6/3/09 at Nationals Park

The Washington Nationals are inept, from top to bottom.

Just had to get that out of the way. I’m so pissed about everything that went down yesterday, so forgive me for the angry nature of this blog entry, but by the time you get to the end of it, I think you’ll agree with the opening line.

Randy Johnson was scheduled to pitch. He entered the day with 299 career wins. This was my chance to see history.

My parents were nice enough to lend me their car. On my way to get it, I picked up a copy of the New York Daily News. I was told that I’d be in it, and I was not happy with the result.

So yeah, I was already p*ssed before I even got in the car, and then on the way down to D.C. (during which I managed to get lost because the roads around D.C. are horrendously marked), some dickwad on an overpass tossed a pebble that hit my car, scared the crap out of me, and cracked the windshield. Not a huge crack. No shards of glass on my lap or anything like that. Just enough to do $500 worth of damage, or whatever the hell it’s gonna cost to replace it.

One of the good things that happened yesterday was that I got to park for free. Gotta give a shout-out to my friend Mike for the hookup, but then of course there were weather issues. Oh sure, it was perfectly hot and sunny when I began exploring the outside the stadium at 3:30pm…


…but less than an hour later–right before the gates were about to open–it started raining:


It was right around that time that I met Nic Skayko–THE MAN who came up with a complex statistical formula to predict the number of baseballs that I’ll snag on any given day. (I wonder if his formula takes into account the fact that I’ve been jinxed by God.)

Well, when the gates opened less than five minutes later, it was officially pouring. Rather than running in to get a look at the field, I took shelter and waited for the rain to subside and then took the following photo:


I headed out to the Red Porch seats in left-center and watched four inept groundskeepers (okay, I didn’t yet know they were inept) head toward the infield:


Two notes about the photo above:

1) The batting cage is set up, which means there WAS going to be batting practice.

2) The red arrow is pointing to a baseball. I know it looks like a grain of salt from here, but take my word for it.

Nationals Park opens two and a half hours early (which is great) but for the first hour, everyone has to stay in the outfield. Foul pole to foul pole. Those are the boundaries. Therefore, as the inept groundskeepers made their way toward the ball, the best I could do was run around to the seats in the straight-away left field and scream my head off. They heard me, and the guy who picked it up pointed toward the seats in foul territory. This was both good and bad…good because he seemed to be indicating that if I headed over there, he’d give me the ball, but bad because I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near him. At least that’s what I was led to believe, but there weren’t any ushers or security guards at the boundaries, and the seats were not roped off (as they are in Philly during the first hour of BP), so I thought, “Well, what the hell, I might as well wander over there, try to get the ball, and worry about the consequences later.” So yeah, I cut right through the seats into foul territory, and I kept looking up at the concourse to see if anyone was angrily waving me back, but the few employees I saw just stared dumbly at me.

From a distance, I saw the inept groundskeeper look at me and hold up the ball (as one does for a batter before feeding a ball into a pitching machine) and place it in the wide front row of seats. No one else was around, so I took my time walking over, then paused for a moment to take a photo of the ball on the wet pavement…


…and finally grabbed it. It was a soggy training ball. (Estimated retail value: 14 cents.) The main part of the logo was very worn…


…but whatever, at least I had a ball.

I headed back to left field and watched with great sorrow as an inept groundskeeper rolled the L-screen off the field:


Then it started pouring again:


I took cover near some random employee doorway and passed the time with Mike and a couple other guys who recognized me.

Then it got sunny, a few Giants came out and started throwing, and the inept grounds crew took the tarp off the field:


Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry began playing catch in the left field corner. Howry was on the foul line, and Affeldt was out in straight-away left field. I positioned myself in foul territory so that I was lined up with them, and as soon at they were done, Affeldt took the ball and looked up into the seats in fair territory to find a worthy recipient. I shouted his name and waved my arms, and thanks to the fact that I was decked out in Giants gear, I got him to throw me the ball from about 100 feet away. I had to reach down and make a back-handed catch. Nothing special, and yet that was my athletic highlight of the day.

