Nationals Fans Are Experiencing Growing Pains, Too

These fans had a ball at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, even though the local nine got shut out by the Mets, 12-0.
These fans had a ball at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, even though the local nine got shut out by the Mets, 12-0. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, August 17, 2008

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and his merry band of owners were at Nationals Park on Wednesday night with 30,814 other baseball fans to see the Nationals get pounded, 12-0, by the New York Mets.

Selig and the gang were in Washington this week for their quarterly meetings -- a most welcome sight considering most baseball owners avoided the District for 33 years before the Expos moved here nearly four years ago.

So while the commissioner and the owners were thinking grander thoughts, those in the upper deck -- with a fine view of the Capitol, I might add -- were left to ponder the fate of the Nationals. The home team, whose performance this season has been the worst (44-78 entering the weekend) in the National League and is on track to lose more than 100 games, still draws more than 30,000 fans a game (some disguised as Mets and Phillies loyalists).

"This season is trying our patience," Dave Dugoff of Chevy Chase said. "If the Redskins played this way, you wouldn't see such patient fans at FedEx."

Royal Collette, a fan from Annandale who was born in Boston and moved to the area in 1991, said a whipping such as the one the Nats were enduring was no deterrent to the satisfaction of standing on a wide concourse, cup in hand, watching a baseball game on a beautiful night in Washington.

"There is nothing like being at a baseball game on a night like this," he said. "I go to nearly all the games and understand you have to give the club time to get it right."

My friend Charles, in the lower deck, goes to the ballpark twice a week, calling the stadium "a friendly place," but currently home to a "Double-A team."

"At some point they're going to have to buy two serious hitters," Charles said. "The starting pitching is good, and they have some core players."

Collette agreed. "The key is pitching," he said.

"The youth movement is good in the long run," Dugoff added. "The young guys are learning, and we're getting some good players in the draft."

Only twice during Wednesday's ugly rout did the fans boo the Nats: when Cristian Guzmán played a hard grounder into a two-run single and when Jason Bergmann walked Mets pitcher John Maine with the bases loaded. Score one for Washington civility.

"People are happy to have baseball," said Dugoff, a sentiment Nats owners Ted and Mark Lerner and team president Stan Kasten understand fully. Which is why the responsibility falls on them to put a better team on the field in 2009 and provide fans more than they've gotten this season.

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