A fan's observations on the Washington Nationals, from across the virtual divide.

In Arizona, Its All Heat, All the Time

Beyond the left field fence at Surprise Stadium, the billboard-sized scoreboard displays the line-score of the game, balls, strikes and outs. And at the bottom of the sign, between the Budweiser and the Bud Lite advertisements is a collection of lights, with the caption “MPH”. The casual fan could be excused if he or she thought that part of the scoreboard wasn’t working today, because the first two times Stephen Strasburg threw a pitch, the display showed “00″. I was convinced it wasn’t working until the third pitch, when the MPH display showed “01″.

Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Surprise Rafters on November 2.

Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Surprise Rafters on November 2.

The radar gun just confirmed what anyone watching already knew: these were extraordinary pitches from an extraordinary pitcher. One could go through most of a season of Major League games and see but a handful of pitches that exceeded 100 MPH. But here in Surprise Stadium clearly something special was happening. It seemed every pitch that left Strasburg’s hand put goose-eggs on the radar gun.  A friend of mine who attended the game with me, but who has never seen a Major League game in person watched the top half of the first inning, and when Strasburg took his first few pitches in the bottom of the first, she actually gasped in amazement. “Even I can tell.” she said.

She wasn’t alone. The crowd of about 300 sat in complete silence – the only sounds were the hum of the air conditioners and the pop of baseballs against leather. Nobody cheered or clapped. They watched.

When Strasburg left the game at the end of the fifth inning, the crowd seemed to wake up and realize they were watching a baseball game. The fans started to clap and cheer – though AFL crowds tend to be small and quiet.

All it all it was a great day for the Desert Dogs, who won the game 10-2. It was a great day for the Nationals, too.  Chris Marrero (DH) and Danny Espinosa (SS) both had spectacular days, with Marerro going two-for-five with five RBIs and Espinosa two-for-four with a walk, scoring three runs. Nationals relief pitchers also had great days, with Josh Wilkie, Jeff Mandel and Drew Storen each pitching an inning in relief. Mandel allowed the only other run of the game.

6 Comments »

  • AFL is an amazing experience, in no small part because so few seem to be aware of it. I hate it that I couldn’t go this year, but eventually I hope to spend most or all of my autumns in Phoenix.

    Comment by Hendo — November 3, 2009 @ 8:04 am

  • Hey, Wigi. Ed from Federal Baseball.com, if you’re at today’s game, stop by and say Hi. I’m the one in the heat resistant beard and the old blue Montreal Royals cap…can’t wait to see how Crow compares to Strasburg…

    Comment by Ed — November 3, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  • Hope that I’ll get there one day as well. For now, thanks for the post, which gives a nice taste of the experience! Hope that you’ll continue to update.

    Comment by natsfan1a — November 3, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  • If you’re one of those who complains about loud music, mascot races, M/C shills throwing tee shirts to the crowd, and other non-baseball distractions, during an MLB game–in other words, you take your baseball straight–and did I mention it’s $6?–then spend a week of sun and clear skies here. (You’re still going to get people sitting in front of you getting up and down during an at-bat, alas.) The new park in Peoria is especially nice. Now if they only sold decent beer…

    Comment by Sec. 3, my sofa — November 3, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  • Thanks, Wigi, you’re bringing it alive for those of us far away from the action. Your observations on the other Nats would also be appreciated.

    Comment by Traveler — November 4, 2009 @ 6:43 am

  • [...] are Nationals-centered. But I watched four AFL games in person this year, and two last year (see here and here), and Nationals fans had plenty to cheer about in all of the games. But rather than blindly [...]

    Pingback by Planetary Nats Blog » In Arizona, the Nationals Represent – Part 1 – The Team — November 22, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

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