#TBT – Super Heroes, Siths, and Saltiness

I know what you’re thinking…”Damn girl, you’re still here?!” Yes, yes I am. Listen keeping up with writing and everything else life throws your way is hard! I have much respect for those of you who do this professionally and/or with some level of consistency.

But I’m back right now and OMG so much has happened!

We A LOT of lost games.

…and at one point I never thought we’d get to .500 (meaning we have the same number of wins and losses). But we did… actually we’re .535 (8 games over .500) and look real good sitting at 2nd place in the National League East, 6 games behind Atlanta and 1.5 games in front of Philly! For the first time in Nationals history, we are Wild Card contenders. You see in the years we’ve won the National League East we had the wins and simply clinched it. This time is different because we’re coming back from a big deficit. But watching us play during this second half in pursuit of a chance at making the playoffs, certainly makes for good baseball and high blood pressure.

The BF and I had our first outing together at the ballpark…and then another!

May 25th – Marvel Super Hero Day

Although he had done the Spartan Stadion at the ballpark just two weeks prior (*ahem* on my birthday), this would be The BF’s first time at the ballpark for an actual game. I felt the pressure. Admittedly, I had my doubts. The ballpark is one of my happy places and I’m quite protective of that. Plus my past dating during baseball season (DDBS and yes, I just made that up) experience had been shitty at best. So just in case he wasn’t that into baseball or was uncomfortable with how much I am, I chose two themed games I knew he’d enjoy: Marvel Super Hero Day and Star Wars Day. To say he loves these two things, universes, cults, or whatever you want to call them would be a gross understatement.

We arrived at the ballpark a little late, missing the Ryan Zimmerman as Captain America bobblehead giveaway. It was hot and humid and I wondered how well, if at all, I would balance following the game and making sure The BF was comfortable. After all I had dragged him out to the ballpark on a hot and humid day to sit in the direct sun for several hours. Turns out that as usual I hyped that entire scenario…in my head. Things had been effortless with us up to that point and being at the ballpark was no different. It was perfect and by the end, I was looking forward to catching another game with him. I actually think he paid more attention than I did and I might have observed the beginning signs of conversion.

We walked away with a Curly W, beating the Marlins 5-0. The biggest win for me though was walking away knowing that I have someone who loves me, even when I’m a sweaty screaming fanatic at the ballpark.

June 15th – Star Wars Day

Star Wars Day was our second time at the ballpark. We arrived early enough to snag the Obi Sean Kenobi bobblehead. Before taking our seats we checked out battles between The Resistance and The First Order, fans young and old in cosplay, an inflatable Death Star, and a pretty cool R2D2.

I must say that while the Nationals did well with Marvel Super Hero Day, they just did a must better job with Star Wars Day. It was a completely different experience with Star Wars-themed sights, food, and entertainment all throughout. Which made up well for the 10-3 loss to the Diamondbacks.

I took my salty family to the ballpark too!

June 4th

Every year, I bring some of my favorite people out to a game and it’s always a good time. Usually Karl and Jen will join me for a Phillies game, and Kyle, an Orioles game, but this year everyone joined me when the White Sox were in town. This was during the time that neither team had reached .500. To be clear…they weren’t salty at first. Actually when they arrived at the ballpark, they were quite confident the White Sox would take the win to get them closer to .500.

I just checked…they are .451 and 18.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins so I’ll spare you the details of how that game went (we won 9-5).

Also since this post is super late and the cat’s finally out of the bag…

Congratulations Jennifer & Karl! 💙

 

Opening Day 2019

On Opening Day, you wake up SUPER hyped!

After what seemed like the longest winter…EVERRRRRR, Opening Day had finally arrived!

The best way to describe Opening Day is that it’s like the First Day of School or even Christmas morning. I’ve experienced Opening Day before but there I was, surprised I managed to sleep at all the night before. It’s like a ball of energy in anticipation for the day, that’s just waiting to be let out. I needed to tell someone…anyone. So I jumped onto Instagram to declare my excitement but then realized despite having over 800 “followers” on my personal my Instagram account, majority knew or cared little to nothing about baseball. I’d have to wait until I got to the ballpark.

