Part VI: Nationals Park
Two nights in a row at Camden Yards proved to be very memorable. How could that possibly be topped? I would try to answer that with a trip to Washington, D.C. For the day. Since this was a Thursday, I finally had a chance to mail some more post cards, and to get a haircut…. finally! Now I was ready to check out our nation’s capital… for only a short bit. The traffic getting there was abysmal. Apparently, traffic is usually pretty bad there with all the tourists meandering around the historical sites. Since I had really good tickets, and was aware of the awful parking near the park, I decided to forego checking out some of the sites and make my way to the park…
Ballpark 6: Nationals Park, elevation 6 feet…. or 25 feet depending on who you ask.
The game: Phillies @ Nationals on July 31, 2014.
Making my way to the park meant having to fight through even more traffic and the slums of DC. When I finally made my way down there, I knew I had to arrive early for a plethora of reasons. One of which was the price of parking. However, I could not find any street parking after about a half-hour of looking around. Finally, I settled on parking not too far from the stadium. How much was this parking?
Twenty-five dollars?!? This was parking about 5 blocks away near the pier, and was considered a fair price compared to some of the other parking around the stadium. At the Navy Yard, parking ranged from $30-35, and the closest parking to the stadium was $40 and up! I spent less for parking for two games at Camden Yards, and still had money for a hot dog. Of course, I had done some research and was glad to have parking for ONLY $25. Folks, if you’re going to attend a game at Nationals Park, either get a ride there, or carpool and split the cost of parking.
Check this out, if you want a better chance at catching a BP ball, go early and wait by the Center Field bleachers gate as they open the earliest. Entering here, you get a chance to check out some of the statues, the huge (but only decently stocked) team store, and some of the booths they have there. After all that, I had a chance to check out the field from the left field seats, and this is a great stadium! The views are good, and the scoreboards are very impressive.
Ticket prices: Having done the research, I knew how expensive the face value of those tickets are, so the first place I looked to was StubHub, and I was surprised that there were plenty of tickets all around. After waiting a couple days, I finally found one that I thought was a steal. Somehow, I got a single ticket for the Dugout Box (Section 114) for well below face value at just under thirty bucks. Those tickets have a face value of about $90 each, so I felt very lucky to snag that seat. Plus, it beats most of the other seats in that stadium.
Again, this is a ballpark that is built more vertically, so the seats behind home plate in the upper deck are much higher than most stadiums. Plus, getting to those top seats can be a bit of a hassle in this park. Because of the great view I had from the dugout box, I thought they were more than worth it.
The food: Since I was a first timer there, I made sure to stop by the fan assistance center, and asked where I could find a particular hat, at first. As it turned out, they didn’t have the hat I was looking for. To be honest, their cap selection at all the team shops were quite disappointing. Anyway, I also received a first-timers certificate and asked where the best food was located. I was directed to the G Sandwich Shop and got a big chicken parm sandwich. Despite the high price (price was $13.00), this sandwich was humongous and not messing around. Great food there, and I give a bonus point for having a restaurant named “Steak of the Union.”
The fans: A crowd of 35,722 came out… and a good amount of them were Phillies phans. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of “Natinals” fans there supporting their home team, but they aren’t as loud as some other places. I joked that most of them are there to be seen, or work in the business district just adjacent to the park. With those high ticket prices, you would be more likely to see fans in the upper class of the Washington, D.C. Metro area. All kidding aside, they cheered when their team scored, and groaned when their Nats either failed to score a run in a key situation, or gave up multiple runs. In other words, your standard crowd. However, I happened to sit next to some very friendly Phillies fans, one of whom (I hope) reads this blog, and wants to do this same trip when he gets older. Maybe at the season’s end, I’ll give a post on how to go about planning something like this.
The game: The first two innings went very quickly as Cliff Lee and Gio Gonzalez got off to hot starts. However, in the bottom of the third inning, everything came to a halt. After striking out Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee was looking fantastic. Then, on the first pitch of the next at-bat (Lee’s 31st pitch of the evening) against Denard Span…. something happened. Right away, Cliff Lee motioned towards the dugout and knew something was wrong and had to leave the game. As he was walking towards the dugout, he was holding his left arm and left many Phillies fans to say, “Oh no… not again.” As it now turns out, Lee is done for the season, but will not require surgery on his elbow. It was a horrible end to his short season, and it’s a shame.
