Nats hold 1st practice at new stadium

Nats hold 1st practice at new stadium

Hitter's or pitcher's park? Nats hold 1st practice at new stadium

WASHINGTON (AP) -The Washington Nationals scheduled their first practice at their new ballpark Friday, giving them their first chance to answer everyone's favorite question.

Will Nationals Park be a pitcher's park or a hitter's park?

Certainly, it will take more than one practice or one game to get a good feel for the answer, but the players already know one thing for certain: It will be a better park, as in better than RFK Stadium.

''We thank D.C. for making it happen,'' said right-hander Jason Bergmann, who is scheduled to start Saturday's exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles, ''because RFK was wearing on everybody.''

The initial speculation is that the new stadium, located along the Anacostia River about a mile south of the Capitol, will slightly favor pitchers. The dimensions aren't much more intimate than those at roomy RFK.

Nationals Park is 335 feet down the right field line, 370 in right-center, 402 in center, 377 in left-center and 336 down the left-field line. RFK's posted dimensions were 335-380-410-380-335, although players doubted whether the measurements to the power alleys were accurate.

In the only game played at the new ballpark so far - a college game between George Washington and St. Joseph's last weekend - aluminum bats failed to produce a home run.

''It's not going to be a bandbox,'' general manager Jim Bowden said. ''It's not going to be a hitter's park like Philadelphia or Cincinnati. It's not going to be a pitcher's park like RFK. I think it's going to be a balanced park that leans toward the pitchers. I don't think any of us are going to know for sure until we actually play ball there.''

The Nationals have their season opener Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves.

After three years at RFK, the players' concerns about dimensions were eclipsed by a desire for better amenities. They got their wish: The new stadium has a huge, oval-shaped clubhouse, modern training facilities and even a special room where the starting pitcher can take a pregame afternoon nap.

''It's absolutely gorgeous,'' catcher Paul Lo Duca said when the team got its first look at the clubhouse late Thursday night after arriving from spring training in Florida. ''This room here is bigger than a lot of these guys' houses. You can't get any better than this.''

What's missing, at least at first glance, is a distinctive feature that will make the ballpark instantly recognizable. There's no Camden Yards warehouse, Fenway Green Monster or Wrigley ivy - not even a funny little hill in center field, like the one in Houston. The cherry blossoms beyond the left-field fence would seem to be a perfect candidate, but they'll be in bloom only a few weeks in the spring.

After years of keeping the payroll low, the Nationals hope the new park translates into more revenue - which in turn could allow the team to start spending more.

''Obviously, our ballpark attendance is going to start going way up,'' Bowden said. ''And, as revenue goes up, so does payroll go up. They go hand in hand. And No. 2, when the players come and see the ballpark and they walk in there, they're going to want to play there.''

But there were no major free agent signings in the offseason, and president Stan Kasten is taking a measured approach to build for the long haul. Besides, he still isn't sure what his bottom line will be.

''New revenue does come in,'' Kasten said, ''but what also happens is new expenses. ... We have budgets and we have an idea, but a year from now we'll have a much bigger fix on what revenue potential we have and what our expenses really are.''

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Re: Nats hold 1st practice at new stadium

This place looks sweet. It might be time to take a road trip to DC … 63466.html

That video board is sick.

Michael Cash
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