#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! 💙

 

NATS Plus – Player For a Day

Sunday, April 7th

(Yes, I’m behind, behind.)

One of the benefits of being a Nationals NATS Plus Member are the events the Nationals hold for members throughout the season. Player For a Day (PFD) didn’t happen last year but when I found out that it was a go this year, I new I didn’t want to miss out.

PFD is exactly as it sounds…for a few hours, fans get to roam about the park (in an organized fashion of course) as if we were a Washington Nationals baseball player.

Two years ago, my first time attending, I brought along my little cousin Korey. This time however, I brought an adult…Kyle. Kyle and I have a banter laden in sarcasm, especially around invites to the ballpark, so I know he would enjoy this experience. He happens to be a Chicago White Sox fan but trolled me prior to that Sunday, “Question, can I wear my Phillies Hat?”

We arrived at the ballpark with time to kill so we stood around chatting about sports in general, dating, places to eat, and his graphic design stuff.

Upon entering, I expected to see the warm up area where we get to do a few work outs in the outfield but that wasn’t there, folks were playing catch in the outfield but we decided to make our first stop at the Bullpen Car.

Bullpen Car


More popular in the 50s and 60s, the bullpen car brought relief pitchers into the game from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound. In an attempt to help speed up the game, this cute little baseball-themed Herbie made its debut at Nationals Park on August 17, 2018. However, only a few pitchers have ever rode in it.

Speed Pitch
Oh yeah! So during the Speed Pitch activity, we got to throw 3 pitches in the bullpen. This was my chance to let my inner Max Scherzer out!


I totally forgot that in addition to professional football, that Kyle had played baseball before and he did pretty well. He would’ve nailed it had his ball stayed straight. Apparently, it’s all in the release.

As for me, I kept my expectations low.

Sometimes you have to be your own hype man!

Dugout
It was pretty cool sitting in the place where my guys hang out during the game.

In addition to this photoshoot we were apparently having, I spotted the cubbies of a few of my favorite players and made a call to the bullpen. Though when I made my call, I envisioned solid options on the other side. *sigh*

On Deck Circle
We made quick detour to the On Deck photo op before heading to the down to the batting cages. Even though this circle is way fancier than the rubber one the guys usually stand on before stepping into the batters box, it was still pretty cool to stand there.

Batting Cages

We then backtracked a little down towards the Nationals’ clubhouse and to the batting cages. I just knew the struggle was going to be real for me and initially opted out of participating. But hey, how many opportunities does one get to be in the batting cages of their favorite baseball team?!? It was a no brainer but the struggle was real:

I told you. I could use some work. It felt good though so you might see me in batting cages again soon!

But of course I’d look bad stepping into the cages after this show off (advance apologies for the video snafu):

Show off. Did you hear the guy ask if Kyle played before and that he should at least be on a softball team?! *eye roll*

After, we stopped by the Delta Sky360 Lounge for a quick rest and some refreshments. The set up was cute but if I could change one thing, we’d have less brick-like pretzels! We stayed for a few minutes, catching about an inning of the Nationals dealing it to the NY Mets at CitiField, then beelined for some real food.

Only while writing did I realize that we totally missed the Dress Like A Player stop in the visitors’ clubhouse.

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Parting Gifts
On our way out, I stopped to pick up my NATS Plus 2-Year Commitment gift: A replica All-Star Game ring. This baby had been available during the regular season but I kept forgetting to pick it up.

We topped the day off with ramen and drunkin’ dumplings at one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in DC.

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West Palm Beach – Last Day

Wednesday.

This is it. My last day in the West Palm Beach area. So many things had worked out in my favor. The weather had been perfect, I spent time with one of my favorite humans enjoying one of my favorite things, I ate very well, and it appeared I’d be heading back home with only TWO mosquito bites. How’s that for winning?!

My AirBnB host was super flexible on my check-out time, so I took my time packing. Recounting what I did in the days prior in a way to not only hold onto those memories but to also hold onto that feeling of peace and accomplishment.

Packing, I realized I brought way more stuff with me than I actually wore or needed. I’m not typically an over-packer (I don’t think) so I’ll chalk it up to just being excited for the trip. However, these are some of my favorite Nationals things.