I grabbed the remaining items I needed for the day then went into my closest to figure out what I was going to wear. I tend to leave what I wear on Opening Day to what sparks joy, harnessing my inner Marie Kondo. I opted for my red Curly W hat with “Nika” embroidered on the side, a red player-less jersey over a blue henley, jeans, Curly W argyle socks, and my red Converse sneakers.

It was 10:20a when I finally got in my car and made my way to the metro. At first I thought I might have missed the wave, as there’s usually other Nats fans on the train with me. However, as the train chugged along, the presence of Nats fans and the color red increased. Nine stops later (and around 10:50a), I arrived at Navy Yard Ballpark.


On Opening Day you get re-adjusted and maybe make a new friend.

Making my way down Half Street, I remember how happy I was to see that the street vendors selling bottled water, peanuts, hot dogs, and other snacks hadn’t been img_2785-1completely displaced by the development and construction going on in the area….yet.

I was surprised to find that the lines were a lot shorter than I expected given that gates would be opening at 11:05a. I decided to stand in one of the the Season Plan Holder lines so I put on my new NatsPlus 2019 lanyard and credentials for access. Despite my previous thoughts…this thing…it grows on you.

Waiting in line, I couldn’t help but jam to the sounds of DJ Flexx from WPGC 95.5 deejaying just inside the park. I also struck up conversations with fellow Nats fans, in particular Ms. Nettie. I’d never met or seen Ms. Nettie before that day, but I believe particular people are placed into your life, not just for a reason, but also at the right time. We immediately clicked. Like me, she’s a Black woman that loves baseball and was also at the park by herself that day. What’s even more awesome about her is that in addition to being a baseball fan, she’s a big hockey fan too and holds season tickets for the Capitals!

Ms. Nettie and I bid each other a “see you later” shortly after entering the ballpark. Once through the gates, I grabbed the giveaway for the day: a red DC Flag/Curly W t-shirt with the team’s home schedule on the back, then made my way over to take a pic in front of a Curly W made of balloons. Seriously, how cool is that?!

My next stop before doing anything else, is always the team store. My toughest budgeting test really. But before I could get there, I ran into Ms. Nettie again. Like a giddy school girl on the first day of school, I told her all about the Curly W balloon photo op and that she just had to get her picture taken too. So we decided to come back to the team store together.


On Opening Day you get new merch.

There were people, people everywhere in the team store. The line literally wrapped a couple of times around itself. But like with Spring Training, I have must-get items on Opening Day. One being a lapel pin for my lanyard and the other, whatever additional item catches my eye. This time I chose a navy hat with a red block W, a nod to the Washington Senators.

 …and more merch.

I left Ms. Nettie again, but not before exchanging numbers and making a deal to keep in touch. I then ventured upstairs to look around and scope out new places to eat. I didn’t make it far at all before I came up on the Breaking T kiosk and some pretty dope t-shirt designs. I grabbed two. If you’re keeping track, I’ve now acquired 3 shirts, a hat, and a lapel pin.

Avoiding further damage, I went straight to my seat to enjoy the program.


On Opening Day you catch up with old friends like on the first day of school!

I caught up with the usual suspects like Tripp, Captain Obvious, my section/row mate Beverly, and of course Matt, the beer man…oh and Stephen! I met Stephen back in 2017 at the Nationals Crab Feast on the Field. We made it a point to keep in touch and Thursday marked Opening Day #2 that we caught up and of course took a selfie!


On Opening Day your Ace pitches.

Max Scherzer (#31), a 6x All-Star, 3x Cy Young award winner and a definite for the Baseball Hall of Fame, was our starting pitcher for the day. He would be going up against the recent Cy Young award winner, Jacob DeGrom of the New York Mets. Before taking my seat for good, I went a few sections over to snap some pics of Mad Max warming up near the bullpen.


On Opening Day there’s pomp and circumstance.

