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'Crustacean Nation' Arrives

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Still, the evening's largest cheers were reserved for the Blue Crabs players, who ran onto the field from a door in the outfield wall that was modeled after the "Green Monster" in Boston's Fenway Park. Confetti filled the air and fireworks exploded in the outfield as the players took the field for a game with the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers. The Blue Crabs defeated the Barnstormers on Friday, 3-2.

The team's roster for opening day at its home ballpark included seven players who have played Major League Baseball, including starting pitcher John Halama. In the six road games the Blue Crabs played before Friday, shortstop George Sandel led the team, hitting .381.

Hundreds of Charles County Youth League baseball players participated in the pregame festivities, sprinting across the outfield before welcoming the professional players. Nine-year-old Ryan Slater said that his family had bought season tickets and that he planned to be a Blue Crabs fan for life.

"I'm going to come all the time because I like seeing the pros play," said Ryan, of Waldorf. "Maybe someday I'm going to play for the Blue Crabs and then play for the Orioles."

Fans who arrived close to game time encountered huge traffic jams on Piney Church Road, near the stadium, whether they came from Billingsley Road to the north or Route 488 to the south. By the time the first pitch was thrown, the parking lot was full and latecomers were lining the road with cars.

"It was horrible to get here," said Jane Thomas, who estimated it took her 45 minutes to reach the stadium from her La Plata home. "They're going to have to figure out what to do about that traffic, because I want to come to games, but I won't do it if it's always this bad."

Lines stretched around the ballpark for the concession stands, which offered classics such as funnel cakes and Italian sausages, and at the team shop, which was selling at least 10 T-shirt designs as well as mugs, foam fingers and stuffed crabs. Leonardtown resident Mike Mattingly bought a dozen T-shirts to send to family members and friends.

"It's a cool day to be here," said Mattingly, a lifelong Southern Maryland resident. "I went to the Nationals' opening day, too, but this is more special because it's home."


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