#TBT: Baseball and Framily

Hey ya’ll! So I’m back for another throwback!

When I started this blog last year, the purpose was clear: share my experiences as a Washington Nationals fan with the hope of encouraging the “baseball averse” to join in on the fun. I’ve been doing just that but as I recently scrolled through my camera roll, I realized I haven’t shared those outings. Be it some work colleagues, family, or friends, I’ve been lucky to have several people join me at one of my happy places.

Of course I tend to be super hype when I’m not alone. Governing myself as THE (unofficial) expert on Nationals Park amenities and happenings, as if I’m the Official Fan Experience Advisor. If that’s not a thing, it absolutely should be. No arrogance of course but I’m definitely proud of our ballpark. The way I carry on, you’d think I was hosting an episode of MTV Cribs or showing a home for sale. But that’s what it is, the ballpark, my second home during baseball season and I’ve spent enough time there to know it quite well.

So this Throwback Thursday I’m sharing some of my favorite ballpark adventures with some of my favorite people.

The Kids

No not my kids (at least not yet). But I believe that kids should be given opportunities to experience new/different things, when possible. During the year, the Nationals host special events for season plan holders. I not only make it a point to take advantage of that perk but I also make an attempt to bring along someone’s child(ren) along for the experience.

Player for a Day was a real treat for my little cousin and me! We threw pitches in the bullpen, swung in the batting cages, hung out in the dugout, and pretended to be up next to bat on the on deck circle. And of course Star Wars Day at the park was a hit!

This past summer, baseball fans celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the baseball classic The Sandlot. The Nationals hosted Movie Night at Nationals Park for an on-field experience to watch the movie and my heart was overjoyed when my girlfriend Stephanie and her two girls (I call them The Littles) joined me. We smiled and giggled while eating our picnic dinner and then laid back and munched on snacks when it was movie time. I remember looking over and being so happy to see the girls watching the movie so attentively. I mean it came out when I was 12 years old! To be honest though, I don’t know who had more fun: the The Littles or Stephanie and I. This was such a great experience and I certainly hope they remember it for years to come.

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Framily

You know there are friends and then there’s family…and then there are your friends that you consider family. Some have joined me for the occasional game, some come out annually for the Nationals Crab Feast, or for games like the Battle of the Beltways between the Nats and Orioles and even when the Phillies are in town. Then there’s the framily that say they’re coming out and haven’t. Not pictured. Obviously. But I’m not giving up!

Work Colleagues

Then there’s the couple of times I’ve brought or met up with my scientific work peeps.  We’re all biologist, toxicologist, chemist, microbiologist, and biotechnologist. Just out at the game for some relaxation, a little fellowship, and beer (of course).

Whether I’ve been able to fully convert them into fans or not, I’m truly grateful for the people in my circle that accept me and my baseball antics.

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” – Jim Morrison

– Nika

Love and Baseball?

Okay so…I’m dating!

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Yes…get hype for this one! I’ve had my share of ups and downs with online dating but my new guy has been a breath of fresh air and I am open to all of the abundance this new relationship has to give! Now of course there were things that caused other dates/relationships to never take off, but would you ever think liking baseball would be one of them?

In the essence of time and boundaries, I’ll share just this one experience. I was attempting to get to know a guy this past summer. It was right at the start of All-Star Week. I guess in hindsight maybe that wasn’t such a good idea because it was a super busy time. However, I did what I thought was my best in communicating upfront my agenda for a particular day and when I would likely be available to talk. I don’t know, but it became obvious that he didn’t care to understand all that All-Star Week was or allow some flexibility. I found myself defending why I liked baseball so much and traveled to the ballpark day after day that week. This guy also reminded me that I’m a woman and I’m Black…like I wanted to forget or be something different or that it excluded me from being a spectator.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t my only bad experience with dating and baseball and for some guys (clearly not the right one), it can be hard to understand a woman’s affinity for any sport…especially a sport like baseball. What is this the Republic of Gilead?!

Let’s do some math: There are 162 games during the regular baseball season and about half of those are home games. So if you’re a full-season ticket holder that’s roughly 81 home games. I have a half-season plan with the Nationals so that’s still 42 games. We haven’t even factored in the Postseason into this equation. Now that doesn’t mean folks go to every single game they have tickets for, because I surely don’t. That’s a lot of freaking games! But the probability of being at the ballpark and/or watching the games on tv multiple days out of the week is kinda high. Would only someone who loves or at the minimum can tolerate baseball understand and accept that?

Well given my past experiences with baseball and dating, I figured it was time to throw out a disclaimer to my new guy. It was the day after the Super Bowl. As I do most mornings, I jumped into Google Hangouts to chat with him. He sent a few messages about the Super Bowl and how low viewership was this time around. Good. I was still in my feelings about the outcome of the Saints/Rams game so I was pretty much done with football. Baseball season was coming and I finally had something to look forward to! I sent a few messages about baseball to change the subject (sorry babe) and to provide a segue to my disclaimer:

Me: I apologize in advance…baseball will become a huge part of my life over the next few months.

My New Guy: No apologies needed! Baseball will become a huge part of my life then.

