What had been a ploy to save time ended up with me an hour and a half behind schedule and my mom in even worse shape; she let me out of the car while stuck on the 395 on-ramp heading out of D.C. After finding a hole in the fence, I went through a tunnel under that on-ramp and into a massive graffiti-walled parking area with shadows in various Xs thrown down from the highways above. My mom still hadn’t moved.
I hadn’t driven through D.C. in a long time, so with my friend up for the weekend I had an excuse to spare some gas on the excursion (over $5 a gallon near Georgetown!) We saw the pastel dresses on M, the protestor-less Capitol lawn, longboarders skirting the Mall, and townhomes a block from the World Bank. The most memorable part was a new brick organic grocer with apartments above in Anacostia with the ARRA sign – built using your tax dollars! – right in front.
From Anacostia you can see Nationals Park though the reverse is tough thanks to strategic architecture affording a view of the Capitol and the nearby coal plant, right from your LEED certified seats. But Anacostia does not seem nearly as dangerous as people in the area would generally have you believe and with quasi-gentrification occurring in Northeast and down the road in Arlington, along with the relocation of many young people to economically repressed (that is, cheap) areas such as Detroit or Youngstown, it will be curious to see how prophetic the ARRA building ends up becoming. Of course if it is, these people will have to go somewhere.
As of now though most of the disenfranchised in Nationals Park are employees; they work concessions, gates, security, and low-level administration. These are the people I spent my first hour of Blogger Night with, as one woman desperately tried to catch me up with the group (she was very sorry for the delay she said; I told her it was my fault for being late) and another yelled to her friends not to trust anyone but yourself … and her, in a pinch. Everywhere I’ve worked the people with the worst pay are the best to hang around.
Soon enough I was down on the field and true to my last observation Jason Heyward was exceedingly aloof while signing autographs; meanwhile Brooks Conrad was ecstatic to see some old friends who had managed to get field passes. I failed to get Heyward’s autograph, which disappointed me but also allowed me to maintain objectivity as he and Dan Uggla hit several overwhelming blasts in BP (Uggla would hit two home runs that night; Heyward did not fare as well).
The next hour and a half went by extremely quickly: Ray Knight showed us the A/C unit he keeps next to his crotch during hot days; I met a stats and fantasy nut who works for MASN and hates FanGraphs; a pretty girl in a blue dress who doesn’t mind her 60-hr-a-week job; the gregarious Bob Carpenter and the reserved but astute F.P. Santangelo; and a host of eccentric bloggers, some more animated than others but all less intimidated by the affair than me.
My favorite person, however, was a blogger who came from outside Charlottesville for the night. We both went for the Blue Moon in a can and at least one from crabcake from the generous MASN spread. He told me about the relaxed and collegial Spring Training atmosphere he loves and his thrill at knowing his blogging landed him in a suite. At the same time we talked about the incongruity between the calm on the field and the bitter negotiations going on right down the road. “We should be angry, but look: Here I am eating hot dogs and drinking beer on MASN’s dime!” If nothing, we are dealing with masters of placation.
A few innings in I ducked out and met my friend in section 314, just above our suite. We reflected on the game and were excited by the plethora of one-run shots. I was happiest for Rick Ankiel, the famous pitcher turned burnout turned outfielder, who hit two single shots for the Nats and got player of the game. While Storen made it interesting, giving up (yes) a solo shot to Uggla, the Nats finally wrapped up a game they seemed in control of since the 1st.
Exiting the park amidst rivers of people I realized how unusually happy I was. After years of losing teams, the Nats finally look good this year and may be contending by next. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were in it next year,” said F.P. in the booth, “but if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Who cares?” In a city where so much has gone wrong and oftentimes seems the worst may still be coming, a little optimism is good. And the Braves loss makes things feel even sweeter. “I’m going to keep doing this as long as it’s fun,” my new friend told me, “and the day it isn’t is the day I quit.” Exactly what I was thinking.
MASN’s Nationals Blogger Night was August 1st.