Day 1: Nationals Stadium

October 7, 2009 § Leave a comment


On September 29, I went to a baseball game (Nationals vs. Mets) at Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC with some friends of mine who are exchange students from France. That, in and of itself, was a total blast. Neither the Nats nor the Mets are a particularly wonderful team: my father tells me that the Mets are the worst team this year, and the Nationals’ brochure/scorecard began with a letter from the manager, promising that “201o is going to be a great year for the Nationals”. But, despite the oft-frustrating plays, the game was exciting because the teams were evenly matched.

The French have been to many more games than I, and each had a player that they habitually cheered for during the game. They assigned me to cheer for Elijah Dukes. It ended up being good for him, as he made the winning catch of the entire game and the Nationals won 4-3. (If you are interested, you can read more specifics of the game/scoreboard here.)

More fun than anything else was the company, as usual. It is definitely more entertaining to go to a baseball game with people who are excited about it, than people who are not, and if there is something I admire about my French friends, it is that they throw themselves into every activity and enjoy it to the utmost (thus the famous joie de vivre of the French people). K. won “Fan of the Game” and was featured on the jumbotron at the end of the 7th inning, and M. got so excited at Dukes’ catch that he threw half his sandwich four rows ahead of us!

Most people do not go to National Stadium for its historic value. However, to include it as part of my “100 Days in DC” challenge, I had to look into it. When Pierre L’Enfant worked to design the city in the 1790s, he wanted to have a Canal built to help boost commerce in the swampy city. By 1815 the Washington Canal was completed and ran alongside what is now Constitution Avenue. The Canal effectively cut off the Waterfront from the rest of the city.  Unfortunately, since Washington City (as it was then known) did not have its own drainage/sewer system, the canal became the dumping place for all the muck of the city, and was notoriously filthy and stinky.

As a result of the stench, real estate on the Waterfront was very cheap and the area became the home of the city’s poorest residents, mostly immigrant from Europe who settled in the Southwest section, and freed African-Americans who settled in the Southeast section of the Waterfront. By the late 1800s, the city filled in the canal, paved, and started building houses  and roads where the canal had once been. The remains of some of these houses, and refuse from the original residents of the Waterfront, were discovered 14 feet below the floor of Nationals Stadium during construction.

Today, the stadium  is the first major stadium that is a certified “Green Building”, and it was completed/opened on March 30, 2008, just in time for the Holy Father’s papal visit to the United States. Pope Benedict celebrated Mass there on April 17, less than three weeks after the official opening of the park.

For more information about the Washington City Canal, check out the timeline here and the historic marker here.

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