I've mentioned before that my kids are Cubs fans-turning Nationals fans. Its a combination of living in the area, maybe a little peer pressure from their friends, all the Strasburg/Harper hype and taking them to the Potomac Nationals games. But they know enough about the Cubs to keep me happy and its fun to have a little rivalry in the household.
I was given tickets through my work for the Phillies-Nationals game last night. They've been completely spoiled going to Single A baseball games as far as autographs go, so I was a little worried when they wanted to try for autographs at a Major League game. I posted a question over on Sportscollectors.net asking for any tips and got some good responses from other members.
The game time was 7:05 pm. They open the center field gates 2 1/2 hours before game time and the rest of the stadium 1 1/2 hours before. We got there a little before 4:30 so we hit up a street vendor for some cheaper hot dogs and drinks. After we got in, you can hang out in the outfield to watch the Nationals take batting practice. There weren't a ton of people right at 4:30 but the closer it got to the 5:30 time of allowing you to go throughout the stadium, more people were trickling in. I feel like if I had brought a glove and tried, I probably could have come away with a BP home run ball. Several guys looked like they do it a lot and came away with a couple balls each. Maybe next time.
Once they let us in to the rest of the stadium at 5:30, we made a beeline to right above the Nats dugout. But the Nats were heading into the locker room so that the Phillies could take BP. The dugout roof is about 6-7 feet deep and they have netting that runs from the dugout to the foul pole on each side during BP so there's not really any way to get autographs unless a player really wants to sign. Ian Desmond eventually came out and signed autographs from the dugout steps. People were throwing balls to him, he'd sign them and unfortunately for those getting them signed, roll them back across the dugout or even lightly toss them and they'd end up bouncing. My kids only had cards and I don't know how they got them to him because I was standing off to the side, but they each ended up getting a card. Also, unfortunately for those with baseballs, he ran with a black sharpie.
That was it for pregame autographs. We didn't see any Phillies sign pregame but weren't necessarily looking over at all times. We weren't allowed by the dugouts during Nationals BP and when the Phillies came out for theirs, they were warming up. When they were done, they all went back in. Not really any opportunity.
The game itself was pretty good but there were a ton of Phillies fans. Hard to tell who was the home team. The Nats scored 2 runs in the first but a solo home run by Jimmy Rollins and then later back-to-back homers by Rollins and Nick Schierholtz (in his Phillies debut) were too much to handle. Starting Nats pitcher Edwin Jackson was thrown out at the plate in a close play early in the game and Danny Espinosa hit a bomb in the bottom of the 9th that was caught at the wall.
We decided to try for some autographs after the game by the players entrance/exit outside the stadium and did pretty well. They're seemed to be some regulars there that were pretty helpful. It was dark out and my night vision is getting to be a little suspect so I wasn't as good at recognizing the players from where we were allowed to stand and wait. We saw just about everybody come out but only a couple of guys stopped to sign. Some ignored us, some were "on the phone" while others acknowledged but said not tonight. Pretty typical would be my guess.
My kids each got one card signed by these guys.
Gio Gonzalez (seemed like a cool guy, posed for pictures)
Adam LaRoche (the middle one got smeared so I hopped in the line and got one done myself)
Drew Storen (after I got one from LaRoche, my wife wanted to get one too so we ended up with 4 from Storen)
All told, they ended up with 13 autographs from 5 different players. Not too bad for our first try at Nationals Park.
This is how I'm going to tie it in to the Cubs. For Father's Day, my wife got me Diamond Club seats for the Nationals game when the Cubs come to town on Labor Day. So this was kind of a dry run for that game as I will be trying to get some Cubs autographs then. I didn't see many opportunities to get the visiting team so I might have to arrive super early and get them as they come into the stadium. We'll see!