Field of Dream come true
Yes, sports fans, Washington baseball is now an official reality, but it will still take some getting used to. History will record that the first man ever to bat for the Washington Nationals in a regulation game was Brad Wilkerson, who hit a "Texas League" single to center field on the fourth pitch. History will omit the fact that I was about 120 feet above the field at Citizen's Bank Park (truly spectacular -- more on that later!), up in the nosebleed section with camera in hand. The Nationals scored the first run in the second inning, but the Phillies scored two in the bottom of the inning, and went on to win, 8 to 4. The good news is that the Nats played well, getting 13 hits and committing only one error. Terrmel Sledge (note corrected spelling) hit the Nationals' first-ever home run in the sixth inning, and in the seventh inning he had a chance to hit a grand slam that would have [put the Nats back ahead], but grounded into a double play. Arghhh! Nevertheless, because of that home run, I've pledged never again to make fun of his name. That will be hard.
Except for a very strong westerly wind, the weather was fine, with clear skies and mild temperatures. The view of the Philadelphia skyline was truly awe-inspiring. I was impressed by the large number of Washington fans who made the trek up there for their new team's first game; I would guess there were at least 500. Since both teams have red caps, however, it was hard to tell them apart. While strolling near the bullpen area behind center field I gave a "Go Washington!" cheer to encourage the Nats relief pitchers, which elicited immediate responses of "Washington sucks!" A warm welcome to the National League from the City of Brotherly Love! Many, many thanks to Phil Faranda for scoring the tickets and for treating me to a tasty Geno's cheese steak. He and his friend Keith made the historic game an even more enjoyable occasion.
I've heard from two folks who went to Sunday's exhibition game at RFK, one of whom, Rudy Riet, posted a photo on his Random Duck blog. Also present, according to the Washington Post (scroll down), was D.C. Statehood Party loudmouth Adam Eidinger, who disrupted the unveiling of the Nationals logo last November to protest public funding of the new stadium.
UPDATE: I meant to mention that I saw one fan at the game in Philadelphia who was wearing a Expos jersey. If I hadn't been otherwise occupied, I would have stopped to chat with him. There is no joy in Montreal this "silent spring," and the Washington Post quotes some former Expos fans who are extremely bitter.
Besides getting revenge against the Red Sox for the humiliating collapse last October, the best part of the Sunday night opening game in the Bronx was the thunderous applause for Tino Martinez, who has returned to the Bronx after being traded off to the Cardinals a few years ago. So now there are four Yankee players who were on the team during the glory days of the late 1990s.
I noticed that Adam Dunn hit two homers, helping the Reds beat the visiting Mets at Great American Ballpark. Just think, if he keeps up this pace, he'll rack up 324 home runs for the season!
CORRECTION: I just learned from Matt, who does updates on the ballparkconstruction.com Web site, that the new version of Busch Stadium will open next year, not in 2007 as I originally wrote on my March 29 posting, which has been corrected.