Hitter's or pitcher's park? Nationals hold 1st practice at new stadium Print
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Friday, 28 March 2008 14:47
MLB Headline News

 WASHINGTON (AP) -The Washington Nationals held 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?
``We're going to overanalyze every single thing every single day,'' infielder Aaron Boone said after a 90-minute workout under the lights. ``You get a true read on the park after a couple months. Early in the season you have different weather than you have all year, so it's funny to analyze everything.''
There was a steady breeze blowing from left to right during the practice. As the players began to take the field, the public address announcer was doing some practicing of his own, repeating ``Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States'' over and over, in anticipation of President Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the regular season opener Sunday night.
``It's kind of tough to read balls off the bats of lefties with the lights being right there,'' outfielder Willie Harris said. ``The balls go into the lights. I'll just work on seeing the ball off the lefties' bats and prepare to make the right adjustments to make the catch.''
The players agreed unanimously on one thing: No matter how it plays, Nationals Park 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.
d hitters won't love.
``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.''
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.''
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich and freelance writer Jonah Schuman contributed to this report.

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