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May 2009. If truth be told some of these old travel reports are really tricky to put together. Take an old visit to a baseball match for example, a sport I know virtually nothing about, which took place almost ten years ago. Scraping together five passable photos and getting them into shape was fiddly enough, but then I find myself sitting here in the southeast of China wondering what an earth I can say about it. But the deeper I go into this never-ending travel report project the more of a completist I find myself becoming. In truth, I love the idea of the series serving as an almost all-inclusive travel directory of my global wanderings, which means sometimes I have to dig deep and craft something out of nothing. So let me take you back to my visit to Nationals Park Stadium in Washington DC’s Navy Yard neighborhood, home to The Washington Nationals baseball team.
May 2009. It was my second visit to Washington DC and in my infinite wisdom I’d jotted down see a baseball match on my city to-do list. As fate would have it I was in luck, as The Nationals were hosting The Philadelphia Phillies in some kind of pre-season friendly. As we took our seats that day among the home faithful, I couldn’t help but be impressed by this grand stadium and was surprised to see the game so well attended for a friendly. With a capacity of just over 41000, I figured it was almost two thirds full that day, with a flurry of unapologetic latecomers. The stadium was opened in 2008 at a cost of $693 million.
May 2009. I remember my friend Chris trying to explain some rules of the game to me, but most of it went over my head. With so much walking, talking, baseball cap fiddling, foot-scraping, gum-chewing and general inaction taking place on the field below, I couldn’t help but recall a Homer Simpson quote from the Season 4 episode Duffless. “I never realized how boring this game is!” exclaims a wide-eyed Homer, having been forced to watch a match without alcohol for the first time. Still, there were a few home runs to enjoy along the way and a thrilling moment where the ball was struck cleanly into a section of the crowd just to our left.
May 2009. In any case for me it was all about the atmosphere, which I found fascinating. The cheesy music between plays was amusing, while I found myself earwigging on a purely statistical conversation between the father and son sat in front of me. They had some kind of numerical cross sheet that Papa was working on with a pencil. Honestly, it could have been a mathematical discussion in Japanese for all I could get out of it. My favorite part of the day, and one that sadly I didn’t get any photos of, was The Dead Presidents Race during the interval. It was basically a bunch of half-drunk fans dressed in oversized suits and huge caricatured masks. I can’t remember who won, but I do recall the roar of approval that rippled across the stadium when Nixon fell over.
May 2009. I have zero memory of who won that day, though my online investigations revealed that The Phillies swept The Nationals off the park. What does stay in the memory is the huge and sublime chilidog I devoured from Ben’s Chili Bowl. National Stadium is best accessed from Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro Station on the green line. The exit takes brings you out onto the centerfield entrance, for the main entrance you’ll need to scoot around to the other side of South Capitol Street, SE. I remember we secured our tickets online in advance of match day, which is always highly recommended. They’re not cheap, if memory serves me well we paid between $60-70 apiece.
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