May 1, 2005 [LINK]

40 K (& I) see Nats edge Mets

I finally got to see a Nationals home game at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, and unlike their inaugural game in Philadelphia which I saw, this time the ending was very gratifying. I expected there to be a big crowd, but the attendance exceeded my expectations: 40,913, the most since the sold-out Opening Day! Unfortunately, a fair number of them were Mets fans who made their presence known. My niece Cathy, her friend Yanira, and I sat up in the nosebleed level, on the left of the old football press box on the first base side. It was at least a clear view of the whole field, if rather distant. The crowd was fired up and the cheering got very loud at some points. As I watched the game unfold, I kept marvelling at how wonderful and perfectly natural it all looked, and wondering how this great city could have been deprived of such an experience for over three decades. The inside of the stadium looked very good, though the field itself could have been trimmed up a bit, and the old and grimy concourses were jam-packed with eateries and souvenir stands, raking in megabucks. How anyone could question the huge net positive economic effect baseball is having on Washington is utterly beyond comprehension. The Nats jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning thanks to another clutch double by Vinny Castilla, and solo homers by Ryan Church and Nick Johnson in later innings added insurance runs. There was a rain delay in the sixth inning, and another one in the eighth, when the grounds crew failed to get the infield covered by the tarp after multiple attempts with a dozen or so volunteer helpers. It provided great comic relief for the kids, who would have been pretty bored otherwise. (I also had a very unusual bird-watching experience while it rained.) The rain highlighted one of RFK's distinctive features: Since the vast majority of seats are covered by the roof or the overhanging upper deck, most fans weren't bothered at all by the heavy showers. (Actually, there was a leak in the roof above me, and I got hit by a few drops.) After 30 minutes or so, the grounds crew managed to get the infield mud covered, an exercise in futility, but the umps called the game soon thereafter, and the Nats won 5-3. Unlike last week, this time the ground crew's shortcomings worked to the Nats' advantage. For a wrap-up, see I'll have more to say on what I saw at RFK, plus some new photos, soon...

As seen by millions on ESPN tonight, the Nats let the Mets break a tie in the top of the ninth inning, losing 6-3 and failing to complete what would have been their second sweep of the season.