I can't think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day weekend than visiting our nation's capital and taking in a baseball game, and this past weekend, that's exactly what my parents, a couple of our close family friends and I did. Nationals Park is the fourth newest park in baseball, and it's the home of the newest team (albeit a renamed Montreal Expos team) in baseball. Washington's been wanting baseball back in the capital for years; does the new team and the new stadium fill the void? In short, yes.
We arrived in Washington, DC around 1 PM for a 1:35 game to avoid the sweltering heat as long as possible. Most of us were dropped off by the center field gate and we walked through some panhandlers and scalpers to the stadium. There's a lot of construction in the entire area, particularly around this street, and hopefully some outdoor restaurants and bars will make this neighborhood a little more friendly and less chaotic. For now though, the area around the stadium is clearly a work in progress. We quickly got into the stadium and I got my first look at Nationals Park.
Behind center field is sort of a neat feel, with a full outdoor bar and a couple non-traditional restaurants, not to mention a full team shop, and a wide-open meeting area sometimes populated by the Rushmores, the Presidential mascots of the Nationals. We proceeded to our seats through the wide-open concourses that are similar to most new stadiums, and were greeted with a nice panorama:
There's a glass building right next to the parking garage behind left field, which is apparently fairly new, that blocks what would have been an unimpeded view of the Capitol dome (you can see it from other parts of the stadium as you walk around the upper concourse). The Washington Monument also isn't visible from most of the seating bowl (you might have a shot from deep in foul territory on the first base side, or the right field seats). I'm sure they did this for a reason, but it would have been nice if more of the landmarks were more visible.
The game was on July 3rd, was really hot, and was pretty much decided after two innings. We took advantage of the game not being close to walk around the shady concourses and cool off a bit. (And as the son of an ex-Pirates-converted-Indians-fan, seeing the Pirates playing well wasn't awful either. For the record, that makes the home team 6-2 in games I'm visiting a stadium, with the two losses coming in the Bronx and in Washington, DC.)
My biggest concern with the park, and it's really just a symptom of the park being so new, was the area around it. The Nationals Park neighborhood is sort of, to be frank, a “recovering” district of DC. As the Nationals grow they'll want to subsidize some neighborhood restaurants and bars to create a Wrigley Field feel. But as I pointed out, this park is very new (just three years old) and the neighborhood still needs time to develop. I look forward to visiting again in 10 years and seeing where everything's at.
Nonetheless, walking around the park was pretty cool, and overall Nationals Park is a great place to watch a baseball game. It has a lot of nooks and crannies for seats (my favorites were the ones right above the Nationals bullpen in right, which are pretty much guaranteed to be in the shade) and some of the quirks, like the Rushmore race, are pretty cool too. With Stephen Strasburg coming back soon and Bryce Harper on his way up to the big leagues, this team will be an exciting product to watch too.
I recently got a new digital camera, so I was testing it out and taking a lot of pictures. You can see some of them here.