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John Kelly's Washington

A Cold Day, a Hot Dog -- and Baseball!

By John Kelly
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page C10

I have been warmer at some Redskins games than I was at Sunday's exhibition game between the Nationals and the New York Mets at RFK Stadium.

Heck, I've been warmer on some ski lifts than I was Sunday. Sitting up in the nosebleeds, at about the same level as the jet stream, the Kelly family was apparently the first thing encountered by what meteorologists call "frigid Arctic air." I detected a certain amount of sadism in the vendors' shouts of "Ice cold Pepsi! Who wants an ice cold Pepsi?!" and "Get yer cold Coors Light!"

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And yet we were happy to be among the 25,000 hardy souls who braved the elements. Baseball was back in Washington, and the ballpark looked great.

Not that everything was perfect. There's still room for improvement, starting with:

They need to open more concession stands in the upper reaches of the stadium. My daughters and I passed only one on our semi- circumnavigation of the upper deck, and it was so thronged with hungry people desperate to mortgage their homes for chicken tenders and fries ($8.50) that we decided to trudge down the ramps to the first level, where plenty of places were open for business.

They need to put trash cans right next to the condiment stands. When you tear open a relish packet and empty its contents onto your superdog, you want to toss the trash immediately. Same when you misjudge the hydraulics of the ketchup pump and end up looking like a stabbing victim. But none of the condiment stations I saw had trash cans anywhere near them.

I finally spotted one about 30 feet away, and, gingerly holding my hot dog in one hand, I dragged it over next to the condiments.

My daughters were mortified by my vigilante action. When we got back to our seats, they told My Lovely Wife: "Mommy! Daddy did something like you would have done!"

The easiest scoreboard for us to look at -- just past third base -- spent the whole time I was there displaying the time and the number of strikeouts. Who cares what time it is? We know we're squandering an afternoon when we're at a ballgame. That's why we're there. Every scoreboard should show strikes and balls and score.

I'm not one of those purists who detests hearing little snatches of music accompanying each home team batter. I do urge the Nationals to be more creative in their selections, though. How about a snippet of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" when Terrmel Sledge steps to the plate? And some of the "Good Times" theme when J.J. "J.J." Davis is at bat? How about some homegrown music: go-go, straight edge, a bit of John Philip Sousa?

Speaking of music, we got to the ballpark too late to hear the chorus from Duke Ellington School of the Arts sing the national anthem, so I don't know if Sumner Steinfeldt's concerns were borne out.

Sumner wrote: "Many of those who will be attending Washington Nationals games have been and remain Orioles fans." And so many of them may be accustomed to shouting out Oh! [for Orioles] during the national anthem. Sumner urges all Nationals fans "not to follow the Baltimore tradition. It shows support for a team other than our home team and for the owner who did everything he could to keep baseball out of D.C."

Instead, he recommends shouting "free" after "o'er the land of the . . . ."

Doing this, Sumner wrote, would indicate "our desire for independence from Major League Baseball, which has damaged our team so much, and from Mr. Angelos, who is still trying to make the Nationals subservient to his team."

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