Turner Field, Atlanta – Visit #20

Friday, July 29 –Braves 2, Phillies 1

Turner Field is in its last year before the Braves move north of town to a new stadium.  It was converted from Olympic use to baseball after the 1996 Games.  A games-remaining countdown is underway, so we saw John Smoltz and Tom Glavine tear off the paper “30” sign on the left field wall and reveal that 29 games now remained.

stadiumAccess:  Accompanied by my daughter on summer break from teaching school, we drove to Atlanta and spent some time in town before the game.  Parking was easy in a lot adjacent to the stadium, and cost only $10.  Exit after the game was typically slow for a bit, eased, then slowed again through a night life district on our way back to a hotel by the Georgia Tech campus.

Seats/pricing:  As usual, I went for the upper deck infield seats.  No discounts.

View:  The field is on the edge of the downtown area, so has the tall-buildings view typical for in-town stadiums, but nothing spectacular.

signs

Tom Glavine and John Smoltz helped on the games countdown – Tough to hit one this far

Food:  We had the best food I’ve found so far, by now more than halfway through the 30 parks.  It was labeled a steak sandwich, but really was 7 ounces of thick-sliced rib roast that were tender, flavorful, and very high quality.  The vendor is Kevin Rathbun, operator of an Atlanta restaurant.  The sandwich was well worth it at $15.50.  For $28, you could get the 11-ounce version suitable for a football lineman.

steak-sandwich

Beer:  Beer was toward the lower end of the ball park price spectrum with 12-ounce domestic and craft brews for $7.75 and 16-ounce craft for $9.50.

Crowd:  27,732.  The Braves were recognizing heroes from years past.  Before the game, they signed autographs at tables set up throughout the main concourse, and then were introduced on the field.  Smoltz and Glavine drew some of the biggest lines.

smoltz-glavine

                      Smoltz and Glavine sign autogaphs                             Smoltz’ plaque typical of many outside the park  

Neighborhood:  Turner Field is pretty much surrounded by freeways and parking lots, so there’s little immediate neighborhood action.  But the plaza behind center field offers activities for kids and even a sit-down restaurant that is open to all, not restricted like the club restaurants at many parks.  The plaza includes markers showing the distance from home plate – too far, however, for any realistic expectation of a home run to the spot.

art-et-alArts and visuals:  A nice assortment of player statutes dot the entry plaza.  One of them wasn’t even a former Brave – Ty Cobb, known as the Georgia Peach when he starred for the Detroit Tigers early in the 20th Century, honored in his home state.

statues

Clockwise from top left: Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb

Baseball Moment:  Atlanta’s veteran Nick Markakis singled home the winning run in the third inning as part of a three-hit, one-walk night that provided most of the evening’s offense and gave Tyrell Jenkins his first victory.  Jenkins worked an effective six innings, yielding one unearned run on four hits and four walks.  He said after the game he was too nervous to watch the ninth, so retreated to the clubhouse as the Phillies put run runners aboard before a force-out ended the game between teams going nowhere in the race to the playoffs.

markakis-out-stealing

Markakis’ game-winning hit     –     Chase d’Arnaud ruled out stealing after a replay reversal

Globe Life Park, Arlington – Visit #19

Tuesday, July 26 – A’s 6, Rangers 3

On this final stop of a swing to Missouri and Texas, I completed my jinx perfecta:  all four home teams lost.

stadiumAccess:  I drove up from Houston, visited a cousin east of Dallas, and then fought rush-hour traffic over to Arlington, missed a turn, backtracked, and finally found my way to a parking lot by Globe Life Park.

Seats/pricing:  Here, you could bring the third base line over home plate and to the upper deck; it would be just to my left.  I caught a bargain night special at $10, so this was at the top of the value list for the trip.

View: There’s not much to see except, from some outside upper concourse locations, Jerry World (AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL Dallas Cowboys).

ranger-uniformsFood:  Barbecue is offered at many parks, and it seemed an especially logical choice in Texas.  But I wanted something a bit different, so rather than ribs or pulled pork, I got a turkey leg.  I asked for a knife, but the vendor said the meat would fall right off the bone – it did!  It was tender, flavorful, and all-around delicious.

food

Lots of food variety at Globe Life Park, and a bat/ball table to eat it on

Beer:  Priced from $7.50 to $9.25.  Less expensive then Houston, but it couldn’t be the Texas taxes.  Saw a nice collection of craft beers at one location.

