March 11, 2011: Washington Nationals vs Houston Astros (Spring Training)

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Greetings from Viera, where I’m visiting for a few days taking in my very first Spring Training!  I’ll be blogging the games I attend, and hope to have a “What it’s like to be a fan visiting your team at Spring Training” round up when I get home.  In the mean time, here’s last night’s game.

Casey at the Bat statue
Game: Spring Training #13 – Nationals vs the Astros
Pitching tonight for the Nationals: Livian Hernandez, Tim Wood, Ross Detwiler, Jimmy Barthmaier
Final Score: Nationals – 6, Astros – 7.
Inning of the Game: Normally this is where Ashley or I would talk about the play of the game, but last night, there wasn’t one.  Sure – you could say that the home runs (which I’ll talk about in a second) were great plays, but those were by one player.  Instead, I’m going to talk about the very last inning – the one where it was cold out, and I was hoping that the Nats would just finish up and lose.  Instead, we get a couple guys on base, Nyjer Morgan hits an RBI singled, followed quickly by a Bryce Harper RBI single, and on a long at-bat, we get one more run with the tying run standing on third.  It was all very exciting – to think that the Nationals could come back at the last second and maybe take this to extra (colder!) innings.  Sadly, the last guy at bat, 3rd baseman Brian Bixler couldn’t pull it through and struck out swinging.

Werth at bat
Players of the Game: Up until the 5th inning, this was an ugly game for the Nationals.  Then, Morse hits a long bomb to center field, and the Nationals aren’t going to be shut out.  Two innings later Jesus Flores comes up with a 2-run homer to bring the Nats up to a more respectable 3.  These guys and their hits made that stunning last inning possible.
Favorite Non-baseball Moment: Before the game, I made my way over to the Training Complex, where the Minor Leaguers were still getting in their workouts.  But because it was towards the end of the day, (and a few of them needed to be over at Space Coast Stadium a little later), there was a steady trickle of guys leaving the field.  I really enjoyed seeing these players talking with fans, signing autographs, and being way more accessible than it’s possible to be once the season starts.

View from Section 211

Where did I sit: As a season ticket holder, you get a pair of free tickets to a spring training game.  I redeemed mine for the very center of the upper section, and ended up sitting in the very last row.  This wasn’t a bad spot – it had a great view of the field and I was able to listen to Phil Wood as  he announced the game.
What did I eat: Since it was a cold night, I wanted something warm, and settled on a cajun sausage dog from the Grandstand Grill kiosk.  The vendor warned me that it would be spicy, but I told him that would be ok. And oh, it was.  That sausage was jambalaya in hot dog form.  Delicious and spicy in every way.  Highly recommended.

Cole Kimball, Rizzo and Derek Norris.

Other Observations:
I loved the ushers.  Every single one that I stopped and talked to was super friendly.  One guy on the 3rd base side (where the sun was shining, and it was warmer earlier in the game) told me to come back and hang out with him where it was warm.  Considering how cold it got…maybe I should have absorbed as much sunshine as possible!
– Yes – it was cold.  The game started off around 65 degrees, and by the last strikeout, it was at 46.  I wish I had worn another layer under my sweatshirt.
– On one of my early walking circles of the concourse, I nearly walked into GM Mike Rizzo.  For a moment, I thought he looked familiar, and then figured out who he was, and made my way back to the area near the Nationals Dugout, where he had been rushing to take part in a ceremony with Potomac Nationals Players.
– The P-Nats players were there to receive their rings from winning the Carolina League Championship.  It made me think back to the doubleheader I attended where they clinched first place in their division.
– Nyjer Morgan did not start the game well.  There were some very catchable balls hit his way in the 3rd inning, and it was just not fun to watch.

Waiting outside before the game
– Lots of families attending the game together, and not surprisingly, most of the kids were boys.  Maybe if more parents started bringing their girls to Spring Training too, eventually things would happen, like more parity in the availability of player t-shirts and jerseys for women.
– One of the more quirky things about Space Coast Stadium is it’s proximity to the Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral.  Because of this, when a rocket was launched at 6:38, people sitting in the stands were able to see as it shot into space.  From my vantage point, by the time it was visible, it looked more like a star shooting the wrong way – but still very cool!
– I have a few videos from this game as well, but considering I should be heading out soon for today’s game, I’ll have to save those for later.  Besides – a few are on my fancy new phone (which makes tweeting and saving my game notes easier, and provides a back-up in case both my camera battery and the back-up die).

(the rest of the album from this game can be seen here)

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