Nationals Home Opener + Survival Checklist

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

We’re on the eve of the Nationals home opener against the New York Mets. First pitch is set for 1:05p but gates open at 11a for all of the festivities in and around the ballpark before the game.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s promos and events:

Promotions

  • The first 25,000 fans to enter the ballpark through ALL GATES will receive a 2018 Schedule T-shirt presented by GEICO.
  • DJ Flexx will perform in Center Field Plaza from gate opening until a 30 minutes prior to first pitch.
  • Jeff From Accounting will perform at the Budweiser Terrace from the time gates open until a half hour prior to first pitch.
  •  DJ Chris Styles will perform at the First Base Gate from the time gates open until a half hour prior to first pitch.
  • Nationals Park Organist Matthew Van Hoose will perform from the NatMobile on the timeline walk outside Home Plate Gate, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
  • The Family Picnic Area will feature caricature artists, face painters, and balloon twisters from the time gates open until 1:30 p.m.
  • Coca-Cola will provide complimentary samples as fans exit the ballpark through the Center Field Gate, while supplies last. I don’t particularly subscribe to soft drinks, even if they are free, but I don’t want to make it about me. Get your free Coke! 🙂

Events

  • Let’s start with the AWARDS! Award presentations including the Baseball Writers’ Association of America 2017 National League Cy Young Award presented to RHP Max Scherzer, the 2017 Silver Slugger Award presented to 2B Daniel Murphy, and the 2017 Players Choice Award for NL Comeback Player of the Year presented to 1B Ryan Zimmerman.
  • Ceremonial first pitch thrown by Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office and Great Mills High School. If you recall, Gaskill brought the March 20th active shooter incident to a quick end.
  • U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard from the Military District of Washington and Drummers from the U.S. Navy Band, Washington Navy Yard present our nation’s colors.
  • The National Anthem will be performed by the U.S. Army Chorus Quartet.
  • Flyover by the VFA-32 Swordsmen from Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Va., in F/18 Super Hornet Jets
  • Lineup card delivery by Maame Biney, the Olympic short track speedskater who competed in the 500m and 1500m events at the 2018 PyeongChang Games and was raised in Reston, Va., and Noah Grove, a Frederick, Md., native and gold medalist in sled hockey at the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang
  • “Let’s Play Ball!” announced by The Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor of DC, she’ll be joined by Parker Curry (she was the little girl smitten by National Gallery Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama that subsequently got the chance to meet and dance with her).
  • Sophia Nadder will perform God Bless America

As you can tell, it’s going to be a long day away from home and I want to be prepared, so I’m packing some essentials.  Lately, my go-to game bag has been my Hershel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack. I believe I purchased it from the team store some time last year. I’ve found it to be super spacious, durable, and the interior detail….woooo! It’s all in the details. Everything I plan to take will fit perfectly inside.

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Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack

As of the time I am writing this, the forecast for tomorrow is mostly sunny skies with a high of 54°.  With that in mind, here’s what I’m packing:

  • Layers
  • Wallet (including cash for the 50/50 raffle and ID for beeeeeeeer)
  • Sunscreen (especially for those midday games)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or visor
  • Rally towel (hopefully you won’t need it but just in case. Plus it’ll come in handy to wipe off sweat, food, etc.)
  • Lucky jewelry, socks, jersey, underwear (put these on before the game), etc.
  • Absorbent microfiber towel to absorb moisture on seat…it WILL rain eventually.
  • Umbrella and/or poncho
  • An empty water bottle to fill at the ballpark or 1L bottled water (NatsPark permits one bottle, up to 1L, per person but it has to maintain factory seal)
  • Food (individually wrapped (no glass). I tend to bring healthy snacks/salads/sandwiches but it’s Opening Day at the park so I’ll be scoping out the new/good eats.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or wipes
  • Phone (for obvious reasons but also, the Nats are killing the social media game so be sure to follow and tag @nationals across all social media platforms and use hashtags like #onepursuit, #nats, #CurlyW and #ibackthenats
  • Portable phone charger. The ballpark does have phone charging stations but who wants to be tethered to a wall…FOMO much?!
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Hard copy or electronic tickets or your…NATS PLUS CARD!

See. You. There!

-Nika

Spring Training was EVERYTHING!

The last few days here in Palm Beach County, Florida have been absolutely AMAZING! I had every intention to blog real-time or at the conclusion of everyday but I doubted how much justice my words at the time would give my experience.

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We flew into Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) late Sunday night after a couple of flight delays. But we got our rental car and got settled in. Staying in this cute apartment in Lake Worth we found on AirBnB.