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I eventually gathered all of my things, loaded up the Jeep, and headed 15 minutes south to Delray Beach to finally check out that one vegan spot before going to the airport.

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Don’t worry…I kept one hand on the wheel the entire time.


I arrived at The New Vegan to find it busy but without any wait and received a warm welcome and a glass of alkaline water. Having peeped the menu a number of times, I knew I was going straight for the kale burger. A kale patty served on millet and flaxseed bread with lettuce, tomato, and vegenaise. I added pickles and avocado and decided to add the side salad and rice for an extra $3. There were several OMG moments while eating. I’m not usually one to boast but I really did save the best for last.

Before leaving, I had a chance to chat with the owner and thank her for such a delicious meal. Come to find out, there are no soy or gluten products on the menu, and the restaurant serves and cooks in alkaline water. Also, they have a location in West Palm Beach that is open on Tuesday!

I ordered a green veggie smoothie for the road and made my way back up 95 N towards the airport. 


The rental pick-up at Budget was a cluster but I for certain thought returning the vehicle would be seamless. It was, actually. However, Budget had to get one more screw up in before sending me back home, and it came in the form of the USELESS airport shuttle driver. The man barely assisted me in lifting my ONE piece of luggage up the steps and onto the shuttle. He asked which airlines to where we would need drop offs (and there were many) however, when he made his one (and apparently only stop) at the airport, he failed to make any sort of announcement. The nail in the I’ll-never-patronize-Budget there-again coffin was when he stood by, carelessly, as a woman mistakenly carted off with my luggage, despite my yelling to get her attention. I literally had to run her down. You better believe I fired off my frustrations in a Google Review! He did get us to the airport safely, so I guess that’s what was most important.

Touchdown!


…until next Spring!

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.

 

 

West Palm Beach – Day 2

Monday.

Yesterday was my first full day in the West Palm Beach/Boynton area. Although I’m actually staying in Boynton Beach, WPB is just a 10-15 min ride on 95 North from Boynton.

One of my goals for the 3-ish days I’d be visiting, was to workout at least 2 of those 3 days. And I knew I wanted to get those workouts in and out of the way before I truly started my day. I dropped in at Fitness Hub Studios in WPB after finding them on

ClassPass. There, I took a 45-min virtual cycle class. It was my first time taking a virtual class and I must say, it was great! Now I was the only person in the class, but it didn’t stop me from challenging myself or from having a good time.

*UPDATE* How could I forget that I paid TEN DOLLARS to park for 45 minutes near Fitness Hub?! However, they do validate parking if you park in the parking garage behind Duffy’s (Olive and Banyan Streets) and in the City Center garage (Banyan and Dixie Streets).

Knowing that Tuesday would mostly be spent at the ballpark and I would be heading back home on Wednesday, I wanted to make sure I also got in some time at the beach to read and recharge. So after a much needed shower and change of clothes, I headed straight to Oceanfront Park. Last year, I spent a few hours at Oceanfront Park and really enjoyed the amenities and cleanliness of the beach. There, I laid out a towel, spread across it, and dug further into Becoming. I occasionally looked up to see and listen to the sounds of the other beachgoers, and let my mind wander at the meditative sounds of the waves crashing ashore.

I also wanted to catch the sunset. However, Oceanfront Park is East facing so I hopped in the Jeep to travel just a mile down N Ocean Blvd to Ocean Inlet Park. I don’t know why, but I am rarely aware of the sun as it sets back home. Maybe it’s because I’m too busy trying to meet a deadline or run from one place to the other (geez I should really should do better). But watching the sunset on the water was something  I did every evening while here last year and it’s become a must-do. It’s almost as if my body needs it by the time it happens. SOLITUDE and PEACE To sit peacefully with nothing but my own thoughts. To reflect on the day’s events, the year-to-date, life so far, as the day ends with hope to live another one.

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FEED ME!

I scoped out a few places I wanted to try before arriving to WPB. One of those places was Prime Catch right here in Boynton, to where I headed just after the sun set. However, please DO NOT confuse Prime Catch with Prime – Delray Beach, which in full disclosure, is exactly where I made my reservations. The hostess was cool though…apparently I wasn’t the only one that’d made that mistake before and after about a 10 minute wait…I was seated.