Me (to myself): I’m sorry, what?!

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Told ya…breath of freaking fresh air! Am I lucky or what?!

So after picking myself back off the floor I wondered: How important is it that your significant other like baseball (or insert any other interest) too? Do we just need the freedom to enjoy what we like or would we prefer their willingness to learn about and occasionally join us at what we’re interested in?

Have you had an experience (good or bad) dating during the season of your favorite sport or otherwise trying to enjoy something of interest? We want to know so feel free to share in the comments!

-Nika

#FBF All-Star Week Was AHH-MAZING!

Happy New Year and Happy Lunar New Year! 

Guys, it’s 2019! I hope this new year is off to an amazing start for you!

And yes…it has taken me entirely too long to write another post. Can you believe it?! It feels like the longest winter ever but pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than a week! So today my friends, let’s finally flashback to my All-Star Week experience.


It was April 6, 2015, Opening Day at Nationals Park, when it was revealed that Nationals Park would host the 2018 All-Star Game…and I WAS THERE.img_2627

As I write this, the sheer gravity of not only the indescribable experience from this past week but also the many days, months, seasons, and years following that day in April that lead up to All-Star Week, makes me shed a tear. Being a fan of baseball, especially of the Cardiac Nats, isn’t easy. But I am truly grateful for what I experienced in those few days. It is still very surreal to have it happen right here…in DC! And I was a part of it!

Here’s how it went down:

Thursday, July 12 – All-Star FanFest Preview

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As a member of NATS Plus, I was invited to a VIP preview of the All-Star Geico FanFest before it opened to the public the next day. I took my good friend Stephanie with me. Unfortunately, during this preview we were not able to see all of the exhibits FanFest had to offer, including the All-Star merchandise store, or even take part in the interactive games. See we were asked to wear business casual attire to this event. But who’s sliding as they try to steal a base or take repeated swings in the cage during the Home Run Derby VR…in slacks?!

Saturday, July 14 – All-Star FanFest

OMG! I thought the Nationals WinterFest was a big deal. No no no! The All-Star FanFest… at full throttle…is on another level! More frenetic energy, way more people, and more img_2400things to see, do…oh and buy! It was a totally different experience than what we had on Thursday night. And I completely lost my mind! Stephanie is a truly “ride or die” friend as she tagged along for an upwards of 6 hours with me as I walked down every aisle, checked in at every exhibit or station, stopped to take pictures, etc.

Listen…I knew it would be kinda hard to get back to FanFest before it was over so I made every minute count.

I met Tim Parks, Founder of the MLB Ballparks Pass-Ports, and I even scored pass-ports for all of my Nats games and Spring Training games. One of my goals this year will be to visit more ballparks and these babies will go a long way to helping me achieve and document those experiences.

I also picked up a Ryan Zimmerman-signed ball and took a picture with the World Series Championship trophy (during the preview and glad I did, the line to get close to it was out of control that weekend).

Before leaving, I checked out the All Star Store and that’s when thing got a little out of hand. I left out of there with lighter pockets but I added a few new hats, a couple of shirts, and of course a customized National League jersey. Who doesn’t love new baseball swag?!

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Sunday, July 15 – All Star Futures Game + Legends & Celebrity Softball Games

My half season plan doesn’t normally include Sunday games, so this was a treat. The Futures Game was a contest between the USA and the World teams. The World team, lead by David “Big Papi” Ortiz, was represented by Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Australia.  Five-time All-Star Torii Hunter lead the USA team. Each MLB team was represented and featured 16 players ranked among the top prospects in the minor league in 2018 being first-round, supplemental, or second-round draft picks.

Twenty-one year-old, Oakland A’s decent Jesus Luzardo was the starting pitcher for the World. Luzardo was actually part of a trade to the A’s in which the Nats acquired Sean Doolittle (Doooooooooo!) and Ryan Madson.  Mitch Keller, the 22 year-old Pittsburgh Pirates decent, started for the USA.

It was through observing this game and surveying the folks in the stands, that I realized…no…confirmed how truly magical baseball is. Baseball unites. Period.

Watching these young guys reminded me of how Bryce Harper looked when he first came on the scene. Hungry and like they were having fun. I couldn’t help but be excited for them and eager to see how they grow with the game.

There were 8 home runs between both teams. However, Team USA beat World, 10-6. Taylor Trammel, the Cinci Reds no. 3 prospect and no. 34 MLB overall, earned MVP going 2-for-2 with a 107.9 mph/438-foot home run in the 6th and a triple in the 8th.


Side note: I’m always amazed at how quickly the grounds crew can transform the field during a regular game and the transition from game to concert for the masses was no different.

Florida-Georgia Line performed “Cruise” and “Simple” before the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. Did you know that band’s Brian Kelley was once a baseball hopeful? Yep and after that performance, he put on a National League jersey to play.


Now maybe I had never watched a celebrity softball game before because it wasn’t what I thought it would be…at all. Don’t get me wrong…it was fun to watch but after a while, I was wondering when the real game would start. Maybe my expectations were too high or simply unrealistic. If you’ve never watched one…well…it’s exactly how it sounds: celebrities “playing” softball.

