- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Last night’s pregame festivities at RFK Stadium were meant not only to celebrate the Nationals’ first game in Washington but also to honor the Senators teams that used to call the facility home.

In that regard, the Nationals hit a home run.

Nine former Senators players took the field just before last night’s game, holding the gloves of the Nationals’ starters: pitchers Dick Bosman and Jim Hannan; third baseman Chuck Hinton; shortstop Ed Brinkman; first baseman Mickey Vernon; and outfielders Frank Howard (who drew the biggest cheer), Jim Lemon, Roy Sievers and Fred Valentine. The Nationals’ regulars then assumed their positions and were handed their gloves by the retired stars.

Pitcher Joe Grzenda, who was on the mound Sept.30, 1971, when the Senators’ final game was forfeited because of unruly fans on the field, also played an integral role in President George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch. Grzenda still owns the ball from that game 34 years ago and last night handed it to the president, who then threw high to catcher Brian Schneider.

The pregame ceremonies lasted nearly an hour, beginning with the introduction of District Mayor Anthony A. Williams, city council members including Linda Cropp (who received a hearty boo from the crowd) and members of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission.

Every player, coach and support staff member from both the Nationals and Diamondbacks were then introduced along the baselines, with the roar from the crowd peaking as Washington manager Frank Robinson emerged from the dugout.

Once everyone had taken their places, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters performed “God Bless America” as a giant American flag was unfurled across the entire outfield. Opera singer Renee Fleming then sang the national anthem, leading into Bush’s ceremonial first pitch.

Castilla plays

Nationals third baseman Vinny Castilla returned to the lineup and finished with a double, triple, home run and four RBI. He sat out Tuesday and Wednesday at the Atlanta Braves.

Castilla slightly injured his shoulder during batting practice Monday in Atlanta. Castilla said the shoulder had caused him pain throwing in Atlanta.

“I’ve thrown and I feel good,” Castilla said yesterday. “Everything is very tight.”

Patterson bumps Day

Zach Day, who technically opened the season as Washington’s No. 2 starter and was due to pitch tomorrow night against the Diamondbacks, has been sent to the bullpen and replaced by right-hander John Patterson.

It was a quick hook of sorts for Day, who went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in his first two starts. Patterson, though, was outstanding in his only start so far, allowing two runs in seven innings Sunday in Florida.

Extra bases

It didn’t take long for the first minor field issues at RFK Stadium to surface. Before the top of the third inning, groundskeepers were summoned to the pitchers’ mound to fill in some holes with sand. …

MLB President Bob DuPuy made his first visit to RFK Stadium since Aug. 29, 1963, when the facility was known as D.C. Stadium. DuPuy participated the day before in the March on Washington, and then saw the Senators drop both ends of a doubleheader to the Harmon Killebrew-led Minnesota Twins. …

Right fielder Jose Guillen left the game before the ninth inning after complaining that both of his hip flexors began to “tighten up,” according to Robinson. Guillen, who was replaced for the final inning by Terrmel Sledge, is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow.

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