Crowd:  25,272.  Politics usually stay away from ball parks, but fans here had an opportunity to “Ask us for a Vote Yes! sign – Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers With No New Taxes”.  Globe Life Park opened in 1994, so now efforts are underway for a new building, with consequent tax issues involved.

signsNeighborhood:  Just parking lots, plus AT&T Stadium.

Arts and visuals:  Another ball park honoring Nolan Ryan, this one with a statue along the concourse behind center field.  There’s also a Texas Rangers Hall of Fame inside the park, with plaques and memorabilia marking highlights since the Rangers moved to Texas from Washington DC in 1972.  No mention of the predecessor Senators, who began as an expansion team in Washington in 1961.

ryanBaseball Moment:  Three homers in the fourth and fifth innings staked the A’s to a 4-0 lead they never surrendered.  Sonny Gray, in what could have been a showcase for a trade-deadline deal, got the win, yielding all three Texas runs in the fifth and completing six innings with eight strikeouts.

sonny-gray

Minute Maid Park, Houston – Visit #18

Monday, July 25 – Yankees 2, Astros 1

I saw some Houston Colt 45s games during their 1962 inaugural season, but those were in San Francisco.  In 1965, the team moved to the new Astrodome, Major League Baseball’s first indoor stadium, and changed its name to the Astros.  I never saw a game at the Astrodome, so I had to be satisfied with its nicer, though less historic, successor.

stadium-exteriorAccess:  After a day of sightseeing, I drove to Minute Maid Park on the edge of downtown Houston.  Each block I got farther from the park, the price for parking dropped $5.  I wound up three blocks away for $15.  Fair enough.  The exit for a few blocks along some jammed streets was fairly slow.

Seats/pricing:  Extend the first base line through the plate and up to the second deck, and there I was for $45.

View:  The roof was closed on this night, but through the many windows behind left field, you could see some of the Houston skyline.

stadium-interior-windowsFood:  This is Nolan Ryan country. Nolan Ryan has a plaque outside the park.  Nolan Ryan has a ranch. So, it was no surprise to see Nolan Ryan Beef featured at two food spots.  I opted for the steak fingers at Texas Legends Grill.  I envisioned some strips of round steak or other mid-level cut, probably breaded.  Nope.  It probably was low-end steak before it went through a grinder, but it came out as a formed shape.  The taste was okay, but the quality of the meal sure didn’t compare to a Nolan Ryan fast ball.

ryan-beefBeer:  I spotted regular draft for $8.75, a regular can for $11.25, and a premium can for $12.25.  Pretty pricey.

Crowd:  30,628.  After Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the crowd joined in for a rousing Deep in the Heart of Texas.  Many parks have kiss-cam, dance-cam, and other between-innings variants, but I’d never seen mirror-cam before coming to Minute Maid.

stadium-interior-features

The train rolls for homers – The flagpole is in play

Neighborhood:  Bars and restaurants are along streets to the north of the park.

Arts and visuals:  Statutes of Craig Biggio throwing to Jeff Bagwell highlight an outdoor plaza that also includes plaques in honor of Astros’ stars and championships.  Inside, an old steam engine rolls back and forth above the left field wall.

outside-statutes-plaquesBaseball Moment:  The Astros called up highly touted Alex Bregman to make his major league debut at third base, and he got a very warm welcome.  Alas, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.  George Springer hit a leadoff homer, but that was it for the Astros’ offense.  Austin Romine’s double in the eighth plated the winning run.  Andrew Miller, who’d just inherited the closer’s role from traded Aroldis Chapman, did the job for the Yankees in the ninth.

bregman

keuchel-correa

Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City – Visit #17

Sunday, July 24 – Rangers 2, Royals 1

This was my first visit to the Kansas City ball park since 1981, when it was called Royals Stadium.  Among the middle-aged parks in MLB, it has perhaps aged best.

stadiumAccess:  I had an easy morning drive from just west of St. Louis to the exit for Kaufmann Stadium.  Helpful attendants let me park in position for a quick exit back to the highway and my tight plane connection.  And, the charge for next-to-the-stadium parking was only $12.  After the game, the quick exit worked great.