Each morning,  I went for a walk/run (ok…mostly walk in my running shoes) before we started the day to make sure I got in as much activity as possible. And every evening, I made sure I was by the water to watch the sunset. The weather ranged from 76° – 89° with occasional winds. I never saw a single raindrop the entire trip. I know…I was surprised too.


Monday, 3/20 | Indian Breakfast and Hiking

When she first suggested an Indian restaurant for breakfast, admittedly, I turned my nose up. “Indian…it’s too early for that.” But Reesie has yet to be wrong when suggesting places to eat, so I went with it and let me tell you… this place DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

I browsed the menu. Still a little skeptical, I went back and forth on whether to get something typical (American) for breakfast or try something different. I finally decided on the Spinach Keema Omelette. Reesie, the Eggs Nissa. OMG!!! I don’t think I’ve ever had a breakfast so full-body flavorful! I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture.

After breakfast, we laced up our hiking boots laced up our hiking boots and trekked about 6 miles through the Apoxee Wilderness Preserve.


Tuesday, 3/21 | Miami Marlins vs. Nats @ FITTEAM Ballpark

On Tuesday, my sorority sister Cassie drove from Longwood (about 20 minutes outside of Orlando) to hang out with Reesie and I in Lake Worth and to take in the Marlins vs. Nats game. I was so excited to see her. We had been talking about her possibly joining me for a Spring Training game since December. She’s got that kind of spirit you just want to be around and always finds the good in everything. She simply made a day I already knew was going to be great…greater.  I couldn’t wait to get the day started!

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3/20 | Starting Lineup

Strasburg (#37) was the starting pitcher that day. We arrived after first pitch and by that time the Marlins had already scored one home run. Strasburg (*ahem* who only allowed 13 home runs over 175+ innings pitched last year), would give up 2 more runs, 8 hits, and 3 walks, throwing 81 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. We were down 3-0  in the 5th, when the most handsomest manager (Martinez) came out to excuse Stras.

However, we rallied. We took the lead, 4-3, with an RBI single from Difo (#1) that brought in two runs and a two-run blast by Harper (#34, and his 2nd of the Spring). We’d score 4 more runs via Moises Sierra, Brignac, a sac fly by Dominguez and an error on the Marlins.

Moises Sierra indirectly provided us a laugh when I asked Reesie to Google his stats. She starts telling us about where he’s from, what team(s) he came from, how tall he is. When she said 5’3″, we looked toward the outfield and scratched our heads.

Cassie and I: “Moises Sierra? Right there…number 49? Are you sure?!”

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3/20: Reesie, Cassie, and I

Reesie: “Oh, I thought ya’ll were talking about Wilmer Difo!”

Cassie and I: “Huh?! But…LOL!”

Wilmer Difo is 5’11” by the way.

Nats won! 8 – 3

#kidgoals

There was a kid (now affectionately called “The Kid”) and his dad that sat behind us at the game on Tuesday. I loved the way they talked about the game as the day unfolded. They were fun. Both providing commentary, chiming into our conversation, often offering answers to questions I’d ask or joining in to banter. I remember asking a question, to which the dad answers then adds, “I’m here for you.”

At some point, the dad gets up to run to the bathroom or the concession stand and leaves the kid. The Kid, having already caught one, gets offered a dead/throw away ball by another kid. I’m completely shocked. Kids don’t like to share but I thought, “Oh, how sweet.” But then I get a tap on the shoulder. It’s The Kid…yes my kid. He says, “Here…you keep it.”

Wait…what?!

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Official Game ball from 3/20/18

He said, “Yeah. I already have one. Do you know how many of these things I have at home?!” I go on and on about how kind and thoughtful the gesture was to which he replies, “I have good parents.”

It absolutely warmed my heart. Not only because this little guy offered up an OFFICIAL Spring Training game ball to me after acknowledging his excess, but that he recognized the actions and values his parents taught and gave him, respectively. And then gave his parents the credit in their absence. He was truly #kidgoals.

Shout out to The Kid and his dad (and mom)!

 

My girls and I ended the day at Lake Worth Beach, enjoying happy hour at Mulligan’s, taking in the sunset along the fishing pier, and eating ice cream and sorbetto from Kilwins.

 


Wednesday, 3/22 | Houston Astros vs. Nats @ FITTEAM Ballpark

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3/21 | Houston Astros vs. Washington Nationals

GIO! GIO! GIO! Gio was the starting pitcher for the game against the World Series Champions. I was hype! He’s one of my favorites, Eaton was in the line up, and come on…who didn’t watch the crazy match up between the Dodgers and Astros?! Again, I was hype! Ready for a win. I thought the guys knew that!

During that game, Gio would allow 8 runs…EIGHT…4 of them unearned; give up 6 hits, 2 walks, with 95 pitches over just 4 2/3 innings.

