03/29/08 7:43 PM ET
Nationals Park a hit with fans, players
New facility bustles with activity for Major League debut
By Michael Phillips / Special to MLB.com
On the left is a large hole that construction crews will soon begin turning into a multilevel building. On the right is a Metrobus garage, old and in disrepair but festively adorned with red, white and blue bunting for the weekend.
Approaching the ballpark, though, things change in a hurry. On Saturday the left-field entrance plaza was bustling with activity as the ticket booths were open, concession stands were cooking and Rico Seabrooks was in his traditional front-and-center position selling prooooooooograms!
Baseball is back in Washington, and this time with a stadium to match. Sitting in the right-field mezzanine, Kelly Martin said that he was impressed by the new Nationals Park. Martin was joined by Doug Tripken, who compared it with RFK Stadium.
"This one looks like an actual baseball stadium," Tripken said.
Martin and Tripken took a taxi to the park, which was a popular mode of transportation on Saturday.
Traffic levels appeared to hold steady on the roads around the stadium, though attendance was about half of what it will be for Sunday's opener.
At the Navy Yard Metro, traffic flowed smoothly through the new entrance on Half Street, which creates a canopy that fans can wait under while they are in line for a train.
The other transportation option is the Nats Express shuttle. The drop-off point is about four blocks farther away than the Metro, at Third and M streets. Team employees were stationed every block along the path to guide fans to the stadium, which is not immediately visible from the drop-off point.
On Saturday there were between 20 and 30 buses running, a number that a driver described as "more than enough" to handle the capacity. It takes five minutes to make the drive from RFK to Nationals Park.
Inside the park, fans were greeted by Nationals players. Jesus Flores was at the home-plate plaza, the main entrance off the Anacostia River.
Fans aren't the only ones enjoying the amenities of the stadium. The players are, too, as they discovered all that was available to them in the clubhouses.
"There's lots of entertainment, lots of stuff to do," Ryan Zimmerman said. "This will help us get through a long season."
But manager Manny Acta discovered the downside of all that when he tried to summon some players into his office and they were in they gym, a few dozen yards away.
"I may have to relax my ban on cell phones in there," Acta said. "Instead of walking from my office to the gym, I could just text them and they would get down here faster."
Michael Phillips is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.