Seats/pricing:  As usual, I went for a high infield view.  The added consideration this time was shade in the mid-90s temperatures.  If you extended the third base line through the backstop and up into the top deck, you’d hit my $23 seat.

signage

Standing room is limited in some areas – One of many big-moment signs                        Rest rooms do double duty

View:  The complex housing Kauffmann Stadium and the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium is southeast of town.  The only outside view is a highway.  But inside, the renowned fountains in center field are a visual highlight and even offer something of a cooling feeling, at least psychologically if not literally.  Views of the field from the main level concourse are limited.  A sign even limits standing to ticketholders in the immediate area.  However, the concourse continues outside the main seating area and completely encircles the stadium.  From center field, there is lots of viewing room.

fountainsFood:  Kansas City is famous for barbecue; I was referred to the Barbecue Shack on the giant center field concourse.  It offers brisket, pork, pulled pork, and burned ends.  I went all in for the faux batting helmet that began with a big layer of tortilla chips in the bottom, with brisket, baked beans, cole slaw, corn, sauce, and (at my option) onions on top for $15.95.  I never did make it through all of the chips, but I got all of the good stuff in a stomach-stuffing adventure before the game.  Excellent.  A pair of moderate eaters could consider one helmet and two forks.

bbqBeer:  Some variety at $7.25 to $11.00.

Crowd:  32,739.   On this Sunday afternoon there were many kids and lots to do on the center field concourse, which has a feeling something like Eutaw Street in Baltimore.  Kids’ activities include a batting cage, pitching site, a small field, a carousel, even mini-golf, and a stage for MC-led kids’ games and contests.

Neighborhood:  There isn’t any, at least insofar as pre- and post-game dining, drinking, and entertainment is concerned.  But the center field concourse offers lots of shopping, eating, and beverage opportunities.

kids-area

Lots of activities for kids on the center field plaza

Arts and visuals:  The Royals Hall of Fame also is on the concourse.  Unlike, say, Cincinnati, there is no separate admission charge.  Statutes of George Brett, Frank White, and the late manager Dick Howser are outside on the concourse.  Poster-like signs on many support posts on the inside portion of the concourse display great moments in Royals history.

statues

Frank White, Dick Howser, George Brett

Baseball Moment:  Only three days up from a trip to the minors, Delino DeShields homered in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie for the Rangers’ victory.  He also doubled, walked, and had a stolen base batting at the bottom of the order.

action

Ian Desmond misses a pitch in the dirt                                                                                                                                             Kendrick Morales beats the ump to home plate after a home run                                                                                                       Edison Volquez midway through six strong innings

Busch Stadium, St. Louis – Visit #16

Saturday, July 23 – Dodgers 7, Cardinals 2

St. Louis was my first stop on a four-city air and rental car swing.  I’d seen old Busch Stadium from the outside, but never attended a game in the city.  But just for the history of the team, this was one of the most anticipated visits of the summer.

 

busch-plus-others

Old and current Busch stadiums

 

Access:  I drove in from my hotel in suburban St. Charles and found a parking garage at $20 just two blocks from Busch Stadium.  The exit was typically congested for the few blocks leading to the interstate.

Seats/pricing:  I sat almost directly behind home plate on the upper level for $71.90, purchased on-line three weeks in advance and including the assorted rip-off “convenience” charges.

views-from-stadiumsView:  Lots to see from Busch Stadium, including the St. Louis Arch, a bridge east to Illinois, the original capitol building that now is city hall, and other downtown buildings.

Food:  I asked for something local and was steered to a specialty from The Hill, the Italian section of St. Louis where Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra grew up.  The taste treat was a meat ball cone:  five giant meat balls (four or five bites each, not those little cocktail size) topped with a marinara sauce and plenty of cheese in a firm, but not crisp, cone.  Really good

meatball-cone

Beer:  Mostly $8.75 to $9.50, naturally featuring the offerings of Anheuser Busch.

