Detwiler pitched 3.2 innings, allowing 1 run on 7 hits, with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. The hits were mostly sharp, clean singles, and it seemed that he was missing low in the zone–but he looked pretty healthy. That’s good news for the Nats.
In the second game of the doubleheader, I got my first look at AJ Cole. Great, lively fastball and good change-up. He pitched 6 thoroughly entertaining innings. His only real mistake was a solo home run by Keys third baseman Nick Delmonico. Otherwise, he pitched six innings of three-hit ball, striking out 11 and walking only 3. No wonder the Nats wanted him back–and got him back–in the Michael Morse trade.
That’s really all the analysis I have. I’ve been feeling pretty down lately, following the big league team, and I needed a break–a kind of mental rehab start, if you like. A single-admission doubleheader at the Pfitz on a beautiful day was just the ticket.
And what a ticket it was. For the princely sum of eleven dollars, I was able to watch two seven-inning games of, really, very entertaining baseball from a seat right along the chain-link fence on the first base foul line.
The PNats’ former incarnation, the Cannons, used to use “Real baseball, real close” as a promotional tagline. They’re not kidding. For eleven bucks, you get to be practically in the bullpen yourself.
Another thing you notice is the quiet. During the breaks in play, it’s the cicadas, not the fans that roar. The crack of the bat, the pop of the glove in the catcher’s mitt; the umpires barking and the players calling out to each other: these are the sounds of the game.
There was a pretty good crowd, though: announced attendance was over 5,000 for the doubleheader. Of course, the Pfitz is nowhere near Nats Park in terms of its creature comforts. It does, however, outdo the big league park in one very important way: The bar by the right-field stands had delicious and refreshing Port City Monumental IPA on tap. Nats park has no shortage of places to get beer–but does a pretty poor job of serving beer made in the area.
There’s a refreshing earnestness to minor league ball that you don’t get in the big leagues any more. When a single homely voice, or a choir of elementary schoolchildren, sings the national anthem, everyone–players, umpires, and the whole assembled crowd–stands at quiet, dignified attention. It is genuinely moving, and perhaps more so than any shock-and-awe display you will ever see in a big league park.
The baseball was sometimes every bit as homely or elementary as the singing. In the bottom of the first of the first game of the doubleheader, the PNats led off with their Carolina League All-Star outfielder Billy Burns. He legged out a bunt hit–just barely–when Keys pitcher Brady Wagner uncorked a wayward throw to first baseman Chris Walker. The ball hit the chain link fence right in front of me, and, before the Keys knew what was happening, Burns, having turned on the jets, was standing on third. That was the only successful bunt of the day: the PNats would pop up bunts with distressing regularity.
Still, this was, as the old tagline had it, real baseball, and, as such, was really entertaining. Sure, there were the usual stupid promotional gimmicks between innings, but mostly, the crowd wanted–and got–a couple of decent baseball games for not a lot of money.
Some of the keenest observers of the game were among its smallest. There were a lot of kids in the crowd. I could hear several of them compare what was happening in the game to games they themselves had played. It was kind of neat to see.
I’m not much of an autograph hound, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity. PNats centerfielder Michael Taylor hit a home run in the first game of the doubleheader. Between games, he was walking past the seats and was signing autographs. I handed him my scorebook. He looked at the scorecard, his scoreline, and signed right next to the home run. I smiled.
If you haven’t gone down to a PNats game in a while, you owe it to yourself to stop by and go. It’s a great way to take your mind off stuff–even if the stuff you’re taking your mind off is following the big league team, which is what you do to take your mind off everything else.