- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Washington Nationals have their playbook on how to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. Frank Gambino’s team has a three-ring binder on how to host the playoffs.

Thanks to a trusty crew of nearly two dozen workers and, of course, the binder, the stadium’s vice president of facilities said the stadium is prepared to host its first-ever postseason game when the gates at Nationals Park open at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

It has been nearly 80 years since the last time a baseball postseason game was played in Washington. In 1933, the Washington Senators made it to the World Series, but they lost. Mr. Gambino on Tuesday promised a better record with his crew.

“We’re usually not quite as busy in October,” Mr. Gambino said with a laugh. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to continue playing baseball. I know everybody on my staff, even though it’s a lot of hours, everybody is thrilled. It’s quite an experience.”

Mr. Gambino said his work to prepare the stadium for its first postseason game was similar to readying the riverside facility for Opening Day.

The difference, he explained, is that around the All-Star break in mid-July, Major League Baseball issues binders “with various requirements for the postseason.”

“That ranges from ticket requirements to hospitality and broadcasting, field preparation, things like that,” Mr. Gambino said. “Obviously, this year we need to pay close attention to it, so right after the All-Star break we started regular committee meetings, and as our season became more and more successful, it broke into subcommittees.”

The months of preparation winnowed down to weeks. Finally, last weekend, Mr. Gambino’s crew put the finishing touches on the ballpark.

Thanks to a rainy Sunday, the groundskeepers spent the earlier part of the week stenciling along the base lines and on the grass, a task more challenging in the postseason because of the multicolored stencils used, Mr. Gambino said.

The crew also switched out logos and wall pads and added new graphics for television.

In terms of broadcasting, “there’s quite a bit to do,” he said. “Setting up additional camera positions, making sure there’s enough fiber and data to the camera positions and we had to build platforms,” for additional photographers.

The crew also set to work touching up a lot of paint in and around the stadium.

“Obviously there’s a lot of green paint used outside, and blue and red. Those are probably the three most popular colors. In terms of our painters, when I ask them to paint something else, they kind of look at me funny.”

The series is also set to be decided in the city, Mr. Gambino said, which means his crew must prepare — hopefully — for a celebration.

He said recent time was spent cutting plastic and rolling out extra carpet to lay down as a shield against champagne and beer.

“We learn a few things as we go,” he said. “The last celebration was terrific. Hopefully, we’ll have one there shortly this week.”

And while thousands of baseball fans take off work on Wednesday to cheer on their teams, the facilities crew will be hard at work making sure the day runs smoothly.

“We’ve invited 40,000 people, now we have to entertain them,” Mr. Gambino said. “We want to make sure they have a good fan experience. Those people inside the clubs and suites, we have to make sure the heating or air conditioning is working, and the infrastructure is functioning properly.”

The stadium also has added additional ticket scanners at the gates. All of them will be opened to allow for quicker entry for fans, Mr. Gambino said.

As for Mr. Gambino, though the next few days are sure to be busy, he said he takes the work in stride.

“I’ve talked to people who’ve been in the postseason before. They say make sure to take the time to enjoy it. Even with a hectic schedule, I always try to carve out about 10 minutes at the very end. I sit in the dugout after the stadium is empty, just taking it in and enjoy it.”

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