Crowd:  45,477.  Cardinal fans are among the baseball world’s most loyal, knowledgeable and decked out in team attire.  But they didn’t have much to cheer about at this comfortable Dodgers’ victory.

cards-nation

Stadium from Cardinals Nation and vice-versa

Neighborhood:  Cardinals Nation, the Budweiser Brew House, and Ballpark Village form a complex just across the street from the left field stands is a huge gathering spot pre- and post-game.  There are a number of food, ice cream, and beverage spots, plus an outdoor mini-field for little kids.  Other spots are just another block away.

Arts and visuals:  With their rich history of championships and stars, the Cardinals have numerous statues outside Busch Stadium and plaques lining the sidewalk.

statues-newer

Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson 

statues-older

Cool Papa Bell, Rogers Hornsby, George Sisler, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial 

Baseball Moment:  Justin Turner’s two-run double in a four-run third inning broke the game open early for the Dodgers.

catcher-adventures

The adventures of Cardinals catcher Alberto Rosario

Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Visit #15

Saturday, July 9 – Orioles 3, Angels 2

Oriole Park at Camden Yards was my “home” park until the Nationals came to Washington. I attended the park’s opening game in 1992, its All-Star Game in 1993, and shared season tickets for about 10 years.  As one fan’s shirt said, it set the tone for the new ballparks that followed.  But it has one huge drawback:  there is no view of the field from its concourses; you enter the seating areas through tunnels.

Plaza View Concourse

Left: the game view plaza behind the right field wall scoreboard; center: downtown Baltimore; right: nice wide concourse, but you can’t see the field from there

Access: An easy drive up I-95 and the short I-395 spur dropped me right at the ballpark.  When I shared season tickets, I could then turn immediately into reserved parking.  This time, I had to drive two blocks north of the park to a garage, where parking cost $25.  A Baltimore light rail line also stops right at the stadium.  So does a commuter rail line that runs to and from Washington, but only on workdays.

 

Seats/pricing: Fifth row of the upper deck looking from home plate straight up the third base line cost $42.00.

View: Downtown Baltimore is the centerpiece of the view past center field.  The locally iconic Bromo-Seltzer clock tower used to be a feature, but it now is blocked from most of the seats by a large plain boxy hotel to the north.  From Eutaw Street, you can still see the clock.

Food: A nice variety from hot dogs to crab cakes is available, but the signature location, as it has been for years, is Boog’s B B Q on Eutaw Street.  “Boog” is Boog Powell, the home-run hitting first baseman who helped the Orioles to four American League championships and two World Series titles during his stay in Baltimore from 1961 to 1974.  His barbecue stand opened along with Oriole Park in 1992.  I had the pork sandwich with an array of self-added toppings and sauce.  It was a bargain at $10.00.  The double-meat version at $15.00 would have been overwhelming.  As I ordered and ate, Boog (who looks like he could put away the double-meat version with ease), posed for pictures and signed autographs for a line of fans.

BoogsBeer: Nothing very special here.  Regular size servings of a few crafts at $9.50, premium at $9.00 and mass market at $8.00.

Crowd: 43,288.  A first-place home team, a clear day, and a Manny Machado garden gnome giveaway combined to essentially sell out the park.  O’s games, especially in good weather, have a very high percentage of orange-clad fans.  They’ve been known for years for the “O” yell during the National Anthem at the line beginning, “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner . . .”  A much newer chant comes now when shortstop J. J. Hardy comes to bat.  The announcer says “the shortstop, number 2,” and then thousands yell in unison with the announcer:  “J. J. Hardy.”  Somehow, the initials and rhythm make it work.

Men’s Rooms: Clean.

Neighborhood: The immediate neighborhood is Eutaw Street, inside the turnstiles and alongside the warehouse behind right and right-center fields that visually defines Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  The main team store, a separate outlet team store, various food and beverage stops, and even commercial tents dot the street.  Outside the park, numerous restaurants and bars dot the street to the north, and the tourist-centric Inner Harbor is just a short walk to the east.  The Baltimore Ravens’ NFL stadium is just to the south, across parking lots.

Eutaw Street

Crowds on Eutaw Street; sidewalks inserts mark home runs that land on Eutaw Street; warehouse wall marks the east side of Eutaw Street

Arts and visuals: A Babe Ruth statue stands on the plaza behind center field, close to where The Bambino’s father ran a bar in early 20th century Baltimore.  Oriole greats such as Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, and Eddie Murray are honored with large, modernistic, metal, block, uniform numbers.

