Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 10.2: Potomac Nationals, Woodbridge, VA. Buff-a-Rine? Buff-a-YEAH!

***NOTE: Apparently I wrote this and then never published it last year because I am a MOE-RON. So here it is, to whet your whistle ahead of this year's trip, which kicks off Thursday in Pearl, Mississippi***

As noted in our previous post, we tragically had to leave the 35-hit affair at the Bowie Baysox to ensure we made it over to the Potomac Nationals, on the other side of D.C., well before first pitch at 6:05pm. Why so early, you ask? Read on, and ye shall find what ye seeketh.

Highlights and Lowlights:

1. Buff. A. Rine. Buff-a-Rine! Haven't you always wanted to see what Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos would be like if he were a buffalo? No? Well, to be fair, we didn't know we wanted this so bad until we were told we could have it. Anyway, it was only available to the first 2,000 fans, so we wanted to make damn sure we were one of them.

The best part is that this is apparently one of a series of player-animal hybrid figurines, following up on the success of the Jayson Werth Wolf-A-Rine (meh) and the Roger Bernadina Shark-A-Rine (YES).

It's Wilson Ramos. Imagined as a buffalo. What...what don't you understand?

2. In case the Buff-a-Rine itself wasn't enough, the back featured a long explanation of why Ramos is known as the Buffalo (hardy injury recovery, mostly), complete with Buff-a-Puns a-plenty. "Ramos has been grazing behind home plate in our nation's capital..." "...a herd of 59 doubles, 46 home runs...". This was Pat-level stuff.

3. The P-Nats (yes, that's really what they call themselves) had a separate gate just for season ticket holders. Faaaaaancy. This stood in contrast to...

4. The rest of the park. It had a very "reappropriated county park" feel to it, which was helped by the fact that it's surrounded by other ball fields that look to be used for Little League and Rec League softball. The concourse was enclosed, winding, claustrophobic concrete that smelled lightly-to-moderately of garbage, much worse on the left field side.

The second you enter the park had a kind of carnival feel, with a crowded picnic area complete with Kettle Corn stand meeting you at the gate. Oh, and in left field there was just a standalone van serving shaved ice.

We'd describe our first impression as scaled-up high school baseball game. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we could've done with less garbage aroma.

5. On the mega-plus side, such a park design leads to clubhouses that are basically exposed to the stadium, so that more than once we walked by one of the P-Nats making a phone call or wandering for snacks. That's always a cool experience.

6. The field box and box seats were all sold out when we got there an hour before game time, which was slightly more impressive before we saw the inside of the park. It's small, and the vast majority of the seats were bleachers. From the amount the team is advertised in the D.C. area, I guess we expected a larger park?

However, we did notice that the raised seats off of field-level provided excellent sightlines. There literally wasn't a bad seat in the house we could find at this park.

By far the largest bleacher-to-box-seat ratio we've seen on this trip. Mostly driven by the very few box seats (4 rows in most places by our count).

7. The dugouts were exposed at field level and smaller/shorter than usual, leading to the first time we've seen TWO rows of benches for the players to sit on, one behind the other.

Wonder where the new guys have to sit?

8. The park was crowded when we got there, and we figured this was obviously because BUFF-A-RINE. Turns out that was only part of it. Before the night's scheduled game, the P-Nats had to finish up the previous night's game. Here's what happened: 

The previous night's game went into extras. There's a noise ordinance in Woodbridge, though, so they had to stop to set off the fireworks. But wind patterns drove the smoke into the outfield, making it too foggy and invisible to continue playing. So they played the 10th-13th innings, when the P-Nats finally won, just as we arrived. Sorry, fans, game called on account of EXPLOOOOOSIONS!

9. We started our trip watching Wilmington play the P-Nats, and we ended watching the P-Nats play Wilmington. Nice symmetry. We totally planned it that way. For sure.

10. The PA guy doing his best - and actually not a half-bad job - of rolling the R's in Latin players' names. Way to gun for cultural inclusiveness, Potomac.

11. On a play at the plate, the scoring run was "Home Safe" presented by the National Air Traffic Controllers' Association. These are the kinds of sponsorships you don't get outside of the D.C. area.

12. On a similar note, there was a full-length, 30-second ad on the videoboard for a career as an iron worker. We honestly didn't know those jobs existed anymore, much less that they're apparently in need of recruits.

13. They had a "Chicken Dance Cam", for which they chose to play the "Cha Cha Slide" rather than, y'know, the "Funky Chicken!" Inexplicable. Nobody knew how they were supposed to dance! What's wrong with you, P-Nats, scrambling your fans' minds like that? History's greatest monsters, you are.

14. The groups in attendance that night announced on the video board supposedly included "Vandelay Industries" and "The Human Fund." We're not sure if someone had some extra money and a sense of humor, if the P-Nats had so few groups they had to fill in space, or if we actually hadn't missed Seinfeld Night back on 7/5 in Brooklyn

15. In our daily "This is the Minors" reminder, the catcher had the ball fall out of his hand as he attempted to cut down a fellow stealing second. It was chortle-worthy.

