Switching Seats? Ushers Say No Way

Scott Watson

"Are you OK, sweetie?"

It's not what I usually expect to hear at a ballgame, but it was welcome on Sunday.

I had joined the group from the National War College as they invaded Nationals Park (I'm sure there was some strategic benefit from securing the beachhead on South Capitol Street). This put me in some unfamiliar seats out in Section 238. You know Section 238; it's one of the two sections directly above the Nats' bullpen, sitting empty *every night.* Anyway, it wasn't empty Sunday afternoon -- it was filled with some of the nation's warriors, and their professors of strategy.

But many of the professors, like me, weren't bright enough to bring sunscreen. Lulled by the gorgeous spring weather, with a cool breeze everywhere, the professors and I showed up stupidly unprepared for the sun. And unlike RFK, Nationals Park is gloriously open and airy. "Glorious," that is, until you want to spend a second out of the sun. And Section 238 offers nothing BUT sun. So like many others, by inning 6 I scurried up the aisle, looking to slide into an adjoining section, and into one of the many empty seats covered by the stadium overhang.

Not a chance. There were yellow-shirted ushers everywhere, and they were unforgiving. No amount of sun and "gosh-wasn't-I-dumb!" charm could get them to relent and let me sit even five (cheaper) rows away from my seat, out of the sun. I can't really blame them; the lax enforcement at RFK, where people sat wherever they thought they could, won't fly in a stadium with $350 seats. And a "no tolerance" policy makes enforcement easier, so I can't blame the Nats.

But DAMN I wanted out of that sun.

So I sheepishly walked around the concourse, until I found a spot with some shade. I slumped against the wall, listening to Charley Slowes describe the action over one of the stadium's TV/radio combos. I closed my eyes, imagining the action that was 40 feet from my view -- IF I could only roust myself from that spot. And that's when I heard her voice:

"Are you OK, sweetie?"

One of those "mean" ushers, in her yellow shirt of authority, had strolled over to make sure that I was all right. "I just wanted to check when I saw your eyes were closed," she added.

I let her know that I was fine, just stupid for not being prepared for a sunny day. And I was more than fine, because that one act of kindness restored my energy, put a bounce in my step, and reminded me that the ushers were not just there bossing people around, but were there looking to make the event go smoothly. As I boarded the Nats Express, I felt like I was living in some modern Norman Rockwell world. And it wasn't too bad. . . .

By Scott Watson  |  May 7, 2008; 10:03 AM ET  | Category:  Scott Watson
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About the ushers: A huge shout-out to the kind woman in Sec. 101 My five year old daughter had just about enough baseball for the day when she wanted to leave around the top of the 7th..."But, I told her, "if we leave now we miss singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Well, that was all she needed to hear, so we mulled around Sec. 101 The nice usher in Sec. 101 noticed us and invited us, and others, to grab a seat in the largely unpopulated section. (Why, I ask again, were there only 30K in the park on a lovely, warm spring day?)

Anywho, this woman was kind enough to notice that a five year old needed a seat, in order to stand, and join in the 7th Inning Stretch, brought to you by [insert corporate sponsor here] Chorus.

Again, a "thank you" goes out to this fine usher.

Posted by: Annandale Annie | May 7, 2008 2:44 PM

I do wonder what the "econometrics" are involving letting people move to a 'better' seat (not necessarily closer, as demonstrated by Wats) by, say, the 7th-Inning Stretch? What is the financial impact? Would it not be 'better' for TV viewers to see a packed Home Plate section during the end of the game? It would also maybe be one of those "hometown-feel" traditions: Nats Park lets you sit in the good seats if you're dedicated enough to stay late in the game.

Then again, I suppose people would find some way to squabble about such a good thing and, without actual tickets to back it up, there would be no way tell who's in the right. I can see someone just being a jerk for no reason about a seat they didn't even pay for.

So I guess sunburn it is!

Posted by: Cole | May 7, 2008 7:22 PM

This pseudo-sense of entitlement just gets me.

"I didn't pay, but the seat is empty, therefore I should be able to get it".

"Oh, let me sit in the $335 seat - it looks better on TV."

"Attention all Nats fans. Although a baseball game is really 9 innings, you will be rewarded for staying past 7 by management allowing you to try and get a seat behind home plate. Your wait may be longer than Ben's Chili Bowl on Opening Day, but you like standing in line rather than watching the event for which you came. Right?"

And the reason the usher asked you if you were okay is because she was seeing if you were drunk.

If I paid $335 for a seat and showed up in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out for it and someone was there I'd be, let's say, rather concerned. We're not talking about a spot in the Vienna garage past 10:30 AM here.

I've spent MANY a too-sunny day at RFK and the answer is - take a walk under the stands and cool off.

A better suggestion is that perhaps management might consider selling sunscreen at the ballpark during day games.

