Taking Notes On In-Game Experience

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 27, 2007

DENVER, Aug. 26 -- Mark Lerner, one of the principal owners of the Washington Nationals, is leading a contingent of club officials on the three legs of this 10-game trip in an effort to see more ballparks, from which the team might glean ideas for how to run game operations -- promotions and in-game entertainment -- at the Nationals' new stadium, which will open next spring.

"Just walking around down here, there are reminders of things you don't want to forget," Lerner said. "There's in-game stuff, music and all that kind of stuff. But everything from the window where they give out uniforms to [game-day] personnel, to looking at their time-clock system. You learn something every place you go."

Lerner began his trip last week in Houston, and he was joined at Coors Field by team president Stan Kasten and chief operating officer Alan Gottlieb. Ted Lerner, Mark's father and the club's managing principal owner, will join the entourage Monday in Los Angeles.

Lerner said he has probably been to seven or eight of the new ballparks in the year since his family officially gained ownership of the Nationals. The only newly constructed park he hasn't visited in the past few years is Safeco Field in Seattle.

Lerner said because the new Nationals' park will be owned by the District, and because it's on such a tight schedule to open next April, there will be some changes that will have to wait.

"With the set-up with the city what it is, it's very hard to make changes," he said. "A lot of adjustments we're making notes of right now will be stuff we have to do during road trips or during the '08-09 winter."

One area that Lerner and the Nationals hope will be improved in 2008 is concessions. The team has agreed with concessionaire Centerplate, which will replace Aramark. The contract must be approved by Major League Baseball before it is officially announced, Lerner said, but he was pleased with the process. "It was very thorough," he said.

Making a Play the 'Hard-Headed' Way

Right fielder Austin Kearns made one of the Nationals' best defensive plays of the year in the third inning of Sunday's 10-5 loss to the Rockies. With one out and the bases empty, Brad Hawpe scorched a ball back toward the wall in right, sending Kearns twisting as he ran.

"I thought it was going to start hooking, but it stayed straight," Kearns said. "I turned back around after I already had turned around."

He leapt right before the wall, caught the ball, then crashed into the fence face-first. He said he was fine afterward.

"I'm pretty hard-headed," Kearns said. . . .

Two Nationals set career highs for homers Sunday. Ryan Zimmerman's solo shot in the first was his 21st of the year, one more than his rookie season of 2006. Ryan Church's two-run blast in the seventh was his 11th, topping the 10 he hit last year. Church reached 10 homers in 196 at-bats in 2006. His 11th homer came in his 415th at-bat this season.

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