Then the Phillies’ bats came alive as they put up a 5-spot in the fourth inning, and batted around. That pretty much took the crowd out of the game. However, the crowd perked up again as the Nationals had their Presidents Race! This is similar to the sausage race in Milwaukee, or the legends race in Arizona. On this particular game, Honest Abe Lincoln was the winner. Score one for the 16th President of the United States! After that, the Phillies scored two more runs in the sixth, and it was practically over. Philadelphia won 10-4 over the Washington Nationals, but the big story was Cliff Lee’s injury.
After the game, I was able to talk to the awesome fans next to me and get a few pictures from the field railing. The staff there was courteous and helpful, and asked about my experience there. I told them about my trip, and a couple ushers came down and were interested in my story. I did express that the parking was quite expensive, but that I enjoyed my time there.
To be honest, Nationals Park is a good place to watch a game. There are plenty of things to do at the park, and the food selection varies greatly. The one major minus that comes with this park is the high prices. The parking and tickets come at a high cost, and even the food was a bit high for my taste. I also have to give a small minus to the lack of selection at the stores. By the way, I found one of the hats I was looking for online… at a decent price! With my birthday coming up in a few weeks, that would be a nice gift! I’ll just put the link down here in case I have a very generous reader!
The big plus comes in the form of the Presidents race, and the kindness of the staff. They rank among the best in baseball and know the ins and outs of that stadium. Overall, I would come back to this place, but I’d have to find street parking, or bring more than just myself. Also, I would probably eat somewhere else before the game or bring some snacks. Again, I do recommend coming here… just bring some extra cash with you! Believe it or not, my next stop is back to Baltimore for another game. Yep, we’re going back to Camden Yards for another game!
Part IV: Citizens Bank Park
(AKA: Finally On the East Coast!)
After finally getting back from Phoenix early Tuesday morning, I became too busy for my own good. I should preface this article with a short story. In the midst of this ballpark tour, I was slowly moving stuff back and forth from my old place in Rialto back to my mom’s house (temporarily) in Chino. Not having a rent to pay for now actually helped me a bit on this trip, and I was able to afford to do a bit more, and save a few hundred dollars by NOT paying a rent for a space I wasn’t going to be home for. However, before I flew out to Philadelphia, I had to finish packing up my old place and get everything out of there by Thursday. It was a bit tough, but I managed to get everything done, and still have time to re-pack for this two-week East Coast trip. I had to pack just enough so I could bring back some goodies for, not only myself, but for family. Oh, and I won’t get into the troubles I had transferring planes in Atlanta and nearly not making my connecting flight. I’ll just say, arriving 20 minutes before the next flight departs can give you a heartattack…
At this point, I want to give a huge thank you and shoutout to my friend, Kris, and his hospitality for putting me up for a few days. He was able to attend the game with me, despite not being much of a Philly fan…. er…. phan and even warning me about the crazy fans they have at that ballpark.
Ballpark 4: Citizens Bank Park, elevation 19 feet
The game: Diamondbacks @ Phillies on July 26, 2014.
Leaving from Kris’ place to get to the ballpark wasn’t much trouble, and the weather was incredbly nice, especially compared to the blistering Phoenix heat. We arrived plenty early that way we could peruse the food menus and take a look around the park. While parking, I noticed something on the ground that looked like a home plate. Kris explained to me that his first concert was at the Spectrum (LUCKY DOG!) and that both the old Vet and the Spectrum were now parking lots for the new sporting venues. Not long after he said that, I realized that what we just drove by was where home plate WAS located at the old Veterans Stadium where the Phillies used to play. How cool is that? I’m glad they still recognize their history.
Parking wasn’t too expensive at fifteen bucks, and was reasonable for parking right next to the Vet home plate site. All around that area, there are several statues dedicated to Philadelphia sports, including the legenday manager, Connie Mack. Arriving inside the park, we are greeted very warmly! We are told that there is a free Saturday autograph table with a former Phillies player. As we get in line, I’m asked if I had a ticket for the autograph. After replying negatively, a nice lady in a wheelchair offers us two tickets for an autograph, and I’m eternally grateful!
Today’s autograph is from Placido Polanco, former All-Star and ALCS MVP (for the 2006 Detroit Tigers). Already, off to a good start! I’m also told that I should go to fan services and get a first-timers certificate. I thought this would be a neat thing to have, since I got one from Wrigley Field the year before. I wound up getting one AFTER the game.
The food: I will admit, I’m a huge foodie, and there was only one thing I wanted to try because I’d heard about it: The Schmitter. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, but this thing packs quite a punch! It’s a packed sandwich with lots of cheese, excellent steak, and even fried onions all served on a Kaiser roll. Here is a picture describing everything that’s in the Schmitter. Yes, the price tag is $10.50 on this thing, but I always love a good Philly cheese steak, and this one ranks up there!