 

Oriole heroes

Orioles Hall of Fame plaques on Eutaw street; Babe Ruth statue and giant numbers (this one for Jim Palmer) on plaza north of park entrance

Baseball Moment:  A balk.  The Orioles trailed 2-1 in the seventh inning when Jonathan Schoop singled, then moved to second on a J. J. Hardy single and third on a sacrifice.  Joe Smith relieved and promptly dropped the ball during his pitching motion.  The balk brought in Schoop with the tying run.  The Orioles won with another run in the eighth and a game-ending double play in the ninth.

 

O's action

Left: Mark Trumbo hits a league-leading home run; center: ball girl fields a beach ball behind shortstop; right: Zack Britten closes out the Angels

 

Follow-through

Compare the follow-throughs of Manny Machado and Albert Pujols

 

 

PNC Park, Pittsburgh – Visit #14

Sunday, June 5 – Angels 5, Pirates 4

After two rain delays in Cincinnati the previous afternoon, I wasn’t optimistic as the rain followed me east. Through the morning the rain continued, heavy at times.  But my weather app said the rain would top at noon—and it did.  The grounds crew quickly rolled the tarp, prepped the field, and the game began right on time.  By late game, the sun was shining brightly

Pre-game rainAccess: I drove in from the west, hopped off the freeway within sight of PNC Park, circled past Heinz Field, and pulled into a parking lot across the street from the first base/right field side of the park.

Seats/pricing: This was by far my closest seat of the trip – second row behind the visiting team dugout on the first base side.  I didn’t splurge; the ticket and parking pass were a much appreciated birthday gift from work colleagues.

View: The view behind center field, past the Roberto Clemente Bridge, over the Allegheny River and into downtown Pittsburgh is spectacular.

Into and out of the park

,Views from the Clemente Bridge and to the Clemente Bridge and downtown

 

Food: Several people recommended the Primanti Bros. “Pittsburgher” cheese steak.  It was terrific.  It was so huge that I ate half of it at the game and the other half on the drive home.  You could also get charcoal-grilled burgers on the right field deck.

Primati Bros. sandwich

Beer: Beer was reasonably priced (for a ballpark).  $11 for a 24-ounce can, $8.25 for a 16-ounce can (or $9 for a premium brand).  Draft was $9.  Great Lakes Brewing and Sam Adams offered craft brews for $9.

Crowd: 27,754.  The pre-game rain put a premium on ponchos and umbrellas, and send many early arrivers into the restaurants.  Sunday day games are typically heavy to families, and this crowd was perhaps even more so as the Pirates honored Girl Scouts with a pre-game parade around the field.

Men’s Rooms: Clean.

Flood line

The Allegheny River, at right, flooded in 2004 up to the park

Neighborhood: Some of the neighborhood, in the form of drinking and eating establishments, is outside the park gates but within the park structure.  There are others in the immediate neighborhood, and downtown Pittsburgh is just a short walk away across the Clemente Bridge.

 

Arts and visuals: A statute of Roberto Clemente stands at the north entrance to his bridge.  On the west side of the park is a statue of Bill Mazeroski memorializing his walkoff homer that won the 1960 World Series.  The added touch to this tableau is a section of the outfield wall from old Forbes Field over which the homer flew.  Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell also are honored with statuary.

Statues

Left to right:  Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell

Baseball Moment: Albert Puhols’ two-run, come-from-behind, game-winning homer in the top of the 8th negated a serviceable pitching job by Pirate ace Garrett Cole, who’d held the Angels to three runs through 6 2/3 innings.  The climax, however, came in the last of the 9th when the Pirates loaded the bases with one out.  But Sean Rodriguez grounded into a double play.

 

Trout

Mike Trout

 

Just a bit high on the steal throw

Left, Evading the runner to complete a double play; right, just a bit high on the steal throw

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati – Visit #13

Saturday, June 4 – Reds 6, Nationals 3

The impact of rain was the highlight (or lowlight, for Nationals fans) of this game. Stephen Strasburg was nursing a 2-1 lead into the 6th when the first rain delay came.  It only lasted 21 minutes, but when play resumed, Strasburg gave up a two-run homer to Joey Votto and left the game a few pitches later with leg cramps.  In the bottom of the 8th, tied at 3, the Reds put two on with two out, but then the rains came again, this time with lightning and for more than an hour.  Adam Duvall, due up next, got some indoor batting cage work.  When play resumed with a fresh Nationals reliever, he smashed the fourth pitch for a three-run homer that won the game.

