A record crowd ignited Nationals Stadium on Wednesday as season-ticket veterans and fair-weather fans alike swarmed the riverfront area to be a part of D.C. baseball history.
More than 45,000 people came out to watch the postseason match-up between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, an 8-0 Cardinals shutout that gave a bittersweet taste to the first Major League Baseball playoff game in the District in nearly 80 years.
"It was a great day, a great environment," said 48-year-old Terry Pierce, a Poolesville partial-season ticket holder. "But they came out really flat."
By the seventh-inning stretch, a steady stream of people decked out in red and white could be seen making their way home from the stadium. A majority of the people in the crowd remained in their seats, waving their rallying towels and good-naturedly singing along to '80s songs as the first pitch of the 8th inning was thrown.
"I say, 'Thank you very much,'" Alexandria resident Janet Gillis said about those who went home early. "Thank you for clearing the highway for me."
A season ticket holder since the team played at RFK Stadium, Ms. Gillis said it was "unfortunate" the team didn't score even one run, something she anticipated even if she wasn't as confident about securing a win.
"I know what they're capable of doing," she said. "The team didn't show up."
Brooks Yeager, a 62-year-old Silver Spring resident, said that while it would have been a perfect day if the team had been winning, "it's great there's postseason baseball in Washington."
"There's a sea of red and clear sky," he said. He sent an email to co-workers early Wednesday morning, telling them he'd come down with "baseball fever."
The first pitch in the Nationals' first ever postseason game at home was thrown at 1:10 p.m., but some fans arrived long before Edwin Jackson took the mound.
Dave Caulfield and his son left their home in Newark, Del., at about 3 a.m. to get on an early train to the District.
They got to the box office in time to snag standing-room-only tickets.
"It's a big deal if you're a Nationals fan," the elder Mr. Caulfield said. "It's the first playoff game in the city. We want them to win, but the whole idea is getting out here and having the experience."
For those lucky enough to get tickets as well as the time off, the day brought a blue sky, puffy white clouds and near-perfect temperatures in the low 70s.
Red and white balloons swayed in the breeze above the center-field gates, while an enormous American flag strung between two fire engines provided a backdrop for fans looking for a photo opportunity.
Inside the stadium, fans began their standing ovation long before the teams took the field. Presidential mascot Teddy Roosevelt secured his second win during the mascot race, thanks to some fancy dance moves and quick thinking.
Decked out in red beads, a red Nationals shirt and a red hat, Shellie Bowers Jr. would not have stood out in the crowd had it not been for his handwritten sign proudly listing his "Bucket List." Among the four items on the list — three of which had already been checked — were to bring baseball back to the District, adjust his "Natitude," and win the 2012 National League Eastern Division.
"I used to take a trip up to Baltimore to get my baseball fix," the 49-year-old Tenleytown resident said. "I got to go to the opening game [for the Nationals first season] at RFK stadium, and I cried like a baby."
Mr. Bowers said that after last season, he wasn't sure about the future of the team. This season, he said, "It's terrific I get a chance to see playoff baseball in the city."
All that's left, he said, is the final box on his bucket list to be checked: the 2012 World Series.
The early-afternoon game — which had displeased some D.C. workers, who had hoped to have to leave work only a few minutes early to make the game, had it been a 4 p.m. start — seemed to benefit many parents who came with their children.
Richmond resident Jim Murphy said his 10-year-old son had emailed his teacher about missing class for a day.
As for his 12-year-old boy, "We're thinking up a story for him," Mr. Murphy said with a laugh.
Also enjoying a day at the game was Libby Crangle and her young daughters, ages 8 and 11.
"We looked ahead to the test and homework schedule," Ms. Crangle said, so the girls could take the day off from school.
The Ashburn resident said she wasn't worried about her girls missing a day of class.
"This is one of life's experiences," she said.
Nora Robertson, a 54-year-old La Plata, Md., resident and season ticket holder, said she was "very nervous" about the upcoming games, but was proud of her team, regardless of the outcome.
"They were the division champs, and that was my expectation," she said, her Nationals earrings twinkling in the sun. "Everything after that is just gravy."
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Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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