We would finally get on the board with a two-run home run by Matt Reynolds and then a home run by Andrew Stevenson in the bottom of the 9th.

Nats fell. 8-3


Where to Eat

The Pelican Restaurant (Lake Worth) – Indian and American. This unassuming yet fun restaurant is located in downtown Lake Worth. Take a chance, order your eggs Indian style. It’s cash only though, so come prepared.

Havana Cuban Food (West Palm Beach) – This could be THE best Cuban spot in the state of Florida. My sample size is small to jump to such a conclusion but if you try it and don’t agree…let me know! I recommend the fricasé de pollo or the masitas de puerco fritas. Oh and they are open 24 hours. OPEN 24 HOURS!

Mulligan’s Beach House (Lake Worth) – Located at the Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex. American food, on the water, and drinks are 1/2 off during Happy Hour

Places to Go

John Prince Memorial Park (Lake Worth) – This was my go-to place to get in some activity each day. This park is centered around Lake Osborne and full of options: camping, playgrounds, fishing, picnic pavilions, bike trail, fitness course…you name it!  There are also a variety of birds around so just look out for bird poo. Sadly and despite my best efforts, I never made it all the way around on my feet.

Latana Public Beach (Latana) – On the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, this was the first beach I visited on this trip. There’s ample metered parking.

Apoxee Wilderness Trail (West Palm Beach) – Pronounced “Ah-po-ee”, meaning “beyond tomorrow”, is a 2.5 mile (or 4 mile round trip when also taking the Owahee Trail) hike through Florida’s grassy water everglades. Hiking boots optional.

Lake Worth Casino Building and Beach Complex (Lake Worth) – Also along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Mulligan’s Beach House is located here. There’s ample metered parking.  There’s also a fishing pier that extends to what feels like oblivion on which you can walk as a spectator for $1. Then reward yourself for walking out on the pier by making a stop at Kilwins Chocolates and Ice Cream for some raspberry or lemon sorbetto. I had them both. #cosign #nom

Ocean Inlet Park (Boynton Beach) – I visited this spot last year and I don’t know what was more breathtaking: the drive to Ocean Inlet or the inlet itself. The park is situated intercoastal but with easy access to the beach. After our loss to the Astros on Wednesday, this was the right place to collect, watch the sunset, and connect with the beauty around me. Actually, it was the perfect way to end this trip.


I’m back in the DC. While away, friends and family back home returned my pics of sunny Florida days with pics of snow so I knew what to expect. I should be used to this weather by now. But it was still a shock after being in shorts and tank top weather the past few days. However, real Spring and baseball, soon come.

-Nika

Days until Opening Day: 7

When Did You First Fall In Love With Baseball?

My oldest (and I’m talking at least 30 years old) memory of baseball starts in southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland (“down the country” to anyone who lived North) in a small town called Galesville.

About 14 miles south of my hometown, Annapolis, and located along the short of the West River (an arm of the Chesapeake Bay), Galesville was a historic waterman’s village and believed to be the first Quaker settlement in Maryland. If you’ve never heard of Galesville, it’s okay…had my ancestors life in America not start there…neither would I.

For reference purposes…it’s here-ish:

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Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my family down the country.

Playing outside (the old-school way) with my cousins in Edgewater; going to church with my grandmother in Harwood; cruising on boats with my grandfather off the coast of Shady Side and around the Chesapeake Bay; and in the Summer, on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon, going to sandlot baseball games at Geno’s and Drury’s ball fields in Lothian or Tracey’s in Deale, with my mom and aunt.

However, the ball field in Galesville felt like home…the place to be. Perhaps that’s because every time we were there, we always ran into a cousin “so-and-so”…which turned into a long-winded conversation about how life was going, the family, the church, etc. I was a kid! All I wanted to do was run around in the dirt, watch some baseball, grab a grape soda and a hot dog or fried fish, look for fly balls, and play in the dirt some more.

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Hot Sox dugout | Photo credit: Galesville Community Center

As a kid, I had very little knowledge of the game itself or that that ball field was set on property owned by Mr. Henry Wilson, a former freed slave and one of the first black men to own land in Galesville. It was the Home of the Galesville Hot Sox, and had even hosted a few Negro League teams back in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

My love of baseball would evolve from those days as I caught games at the Y in Annapolis and Orioles games at Camden Yards; or at the Os’ AA Affiliate the Bowie Baysox; even travelling to Woodbridge, VA for the Nationals’ own Class A Advanced Affiliate, the Potomac Nationals.

But it would be from my time down the country as a kid, that I would start to associate the sport of baseball with family, the summer heat, good cooking/food, and the feeling of…home. It’s no wonder I find the ballpark serene.

So, when did you fall in love with baseball?

-Nika