Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Atlanta Braves 4 at Washington Nationals 8 - September 6, 2015

I spent Labour Day weekend in Washington, initially planning to check out a couple of Nationals games. I wanted to exchange my ticket from when the Blue Jays were rained out back in June, but found out that having StubHub tickets for postponed games is an unenviable position to be in. More on that later.

I saw a few games here when the ballpark opened in 2008, but had not been back after moving to the States. The stadium is located in the southeastern part of the city, next to Navy Yard, and easily accessible by Washington's Metro system, with the Green Line's Navy Yard station the closest, though the Blue Line's Capitol South station is about a mile away and much less crowded and a good option after the game.

You'll likely enter through the centerfield gate regardless of which station you choose (obviously the picture above was taken on the rainout day). Once inside, if you are there early enough, you will see the president mascots roaming around. That's Tom below, his number corresponding to his being the third president.

When the Nationals first started the President's Race, there were four (George, Tom, Abe (below), and Teddy) but they've added Bill (Taft, not Clinton) and Cal (Coolidge) since then.

Once you've taken the obligatory pictures with the mascots, you can check out the starting lineup, presented in baseball card format. A great touch for those of us who keep score.

If you want something to eat, you can try the Red Porch, which is a bar and restaurant with benches overlooking centerfield. It gets busy and tables have an hour time limit during the game, but you can stand at the bar and watch the game from there if you prefer.

Walk along the concourse towards third base and continue to the area behind home plate, which is blocked from the field. You will notice several large boards detailing the history of baseball in Washington. These are well worth the time to read as there's lots of information of which you are likely unaware. The pictures of presidents throwing out the first pitch is particularly interesting. Also note that you can find your designated driver sign up spot here.

Just beyond is a collection of comic baseball figures spinning from the ceiling. I don't know what they signify but they are pretty cool.

There is another interesting spot here behind the scoreboard. A number of picnic tables and quality food options such as Steak and Shake attract fans, who can watch the game on a large screen above. Maybe this is where all those disappearing fans that offended Bryce Harper actually went.

You can see the Capitol Building from the first base side, though it is currently under renovations and barely visible in the photo below.

A couple of other shots to give you a feeling of the place. There are two good standing spots as well, one on the second level in the space between the decks below, and another on the 300 level behind home plate.

This is the view from my seat in section 408:

Of course, the highlight for most fans is the President's Race, which was won by Cal after the other mascots all collided. That's Tom on his face below.

Overall, this is a pretty nice ballpark that offers plenty to see and do beyond the game. Which was good on this day, because the game was crap.

The Game

The abysmal Atlanta Braves were in town on an 11-game losing streak, and they sent Manny Banuelos to the hill against Joe Ross (below). Marquee is not a word one would use to describe this pitching matchup.

Atlanta scored a run in the first, but Washington ended things in the second with a fivespot, highlighted by a Michael Taylor (below) 2-run double and a 3-run homer from Jason Werth that scored Taylor and Ross, who had walked. Harper added a solo shot in the third and the Nats made it 7-1 on an Atlanta error. Both teams scored a run in the fourth and the rout was on.

All Ross needed to do was finish 5 frames to secure the easy win, but he fell apart just a couple of outs shy, yielding a double to Jace Pederson and walking Freddie Freeman, earning a quick hook from manager Matt Williams. The Washington bullpen allowed both inherited runners to score, but then threw 4.2 innings of scoreless relief as the Nationals won 8-4, sweeping the Braves to enter their series against the Mets just 4 games out.

StubHub and MLB

On the morning of June 1, I bought a ticket on StubHub for that evening's Blue Jays-Nationals game that ended up being rained out. I couldn't make the rescheduled game on the following afternoon, but thought I could exchange the ticket since Washington, like most teams in MLB, has an arrangement with StubHub. The benefit of this integration is that you know you are getting a valid ticket on the secondary market, but as I discovered, there is a problem if that game is rained out.

When you have an MLB ticket, you get a raincheck and can exchange that ticket for any other game during the season. With the StubHub ticket (it is relabelled as such so you know it is a secondary market ticket), you must attend the rescheduled game or else the ticket is worthless. I find this to be silly, the ticket should confer all the rights afforded to the original owner. The Nationals ticket guy told me that since the team doesn't see any of the StubHub money, they are not obliged to honour the ticket. This makes no sense to me, and unhappy at getting nothing for something, I complained vociferously to StubHub. To be fair, their Terms of Service explains this policy, but I wanted more detailed reasoning.

In the end, I received a personalized response that made sense for the most part, describing the relationship between StubHub and those teams as an integration rather than an agreement. Obviously StubHub cannot exchange the ticket as they are a secondary ticket provider and don't have an unlimited supply of tickets, nor can they provide a refund as the seller has already been paid so my complaint should have been directed at MLB or the Nationals.

I was told that some teams do offer exchanges on StubHub tickets for games that have been postponed, but it is a haphazard approach at best and the Nationals are not one of the teams that do so. I can understand why they did not want to give me a free ticket, from their point of view at least, to a key Labour Day matchup against the Mets, but as it wasn't a sellout, why not offer me a cheap ticket and get me inside the stadium where I could create some ancillary revenue? Instead, I was offered nothing, so I cursed the Nationals and went to Georgetown soccer. Over the next 3 days, my curse (or karma) saw the Nats swept by the Mets and essentially eliminated from playoff contention.

Finally StubHub did offer me a coupon in the amount that I had spent on the ticket, and so I will remain a loyal customer of theirs as they displayed some of the best customer service I have experienced, replying with two long, personalized emails. Still, I won't be buying MLB tickets through them when I travel as the risk of being left with nothing in the event of a postponement is just too high. Keep that in mind yourself if you are ever on the road and looking for a way in to an MLB game; if there are clouds in the sky, get a normal ticket so you can resell it if the game is postponed.



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