Merkin Valdez was still playing catch (with Sergio Romo) at that point, and there were a couple extra balls lying around on the field:


When Valdez finished, he walked over with two balls, handed one to the kid in the photo above with the “55 LINCECUM” shirt, and then placed the second ball in my glove.

It was still an hour and a half before game time, so I figured I’d be able to salvage my day and snag at least a few more balls…but no. Nature didn’t cooperate. The presidential mascots must’ve known what was coming. Look at their dejected body language:


Half an hour later, the inept grounds crew rolled the tarp back out:


And then–you have to read the rest of this line with an English accent–it rained like bloody hell:


The field got completely soaked, and when the rain finally let up, one of the groundskeepers sloshed through the grass and lifted up the edge of the tarp to see if the water had gotten underneath it:


Of course the water got underneath, jackass! You and all your pals are inept!

Twenty minutes later, this was the scene in right field:


Here are a couple inept groundskeepers attempting to fix the swamp otherwise known as the infield:


It was ugly. I didn’t see how the field would possibly be dry enough for a game, but I still kept hoping. I’d been hanging out with Mike the whole time, and when we parted ways (at about 8:15pm), I headed around behind home plate to the 3rd base side. It was there that I ran into  (and met for the very first time) a fellow MLBlogger named Todd and his adorable three-year-old son, Tim.

Here we all are:


(Does that shirt make me look fat?)

The rain started up again, of course:


I sat and watched it with Todd and Tim. There was nothing else for us to do.

Even though I was hungry, I held off on buying food. It just wasn’t worth it. The prices were outrageous, and the food wasn’t even that good. At least the one thing I’d gotten earlier wasn’t good. It was a square piece of pepperoni pizza for $8, and it wasn’t big. Major ripoff.

Why had the inept grounds crew taken all that time earlier to get the field ready? But more importantly, why weren’t the stadium operations people making announcements about the status of the game? (Oh yeah, because they’re inept.) Talk about outrageous…it was really disgusting the way they didn’t say ONE thing for three and a half hours and just let everyone sit there. The only info presented to the fans was a generic message on the video boards (you can see part of it several photos up) that said, “Please take cover under the concourse. Severe storms are approaching. We are monitoring the situation & will keep you updated as information becomes available.”


They never updated us. I had to call my friend Brad in San Francisco for updates.

It kept raining. There were waterfalls:


Finally, at like 10pm, the umpires wandered out and inspected the field:


After that? They went back inside. No announcement. Nothing. It was the worst treatment of fans I’ve ever witnessed. Once again, everyone was just left to stand around in the concourse and wonder what the hell to do. Naturally, 90 percent of the fans had left by that point, so I hoping SO BAD that the game would somehow get started. It would’ve been foul ball heaven. I’d splurged and bought a ticket right behind the Giants’ dugout. How cool would it have been to get a third-out ball from Randy Johnson’s 300th win? I was drooling at the opportunity.

By this point I was starving (to the point where my stomach was growling) so I decided to buy some more food. Only problem was…all the concession stands were closed! What the ****!!! You’d think the Nationals would’ve made an announcement along the lines of, “Attention fans, we’re going to close our concession stands in 20 minutes, so if you’d like to purchase any food or beverages, we advise you to do so at this time.” But why even close the stands while the stadium is open? Why not at least leave ONE stand open? Or…if the game was postponed and THAT’S why they closed the stands, then how come there wasn’t an announcement about THAT?! It was shameful. I’m not surprised the Nationals have the worst record in baseball. They deserve it.

Finally the umps came back out and there was a huge conference near home plate, and then as everyone headed off the field, I saw one guy make a gesture as if to indicate, “That’s it.”

Was there an announcement after THAT? Umm…no. All the remaining fans were left standing around for ten more minutes, and then finally, the announcement was made:


“Unplayable field conditions.”

Imagine that.

The P.A. announcer said something about fans being able to exchange ticket stubs for future games this season. Yeah, thanks. I don’t want to go to any more Nationals games. The team better refund my money. What a disgrace to baseball.