Rain delay 2

While it poured in the park, the sun was breaking through outside the park

Access: Driving from the northeast, I exited a freeway almost at the park, circled briefly, and found a $10 parking spot a block away from the “official” $20 spots.  Post-game exit was pretty quick along several surface blocks before entering the freeway.

 

entrance marker

The pitcher-to-batter/catcher statutes are placed at regulation distance

Seats/pricing: For $32, I sat in the fourth row, upper deck between home and third.

 

View: Beyond center field is the Ohio River with its ship and boat traffic, and Kentucky on the other side.

steamboat KentuckyFood: In Cincinnati, I thought German, but the Taste of Belgium was recommended.  So, I had a Belgian waffle with spicy chicken.  The waffle had more of a biscuit texture than you’d find from your typical kitchen waffle iron.  But the combination was quite good.  My principal complaint about Great American Ball Park is that it offers no souvenir soft drink cup.  I’ve been getting a souvenir cup at every park, but here there was none to be had.  A server lamented that there hadn’t even been souvenir cups at the 2015 All-Star Game.  To add insult to injury, there were no lids or straws available for the regular soft drink cups.

Beer: Lots of craft and premium options at $9 and $13, plus mass market draft at $9.25.  Most distinctive is a beer vending machine.  When I walked by, no one was using it.

BeerCrowd: 25,365.  Great American has a nice array of kids’ activities, plus a batting cage for swingers of all ages.

kids activitiesMen’s Rooms: Clean.

Neighborhood: This is another city with newer sports stadiums clustered in old downtown areas.  The Paul Brown football stadium is several blocks down the river, and there are plenty of restaurants and watering holes in between.  A basketball arena is just to the upriver side of Great American.

Street signsArts and visuals: MLB may not agree, but they love Pete Rose in Cincinnati.  He has a street named after him, a large pair of rose gardens, and signs announcing his scheduled induction into the Reds’ Hall of Fame later in June.  Great American Ball Park houses the Hall of Fame, but a separate admission is required.  In addition to the typical statues of past stars, the main entrance plaza has statues of a pitcher throwing to a batter over the regulation 60 feet 6 inches.

RoseBaseball Moment: The rain impacts.

Rain delay 1

The first rain delay was shorter, and not as dark, as the second

 

Revere Harper

Ben Revere beats a throw to first.  Bryce Harper, a league leader in walks, looks one over

Nationals Park, Washington – Visit #12

Tuesday, May 24 – Nationals 7, Mets 1. Nationals Park is my “home field,” just six stops down Metro’s Green Line from my home in Northwest DC.  I go to perhaps 10-15 games a year.  When the five most noteworthy games in Nationals history were designated after the team’s first 10 years in Washington, I’d been to all five.  Former work colleagues arranged a get-together, so I designated this game as my “official” Barnesstorming visit.

Center field entryAccess: Easy, as usual.  The Green Line’s Navy Yard/Ball Park stop is less than a block up Half Street from the center field entrance to Nationals Park.  The lines get long after a game, but I’ve seldom had to wait long for a train home.

Seats/pricing: The seat was priced at $32, including $10 for concessions credit.  When I go alone, I usually take advantage of what I consider the best bargain in baseball, or any professional sport for that matter.  The Nationals sell 400 upper left field seats for $5 before almost all games.  The seat isn’t bad, but I almost always walk around the third-level concourse to one of the many excellent standing areas between first and third.

View: When the park opened in 2008, the view of the U.S. Capitol behind left field was highly touted.  You can still see it, but ongoing development in the immediate Southeast Washington neighborhood is likely to block it

Capitol river.jpg

The U.S. Capitol to the north, visible for now.  The Anacostia River to the east  and south.

Food: Nationals Park offers lots of variety, but the most noted area specialty is the Ben’s Half Smoke “all the way.”  A half smoke is a D.C. sausage that in part obtained its notoriety at the main Ben’s location on U Street that attracts both regulars and celebrities.

