Thursday, November 1, 2007

Special Report: Nationals Fever

While I must note that one of the top moments in Survivor history occurred tonight (so good we had to rewind and re-watch), today I focus on my visit to the Nationals' new home. Some standout moments/thoughts:
  • I'm walking next to Stan Kasten in what will be the kitchen of the restaurant whose seats make up the center field bleachers. "So, baseball question for you. Rumor has it that Torii Hunter wants to come to D.C., that he's friends with some of the players." The response: "You're fooling yourself if you don't think that any player will want to go to whichever team offers him one more dollar than any other team." Should have seen that coming. My response: "Just like any of the rest of us would do, I suppose."
  • They really need Hunter or someone with a big name. In the sales brochure I got on luxury suites (some of the cheapest still available for only $160,000 for the season), they have three different pictures of Nationals players. Question: How many of those pictures are of Ryan Zimmerman? Answer: Three.
  • We did a very comprehensive walk-through of the stadium. Every level, a variety of views, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It most reminds me of the new park in Philadelphia. The infield grass was just put down yesterday -- it added a great bit of realism.
  • It's going to be a real hitter's park. They said it has 16 fewer feet of foul territory on all sides -- it's really tight. The dimensions are about 335 down the lines, 370 in the alleys, and 404 straight away, with an angled cutout emulating old Griffiths Field that goes out to 409. It feels really small, especially compared to RFK. Plus, home plate is on the river side and it feels like the wind will be blowing out most days.
  • The seats behind home plate are called the President's Club. The bar area inside, furnished with leather and exhibits about presidential first pitches, includes the ability to watch the batting cages behind the dugout and the press conference room. It was cool to see it today, because I sure as hell won't see it once the park opens.
  • The clubhouse is oval, apparently so that no player can dominate a corner like Barry Bonds. I was actually a bit surprised that the weight room seems smaller than the one at Camden Yards.
  • The best view in the stadium is from the two-story team offices and upper level concourse on the first base side. Unfortunately, it's of the river with Alexandria and the Masonic shrine in the distance and it's behind the stadium. Contrary to at least my belief, the monuments don't really come into view. Because the Washington Monument is to the west, MLB understandably would not let it be part of an open view since the setting sun would constantly be in players' eyes. However, the Capitol, to the north, can't really be seen either. It would be just to the left of the huge scoreboard in center field, but the pre-existing Lerner building blocks part of the view, a soon-to-be-built twelve-story building blocks another part, and the worst part of the stadium blocks the rest. The decided to have the main entrance in center field and for some reason built twin parking garages at either side of the entrance. Only the top two levels will be used for parking because the rest will be team operations offices and stores. Even with trim and a paint job, the garages promise to be an eyesore. The lack of a real city view is by far the most disappointing part of the package and, to me, automatically bumps it down out of the top tier of parks in the majors.

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