Of course Randy Johnson won his 300th game today, and I wasn’t there. I thought about getting a cheap hotel and staying overnight, but I had plans the next night back in New York City. Good plans. Very very good plans. I’d say more, but you wouldn’t believe me.


• 3 balls at this “game” (Yeah, it counts as a game in my stats. The balls didn’t just materialize out of thin air, you know?)

• 193 balls in 25 games this season = 7.72 balls per game.

• 594 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 160 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 4,013 total balls


• 106 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)

• $23.95 pledged per ball

• $71.85 raised at this game

• $4,622.35 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball


  1. 333greystreet

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience in Washington. I am planning on heading there myself very soon. If they knew the weather was going to be so severe, they should’ve canceled the game hours earlier. They could’ve saved themselves some $ by sending all of the employees home a couple hours earlier.


  2. yankeekid

    Crappy Day Zack.
    First The Newspaper
    Then the “Inept” Groundscrew
    And finally Worse fan treatment ever.!!!
    Hope things get better
    PS Nice use of the word “Inept”‘
    Cant wait to hear your very good plans

  3. goisles

    Not a glorious day.

    Don’t feel too bad about how the Nats treat the fans. I have friends who are among the dwindling Nats’ season ticket holders and they treat them pretty crappy too. Lots of excuses–and little action.

    By the way, if you get hungry and they don’t close the stands, I would suggest Five Guys burgers on the second level. It can be expensive, bu the burgers are awesome

    One final point. You said you are jinxed by God. Based on what I have read on this blog, I can assure you that you are not jinxed–and if you are, your starting point is one of the most blessed ones in the history of humanity! Count your blessings my friend!

  4. boodleheimer1@aol.com

    The last 5 words of Father Puck’s response go double for me! You are one mucky fother lucker!

  5. makinplays

    sup Zack. That’s brutal that the game got rained out. I was actually gonna make the trip up to Washington this week as well to see Randy go for number 300 but my sister’s birthday is on the 3rd. Oh well, i took her to her first game at the new Yankee Stadium so it was a pretty cool day anyway. I can’t believe you still got 3 balls even though there was NO game even to be played. awesome.Well keep up the good work and hopefully i’ll see ya soon. Catch ya lata.
    – Tony B

  6. ladod4ever

    That sucks but a least you caught some baseballs and raised some money for charity…so what did you do if you didn’t go to the double header

  7. nic@shaykos.com

    Hey Zach,

    This is Nic Shayko. Sorry you had such a bad experience with the nats. The problem with the nats is that not just their team sucks, but the whole organization sucks. I could give lots of example, but I just like to point of that the number on the nationals own website yields a disconnected number. I was able to find the real number in the yellow pages. What a joke.

    Normally I would have stayed till the bitter end, but i decided to leave at 8:45 because I wanted to leave DC by 5:45 in the morning in order to get to PNC park today. It turned out to be a good decision.

    Can you seriously believe the Nats were going to allow Randy Johnson to get win #300 at 2AM in the morning? What a shame. Any person with a brain would have canceled that game after that 1st monsoon.

    Nice meeting you in person and I am sure better days are ahead of you. I still find it amazing you were able to get 3 balls in those conditions.

  8. Txbaseballfan

    Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that remind you of 5/2 in Tx? I guess the difference would be, that the 5/2 game actually got played, but my point was, rain delay, hellacious rain, meeting someone from the blog, hanging out with him and his kid. Almost like deja-vu! AND I think you got 3 balls that day too, with no BP. Summer’s just around the corner my friend, then you can make up for lost time!

  9. paris4242@aol.com

    Zach if I’m not mistaken, New York State law requires your insurance company to repair your cracked window for free. Check to see if that’s right.

  10. Stuart Jon

    Hey Zack,

    Wow your last few blogs have totally bummed me out!!! As for the weather, well being English let me help you out, oh bloody hell it’s raining, ..again, God save the Queen.

    Stuart Jon

  11. excitingjae@gmail.com

    ” had plans the next night back in New York City. Good plans. Very very good plans. I’d say more, but you wouldn’t believe me.”

