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 completely 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.
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!”
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.