In mid-July, we took a family vacation to the Outer Bank in North Carolina. Lo-and-behold, as we drove home on July 22, 2012, Nationals Park was right on our way and the Nats were playing a day game against the Braves. The original plan was for the whole family to go to the game, but then Colleen decided to go shopping (for hours-and-hours-and-hours) instead of coming to the game with us.
So, under mildly threatening skies, Colleen dropped me and the boys off at Nationals Park right as the gates opened. As we walked to the CF gates, Tim added a Nationals Park picture to his fire hydrant photos collection…
…and then posed for a photo with a Marine who (I think) was participating in a toys for tots collection effort. That photo scored us some points in the MyGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt!
We headed into the ballpark and down into the LF seats above the visitors bullpen and discovered that the field was not set up for BP…
…and some birds were relaxing in the seats waiting for the game.
A couple Nats were playing catch in RF. See that red arrow in the picture above? We decided to head up there because it was completely empty up in the 200-level (compared to maybe 20-30 people hanging out in the field level in RF).
When we arrived, I took this picture of the boys…
…and Kellan made that hilarious face.
Tim looked around and was all like…
…, “Where’s Mateo?”
As you may recall, our last game was also at Nationals Park and we met up with MyGameBalls.com member and MLBlogger, Mateo Fischer, at that game. So Tim just figured we’d always see Mateo at Nationals games from now on. But Mateo was nowhere to be found.
But Tom Grozelanny (who was wearing Lance Nix’s old glove) was there:
I had no clue that this guy was Gorzelanny at the time (actually, Mateo identified him for me after the game). When Gorzelanny and his partner walked out to RF to play catch, we waved at them from our seats in the second row and Gorzelanny gave us a big wave of his own.
When Gorzelanny finished playing catch, he got the ball back from his partner and attempted to throw it to us. But he completely missed the upper deck. He then went back to the bag of baseballs and grabbed a second ball. On his second attempt, he intentionally tossed the ball five rows over our heads. Since no one else was nearby, we had no problem finding the ball as it trickled back down toward the front row.
Interestingly, Tim, Kellan and I got a ball in exactly the same, two-attempts, second attempt launched over our heads method last September in just about this exact same location. And guess who the two attempt making player was that time? The one and the same, Tom Gorzelanny!
After getting the ball from Gorzelanny, he headed over to LF. Tommy Hanson was playing long toss at the time…
…and we headed over to the first row by the LF foul pole. In that picture above, an usher yell is about to yell at Tim from the field for leaning over the railing to touch the foul pole. Booo!
The Braves were on an odd schedule on this day. The pitchers never came out as a big group to warm up along the LF line. Instead, one pitcher would come out at a time and play catch in LF, about half way between 3B and the outfield wall. Until 12:05, we couldn’t get into the infield so there was no action anywhere near us.
When they finally opened the rest of the stadium, he headed in and watched Johnny Venters warm up with Alan Butts:
As you can see, they had a bunch of baseballs sitting in the outfield for the pitchers to use to warm up, and several of them were Dodger Stadium commemorative baseballs!
But the weird, one-guy at a time method worked against all fans hoping to get a toss up. We only watched two sets up pitchers warm up before we left the 3B line. But every single Braves pitcher dropped his warm up baseball back in the pile *for the next guy* before heading back into the dugout. I looked back about 10 minutes before the game started and that same group of baseballs was still sitting there. Not of one of them was missing.
Anyway, while we wanted to get one of those Dodger baseballs, we decided to leave the field level after Chad Durbin and his partner finished playing catch (they had followed Venters). We headed off in search of pizza. Amazing, we walked all the way around the stadium and somehow missed the pizza place, which was right at the beginning of our walk. So we ended up getting our standard (and delicious) Nationals Park nachos:
We ate the nachos in the shady seats by the RF foul pole. In that picture of Tim, he is questioning why he would put the cap back on his bottle of water after drinking some water. He just couldn’t fathom why a cap should be reapplied to the top of a water bottle once opened. Sometimes (well, often times), Tim likes to inject fictitious drama into otherwise mundane of situations.
After eating, it was getting close to game time. But we headed back toward CF to check out the kids play area. Unfortunately, there was a line at the play area. We’d have to wait to get in. So we decided to come back later. Instead, he headed over to the MASN booth and got some funny pictures:
The MASN booth was also handing out free posters, which doubled nicely as bats. We took the bats to a little shady nook behind the Red Porch and the boys took a whole bunch of practice hacks with their posters:
We had great seats for the game in section 135, row P (seats 1-2):
And, ever better, they were free!
Even with the great seats, we didn’t stay put too long. Tim had dippin’ dots (in a cup, no helmet option!) and Kellan had a twist soft serve ice cream helmet.
