CURMUDGEON AT THE BALL PARK
WHERE'S THE CAITOL?
WHERE'S THE MONUMENT?
by John B Holway
Went to the first game in the new Washington park Saturday night and froze my oshiri off. Havent done tt since I went to the Tokyo Dome.
It had been a beautiful spring day and would have been perfect for a game. Until the sun went down. Baseball owners aren't the brightest people in the world.
They must all be great grandfathers.
Which reminds me, I met my new great grandson that morning, Anyway, I was disappointed. In the stadium, not the great-grandson.
This was my 61st major league park, going back to 1940, which I believe is the world record, and that includes Tokyo, San Juan, and Jersey City. So maybe I have credentials to offer an opinion.
As far as the playing field goes, its not a bad stadium. But its not a Washington stadium. It could just as well be in Minneapolis or Cincinnati or Dallas.
Its only a mile from the United States Capitol, so you'd think they'd give you a good view of the citys #1 symbol. From our seats on the ground level, we had an inspiring view of a multi-story parking garage beyond the leftfield bleachers. As my seat-mate Joe Potts said, why not put a second tier of seats above the bleachers, so 5,000 more fans can see the game?
To warm myself up, I hiked all over the park and found that a few hundred seats in the second and third tiers along the leftfield line give you a glimpse of the Washington Monument -- but only the top of it. And you have to climb up to the third tier to find a few dozen seats behind home with a view of the Capitol before other buildings block it out.
Instead of giving more fans a view, they built the field 24 feet below ground level so even less customers can have one.
Although a handful of fans may be able to see the Capitol up in nose-bleed heaven, the players look like ants. The only people with worse seats are those on the fourth and fifth levels, the writers and broadcasters. But at least all of them can see the Capitol. So naturally, on Opening Night they trained their cameras on the view and gushed about how inspiring it is. What they didnt tell you was that, of 41,000 people in the park, 40,000 couldnt see it.
The park was only half full Saturday, but the lines at the concessions snaked about two innings long. And there were no game TVs to watch while waiting, as there were in the bad old RFK. If you want to walk from third base to first base looking for another booth or the mens room, you can't watch the action, because the field is blocked off by all the members-only Club suites.
Hint: Go up to the higher levels, there are almost no lines. It also seems to be warmer, with less wind up there.
The price for our season tickets was raised $20 per game, and we were pushed several sections farther away from home, because of the broad new VIP section behind home (which was almost empty for the Saturday exhibition). We're also several rows higher up.
And still we're not under shade, as we had been the last three years. Warning: Dont get tickets to day games in July and August. And if a rain shower comes up, you're just out of luck.
That also means that the upper levels are pushed farther away from the field. Like all the "modern" parks it draws a not too subtle class even a political -- line, moving the proletarian upper-deck fans farther back so the bourgeois ground-level customers won't have their views blocked. by posts. Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park have posts, and if you're behind one, you have to lean a little to the left, then to the right. But that's no big deal. I never heard of any fans there sending their playoff tickets back in a huff because they're behind one.
In the old days the second deck was often as close the field as the first deck. Brooklyn fans could bombard the umps with beer bottles or rotten tomatoes. In Detroit one visiting fan dumped a whole basket of tomatoes onto the field, cold-cocking the catcher. I admit that baseball architecture has made some progress since then.
COC (crusty old curmudgeon)