The setting sun casts shadows as fans walk about Nationals Park during the Congressional Baseball Game on Thursday July 14, 2011. (Matt McClain)

Using the U.S. Naval Observatory’s easily accessible websites on sunrises and daylight duration, let’s tour the Washington Nationals farm system.

Traveling way north, Washington’s minor league ball clubs in Syracuse, N.Y. and Auburn, N.Y. get substantially more sun this time of year than does Washington – almost a half-hour more daylight.

For example, take Falcon Park - a throwback style minor league stadium where the Auburn Doubledays (short season A) call home – sits in the middle of a quiet neighborhood. Fans sitting in the third-base bleachers can turn back west and watch the sunset at 8:49 p.m. from June 20 through July 2. Since the Auburn home games start at 7:05 p.m., fans bask in sunlight for an hour and 44 minutes in early summer. (The Doubledays home opener is June 18, against the Batavia Muck Dogs, a St. Louis Cardinals farm club.)

Of course, the Doubledays fans enjoy early sunrises too, since the sun ascends the east at 5:27 a.m. now through the solstice. In the days surrounding the solstice, Auburn receives 15 hours and 21 minutes of sun, a whopping 27 minutes more than Washington at 14 hours, 54 minutes.

Close to Auburn is Syracuse. Fans of the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA) enjoy 15 hours and 22 minutes of sunshine around the solstice. This central New York city, which once had an NBA team named the Nationals (they are the Philadelphia 76ers now), gets an early 5:25 a.m. sunrise now through June 20.

In Washington, the earliest sunrises occur 5:42 a.m., about a week before the summer solstice. For the evenings, the latest sunsets occur at 8:38 p.m., about a week after the solstice. Washington’s early risers may note little difference between sunrise times in June, which range from 5:46 a.m. to 5:42 a.m. – for a four-minute total difference through the month.

In Harrisburg, Pa., the Senators (AA affiliate) play at Metro Bank Park on City Island - smack dab in the middle of Susquehanna River. If you want to see a ballgame, you have to cross a bridge. In the days surrounding the solstice, Harrisburg fans relish their 15 hours and 3 minutes of sun. Their earliest sunrise occurs 5 minutes before Washington’s.

While the Potomac Nationals (A) remain close to Washington in Woodbridge, even Pfitzner Stadium can’t escape the solar system’s mechanics. At 14 hours and 52 minutes of sunlight, fans of the P-Nats get two minutes less light than Washington. Their earliest sunrise at 5:44 a.m. falls a week before solstice.