While they ate their ice cold refreshments, I watched the Nats push four runs across the plate in the bottom of the first inning:
The biggest blow of the first inning was a 2-run homerun by Ryan Zimmerman. The first also featured singles by Steve Lombardozzi, Mike Morse, and Roger Bernadina, and a double by Danny Espinosa.
Last Nats game we attended, rookie phenom Bryce Harper played CF. At this game, he shifted over to RF:
You may notice something cool if you enlarge that last picture. In that picture, you can tell that Harper jams two fingers into her glove’s pinky hole and doesn’t use the index finger hole. He’s certainly not unique in that, but it is a cool little nuance of the game that I’ve never captured on “film” before.
In the bottom of the first I tried to get a picture of Chipper Jones getting a hit. He got the hit. But a fan below us stood up and blocked my view right when Chipper made contact. So I had to settled for this much less historic and satisfying picture of Brian McCann not getting a hit:
And then it was time to check the situation at the kids’ play area. This time, it was all clear. Tim got right in and went to the playing. Kellan is only two and isn’t allowed (by the Nationals) to go up into the play area yet. So he had to settle for throwing one of our cloth baseballs…
…off the walls of the net room below the big slide.
After our round of playing ended, we headed back to that little shady nook where the boys ended up playing catch against the wall for a bit:
Tim was doing some great catching. His catching has improved about 450% over the past six months. I credit it to going through his first season of T-ball where he finally got to see how much fun it is to play defense. Before T-ball, all Tim ever wanted to do was hit and hit and hit and hit, and hit some more. Now he loves to play catch. I love it.
As we headed back toward the RF foul pole, we were met by an alarming scene. I couldn’t get my camera out in time to get a head on look, but…
…as we approached the escalator and stairs up to the second deck, a big group of about 20 cops, stadium security, and medics were walking down the stairs and the medics were carrying a fan strapped to a board. I have no clue what happened. But it was pretty crazy to see.
We ended up walking all the way around to the team store behind home plate. But we had to leave the team store quickly because I Ryan Zimmerman came up to bat. It was the bottom of the fourth inning. And, oh by the way, Zimmerman had hit his second homerun of the day an inning earlier to give the Nationals a 6-0 lead. I didn’t want to miss it Zimmerman blasted his third homerun of the day.
Nope. He lined out to Jason Heyward to end the fourth inning.
I just ran over to the standing room area in the concourse behind the 3B field level seats to watch Zimmerman. When Zimmerman lined out, we turned around to head back to the team store and guess what we noticed? The pizza place we had walked right by without noticing it earlier in the day.
So we grabbed a couple slices of pepperoni and headed back to our new favorite “nook” at Nationals Park to eat our pizza in the shade. But turns out the Presidents had just raced and they were posing for pictures in our precious nook! So we wandered a bit further toward RF and enjoyed our pizza at one of the picnic tables in the concourse:
After eating our pizza, we headed over to the RF foul pole. Kellan has only been to a few Nationals games, but at every one so far Jim Lett has tossed us a warm up baseball between innings at the RF Nationals’ bullpen. We’d stopped by the bullpen earlier in the game with no luck. I figured we would give it another shot.
We hung out a bit in the SRO area just behind the field level seats. Shortly after arriving, Bryce Harper hit a weak grounder up the middle for his only hit of the day…
…and Zimmerman again failed to hit his third homerun of the game.
We ended up hanging out by the foul pole for about 2.5 innings. The first inning, Jim Lett tossed both warm up balls into the seats in foul territory.
We had a great view of both Bryce Harper…
…and Jason Heyward from our standing room spot behind the Nationals bullpen.
We were only going to make one more attempt before heading back to the play area. The second time we headed down, Jim Lett passed along his warm-up position to one of the Nats relievers. He threw one warm up ball into foul territory and kept the other.
But it wasn’t a fruitless attempt. While the reliever was warming up Harper, I noticed that a stray baseball was sitting on the ground right below me and the boys. I also noticed Nelson Robledo hanging out down in the bullpen. I called out, “Hey, Nelson.” When he turned around, I pointed at the baseball and gave him a “could you toss it up to us, please” look. He pointed at the reliever (who I really think was Drew Storen) and gave me a “he’ll toss you one of the warm up balls” look.
When Storen (we’ll call him Storen, I really think it was) pocketed the second warm up ball, I called out to Nelson again and pointed at that stray ball again with a “how about now” look. And he gave me a “hmm…yeah, I got you, man, but not until next inning” look.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Oh, I forgot to mention, shortly before this inter-action with Robledo, Kellan fell fast asleep in my arms. It was well past his normal nap time.
