“When you can return to your home ballpark,” we asked, “what part of going to a game are you most looking forward to experiencing again?”
The hundreds of readers who responded to our online query confirmed that many are yearning for the sights, sounds and smells that make the ballpark a summer sanctuary. According to a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, 40 percent of Americans who went to live sporting events since 2018 miss attending them “a lot.” Another 47 percent miss going “a little,” while 14 percent don’t miss going at all.
Teams throughout Major League Baseball, including the Washington Nationals, are preparing to welcome fans back — replacing those no-longer-charming cardboard cutouts — which means you might have an opportunity to lay eyes on that beautiful green outfield grass while eating a hot dog and drinking a $15 beer (or three) again soon.
Enjoy it. Savor it. And may you never have to endure a season without that experience again.
John May with his wife, Karen, at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of John May)
“My favorite part of the game is the first 20 minutes when I walk into the ballpark. I grab a beer and walk around on the second level. I never get used to how beautiful the field looks. The anticipation of the game, the players shagging BP balls in the outfield, the grounds crew painting brilliant white lines on the base paths and the swirl of other fans around me create a euphoria unknown in any other venue. Once the game starts, it’s all business, but those first 20 minutes are like diving into cold water. It’s exhilarating. All your senses come alive. It’s good to be back.”
— John May, Nationals fan living in Alexandria
Lisa Wright and her husband at Tropicana Field in 2018. They’re trying to see every ballpark. (Courtesy of Lisa Wright)
“The smell of the grass. Searching out the locally made food — local sausage, local beer and having a local made sausage (hot dog) with an ice cold beer on a hot day in the sun smelling the grass and dirt!”
— Lisa Wright, Cubs fans living in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Nettie Stewart at a World Series game at Nationals Park in 2019. (Courtesy of Nettie Stewart)
“Seeing the team and game in person. Hopefully the Nats will have a do-over for raising the World Series flag.”
— Nettie Stewart, Nationals fan living in Kensington, Md.
“When I can finally return to Nats Park I cannot wait to pay for a cheap upper deck ticket and then stay in the lower level watching the game from standing areas scouting empty seats and inattentive ushers. Heckling Phillies, Braves, Cards, Cubs, and O’s fans. Falling asleep on the metro after drinking four high-alcohol beers for $15 each and waking up in Greenbelt.”
— Daniel Pearson, Nationals fan living in D.C.
Michael Solem at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Michael Solem)
“I want to be alone in the company of 40,000 people. The ballpark is a place I can comfortably go to be with myself and escape the noise of the world at large for a few hours. For me it’s like a virtual reality experience despite the fact the environment is purely visceral.”
— Michael Solem, Nationals fan living in D.C.
John Pickett at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of John Pickett)
“Walking out of the concourse and into the stands and seeing the field. All that green. Gets me every time.”
— John Pickett, Nationals fan living in Alexandria
Amalia Ben-Porath at Citizens Bank Park. (Courtesy of Amalia Ben-Porath)
“I’m looking forward to hearing ballpark noise in person, both ambient and passionate. Definitely can’t wait to be able to complain about umpires’ calls from a terrible angle to make a call.”
— Amalia Ben-Porath, Phillies fan living in Philadelphia
“The anticipation, arrival and settling in. It’s entering a different world of familiar pleasures, rituals, excitement, companionship, with an outcome … but they will do it again tomorrow.”
— John Carr, Nationals fan living in Cheverly, Md.
Jennifer O’Dell and her husband at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Jennifer O’Dell)
“Just that feeling of before times! I want to yell at the ump for a bad call. I want to ‘Baby Shark’ dance with 40,000 of my closest friends. I want to complain to my husband about all the runners the Nats have left on base. I want to pay too much for a hot dog!”
— Jennifer O’Dell, Nationals fan living in D.C.
“Walking in from the center field gate with my family and seeing the green field in front of me. A vendor hawking peanuts. Settling into my seat and signaling the beer guy for a cold one. Grabbing a hot dog between innings. Having that funny heckler within earshot giving the visiting team a hard time. Watching the young families wearing the jersey of the home team eating popcorn and paying attention to everything but the game. Singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th inning stretch. A comeback win by the home team and the happy chatter of my fellow fans as we head to the exits. That will be a great day.”
— Ron Krouse, Nationals fan living in Alexandria
“Spending time with my son and daughter, watching my daughter keep score.”
— Tony Cervantes-Saenz, Dodgers fan living in Laguna Hills, Calif.
Luis Albisu, left, with his family at the first Opening Day at Nationals Park in 2008. (Courtesy of Luis Albisu)
“Catching up (in person) with all the friends from the ballpark. I’ve met so many great people since 2005.”
— Luis Albisu, Nationals fan living in Woodbridge
“Settling into my seat with a hot dog and a beer, and nowhere else to be for hours.”
— Sheila Gagen, Nationals fan living in Annapolis
Emergency physician Peter Paganussi with his Nationals surgical cap. (Courtesy of Peter Paganussi)
“Hot dogs, peanuts, cold beer followed by a lemonade, the sight of the green, green grass and the smells of the ballpark.”