Opening Day is ceremonious. We had the pleasure of having James Brown from CBS News emcee the event. There was an emotional tribute to the late Frank Robinson, the first Black manager in MLB history and a former manager of the Nationals, followed by a moment of silence.  The Mets and Nationals players, coaches, and managers were then introduced.

The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by the U.S. Army Chorus Quartet as a United States-shaped American flag was spread across the outfield by the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard. A white star was creatively used to depict Alaska or Hawaii or both? Anyway, the Nationals Opening Day ceremony never disappoints.

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Unlike last year, the the Star-Spangled Banner was capped off by a flyover performed by the 113th Wing Capital Guardians. I wasn’t prepared, so I missed getting a pic/video of it but believe me it was glorious!

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser gave us the the green light when she shouted “Lets Play Ball!”

GAME TIME!


On Opening Day, it’s totally normal to drink beer for lunch.

Trust me, it was 5 o’clock somewhere. There’s nothing like a cold can (or two) of Bud Light from your favorite Beer Man, on a beautiful day, while enjoying your and America’s favorite pastime.


On Opening Day your team either wins or it loses.

First pitch was at 1:07p. Both pitchers were starting the season and this series with a record of 0-0. Max would strike out his first batter, Brandon Nimmo but Robinson Cano would hit the very first home run of the season and the first run of the game, in the 1st inning.

It was good to see former Nationals catcher now Met, Wilson Ramos who received a warm welcome when it was his time at bat. Nats fans shouted “Wiiilllllllson!” the way we used to when he was behind the plate for us.

The game went on and by the 6th inning Max had 10 strike outs but our offense had yet to score a run.

Road Runner Trea Turner (#7) stole his 2nd base in the bottom of the 6th. He was challenged by Manager Davey Martinez to steal 80 bases this season. At the pace from Opening Day, he’s on track to stealing upwards of 500 bases this year!

It was such a beautiful day for baseball. The only thing more we could ask for was a run or two!

(On Opening Day you’re also reminded your team still has the same issues from before.)

I’m not exactly sure why Davey decided to allow Max to hit for himself after already pitching 7 innings and we were trailing 1-0. In the American League, there’s a player known as the Designated Hitter (DH) that always bats for the pitcher. However, in the National League (where the Nationals play), there is no DH. Managers and pitchers can decide whether the pitcher will hit for himself or bring in a pinch hitter (PH) to hit for the pitcher. Max ended up striking out during a moment that could have been pivotal for us had Davey simply played a PH. I don’t blame Max, he has the tendency to rake (hit well) but Davey should’ve made a play that would have gotten us closer to scoring a run.

Max would pitch 7 and 2/3 innings before being relieved by Hellickson…and then the bullpen just fell apart. That on top of a lack of offense kept us scoreless.

There’s no half time in baseball but the 7th Inning Stretch provides an opportunity to…well…stretch and reclaim your hype. As custom, we sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game. After which, there’s usually an up-to-date popular song guaranteed to get us moving. I was surprised to hear Take On Me! Take On Me used to be a walk-up song for Michael Morse, a beloved former National turned San Fran Giant, who saw his career ended way too early after suffering a concussion during an on-field brawl. That song always got crowd participation and brought back all the feels of that time when Morse was on the team.

(Ignore the abrupt ending, there was a t-shirt being thrown my way.)

We would return to the game. Leaving runners stranded in scoring position (2nd or 3rd base) several times. Victor Robles lost on what would’ve been a run after hesitating on a ground ball. Robinson Cano would score on a single off Matt Grace in the 8th inning.

All in all, two GREAT pitchers pitched that day, recording historical double-digit strikeouts so the game was low scoring, each team having only 5 hits. At the end of 2 hours and 44 minutes, we lost 2-0. Max ended that game 0-1, DeGrom 1-0.

On Opening Day, there are 161 games remaining…still.


Record | 0-1

West Palm Beach – Day 3

Tuesday.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning or like adult me on Opening Day. It was too soon for either of those days. Instead, I was beyond hype because it was finally my day to take in a Nats spring training game and my sister Cassie was coming to join me!

img_2024She would be driving almost 3 hours from Longwood, Fl to my AirBnB in Boynton Beach, just to spend the day with me. Although we keep in touch via phone and of course Instagram, it had been far too long (October) since I actually saw her.