We hung out for one more inning in the SRO area. Tim did some birding with the camera on my phone. We both tried to get a picture of Harper catching this fly ball…
…and only Tim succeeded.
I got Harper grounding weakly again:
He reached first one a throwing error.
Before the start of the next inning, which must have been the eighth inning, Nelson looked for us and then…
…tossed us a baseball from the back of the bullpen. Kellan was still asleep at the time. I’m not sure why, but the second I squeeze that baseball in my glove, Kellan’s eyes popped open and he was wide awake.
I shouted out a, “Thanks, Nelson!” (hmm…maybe that is what woke him up…), and Kellan immediately reached out and grabbed the baseball out of my glove while calling out, “Baseball!”
I think it was a nice way for him to wake up from his nap.
We headed back again to our nook to play catch a little more:
A line was already forming in the CF-LF concourse for post-game Kids Run The Bases.
By the way, the Nationals were pounding the Braves 9-2.
Rather than wasting time standing in that line while the game was still on. No, instead of getting in line, after playing a little catch, we headed here:
We wanted to make a post-game umpire ball attempt and we found some great seats just about 10-11 rows behind the Braves dugout.
We watched Craig Stammen polish off the Braves and…
…then watched home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez unload all of his baseballs to kids in the diamond club seats behind home plate.
No problem there. Tommy Hanson gave Tim some post game love in the form of this uniquely mis-stamped baseball:
Finally, it was time to hop into the still long kids run the bases line:
As we walked toward the field through the Nationals bullpen, we got a behind the scenes look at the view Robledo had when he tossed us that baseball and hour earlier:
Tim and Kellan locked hands and then headed down the warning track…
…towards Kellan’s first kids run the bases experience.
When we reached the track behind first base, the boys were off to the races:
I thought Tim was going to run with Kellan, but the thrill of Major League base paths got to Tim and he turned on his afterburners. By the time Kellan was 10-15 feet out onto the field…
…Tim was already to second base (behind Teddy and all of those Nats employees).
When Tim was cruising past the short stop hole…
…, Kellan slammed on the breaks and stopped half way between first and second.
I followed Tim with my camera and caught him giving Abe Lincoln a high speed high five as he approached home plate:
I then looked back to the right side of the infield and Kellan was still standing in the same spot. One of the gals working the infield for the Nats scooped up Kellan and ran him around the bases:
It was pretty funny. She set him down a bit before home plate and tried to coax him into running the rest of the way. But he was having none of it. I think he was enjoying the ride. So she scooped him up again and they crossed home plate together.
When she set him down at home plate, he ran off toward the warning track at full speed with a big huge smile across his face. So, despite getting a little overwhelming getting out on that big field all alone, he seemed to enjoy his first kids-get-carried-around-the-bases experience.
Before heading out, I took several odd pictures of the boys, and this was the best one:
As we left the field, there were some Nats employees handing out freeze pops. The boys loved them:
Moments after leaving the stadium, Colleen scooped us up in our car and we finished our trip home from vacation. Tim nailed it while we were walking in the concourse and he told me, “This is a great way to end a vacation!”
2012 C&S Fan Stats
|15/13 Games (Tim/Kellan)|
|18/17 Teams – Tim – Mariners, Rockies, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Athletics, Orioles, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves; Kellan – Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Mets, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Pirates, Braves|
|22 Ice Cream Helmet(s) – Phillies 2, Orioles 1, Mets 2, Twins 2, Cardinals 3, Royals 2, Rockies 3, Red Sox 2, Pirates 3, Nationals 2|
|1 Ice Cream Glove! – Nationals|
|81 Baseballs – Mariners 9, Marlins 4, Mets 8, Nationals 4, Phillies 5, Umpires 6, Orioles 6, Athletics 1, Diamondbacks 4, Blue Jays 1, Twins 1, Cubs 7, Cardinals 1, Royals 6, Red Sox 6, Rays 6, Pirates 3, Rockies 2, Braves 1|
|11 Commemorative Baseball(s) – Marlins Park, Mets 50th Anniversary 2, Camden Yards 3, Dodger Stadium 4, Fenway Park 1|
|10/9 Stadiums – Tim – Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park; Kellan – Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, Coors Field, Fenway Park, PNC Park4/1 Mascots Photos – Tim – Sluggerrr, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, George Washington; Kellan – Fredbird|
|3/1 Player Photos – Tim – Ricky Bones, Willie Bloomquist, Jeremy Guthrie; Kellan – Willie Bloomquist|
|2 Batting Gloves – Ronnie Deck|
|5 Autographs – Willie Bloomquist 2, Tim Byrdak, Brian Roberts, Munenori Kawasaki|