I was greeted and taken care of by Andrew. Because I’m fancy, I ordered a glass of Malbec and an order of Veggie Fries for starters. Man those veggies were delicious! Tempura-fried asparagus, eggplant, and zucchini, drizzled with honey, and a lemon garlic aioli for dipping. It was like a dance party on my taste buds.

I went all in on the seafood for my main course, opting for the Prime Mixed Grill of lobster tail, scallops, jumbo shrimp, in a garlic herb butter. For sides, I chose the mashed potatoes and substituted the grilled asparagus it came with for sautéed garlic spinach.

I also didn’t skip dessert. My eyes zoomed in on the menu at the Flourless Swiss Chocolate Tort and it did not disappoint.

I didn’t eat all of my dinner or dessert but I wasn’t left feeling hungry or miserably full. The meal truly hit the sweet spot. Signaling the end of my meal, I was offered a slice of lemon and warm towel to rid my hands of the seafood smell. 

I’ll definitely be back and I would highly recommend Prime Catch…in Boynton…not Prime – Delray, to anyone looking for good seafood, welcoming environment, and outdoor seating.

#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

Things Are Finally Heating Up

Literally!

Also, it has taken me quite a while to finally get this post…well…posted. You can blame the delay on everything from writer’s block, to living my best life, work, and travel.

A lot of this is old news at this point so I’ll simply summarize what I initially planned to talk about in this post.

Quite a few changes have taken place the last few weeks including…what feels like (and I’ve got my fingers crossed) an actual season: Spring! Or is it Summer? Nonetheless, the weather in the DC-area had been consistently warmer.


Fck Pittsburgh

There had also been recent line up changes that set Bryce as our lead off which brought him more home runs and bats alive at Nationals Park in the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates Did you know? The last time Bryce Harper batted lead off was in 2013. Also during this time the Capitals were in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins. And as you can imagine, there was a full blown campaign against everything Pittsburgh. We swept the Pirates and the Capitals eventually beat the Penguins 4-2. Caps are currently leading the series 2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Full disclosure…I’ve never actually been to a Capitals game in DC. However, I did see the Capitals play against the Lightning in Tampa on an impromptu trip to Tampa a few years back. Action-packed is an understatement. 

Bryce Harper Field Dedication 

On Saturday, May 5th, the Nationals Dream Foundation along with Bryce Harper, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, and DC Department of Recreation and Parks dedicated Bryce Harper field at the Takoma Park Recreation Center.

However, that day was also the 6th Annual Johns Hopkins in Action Day. On this day alumni, students, faculty/staff, and friends volunteer at sites in Baltimore and DC. I’ve committed to this event every year since graduating, as a way to give back to the school and the community. I definitely experienced slight FOMO (fear of missing out). But I knew my time was spent where it was most needed. That day we wrapped over 3,500 diapers and sorted and counted over 800 articles of clothing at ShareBaby to be distributed to undeserved babies and families throughout Baltimore City.


Fast Forward…

We took the series against the Phillies (2-1),  the Padres (2-1), and SWEPT the Diamondbacks in a 4 game series. Wins that would bring us to a 24-18 record, 3rd in the NL East, and just 2 games behind the 1st place Braves.

It’s been raining a lot this week. On Tuesday we were supposed to start a 2 game series against the Yankees. However, that game got suspended in the middle of the 6th inning with the score tied 3-3. The plan then was to finish the remaining innings of that game on Wednesday about 30 minutes before playing Wednesday’s regularly scheduled game. But that sucker got postponed due to the rain…to June 18th. Despite how silly it sounds for the Yankees to make a one-day trip to DC in between their own home series to make up this game, our bullpen at least gets a much needed rest.

Now the Dodgers are in town but tonight’s game has been postponed…yep it’s raining…and I just got an email that tomorrow’s game (to which I have tickets) has been pushed back to 8:05p to accommodate the doubleheader.


I Had a Birthday!

Oh and last but not least…I just returned from a solo trip to Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos to celebrate my birthday!!

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Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Have you ever seen the colors azure and cerulean in real life?! This trip was too amazing not to write about it so I will under a separate post.

There! I think we’re all caught up!

-Nika