Washington Nationals fans have been treated to 50 percent off their orders from Papa John’s this season the day after the Nationals score seven or more runs and win. Naturally, I was excited when I saw a “Curly W” and the Papa John’s logo in a Tweet offering an opportunity to unveil a prize. It wasn’t the discount pizza deal that my friends and I were craving, but I tweeted #PJNationals anyway with the hope of unveiling a free pizza.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 14, 2015
— Spencer Fogel (@FogelNoms) August 15, 2015
Ten days later, I received an email alerting me that I won two passes to watch batting practice on the field and PNC Diamond Club seats. I immediately texted my girlfriend, Margaret, about the contest and she agreed to fly in from Houston for Saturday’s game (and our two-year anniversary).
We arrived at Nationals Park and were met by, Andrew, an employee on the sponsorship team, outside section 107. Andrew gave us green wristbands, which gave us field access for batting practice, and escorted us onto the field.
I usually roam between the two outfield corners in pursuit of a coveted home run ball, but this experience was even more exciting because I realized that I may never again have such an opportunity. Margaret and I were among two dozen fans who stood on the warning track behind home plate on Saturday afternoon.
We saw Jose Lobaton, Tyler Moore, Pedro Severino, Trea Tuner and Dan Uggla hit in the batting cage and then watched the Phillies take their turn. It was very special to watch from such a close distance and hear players talk about their swings. Players from both teams had fun and laughed a lot as they waited to bat.
After batting practice, we took the elevator up to the field level and made our way to the PNC Diamond Club. The Diamond Club is a VIP club at Nationals Park featuring all inclusive food and drinks. We got in line outside of the club to have our tickets scanned and we were outfitted with a yellow wrist band which gave us access to reenter the club if we needed to exit for any reason. We did not have any reason to leave.
With about one hour to go before the first pitch, we surveyed the food and drink options. The spread looked very tasty and seemed so foreign to a college student accustomed to Nats Dogs who occasionally splurges on some Hard Times nachos.
I sampled the fluffy pizza, a juicy buffalo chicken sandwich, and salmon (because when in the Diamond Club…). The Diamond Club also offered a carving station, salad bar and an exceptional dessert spread. Cookies, m&m cupcakes, chocolate pretzel bars, red velvet cake shooters were just a few of the available snacks. Traditional ballpark snacks like peanuts and Cracker Jack were also options.
Six beers and three wines were on draft. Soda fountains were also located on both sides of the club. There were plenty of places to sit down to eat, but it is recommended that you arrive early to reserve a table. We found a comfortable bench area close to the dessert station, but there were also plenty of high top tables available which did not require a reservation.
We headed to our seats before the first pitch and were greeted by Jonathan, our server for the game. He pointed out the menu curled up inside our cup holders and told us he would serve us during the game. Jonathan later took our orders on a device the size of an iPhone and our food was delivered by a runner. Drinks followed shortly after the food was served.
Jonathan was responsible for several rows of people in our section so it was somewhat tough to get his attention. When we did get his attention we ordered traditional ballpark food–a cheeseburger with fries and pretzel bites. Both arrived by the next inning and were very dry. The beer arrived cold and covered with a lid.
The stadium seats provided us with a terrific view of the action. I could not stop saying, “These are the greatest seats I’ve ever had.” The cushioned seat was very comfortable and the sight line allowed for an unobstructed view of the strike zone.
Saturday’s game was not a high scoring affair, but Stephen Strasburg pitched a gem and finished with 13 strikeouts. It seemed as if almost nobody in the entire Diamond Club realized how well Strasburg had pitched. To give you a sense of the apathy in my section, an usher approached me in between innings to tell me that it was exciting to have a true fan sitting in his section.
The lack of fan enthusiasm and the average ballpark fare did not break my excitement. I left Nationals Park having had a true VIP experience. I hope to come back again soon.