At the Ballpark with Rich Galen


The game on Sunday marked the fifth week of the Washington Nationals first season in their shiny new ballpark in Anacostia.

Five Sundays earlier, the fi rst game in the new Nationals Park featured President George W. Bush on hand to toss out the fi rst pitch to start the game, Ryan Zimmerman smacking that dramatic walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth to end it; and all things were possible.

Other than a State Dinner at the White House, a seat for that opening game was the toughest ticket in town. Paid attendance was offi cially announced at 39,389 which was claimed a sell-out because of all the comps the Nats had made available. The Nationals Media Guide pegs offi cial park capacity at 41,222. Through 18 dates, including Sundays game, they are averaging 29,671 per game which will probably pick up as (a) fans recognize the Nats are winning regularly and/or (b) school lets out for the summer and more families come to the park on what would have been a school night.

At the beginning of the season, the Nats won their fi rst three games, then went 3-15 over the next 18 games, coming into this extended homestand at very weak 6-15 (.286).

The big news for Nats fans on Sunday was that Ryan Zimmerman was not in the line-up for the fi rst time in 205 consecutive games. The last game Zimmerman missed was on September 18, 2006. Zimmerman has been struggling mightily at the plate (.217) including going 1-13 in his last 13 atbats. Manager Manny Acta said they had talked about it, and decided that with no game scheduled for Monday, Zimmerman might well benefi t from two consecutive days off .

The answer to your question is: At the time his consecutive game streak ended, Zimmerman was 2,427 games (nearly 15 full 162-game seasons) shy of Cal Ripkins consecutive game record.

Th ats the bad news. Th e good news is that Nationals Park is still a fabulous place in which to watch a ball game. Sundays game was played in bright sunshine with a gametime temperature of 72 degrees. The official paid attendance of 30,564 agreed with me and the weather along with the way the Nats are playing will drive word-of-mouth marketing and the average will probably grow to the 32-33,000 mark for the season.

I have settled on coming in through the back door by parking in the Metro parking garage at the Anacostia station and taking the Green Line train one stop to the stadium which is a short walk from the Navy Yard station.

Getting There is
I have experimented with leaving my car in the garage under my building near Du-Pont Circle and taking the Red Line to Gallery Place, changing to the Green Line to Navy Yard, but the issue became: Where do I want my car to be aft er night games? Anacostia to Old Town is a quick trip, so that has been the best answer.

Also, the Anacostia Metro garage is free on weekends, so that right there youve accounted for about 80% of a Nationals Stadium hot dog.

Metro is very interested in getting fans to and from the stadium with a minimum of fuss and bother and a maximum of safety and confi dence so Metro police are highly visible before and aft er games.

Metro runs more trains from the Navy Yard toward Greenbelt to the downtown transfer stations than they do toward Branch Avenue which includes the Anacostia station. So, if you try my theory, be prepared for a couple of trains to come by your side of the platform but not stop they are going across the river, turning around and coming back to handle the much larger crowds going downtown.

This is why teams like to play at home: Over past 11 games at Nationals Stadium (including Sunday) the Nats won 8 and lost only 3 bringing their season winning percentage up to .438 only four games below .500 and more important only four games out of fi rst place in the National League East.

Coming into this 11-game stretch, the Nationals were a bad, bad team. Having won on opening night with Zimmermans high-drama bottom-of-the-ninth homer five weeks earlier, they won the game on Sunday, 5-2, in a workmanlike manner.

Over a 162 game season winning with high-drama is fun, but those tend to even out. Winning with good pitching, good fi elding, and timely hitting as the Nats did Sunday is the way to a successful season.