Friday, April 15, 2005

A Perfect Day at RFK

Baseball is officially back to our nation’s capital. Tonight was the home opener at RFK Stadium and the atmosphere was almost like a playoff game. As I took the escalator up from the metro station platform, there was a line of fans looking for tickets, but I swear they were there to welcome us. The crowds were filled with people wearing Nationals hats and shirts and with the first pitch came hundreds of flash bulbs keeping that moment for posterity. The crowd went crazy after Nationals starting pitcher Livan Hernandez’s first strike out, and after the National’s first hit, first run, and first home run. Make no mistake, Washington is a baseball town that has been waiting for a baseball team. I am looking forward to seeing some more games this season, and many more games during my life in DC.

The atmosphere was perfect, and so was the game. Livan Hernandez was awesome giving up only one hit and no runs through eight innings - and then had a rough ninth inning giving up a three run home run. Vinny Castilla went 3-3 with a home run, a double, a triple and 4 RBI. He was a base hit away from hitting for the cycle, and might have gotten it if relief pitcher Lance Cormier hadn’t hit him with the first pitch. Chad Cordero came in for the ninth to save the 5-3 Nationals win.

The home opener brought out some of Washington’s finest. President Bush threw out the first pitch - from the mound - and although it might have been a little high, at least it reached without bouncing. Also attending the game was our nation’s highest law enforcement official, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Chris Matthews and a number of US Senators. At the beginning of the game they recognized many of the people responsible for bringing the Nationals to DC, and City Council President Linda Cropp was loudly booed. Apparently the fans remember when she thrust herself into the spotlight trying to prevent (or change) the new stadium deal.

The game was exciting, and the fans were great. RFK Stadium is a good venue for baseball. I think this team will surprise us. The players are excited to be in a town that has been waiting so long to have them. And for now they own sole possession of first place in the National League East.