Sun Sets on Weekday Afternoon Games at Nationals Park

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 26, 2008; Page B01

It's a Monday and the Nationals are to be on the diamond against Milwaukee this afternoon at Washington's new ballpark. The weekday daylight game is a rarity this season -- and scheduled only because it's Memorial Day and there will be no evening rush clogging South Capitol Street when the game lets out.

Because of concerns about parking and traffic congestion around Nationals Park, there will be no more weekday baseball matinees in Washington. Fans no longer can sneak out of work or school for a few illicit hours of pleasure at a game once known as a "businessman's special."

Go ahead, look at the schedule. Gone.

"You're right," moaned Charles Krauthammer. A Nationals schedule is pinned to the bulletin board of his downtown Washington office, but he hadn't noticed that weekday games are reserved for nights until a reporter called for his reaction.

"Those are the great games of all time," said the syndicated columnist and baseball fan. "It's a terrible thing."

Before the installation of bright lights. Before prime-time games and ESPN dictates. Before expensive suites and $7.50 beers, baseball was played mostly in the sunlight. Sounds amazingly retro now, doesn't it?

"When I was in the ninth and tenth grade, I played hooky from school and just went to the ballgame. I only did it a few times, but it was fun," said Arlington County lawyer and baseball historian Frank Ceresi. "It kind of allowed you to do something to the left of center."

A friend, Arlington family court Judge George Varoutsos, said: "It was almost like you could do it on your lunch hour and get back to the office before 5 o'clock. I did that once last year."

Many big league cities still have those weekday afternoon games. You can find them in Philadelphia, Denver and Chicago, among others. Or, closer to home, go to Baltimore at 12:35 p.m. Thursday, July 24 and see the Orioles play the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Nats had the games, too, when they played at RFK Stadium.

Last year, they played weekday afternoon games against the Florida Marlins (won), the Philadelphia Phillies (lost), the Atlanta Braves (won), the Pittsburgh Pirates (lost) and the Houston Astros (won) -- a winning record.

But the new ballpark, an edifice hugging the Anacostia River, is scrunched into an urban neighborhood in Southeast. It is helping revitalize a once-forgotten, blighted area. But the location has meant changes.

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