Cheap Seats

Road Trip: Nationals Park

I got to watch a team wearing red win a baseball game Thursday. But, unfortunately, I had to travel more than 800 miles to do it and the team in question had a curly W on it's cap, not the familiar STL.

It was my first trip to Nationals Park, a decent enough place even if it didn't really seem like home.

The ballpark was very much like New Commiskey Park in Chicago when it opened a few years back: It's very functional but without much personality. There is a lot of bare concrete visible from the seating area and, with a capacity of less than 42,000, it seems much smaller than that in comparison to Busch Stadium.

Nationals Park doesn't follow the trend of trying to make a new park resemble an old one. The exterior has a glass and aluminum facade as opposed to the red brick you'd see in the parks of yesteryear like Ebbets Field.

Adding to the cold feel of the stadium is the fact that the prime seats on the first level behind home plate are separated by a railing from the rest of the park. On the day we were there, not only were there noticeably more empty seats there during the game than the surrounding sections. But, during an after game concert, all the people in the high-dollar seats left and the seating areas on either side filled up.

We had seats in the second row of the lower level of outfield stands. The vantage point wasn't bad. But, during an afternoon game, the sun was blinding and unbearable as it blasted us right in the face. A better option was sitting in the left centerfield restaurant area where we found a shady table. But sitting there the sound system at the ballpark was barely audible and it felt disconnected from the game.

I guess the nature of the city of Washington is that it's full of people from other places. Not only were there plenty of Nationals and Phillies fans in the stands, I saw plenty of people with Mets, Yankees, Orioles, Braves and Brewers gear. I wore a Cardinals tee shirt and wondered if anyone would have something smart to say because of St. Louis' playoff history with Washington. But not a peep.

The crowd seemed somewhat disengaged from the game. It was late in arriving and seemingly not very passionate even though the home club four-hit the opposition and won an important inter-divisional game. 

There's nothing bad about Nationals Park. Let's just say that there is no concern that the ballpark will distract attention away from the players and the games.