Needing to get in a workout before we started our day, I decided to take that energy to YouFit Health Club in located at Boynton Beach Mall. There I worked biceps/triceps/legs and spent a little time on the treadmill. 


Cassie arrived a little before 1p. After many hugs and a few approving looks, we hopped in the Jeep and decided on lunch. I had wanted to take her to a vegan spot in Delray Beach but when we realized they were closed on Tuesdays, we settled on pizza for lunch at Pizza Rox in Boynton. Another spot I had on my list of places to eat while here. Their website said that they had both vegan and gluten-free options but we remained skeptical…at first.

We both went for identical 12-inch pies with gluten-free crust. A crust which surprisingly didn’t taste as distinguishable from regular crust like most gluten-free crusts/breads or that imploded as soon as you touched it. I nixed the cheese (although they had various cheese options including vegan cheese) and loaded up my pie with BBQ sauce, vegan chicken breast, red onions, spinach, green peppers, and pineapple. Washing it down with a bottle of Acqua Panna spring water.

For a minute, and only half way through the pie, I thought about picking up another before my return flight home the next day.

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However, I erred on the other side of gluttony and instead saved the other half for later.


After lunch, we made our way up 95 North to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to watch batting practice before the 6:35p game against the Astros. It was the first time I would be attempting to catch spring training BP and boy did I get it wrong. I assumed BP would actually be in the ballpark. Instead, it appeared to happen in one of the practice fields to which we really didn’t have access to or visibility of. We arrived around 3 and found the gates wouldn’t open until 4:30p. So we chatted about everything under the sun, took some pics, and did a lap or two along the walking trail.

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We also managed to spot Justin Verlander (‘Stros starting pitcher that night) arriving on campus in a sort of grey muscle car with Virginia license plates. Full disclosure, it was only after Googling rosters did I realize that’s exactly who that was. You know what they say about hindsight.

They opened the gates promptly at 4:30p and we went straight for the giveaway table to collect our Nationals hoodie, a freebie we weren’t even aware we were getting until we were standing in line. Interesting how the Universe works in your favor.

To my surprise, a familiar face was at the table: It’s Mike! Mike was at the table doing Mike things…handing out hoodies and later tossing t-shirts into the stands. Quick intro: Mike (Ploger) is the in-game host of Inside Pitch Live and in-game promotions at Nationals Park. I asked him if he’d take a selfie with me and he jumped right in!

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I later posted this pic to Instagram to which he commented, “Your energy is contagious!” Oh Mike.

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I hit the team store next, determined to stick to my budget by sticking to the plan of picking up my must-haves: a Sprint Training-themed magnet for my fridge (I guess that’s becoming a thing) and this year’s Spring Training hat. Have you seen it?!

You’re welcome.

After making our way around the concourse a couple of times to kill time, grab some water, and snacks…we made our way to our seats. Well the section our seats were in. We chose to sit 10 or so rows back (out of the sun) from where we were supposed to sit and remained there until we left.

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I ended up walking over by the bullpen to take a couple of pics and vids of Strasburg and Gomes warming up before first pitch. This would be my first time watching Gomes catch since the Nats acquired him back in November. I was excited about that but mostly just excited to finally see some baseball!

Astros were the first to go out in front. Until 21-year-old Carter Kieboom launched a 2-run home run in the 2nd putting us in the lead. Carter is our No. 2 prospect and while he struggled a bit at second base, he killed his at-bats. Going 2-for-2 and hitting another home run in the 4th…scoring both those home runs off the Astros’ ace pitcher, Mr. Muscle Car himself, Justin Verlander. 

We would eventually remain in the lead, beating the ‘Stros 5-3 in 9 innings.

Stephen Strasburg pitched 4.67 innings, striking out six and allowing two runs, five hits and four walks.

Our No. 1 prospect, center fielder Victor Robles went 1-for-2 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases,  and a run scored.

 

 

#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