The roster included names like Hall of Famer Tim Raines,  Torii Hunter, Veterans J.R. Martinez, Cody Rice and Johnathan Herst of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, Jamie Foxx, Bill Nye The Science Guy (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!), Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch, Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black, Wizards’ Point Guard John Wall, WWE Superstar Michael “The Miz” Mizanin, and the city’s very own Wale.

Bill Nye struck out, John Wall tripled, a couple of Legends bombed…out, Shaquille O’Neal deejayed (right…who knew?!) and eventually entered the game for what I recall to be a terrible at bat, and The Miz surprisingly pitched well and won MVP, going 2-for-2 at bat.

The American League won 14-10 over the National League.

After the game, I followed my All-Star Week seat mate and fellow Nats fan to the MLB Assembly located at the pier at District Wharf. There we found this really cool pop-up featuring the artwork of local artists. We arrived just in time to catch the last of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s performance.

Monday, July 16 – All Star Workout Day + Home Run Derby

I can’t exactly remember how or what I was doing to miss it, but when I finally did arrive to the ballpark, workouts were over. Ground and camera crews were getting ready for the Home Run Derby. I readied my nerves.img_1254-1

See the was a big deal for Nats fans and for DC. After his 2013 All-Star appearance and Home Run Derby lost to Yoenis Cespedes, Harper said he wouldn’t participate in the Home Run Derby again until it was in DC. Well here we were…FINALLY!

I barely recall many details but I do remember there being a lot of “boos” for anyone that wasn’t Bryce. We were so classy LOL.

The energy was contagious. Electric. Like a ripple through the stadium in the way The Wave would (when we used to do it). Out only focus was Bryce. The “Let’s Go Bryce!” throughout the park was so powerful, I remember pausing…in awe as it literally sounded like all 700k+ residents of DC were there at that very moment. So indescribable it was eerie.

Each round for me was an added layer of anxiety while trying to manage the midsummer heat and humidity. Both equally suffocating.

In the final round though, Bryce beat Kyle Schwarber 19-18. In all Bryce hit 44 home runs but the longest home run went to Javier Baez. And yeah…some that argued that Harper and his dad broke the rules in order to get that win. All I have to say to that is…debate me. WHAT A NIGHT!

Despite a lackluster first half of the season, after this, Bryce had a solid performance during the second half. I’d be remised if I didn’t mention how unfortunate it is that we Nats fans find ourselves still wondering where he’s going just a week before Spring Training starts.

Tuesday, July 17 – 89th Annual All-Star Game

This was it! The 89th Annual Midsummer Classic in what was then my new home, Washington DC. I should have been exhausted but I wasn’t. It was like the build-up of all of the emotions. The climax of the week’s events or even the seasons between April 6, 2015 to July 17, 2018 with 43,843 people in attendance. It was quite the mind-blowing photojul172c183218experience. The pre-game ceremony was a tribute, narrated by Bradley Cooper, to servicemen receiving the Medal of Honor. Talk about emotional and it never seems like enough for all our servicemen and women do.

The line up was escorted by The starting pitcher for the National League was our very own Max Scherzer (seriously, have you seen this guys record?!) and Chris Sale for the American League. Harper played center field. Now I’m a National League girl all day…but I must say that it was pretty cool to watch Judge, Trout, Yelich, and Betts, play in one place. It was then that my crush on the ‘Stros’s Alex Bregman (and All-Star Game MVP) began. I mean…have you seen his dugout stares? Anyway, American League won 8-6 after 10 innings.

Truth be told, the only thing that could top this experience would be the Nationals actually winning a NL Championship and making (baby steps) a World Series appearance.

Dear Baseball Gods…

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-Nika


My 2018 World Series Prediction

Hey!

The 2018 World Series is officially here and I’d like to go on record now:

The Los Angeles Dodgers – Game 7.

Don’t debate me.

-Nika

#TBT NAT for Life!

Do blogs participate in #ThrowbackThursday too?! This one does!

It’s been a LONG time and there is much catching up to do. What better day to throw it back to one of my favorite highlights this season than Throwback Thursday?

Continue reading “#TBT NAT for Life!”

Stay Tuned…

Now that Nationals’ fans are officially sitting at home watching October baseball…I can finally get those drafts posts published! Plus it’s never too late to throw it back 🙂

Stay tuned…

-Nika

Happy Independence Day!

Hey y’all! I’m still here!

Happy Independence Day!

It’s never easy being a DC sports fan but it has definitely been a rough time for this Nats fan…and I know I’m not alone. Not to mention it’s TOO DAMN HOT to sit at the ballpark and watch the team fail night after night.

I skipped the 11a too-hot-to-be-disappointed game today to spend time with my Mom and Godmother instead. Somehow we still ended up near the ballpark, enjoying the scenery at The Yards, where I ran into a couple of Red Sox fans shortly after the game.

Nats lost to the Red Sox AGAIN today 3-0. Sweep for Boston. FIFTH straight loss for us.

In other news, I received my All-Star event tickets a couple of weeks ago. So I’m looking forward to that at this point because unlike a Curly W(in) from the Nats, it is certain.

-Nika