Posted by: DanD187 | May 8, 2008 8:12 AM

DanD187 -- why all the negative waves,dude?

You're looking for people to be A-Holes when they aren't.

The original poster explained that he understood: the post says "I can't blame them" TWICE. It also suggests that he wanted to sit in CHEAPER seats. So I guess he's suggesting "I DID pay, and I screwed up, and would it be okay to sit in a cheaper, cooler, EMPTY section." Except it doesn't even say that, since he said he gets it.

The the "Cole" poster poses a question -- Not a helluva lot of "entitlement" there. And the emptry seats behind home plate have been the subject of Endless Comment in the blogosphere, and by Bos, and even by Kasten. AND Cole ends up saying "I guess sunburn it is."

And finally -- a baseball game is MEASURED as a contest of nine outs. But for the fans, it's not nine innings, it's an experience of an afternoon. People who move to watch the action or to avoid sunburn are fine, as are people who leave the experience before the nine are out. Why don't you bite yourself on your arse and use the stick stuffed up there as dental floss, you whiny commie!

Posted by: Take A Chill Pill | May 8, 2008 8:25 AM

Selling sunblock at the games would definitely be a good idea. Maybe Clint & Co. could also do some PSAs about making sure you're not getting burned...have some cute little kids slathering it on on the big screen.

Posted by: Cancer Sucks | May 8, 2008 9:21 AM

I know this is basic math - but one pair of those $350 seats is equivalent to 35 $20 tickets. The Lerners are good businessfolk, they know that these seats are going to be their bread and butter. So if they want to dictate that people should be able to do whatever they want with those seats - then great - if they want to show up late more power to them.

This sense of entitlement felt by guys like Marc Fisher is laughable. He wants people to be able to move into these seats to look better on TV. I have always hated seat jumpers at games. Nothing ticked me off more at RFK then taking a walk for a couple innings with my son and coming back to have to kick people our of our seats behind the plate. I cant stand it.

And on that note, the empty seats has nothing to do with cost and everything to do with the lousy team on the field. Believe me, if the team was good, the firms and companies that own those seats would have no trouble giving them away. Many stadiums like Fenway Park have the same priced seats and they are filled all the time. What are you going to do - force people to come to games on time? Check out Craigslist there are a ton of people trying to unload these seats.

Posted by: DCZ | May 8, 2008 1:37 PM

Are you people insane?!? Has any of you ever gone to a baseball game outside DC?

If I wanted to move to a cheaper seat out of the sun, that was empty, I would move. Period. What possible purpose is served by forcing people to stay out of empty seats? How does it even conceivably make sense to force ticket-holders to stay in seats that are making them physically uncomfortable, when there are cheaper alternatives that are nearby? This attitude is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with the Washington area. No other ballpark that I have ever been to (and I go to many) would do this, nor should they.

DanD187 your attitude astonishes me. If you didn't show up to your seat until the last out of the game, you've forfeited it. What would you be concerned about if somebody was sitting in it? What if they simply moved over to the next empty seat? What if you just sat down in the empty seat next to that person? What the hell do you care?

Posted by: Andy | May 8, 2008 3:42 PM

Does anyone know to whom I should send a complaint about an item that I was forced to throw out at the gates (Nalgene-style water bottle)?

Posted by: Thirsty | May 8, 2008 4:58 PM

That's weird. They made you throw out the BOTTLE? Or just the water inside of it?

Posted by: NatsNut | May 8, 2008 8:01 PM

I think DanD187 brings up some very good points. If you read the post it's obviously sarcasm. I happen to agree with him. You can't have people taking any seat they want. It's not fair to put anyone in the position to ask anyone to move out of a seat. I like the suggestion of sunblock at day games too.

I think Andy it's you who's attitude is astonishing, and somewhat vitriolic.

Posted by: BlogWatch | May 9, 2008 8:58 AM

Does anyone know to whom I should send a complaint about an item that I was forced to throw out at the gates (Nalgene-style water bottle)?

The rules about bringing bottles of water into the stadium are pretty specific. It has to be a commercial bottle (i.e. Dasani, Aquafina, etc, and not a "sports bottle" that you fill up with tap water at home), it has to be less than a certain size, it can't be frozen, and it has to be unopened. I got burned on that last one myself last Saturday when I took a gulp out of my otherwise legal bottle as I was walking from Capitol South to the ballpark. When I got to the gate, they wouldn't let me bring it in because it had been opened. (I showed them, though. I just chugged it all on the spot and brought the water in with me anyway.) I had carried bottles in before that I'd already drunk out of, but I guess I was just lucky that the bag inspectors at the gate weren't all that attentive. The times I got away with it I was going in through the busy CF gate, but the time they caught me I was going in through the less-used 1B gate. That might have had something to do with it.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | May 9, 2008 1:08 PM

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