Play Ball! First View of Opening Day
On a sparkling and suddenly warm April afternoon, the Nationals opened their third campaign a few minutes ago amid signs both encouraging and ominous.
A strangely sparse crowd welcomed the team to the last season at RFK Stadium--the centerfield stands looked almost entirely empty on the homescreen, and while the announcers on Orioles-owned MASN touted the 37,000-plus advance sales for the home opener, it looked as if many of those folks had decided not to play hooky after all. But it's still early and D.C. crowds are notoriously late arriving.
Those who were there on time got to see a quintet of luminaries replacing the president to throw out the first ball: In addition to Washington Senators all-stars Mickey Vernon and Chuck Hinton, there was Hank Thomas, the grandson of Walter Johnson himself. And to represent the future, new Nats manager Manny Acta joined the oldtimers on the mound, as did D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, clad in new red W cap and a blue suit. Fenty's pitch looked strong but faltered, taking a slight skip in the dirt before catcher Brian Schneider swept it up.
Nats starter John Patterson got things off on the right foot with a strike, but the second pitch was hit hard, looped into the right field corner for a ground rule double by Florida Marlins hotshot sophomore Hanley Ramirez. Patterson remained shaky throughout the first, giving up another hit and a run before whiffing Joe Borchard.
MASN today launches its first season of carrying both the Nats and the Orioles, and sadly, their promotional efforts seem egregiously slanted toward the O's--their radio ads feature Baltimore fans discussing their superstitions about the Orioles, and outside RFK at Saturday's exhibition game, MASN hawkers greeted fans with free fridge magnets featuring the season schedules of...you won't believe it--the Orioles. (Nats schedules were also available, but you had to ask for them, at least where we were walking in.)
The MASN coverage, however, seems to be in fine shape. TV play by play man Bob Carpenter is back--he's the consummate pro, knowledgeable, funny, with just the right tempo and tone. He's joined this season by color man Don Sutton, freshly arrived from Atlanta, replacing Tom Paciorek, and already, Sutton is a strong improvement, adding smart analysis and considerably more of a presence than Paciorek provided last season.
Now, back to the game....
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