— Peter Paganussi, Nationals fan living in Oakton, Va.
Mary Eno and her husband, Mark LeGrande, at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Mary Eno)
“Sitting in the hot sun with a cold beer, letting the sights, sounds and entire baseball atmosphere wash over me.”
— Mary Eno, Nationals fan living in Smithsburg, Md.
John Welch with his daughter, Rachel, at Game 3 of the 2019 National League Championship Series at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of John Welch)
“Getting in early, watching the players loosen up. Then absorbing it all, especially watching fielders all move once a ball is hit.”
— John Welch, Nationals fan living in New York
Kate Swiencki with her nephew, Vaughn Weber, at an Opening Day game between the Nationals and Mets at Citi Field. (Courtesy of Kate Swiencki)
“I’ll go to Section 139 to watch our starting pitcher warm up, up close, when the first pitch is always a strike. There’s comfort in observing the routine of the throw, the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt and the pitcher backing up to his set for the next pitch (without having to look down at his feet because he’s done this so many times before). Makes me think: ‘He’s got this! Today just might put another ‘Curly W’ in the books.’”
— Kate Swiencki, Nationals fan living in Alexandria
“The slow pace that a baseball game offers, which allows for relaxed conversation between friends; the green grass and bright lights that invoke baseball memories; moments for strategy to be dissected; and, of course, a cold beer and peanuts.”
— Rabbi Mark Novak, Nationals fan living in D.C.
Julie Yanchulis with her daughter Maggie at the 2018 all-star workout day at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Julie Yanchulis)
“Interestingly, not the actual play on the field. What I am most looking forward to is the time with my husband and daughters and other friends and family. Sitting back on a nice summer night, humidity aside, and talking about the game, yes, but also life and what is happening in it. There is nothing like baseball, the ebbs and flows, that allows you to enjoy a sport but also engage with those you are watching it with.”
— Julie Yanchulis, Nationals fan living in Herndon
“I want to get irrationally excited about certain players again. Whether they’re good or just someone I happen to like, there’s a thrill in seeing players in person. Especially getting to watch pitchers and all of the different ways they throw.”
— Sean Huff, Phillies fan living in Bethlehem, Pa.
Alex Wright at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with his dad. (Courtesy of Alex Wright)
“Just being in the ballpark is what I’m looking forward to the most. So much of the enjoyment in attending a baseball game is about how it feels to be there. The smell of fresh-cut grass, hot dogs and beer all mixing together and wafting through the air on a warm summer evening as you await the crack of the bat is a feeling that can’t be replicated in any other American sport.”
— Alex Wright, Orioles fan living in D.C.
“The lull between pitches: the pitcher cleaning his cleats, the catcher glancing into the dugout, the fielders shifting their positions slightly because of the new count, the batter checking with the third base coach for new signs, the home plate umpire letting everyone know the count, the base runners double-checking the locations of the fielders. Every little thing slightly building the anticipation of the next pitch, which could be everything or nothing. The thing I miss most about baseball is experiencing the chance to relax from the previous burst of action and anticipating the next one, all within the span of a few seconds, in person. Much of this is missed watching games on TV since the cameras always focus on the pitcher and batter during this time and the expectant hum of the crowd is drowned out by the broadcasters filling ‘dead’ air.”
— Michael Herdegen, Twins fan living in Downingtown, Pa.
“Walking into the stadium and seeing the perfectly manicured, bright green grass in the outfield. Ever since I was young, that’s been one of my favorite parts of going to a baseball game.”
— Dean Schleicher, Nationals fan living in Frederick
“Sneaking in beer.”
— Matthew de Leon, Nationals fan living in Silver Spring
Matt Elliott at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Matt Elliott)
“The ambiance. The sounds, the smells, the roar of the crowd. The glow of the field as it reflects the sun. The moments ‘in between’ … in between innings, in between pitches, in between outs. These are the meditative moments of baseball where you appreciate parts of the game that might not be shown on TV, or make it in the final box score. When I return, I will summarily buy a hot dog, some peanuts and a soda and enjoy the glow of the field.”
— Matt Elliott, Nationals fan living in Richmond
Jared Kotler at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Jared Kotler)
“After these times of distancing and isolation, I am excited to be sharing an experience with people again. I can’t wait for the first time I am in a ballpark and a home run is hit and you hear the crack of the bat followed by the collective oohs and ahhs from the crowd. I miss the days of high-fiving a complete stranger sitting behind me following a big play (who knows if this will come back, but I only kind of cringe thinking about it now). It’s that feeling of being together with everyone, pulling for the same outcome, that I’ll be most excited for.”
— Jared Kotler, Nationals fan living in West Hartford, Conn.
Kristin Treado at Nationals Park. (Courtesy of Kristin Treado)
“I love to get there early and watch them paint the lines and water the mound. There’s nothing more beautiful than the field right before the home team takes to the diamond. I get a cold beer before the lines start to form, and take to my seat as the crowd grows around me.”