an 'x' in the box score for the bottom half of the ninth inning. (They finally did this April 13.)

The Nats (ex Montreal Expos) returned to Washington in 2005 and played three seasons at RFK. The “new Senators” (an expansion team) played ten seasons at RFK 1962-1971, but the first season at old Griffith Stadium, with the fences moved back to their original dimensions. The original left field line at Griffith was over 400 feet; it was reduced to 350 in the 1950s for the “Old Senators” (Roy Sievers, etc) with the beer garden in the bleachers. Comparing baseball fields would make a good problem set in a high school geometry or trigonometry class. And there were a couple of physics lessons, especially in the ninth inning when Nick Johnson's double didn't quite get over the bullpen wall.

The new stadium is mildly asymmetric, with the outfield wall in six sections. Curiously, the highest wall is in straightaway right field, with the Nats’s bullpen near the right field foul pole (with about 2 feet of wall inside the pole). The new stadium has about the same foul lines as RFK, with the power alleys shorter, and dead center at 402 instead of 410.

The “showmanship” came with the right field scoreboard, which showed the detailed stats and biographical information of each player. (Marlins’s pitcher Mark Hendrickson was 6’ 9’’). The replays were in great detail, including infield execution, and the path of home runs (Belliard’s “rope” around the left field foul pole at 336 feet in the third inning). Much of the time the commercials and score board decorations emphasized red, white and blue. The Bobbleheads had a race along the warning track.

Here's another account of Nationals Park at an ad agency blog, link, April 9, "not a bad seat in the house".

Outside, there is a walkway from the Navy Yard Station on the Metro Green Line, with ads for I wondered where the old disco site for Velvet Nation could be; it is probably a condo now.

I've always wondered: when a game is made up in another city at the end of the season, does the scheduled visiting team still bat first? Does anyone know?

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