It’s good to be back writing about baseball!
To explain my absence, I have to start with on a personal note: I’ve taken a very unusual educational path in my life. I have to take a college chemistry class in the fall, but since it’s been so long since I took any chemistry class, I had to take a review course first. So, this past semester I’ve been studying chemistry in my “spare time” in preparation for the punishment of real college chemistry later.
To celebrate the end of my course, my friend Allie and I went to the Yankees-Nationals game in DC this past Wednesday. Of course it was another disappointing loss for the Yankees, but the experience itself left me with many things to remember – both good and bad.
First, there was the actual trip to the stadium. While I only live about 30 miles away from Nationals Park, I’ve lived in Maryland long enough to know how bad DC traffic can be. It is what it is – and on Wednesday, that 30 mile drive took a solid two hours.
We arrived at the center field gate just in time to see Brett Gardner stepping into the batter’s box on a screen inside the gate. Great! Even after a horrible drive and walking from the parking lot several blocks away, we arrived just in time!
Except that we didn’t make it through the metal detectors for two innings. Going into the game, I didn’t expect much for the Yankees – they had already been in a slump while the Nationals were hot – and I know what a fantastic pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is. Truthfully, I didn’t expect the Yankees to score much (if at all) off of Zimmermann, so missing the only two runs they scored while standing outside the stadium was disappointing, to say the least. We also missed a solo homerun by Ian Desmond in the bottom of the 1st and made it to our seats just in time to see the Yankees jogging off the field after the 2nd inning.
I’ve been to Nationals Park one other time (pre-metal detectors), so I know it’s a great park and the game would be an enjoyable experience no matter who won (and, mostly because of proximity, I do consider myself to be a semi-serious Nats fan; they are the only NL team I consistently follow). Anyway, this trip proved to be no exception. Our seats were in right center field below the scoreboard (it’s awkward not having somewhere to watch replays and challenges) and were reasonably priced for a popular visiting team on a weeknight. Our row had just seven seats: five Yankee fans, me, and Allie on the end wearing her Nationals hat.
In front of us were several school groups from all over, including Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Ohio. None of the school kids seemed particularly interested in the actual game: more than once they were yelled at by us and by the row of Nats fans behind us for blocking the view. The Massachusetts group started a “Let’s go Red Sox” which lead me to suspect their presence might have been part of a conspiracy by the Nats to anger the large number of Yankee fans in attendance (kidding). At one point, one of the girls in the crowd was walking around offering her friends some of her snack – a very generous offer, except that the snack was a can of sardines that literally stunk up all of section 242. (And no, I’m not making that up.)
As for the game itself, of course the loss was disappointing to me…but you never know what you’re going to get in a baseball game other than the final score.
Obviously, there are some really great players on both teams, and players that will certainly go down in baseball history. I always appreciate any games I see in person because you just never know what you might witness.
Bryce Harper is an incredible baseball talent – I don’t think there’s anyone that will argue that fact. While he is unbelievably gifted on the field, his actions make it difficult for me to fully like him. I hope some of his poor choices (such as spiking his helmet off the first base line after grounding into a inning ending double play during Tuesday’s game) are a result of his young age and/or immaturity. All that aside, he already – at just 22(!!) years old – has a historic career. If he quit today, he would still go down in history. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him play twice, and will see him play again in the future. That type of player is the one you tell your kids and your grandkids about.
But never in a million years did I expect to see Bryce Harper ejected during an at bat, let alone him and manager Matt Williams ejected at the same time. There are a lot of opinions about what exactly happened at home plate (the only thing I’m sure of was that Williams’ dirt kicking was phenomenal entertainment), but it will certainly be a moment fans remember.
Jordan Zimmermann may not be remembered as one of MLB’s greatest pitchers of all time (then again he might be – I don’t know what the future holds) but he’s been a damn good pitcher for Washington. His no hitter last season was one of the most exciting DC sports stories I can remember. Even though he earned the win against my favorite team, I’m glad I got to see him pitch. On the other had, as I mentioned earlier…I’m just glad the Yankees hit him!
I had originally planned to wear my Jacoby Ellsbury shirt to the game. Afterall, A-Rod wouldn’t be playing in an NL park, and Ellsbury is much less controversial to non-Yankee fans. As we now know, Ellsbury sustained a knee injury during Tuesday’s game which sent him to the disabled list. As a result, two things happened –
I wore my A-Rod shirt and did not receive a single negative comment (and saw at least two other Rodriguez shirts from my seat) –
And Slade Heathcott was called up from AAA to fill in for Ellsbury.
There aren’t many times I remember being overly excited about one particular thing in baseball, but hearing Heathcott got the call was one of those moments. If you haven’t heard his story yet, you need to. After all the personal and professional challenges he’s had to overcome, I am so happy to see him get his first chance in the Majors – and that I was there to witness it. Sure, it was only an offensive substitution (PR for Mark Teixeira in the top of the 8th) and half an inning in the field, but that will always the first MLB game of his career. That’s historic – and he must be making an impression since he started the next two games (and counting?) in center field at Yankee Stadium.
I cannot remember the last time I was ever excited to see another player more than Alex Rodriguez, but I definitely was for Slade Heathcott. Ellsbury is honestly one of my favorite Yankees, and as much as I hate for him to be on the DL, if it gives Heathcott a little more time to make an impression, I’m okay with that.
This has been a rough and disappointing week and a half for Yankee fans – particularly the last two embarrassments against Texas. We’re all hoping for luck (or management, depending on your point of view) to change in the coming games. In the meantime, hang in there. You never know what you might miss if you give up.
A Yankees fan walks into Nats Park…two innings late. Sees a hot headed superstar and his manager ejected from the game. Witnesses a rookie’s first MLB game. Goes home sad about a loss, but excited about a new career.
You can’t predict baseball!