Ticket prices: I will come out and say this right now: I got these tickets for free. Since I’m a huge baseball fan, and a big fan of my home team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, I went ahead and applied for one of those Extra Bases MasterCard credit cards. Besides, my free gift was a Dodgers NLCS blanket, and a large amount of points, some of which I had already previously used once before on memorabilia. This time, I used some of my points on something a little more feasible, baseball tickets! When I received the tickets, I saw the price tag. We were in section 426 (Terrace Deck), row 6. These tickets are WAY up there, and they have a face value of $29. These are on the third base side, but I almost got a nose bleed from up there. If those tickets were $29, I shuddered to think of how much other tickets in that park costs! I heard StubHub is decent for tickets in that park, but with the face value already fairly high, those savings might not add up to much. Thank you, MasterCard. Again, this is not a plug.
The fans: The staff and workers and Citizens Bank Park are top notch, and do a great job dealing with the notorius Philadelphia fans. Yes, they have a reputation to hold up… and that’s with good reason. Keep in mind that this is the fanbase that once boo’ed Santa Claus, and Kris even warned me about the fans. When I arrived, I felt like this was any other old park… and then I got to my seats.
In our section, we had people who I can affectionately say were colorful characters. They cursed, screamed, and let out some bizarre yells not heard in any other ballpark. During this particular game, Ryan Howard came out, and was promptly met with boos when he would strike out. That huge contract isn’t paying off for the Phillies, and the natives are pissed. Otherwise, I thought there were some friendly fans and I felt fine there. It’s those few crazy fans that can stick in your mind for a while.
I will give them credit for sticking through their team in the good and bad times and still coming out to the games. This season has been nothing but bad for the Phillies, and the fans are not afraid to show their displeasure. There was almost constant boo’ing throughout the game, but especially for Ryan Howard who has fallen out of grace with the fans. However, these are knowledgable fans who were, at least, rewarded with a championship a few years ago. Overall, I didn’t find them as bad as many people made them out to be! They have the passion and knowledge for the game that gives these fans a plus in my book. In the grand scheme of things, I’d rather have a tougher but loyal fanbase instead of a laid-back and fair-weather fanbase.
The game: Only 29,000 showed up for a Saturday night game?? I knew their attendance had been going down, but I didn’t realize it could hit under 30k for a Saturday night. Anyway, the Phillies had a 4-run 2nd inning started by a 2-run shot by Cody Asche.
Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley also drove in runs with one out. Then Ryan Howard happened. After already striking out in the 1st, he then grounded out to an inning-ending double play that drew a cavalcade of boos from nearly everybody in the park. Talk about a mood killer! The Phillies were more than poised for a huge inning, and they could use every run they can get. The next inning, the Phillies notched two more runs including a solo homer from Marlon Byrd. The home runs for the home team are accompanied with the sound of a “Liberty Bell” ringing through the stadium, and the lit-up Liberty Bell in the outfield. Pretty neat! Philadelphia had scored six runs in the first three innings.
They needed more than that.
Slowly, Arizona kept chipping away at the deficit eventually tying the game in the 7th inning at six runs apiece. I knew I could be in for a long night as the game came to a screeching halt. Since the game moved at a snail’s pace, I looked around the park at some of the nooks and crannies and noticed their out-of-town scoreboard had a vintage feel to it, but also detailed runners on each base. Also, in a nod to classic stadiums, an analog clock was used in left-center field next to the giant scoreboard.
Another neat feature is a two-tiered bullpen for both teams with the Phillies pen closer to the action. Aside from all that, there are some funky dimensions in this park with a very short wall in center field and a taller wall everywhere else. One other weird quirk I noticed… it is 330′ to the right field pole and that is marked on the wall. It is 329′ to the left field pole… but that’s marked on the POLE?
Anyway, this game would go into extra innings and half the crowd left. Some of them even said, “We KNOW what’s going to happen, I just don’t want to be around to watch it.” Sure enough, the Arizona D’Backs scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning to put them up for good, and they ended up winning the game, 10-6 in ten innings. The boos were loud and plentiful during that entire inning. But, these fans actually care.
Overall, this is a great park, albeit a little expensive. This place is built more vertically, so the top terrace seats really do feel like you’re far from the action. However, the experience was a good one, especially since I got a couple freebies… and didn’t have to pay for the tickets! Oh, this is also the town that masters its namesake chesse steak. Naturally, the food is top-notch here if that’s what you’re ordering. I highly recommend that sandwich, and this place is worth visiting at least once. Onwards to the next region of my trip, the Baltimore/DC area. For now, I hope you have a good day and hope to see you at the ballpark!