September 26, 2008

Closing Day, or You Can't Lose if You Don't Play

The NTP crew reunited for one last inaugural season bash at Nats Park under a light mist that occasionally swelled to a steady downpour over the course of two and a half hours. Matt, Dave and I were gung-ho for a 10 pm start time and a game played before dozens of soaked fans into the wee hours of Friday morning, but it was not to be.

Instead, half-priced inaugural season merchandise was purchased, ($5 is still too much to pay for a Felipe Lopez t-shirt!), Clint was menaced (Hey, Nationals Fans! Have a crippling beating!), and Curly W helmet sundaes were consumed. Best of all, the Nats didn't lose. Second best of all, no lines for Ben's Chili Bowl. Do I value personal convenience over good weather and a competitive baseball team? Yes, yes I do.

Fan Appreciation Night went on as scheduled, and I'm sure the several hundred fans still hanging around at 9:30 felt extra-appreciated when the players popped out of the dugout into the steady drizzle and, after a few words from Manny Acta began unburdening themselves of dozens of PNC Bank t-shirts that they'd apparently been hording all season. After that BP balls went flying into the crowd assembled behind the home dugout. (I would swear one Tim Redding toss was deposited back into the left field corner for what would have been an easy double, but my mind may have wandered.) MissChatter got the whole thing on camera, but her devotion cost her a coveted Wil Nieves bat.

The players certainly seemed appreciative, but few really embraced the moment. They should take lessons from Willie Harris, who engaged in a little impromptu showboating as his highlights were replayed in HD glory, and whipped up a fine call-and-response from the thinning crowd before skimming his cap deep into the lower bowl. With that one gesture, Willie vaulted way up the list of potential free agent Nats I'd like to see back in 2009.

If the night at the stadium was drama-free, the Nats Express trip back to RFK was anything but. Trusting in his internal compass and the infinite mercy of an omnipotent God, our driver saw no need to defog the bus windows, and our ride passed in a hazy blur of streetlights, indistinct road signs and quick-reflexed fellow motorists. Damp and unnerved but unbowed, thus ended NTP's inaugural season at Nationals Park.

The home season may be over, but Nats Triple Play rolls on. Stay tuned for some scintillating insights on economic development in the ballpark district, and news on why NTP will be severing its ties to Section 223 for the 2009 season.

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