Perfect weather and great ball play combine to draw fans to an early-season game between the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds.
By MICHAEL O’CONNELL
It’s hard to argue with a sunny day. It’s also hard to argue with taking in an afternoon baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
At least, that seemed to be the attitude of most of the fans attending the Washington Nationals’ home game on April 15.
The Nationals were on a tear, having won five of their first nine games, all on the road. They then chalked up three more victories against the Cincinnati Reds during the first homestand of the season.
When the final game of that series arrived on April 15, a day when the clouds parted and the sun crossed the blue skies like a warm beacon, baseball fans had no better place to be than Nationals Park.
“I’m excited because the team is shaping up to be especially good this year,” said Kathleen Curthoys of Fairfax, Va. “It’s just a great day to come out on Sunday and see the team. We skipped opening day because it was a mob scene, but today, we thought, would be perfect.”
Katie Walsh drove all the way from Richmond, Va., to take her son, Jacob Walsh, 8, to his first major league game.
An avid baseball fan and a Little Leaguer himself, Jacob had just one objective on Sunday: “To see the Nationals win,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Nats failed him, losing the game 8-5 in extra innings.
Not all of the fans were coming to the park to sit passively and enjoy the weather or the athleticism of the competitors. Some were coming to stir things up.
“I’m a long-time fan and sufferer, and I just found the cure,” Bob Heier of Virginia said. “The cure is a pitching staff second to none in baseball.”
Heier expressed his support for the team through the two large signs he brought with him to the stadium. Rather than “Go-Nats,” the signs read “Go-Nads,” a winking tribute to the Nationals.
“I think it will catch on,” he said. “I think the adults will know what it’s all about and the kids will think I can’t spell.”
Outside the Navy Yard Metro station, Donny Knepper, an attorney from Rockville, Md., was trying to attract the attention of arriving fans with his sign advocating the reinstatement of Reds’ great Pete Rose by Major League Baseball.
Facing charges that he had gambled on baseball while he was a coach, Rose agreed to be made permanently ineligible from the sport. That agreement, in effect, kept him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame and from participating in any official reunion events with his teammates.
This inspired Knepper to co-launch a grassroots campaign to lift the ban on Rose.
“It’s been 23 years,” Knepper said. “People forget who Pete Rose is. The thing is, he’s still alive. He turned 71 yesterday. I’m going to get this ban lifted. That’s my goal.”
Not all the people walking from the Metro station to Nationals Park were diehard baseball fans. Some, like Tim Rugless of Australia, just wanted to take in the environment and learn a bit more about the game.
When asked what he knew about baseball and what he hoped to see in his first game, Rugless said, “Three strikes you’re out. Four balls, you get a walk. And I want to see a home run.”