This essay is part of our ongoing series, The Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen. Please visit the series homepage to read other stories and look for a new entry each week.
WASHINGTON — I’ve been to a lot of great sports games over the years. Highlights include two Winter Classics, several playoff baseball games for the Orioles and the Nats, World Cup soccer matches, and even a Stanley Cup Finals game.
But this particular, hot, humid, soupy baseball game takes the cake. When you go to a World Series game or a Stanley Cup Finals game, you know you are going to something special. No one knew this mid-June baseball game would be anything special until it became special. It’s a different feeling, when a regular, ordinary game suddenly becomes extraordinary.
To say the Washington Nationals were a disappointment this season might be an understatement. The team was favored to win its division, and potentially the World Series. Instead, they are watching other teams play in the postseason, and the front office is now looking for a new coaching staff.
That said, I will always have fond memories of the 2015 season because the Nationals provided me with the Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen.
Saturday, June 20, 2015 was one of the hotter days of our otherwise mild summer. Almost too hot for baseball, or anything outdoors.
But, it was Father’s Day Weekend, so my dad got to call the shots. He wanted to go to the Nats game against the Pirates on Saturday and play golf on Sunday, so that’s what we did.
Our seats were on the first-base side about 20 rows up … right in the afternoon sunshine. The beers we purchased had to be consumed quickly if we wanted them to be slightly below room temperature. We only had one before we switched to water — to fend off heat stroke!
The game started out just like any other, and felt like any other until about the fifth inning. That’s when the atmosphere in Nats Park shifted. The sweat-soaked crowd suddenly realized that they were watching Max Scherzer pitch a perfect game.
Scherzer’s dominant performance continued, and the Nats made everyone feel a bit better when they drove in a few insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. From that point on, the feeling in Nats Park was just electric. It was almost a playoff-like atmosphere. Around the seventh inning, a young kid sitting next to me poked his dad and explained that he was ready to go home. The father tried to explain that they were potentially witnessing history, but by that point all the child wanted was some air conditioning (and maybe some ice cream that wouldn’t melt in under 3 minutes). The father convinced his son to stay through the end of the seventh … but then finally caved — and off to the air conditioning they went.
I’d been drinking water like crazy to try to stay hydrated. At some point in the eighth inning, I was in desperate need of a visit to the restroom, but I couldn’t get up. I didn’t want to miss a minute.
The top of the ninth came and the crowd was on their feet, excited and anxious with every pitch, every swing of the bat. It was only mid-June, but it felt like late October.
A few stressful at-bats and one questionable “hit by a pitch” call later, I had witnessed my first no-hitter.
The icing on the cake — what make this “The Greatest Game I’ve Ever Seen” — is pretty simple: I got to see it with my dad!
My dad is the person I credit for making me a sports fan. He took me to my first hockey game at the age of 3, and taught me to both love and understand other sports including football, lacrosse, basketball, soccer and of course baseball.
As a kid he would take my brother and me to Orioles games when HIS childhood team, the Yankees, were in town. He’s adopted the Nats as his “National League” team and since graduating from college, I generally go to a few games every season with him.
But that tradition is about to change. Later this year my parents are retiring and moving to Florida.
So, while I’m sure my dad and I will still go to baseball games (maybe even some Spring Training games now), they will certainly be less frequent.
Perhaps in some cosmic way Max Scherzer and the Nats knew that on that very hot, humid day in June.
So thanks, Max, and congrats on no-no number two the other night!