    You think we wouldn’t believe your plans? I’m starting to think you didn’t have very good plans otherwise you would have told us.

  12. braves04

    I can’t believe they closed the concessions. I stayed at Turner Field last night until 9:30 when officially called our game vs. Chicago and ALL concessions were open the entire time. Since most people gathered in the concourse, they were probably making MORE money than if the game was played.

  13. Jake

    ZACK –
    Sorry to hear about your recent misfortunes. Nothing really exciting going on here in AZ, but I did go to Petco Park this week. It is such a beautiful and unique stadium. It is nice to get out and see different stadiums every now and then, Chase Field sort of gets repetitive if you know what I mean.

    LEIGH –
    It was nice to meet you as well. We all had a blast in San Diego and might be back before summer is over. If not I hope we can meet up in September.

  14. zackhample

    It looks like I’m going to get a refund, but it is NOT an easy process. I called the Nationals and no one answered. I had to leave a message. Can you believe that? It’s Bush League.

    Yup, pretty much.

    Oh yeah, the plans. Can’t really say much about it. :-)

    My father read the last part of your comment, and he agrees. I guess I do too. And of course all my negativity is at least SOMEwhat tongue-in-cheek, but yes, thanks for setting me straight.

    Yeah yeah…

    TONY B-
    Yo. Thanks. But getting the three balls really wasn’t that tough. I mean…the players came out and threw, so at least I had a chance.

    It certainly DOES happen.

    Yes, good point about the charity. I missed the doubleheader because I was spending time with a couple friends. I’ll leave it at that. The few people who know me VERY well should be able to guess what I was up to. Everyone else will just have to use their imagination.

    Great meeting you. Funny you mentioned the phone number. I actually discovered that problem the previous week when I need to call them for another reason.

    Great meeting you too!

    Good call. Wow…yeah, there ARE some strong similarities.

    Thanks for letting me know. My parents and I are looking into it.

    If you’re bummed out just by reading it, imagine how bad it was for me to live it. Hopefully things will pick up in the next couple weeks. I have a bunch of games planned that I’ll be attending no matter what.

    Sigh. Some things are better left unsaid. Someday I’ll publish a tell-all memoir, and you’ll (all) be shocked. Shocked, I tell you!

    It makes no sense.

    I know exactly what you mean. Glad you had a good time in SD.

  15. yanksin@aol.com

    yea, i would say your streak is over:(

  16. yanksin@aol.com

    hey zack
    im just joking, i hope u go another 500 games, with 3000 more balls:)
    keep up the good work

  17. zackhample

    Excuse me?

    I left AFTER the game had been called off (after being in the stadium for six hours), and I had snagged three baseballs by that point.

    Please explain your logic.

  18. phillies_phollowers

    I was at the same game / non-game! SO **********…they made us wait for 4 freaking hours (6 1/2, if you count when the gates opened) before they called it. Well, I did have an interesting time under the stadium with the mascots and employees who played nerf ball to entertain me…check it out: http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/06/complete_game_shut_out_from_ha.html
    Shot some video and took photos of the goings on. But man, what a serious bummer. I did get Bruce Bochy’s autograph, so it was not a total loss I guess.


  19. yanksin@aol.com


  20. zackhample

    Supercool video. How the hell did you get to go down there? Wow.

    Ahh, gotcha. :-)

  21. ipodville@aol.com

    WOW zach,
    YANKSIN is right, you did have a ticket to the game. You make the trip to the bronx, saw the bad weather and went home. I guess your streak is dead. No FEAR. It’s time to start a new one.

  22. phillies_phollowers

    In answer to your question, I smiled at the security guard and sat on the ground…then I chatted with him and I guess he figured I’d be no trouble so he let me stay…then another employee got me a chair…weird. You can access the tunnel from the handicapp area, which is near where Bochy was signing…it started raining, I followed a guy in a wheelchair in as he headed for the elevator under there and decided to not get on the elevator, hang and see what happened. I have odd luck sometimes :O)


  23. zackhample

    Okay, I’ll see what I can do. :-)

    Well…all I can say is…nicely done.

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