By Josh Dratler | Contributing Writer
I fondly recall my grandfather’s splendid tales of watching the Brooklyn Dodgers—today based out of Los Angeles—at historic Ebbetts Field. But in the six-and-a-half decades, since Major League Baseball departed from New York’s most populous borough, America’s game has experienced a steep fall in popularity. This decline has culminated in me, unlike my forebears, having little interest in baseball.
Yet last Saturday, on an idyllic cloudless afternoon, I was in our nation’s capital, witnessing the last-in-the-league Washington Nationals square off against their fellow basement dweller, the Miami Marlins. The lingering question in the minds of many attendees was which team would win or if their favorite player hit a homeroom. I simply wondered when the President’s mascots will race! So to my baseball-indifferent comrades, here’s an overview of my experience.
By sheer luck, the game coincided with a promotion, whereby the first 5,000 fans ages 3 to 12 received a “Nationals Screech Handmade by Robots ™ Vinyl Figure”—whatever that’s supposed to mean. One of my fourteen-year-old cousins, who joined me on my baseball escapade, described the item as “the perfect chew toy for [their dog] Quincy.” Presumably due to a sparse turnout, these souvenirs were handed out liberally, so I snagged two for easy holiday gifts. Baseball fans can also order these custom stadium cups for sale online.
A short walk later, I reached my seat. It lay among an island of blue plastic chairs, each lightly dusted with a powder of dried leaves. Situated twenty-something seats back from the field, between home plate and third, the view of the field was stellar. Ambitious children with little mitts in tow lined the netting in front of the first row, hoping to snag a ball during warm-ups. Being the food-driven creature I am, I headed toward concessions, eyeing a refreshing drink. My luck continued, as for whatever reason, the man working the stand I went to gave me a Sprite at no charge.
Once the game commenced, the Nationals made quick work of Miami’s batters, before nabbing a home run to take a 1-0 lead. The Nats continued putting up points until the fifth, netting a single run in each of the first five innings. The Marlins scored once in the third and hit a two-run homer in the fourth, temporarily knotting the game at three before the home side took the lead for good.
While Washington’s fortunes remained high, my good luck expired. At the conclusion of an inning, a Miami player hurled a baseball into the stands. Thanks to the desert of seats surrounding me, the ball was mine for the taking, as it head towards the empty row of seats in front of me. But after getting lodged in a seat, I lost track of the ball, allowing a man from a neighboring section to grab it before me.
Hoping to eat away my sorrows, I opted to grab a bite, unknowingly missing most of the much-anticipated President’s Race as a result. For food, the stadium had an array of overpriced ballpark classics, from $7 hotdogs to $8 soda and $6 cracker jacks. I made the mistake of assuming ballpark quality can be overcome for a price. I dropped more money than I’d like to admit on a “medium-rare steak sandwich”, lured to it by the short wait time. However, the steak was closer to well-done and barely edible. Lesson learned: a baseball game is not the place to be adventurous with food.
With the Nationals still ahead 5-3 in the middle of the seventh, my party departed to get a head start on traffic. We managed to catch the end of the game on the car radio—the score held for a 5-3 Washington win.
All in all, despite caring little about the game’s outcome, for seven and a half innings I had a blast. I had the luxury of attending the game on someone else’s dime, but even if you can’t drop the dough for an MLB game, a minor league game would certainly offer a similarly fun experience. The Lancaster Barnstormers play a stone’s throw away from F&M. Even if you find the game boring, you can always talk to friends or meet new people. Just try to select a promotional game if you want a free souvenir and either stick to the classics or smuggle your own food in.
Junior Josh Dratler is a Contributing Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.