Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Long Day's Journey Into Nats, Part 2

Continued from Part 1...

"The scalpers slunk away and I headed toward the stadium with ticket, beer, and food in hand. I was set. This was going to be a great day, I could feel it."
I walked down the stairs from the Metro, past the gates, under the tunnel and into Lot 8. I pushed against the tide of people streaming toward the stadium and sought refuge under a solitary shade tree on the north end of the lot. At last I would have my Subway and Corona picnic. As I watched the fans march toward the gates I knew that this was not going to be your typical Nationals game. Yankees fans seemed to outnumber Nationals fans at least three to one. If we were going to have a chance in this game, I knew that Nats fans would need my help. I downed the footlong turkey sub and the five Coronas in under an hour. I was feeling pretty good at this point, and ready for some Nationals baseball.

I walked into the stadium and found my seat. I couldn't believe my eyes. The crowd was enormous, 45,085 fans, and the largest to see a baseball game at RFK since 1969. And as I had suspected from my experience in the parking lot, at least two thirds of them were Yankees fans. In my section, there were hardly any Nats fans. There were a couple six year olds wearing Yankees shirts and Nats hats, and then there was me, alone, in a sea of Yankees fans.

The game started off badly for the Nats, who looked overmatched from the moment Johnny Damon sent the first pitch into right field for a double. Ramon Ortiz began giving up hit after hit, and the Yankees fans went wild. They started doing their signature chant: "Let's Go Yan-kees! Clap-clap, clap-clap-clap." It was thunderous. I felt small.

I was also awestruck at the well-oiled baseball machine that the Yankees have put together. Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. How do you pitch around these guys? Each one is more deadly than the last. At one point Frank Robinson had Saul Rivera intentionally walk Giambi to get to Rodriguez. No wonder these guys expect to win the World Series every year...how could they not?

Things were not looking good for the Nats at all. The Yankees had rapped out seven hits before the Nats got their first. But they'd managed, somehow, to tie the game 2-2 by the fifth inning. Then the Yankees dropped the hammer. The home runs started immediately. A-Rod went deep first, followed immediately by Posada. Rivera then put the entire bottom of the Yankees order on base, giving up hits and walking the pitcher, Shawn Chacon. Up came Johnny Damon, who promptly hit the third home run of the inning, a grand slam that put the Yankees up 9-2. Thunderous cheers roared from all corners of RFK. The Yankees had completely taken over Washington.

The Yankees fan next to me offered me a high five. I declined. I was despondent. My beloved team was down seven runs and I had 30,000 of the opposing team's fans rubbing it in my face. When the inning finally ended, Damon trotted out to center field and began dancing and flirting with the fans in the upper deck. They fawned on him like schoolgirls with Justin Timberlake.

I wanted to leave. I wanted to get away from the Yankees, their fans, and the prospect of seeing the Nats getting further crushed and embarrassed. But something inside me told me to stay put. After all, what was I going to do, just cut and run? (Hee!) Actually, it was that I'd just spent half a Benjamin on my ticket and had five Coronas anchoring me to the chair. But then the comeback began.

Continued in Part 3...