 

Food

A Ben’s half smoke followed by dessert.

Beer: The best beer deal is $5 cans on the second floor scoreboard walk behind right-center field, available at that price until 35 minutes before first pitch.  Offerings are regular size rather than the 20 to 25 ounce versions I saw at the western parks.

 

Crowd: 33,096.  Because Washington is populated by so many people who come from somewhere else and bring their sports allegiances with them, the crowd at a Nats game typically includes lots of fans for the visiting team, especially visitors from other eastern cities.  It was tough to even determine if the yell from a segment of the crowd was “Let’s Go Nats” or “Let’s Go Mets.”

Men’s Rooms: Clean, generally spacious, paper towels.

Neighborhood: When the park opened in 2008, signed around some cleared lights boasted new buildings soon to come.  In the ninth year later, some are still on the way.  On one side of the street from the Metro, outdoor beer gardens are built from old shipping containers (see top photo).  But the overall neighborhood is gradually developing, including a scenic river walk, a water park, and an increasing number of bars and restaurants.  Ground has also broken for a new soccer stadium a short walk away.

Arts and visuals: Sculptures representing the three past eras of Washington baseball used to be inside the park behind left field.  Now they’re outside the home plate entrance on the river side the park, which is used by far fewer people than the center field entrance near the Metro.

River entry statues

Frank Howard of the expansion Senators.  Walter Johnson of the original Senators.     Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays, who played at Washington’s old Griffith Stadium.

Baseball Moment: The new (since last August) and unbeaten (so far this year) Stephen Strasburg breezed to an 11-strikeout victory, backed by five home runs.

 

StrassburgHarper

Angel Stadium, Anaheim – Visit #11

Wednesday, May 18 – Angels 8, Dodgers 1. Anaheim is next door to Fullerton, where I went to junior high and high school, so this was something of a homecoming.  I’d been to the Big A a few times, most memorably in 1974.  I was on San Clemente stake-out duty for The Associated Press a few days after Richard Nixon had resigned as President.  The rumor was that he might go to an Angels game that night.  He didn’t, but I did.

exterior rock pileAccess: There is plenty of parking adjacent to the stadium for $10.00.

Seats/pricing: My son, daughter-in-law, and their two little kids were all along again after spending the previous day a few blocks away at Disneyland.  My daughter-in-law got the tickets through a friend; we were on the club level along the left field line.

View: The first-level concourse doesn’t offer a view of the field, but the second-level does.  The view from seats is very open, but a freeway to the east and mostly low buildings in the immediate vicinity aren’t very exciting.  The so-called rock pile in left-center field is the more scenic alternative.  The brief exception is after dark when the lavish fireworks from Disneyland go off and can be seen from some parts of the stadium.

moon fireworks

Moon over the fair pole.  Nearby Disney fireworks.

Food: From a wide variety of choices, we opted for the Smoke Ring BBQ outside the main concourse.  I had the smoked BBQ brisket sandwich; Devlin went for the Legends Dog, which was a hot dog smothered in brisket.  Both terrific, though we wished we’d asked for extra sauce.

 

smoke ring bbqBeer: A large craft beer stand offered 24 different varieties of draft.  Domestic cans and premium drafts in the supersize mid-20-ounces went for $11.75 and $14.00.

24 draftsCrowd: 44,006.  Of course there were plenty of Dodger fans on hand for this local match-up – what the soccer world would call a derby (pronounced darby).  But the Angels part of the crowd had all the better of it, especially as the Angels pulled comfortably ahead.  As in Los Angeles two days earlier, the crowd was late-arriving and, with the outcome essentially settled, began departing in the seventh inning.

Men’s Rooms: Clean.

Neighborhood: Hey, this is Southern California, so you need a car to get most anywhere.  The immediate neighborhood is the parking lot.  But Disneyland and its surrounding restaurants and hotels are just a few blocks away.

Arts and visuals: Fairly plain wall displays pay tribute to the Angels’ best years and their best individual player records.  The pair of huge Angels’ caps outside the main entrance are striking.

Baseball Moment: Mike Trout’s first-inning 411-foot home run plus two more hits and two more runs scored highlighted the one-sided game.

Trout

too late at plate

Too late at plate to prevent another Angels’ run.