Opening Day of the 2013 Major League Baseball season brought a lot of fanfare (and fans!) to Nationals Park today, where the Washington Nationals shut out the visiting Miami Marlins by a score of 2-0. And while it was my first time in several years not attending an Opening Day game at Nats Park (don’t cry for me, Nats fans – I will be there this Thursday afternoon with my family), I was able to catch all the action from the warmth and comfort of my living room.
The day started with the unveiling of the “2012 National League East Division Champions” pennant. This particular sign is not pennant-shaped but rather rectangular and large, welcoming fans into the main center field gate of Nationals Park. After the unveiling, players were presented, the National Anthem was sung by an Army quartet (sans the traditional fly-over, probably due to sequestration), and the 2012 awards were doled out. Adam LaRoche received the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, Ian Desmomd and Stephen Strasburg received Silver Sluggers as well, Davey Johnson was given the 2012 Manager of the Year award, General Manager Mike Rizzo was awarded the Executive of the Year award, and Bryce Harper was given the National League Rookie of the Year award. It was a ceremony that seemed to take forever – we were all definitely ready for some baseball to be played.
Speaking of Bryce Harper, the kid ended up hitting two home runs during today’s game. The first one was cool, but the second one was just unbelievable. I found myself thinking “Are you freakin’ kidding me? What does this mean? Is this some sort of omen?” It was kind of surreal, even though I wasn’t there to experience it. We Nationals fans spent so many years watching mediocre baseball that it’s still hard for all this good baseball to sink in. But we’ll take it!
And speaking of good baseball, the Nationals’ starter, Stephen Strasburg, pitched seven stellar innings, allowing only three hits while striking out three. Strasburg threw only 80 pitches and did not walk a single batter. He was replaced in the seventh inning by Tyler Clippard, who did not disappoint by giving us one of his usual stressful outings. In typical Clippard fashion, he walked a guy and then took forever to get the next three batters out. New Nats’ closer, Rafael Soriano, closed it out in the top of the ninth by striking out two out of the three batters he faced. I found it odd that Soriano un-tucked his shirt as soon as he recorded the final out – I wonder if that’s his “thing” at the end of a game. I’ll have to notice to see if that’s something he does when he earns a save – I honestly didn’t pay that much attention to him during his days as a Yankees closer.
Now the Nationals have earned their first win of the season and did not disappoint the 45,000-plus fans in attendance. It was a very quick game – only 2 hours and 10 minutes, but they still found time for the traditional Presidents’ Race (with new member William H. Taft in the mix, though he fell over in the beginning of the race and was unable to finish). They also played a little bit of “Take On Me” during the seventh-inning stretch as a little tribute to former Nationals’ outfielder, Michael Morse. It was an “awww!” moment for me, especially when all the fans joined in the singing.
So what does today’s victory and Harper’s two home runs mean? Nothing really, other than the fact that the Nationals are picking up where they left off last year, playing solid baseball (though it would have been nice if they’d had a few more hits), showing excellent team work (that double play in the seventh inning was anything but routine), and giving it their all at every at-bat. I’m not putting all my eggs into the Nationals’ basket just yet (as much as I’d like to!); this was just one game of 162 – a lot can happen between now and then, but for now it’s nice to root for the team that is solidly in first place!