Can you smell it? The verdant flush of freshly-cut grass, the savory wafts of sausages and onions grilling on the flattop, the, uh, well, whatever a “lobster blossom” smells like.
That’s right, opening Day is here once again, America’s unofficial starting gun signaling the beginning of spring. Here’s everything you need to know about the Washington Nationals home opener at Nats Park Thursday afternoon.
The Nationals take on the Mets and will send Cy Young runner-up Max Scherzer to the mound to take on the man who beat him out for the honor, newly-extended New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The two last squared off in Queens on Sept. 24, 2017, when each notched double-digit strikeouts but Scherzer got the best of the matchup in a 3-2 Nationals win.
Both teams missed the playoffs last year, with the Nationals (82-80) finishing in second place in the NL East and the Mets finishing fourth (77-85).
Getting to Nationals Park
First pitch is 1:05 p.m., with gates opening at 11 a.m. While you may want to stroll through center field gate for your first Nats game of the year, it’s good to remember that there are lots of other entrances to the ballpark, which may have significantly shorter lines, especially considering the new bag policy.
You can arrive by car, bus, bike, Metro and even river taxi from Alexandria. The Nats post a complete list of options on their site. But if you’re thinking about driving, it’s good to remember that while moving 40,000-plus people into one tight corner of the city is always bound to cause backups, the real issue will be when the game ends and merges into D.C. rush hour.
Parking generally ranges from $20 to $48 (plus fees) and can be purchased online in advance of the game, but opening day paid parking is sold out. Public parking in the Navy Yard neighborhood is very limited, so it’s best to plan in advance if you haven’t already purchased a spot.
As of Wednesday night, there are still tickets available in the 100 and 200 levels, starting at $61 and going up to several hundred dollars. There are always a few hundred grandstand level seats for sections 401 and 402 available when gates open as well.
Bags and lockers
The Nationals have implemented a new bag policy prohibiting bags larger than 16” x 16” x 8”. Fans can rent lockers to stow their bags for $2 per hour for small bags and $3 per hour for larger ones through a company called Binbox. However, make sure you download the Stripe app, which you’ll need to use to do so, in advance.
Considering our brisk winter weather to date, things are looking pretty good for Thursday. Opening Day will bring perfect baseball weather with highs in the mid-60s.
It will be 60 degrees by first pitch.
Play Ball! It’s opening day at #Nats Ballpark and the weather is going to cooperate fully. A bit of a chill this morning so grab your fleece. Plenty of sunshine and a light South wind this afternoon. Let’s go @Nationals – beat the @Mets. pic.twitter.com/xhFgYM6vu2
— Chuck Bell (@ChuckBell4) March 28, 2019
There’s plenty new to eat at Nats Park, but if you don’t feel like spending the entire game circling the stadium trying to find it all, thankfully The Washington Post’s Scott Allen took the time to document where the new stuff is at Monday’s exhibition game against the Yankees.
There area also a slew of new restaurants at Capitol Riverfront.
Bao Bao (Section 130)
CHIKO (Section 240)
Hank’s Oyster Bar (Section 106)
La Casita Pupuseria (Section 141)
Lobster Shack (Section 107)
Medium Rare (Section 135)
Old Hickory BBQ (Bid Light Loft)
Taco Caminado (Section 233)
Whether you’re at the ballpark or just anywhere within 100 decibel shouting distance, be aware that the 113th Wing Capital Guardians will be performing a flyover shortly before first pitch. Pregame ceremonies begin at 12:15 p.m. and will also include performances by the U.S. Army Chorus Quartet and the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard, as well as an appearance by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. The Budweiser Clydesdales will be on hand as well.
Take a deep breath and enjoy. Baseball is back.