Take Me Out to the Ballgame

“May the sun never set on American baseball.” ~ President Harry S. Truman

image3For Father’s Day this year, the girls and I got my husband a family pack of tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game. We’ve gone to a few games in past years, and it’s always a good time. There’s lots to see and do (and eat) at Nats Park, not even counting the game on the field, so we all stay entertained. But I had the thought, this year I’d like us to get more out of it. I’d like to know more about the players, understand the stats, appreciate the calls a little more. I don’t need to become a baseball expert for one game, but I’d like us all to know a little more.

I found some excellent online content, which I share below. But I also took the girls on a tour of Nationals Park. Did you know that many sports stadiums offers tours? Our guide, Maria, told us she has had tour guides from other parks on her tour, and it has been fun to compare notes with them.

Nats Park is enormous. With 41,341 seats, a 4,800 square foot HD jumbotron, and 30+ miles of pipe just for beer, it’s a place that knows its purpose: make baseball awesome. Built in 2008, Nationals Park was also the first major professional green ballpark. A few other fun facts we learned on the tour:

  • The visiting team’s bullpen sits in full sun all day, while the Nationals’ bullpen is in full shade – so shady, it’s the only part of the field that can’t grow grass and is laid with astroturf.
  • The press box at Nationals Park is ten stories up, much higher than other ball parks, and the journalists always complain about it.
  • The Media Center, which contains the press box, is named for Shirley Povich, father of Maury, who was a Washington Post sports reporter for many years.
  • On the same level as the owner’s suite, where the U.S. President sits when he visits, and the D.C. Mayor’s suite, is Club 24, a fine dining club where one table costs $98,000 to reserve for a season.
  • On the other hand, grandstand seats sell for as low as $5 on game days; plus, you may bring your own food and drink, so you could come see a game for less than a movie.

We also learned about the batter’s eye, a term no one on our tour had heard before. It refers to a solid, dark field or screen beyond center field that creates a contrasting, uncluttered background against which a batter may see the pitcher, and the pitched ball coming at him. It’s a safety measure that decreases the chances of a batter being hit by a ball. At Nats Park, the batter’s eye is made of turf and green paint. At Shea Stadium in New York, it’s a rotating billboard that shows advertisements between innings, and a black surface while the game is in play. At Wrigley Field in Chicago, there’s a shaded luxury suite referred to by the Cubs as the “Batter’s Eye Suite.”image1

After seeing the Diamond Club, the beer keg refrigerator rooms, the batting cages, the press conference room, and the Visiting Team Clubhouse on the lower levels, we got to enter the field. We hung out in the two dugouts, used the phones that call in relief pitchers, and even glimpsed Jayson Werth practicing on the field. He’s out with a wrist injury, so he wasn’t traveling with the team. He waved us a hello and tossed a few balls our way.

At the end of our tour, we checked out the Nats’ bullpen. Maria said theirs is the only tour that allows visitors to do anything with an actual baseball. We were allowed to pick a ball out of the bucket and take turn throwing a pitch. I admit, I throw like a girl, the kind that has never pitched a ball in her life. But. Now I know a lot more about my team, my park, and the game. We’re ready to go out to the ballgame.

Is your family interested in baseball? How much do they know about the sport? Watch a game as a family, and, using the links below, learn at least one new thing about America’s national pastime.

Scorecard for children – Do you, or your children, know how to fill in a scorecard? This simplified version is great for first-timers.

The Science of Baseball – Learn the physics of hitting a home run, learn about the women’s and negro leagues, and test your fastball reaction time!

Best Baseball Games for Kids – A list from Common Sense Media.

Today in Baseball History – Just in case you were wondering…

Baseball and Math – Batter’s Up is an online baseball game that requires students to correctly solve math problems to move players around the bases.

Baseball for kids – Everything you need to know about the rules, positions, and strategy of baseball.

MLB Kids – Click on your favorite team’s logo to go to their kids club website.