16. We saw 6 1/3 innings of a perfect game! That was about the furthest any of us had ever seen. The pitcher was on fire and everyone could taste it, but properly no one mentioned a thing. Then it all ended on a chopper to short that the pitcher deflected, slowing it down enough for a hit. Then the guy got picked off at second. We were all feeling really cheated at that point. But then Wilmington slapped a homer, and it felt less brutal.

17. Although it was Sunday, there was no "God Bless America." Good on you, P-Nats. Surprising given your location near our nation's capital!

18. Better yet, Take Me Out to the Ballgame was played by a bunch of trumpets from the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, which apparently exists. Bonus points to the conductor for conducting the crowd as well as his musicians.

19. Our fireworks, far from being too late, were too early! With 6 1/3 innings perfect, the game ended in just over 2 hours, and it was only 8:15p when it came time for fireworks. Rather than delay 45 minutes until darkness, they just lit 'em off. If these were the only fireworks we'd gotten the whole trip we'd feel cheated, but it was actually kind of cool to have this different perspective where you didn't see much of the light but the smoke trails and explosion patterns were very clear!

If you like star-shaped smoke patterns, baby have we got a fireworks display for you.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: 3.5/10 points. $6.50 for 16 oz of swill, $7.50 for 20 oz of swill or $7.50 for 20 oz of good stuff. They had some veterans selling beer they make, which Pat says is quite tasty, so there's also that angle of helping people if you're into that kinda thing.

Most Caloric Concession Item: 3/10 points. While this isn't the most caloric item, you can get a "Boat" of bacon (8 strips) straight-up at the concession stand. We here at Scrappy Journeymen, LLC wholeheartedly endorse bacon served in units of nautical vessels of any stripe. I also wish we could give this category to Pat's idea of topping a funnel cake sea with the bacon boat, but tragically we are limiting ourselves to one item. I think we have to give this to just Pat's funnel cake, or maybe the chicken fingers and fries. They were probably about the same.

Of note, the P-Nats serve actual chicken wings in their park, which is fairly unusual. Unfortunately, the price was a bit high for any of us to try them. 

Minor League Personalities: 3/10 points. The Families Out for a Nice Night and Major and Minor League Diehards were the biggest contingencies here, in that order. Not much else to speak of.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0/10 points. Tragically we went 0-fer this trip.

Tailgating: 3/10 points. Given the dearth of tailgating we've seen this trip, we're certainly going to count the two guys playing cornhole and pounding Coors Light in the parking lot. Plus there were a couple fathers playing catch with their offspring.

Funniest Roster Name: 8/10 points. As noted above, this was a repeat matchup for us this trip. As a reminder, this is a rich crop of names: Khayyan Norfork, Narciso Mesa, John Wooten, Jimmy Yezzo. But we have to give it, again, to Potomac manager Tripp Keister, named, presumably, for the body part he most threatens to kick.

Also, Drew Ward is almost a palindrome, so that's cool. We advise him to correct this obvious oversight at the earliest possible opportunity.

Promotion Quality: 9/10 points. Buff. A. Rine. Have you not been listening?

Crowd: 7/10 points. The crowd was notably engaged, with various fathers explaining elements of the game to the wee ones they'd brought with them. One guy brought his 3 kids in in the 8th inning apparently just to buy tennis balls and do the post-game toss onto the field, which is a big family tradition for them. They all had P-Nats caps, so we just assume they were elsewhere in the park the rest of the game. Extra points for them not being dicks when Zach loudly and unnecessarily explained how he and Ben hate the Nats.

Men’s Room: 0/10 points. We thought this decrepit park might've had a chance, but alas, troughs have gone the way of the dodo, payphones, and non-ironic mustaches.

Bonus Points: +1 for STH gate, +2 for players wandering in fans, -1 for garbage aroma, +1 for decrepit reused county park, +1 for excellent sight lines, +2 for two-row dugouts, +3 for game called for EXPLOOOSIONS, +1 for PA rolling R's, +1 for stereotypical D.C. ads, +2 for Seinfeld groups, -1 for Cha Cha Slide sted Funky Chicken, +3 for 6 1/3 perfect, +3 for no God Bless America on a Sunday, +1 for orchestra conductor leading the crowd in TMOTTBG, +1 for daytime fireworks

Summary: 56.5 points on our totally arbitrary scale. This was a surprisingly fun stop, but maybe we were colored by the Buff-A-Rine and extended run at a perfect game. Still, it's a solid park, not too far from D.C. if you're in the Virginia suburbs, with a very Minor League feel to it (though we could've done with a little less garbage aroma). We'd recommend getting box seats ahead of time, though! 7.5/10.

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