Giveaway Review: Nationals Cap (Grade: A)

Baseball caps are one of the most personal giveaways of the season.  Just think about it.  You arrive at the ballpark and you immediately personalize it by adjusting the size, bending the brim or turning it backwards.  These giveaways are retained by fans for years and, unlike Jayson Werth Chia Pets, are less likely to appear in an Ebay listing.

The Washington Nationals have distributed thousands of caps courtesy of Miller Lite over the last five years.  We saw tri-color caps in 2011, retro caps in 2012, mesh caps in 2013 and even caps retrofitted with bottle openers in 2014.

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The 2015 caps distributed to the first 15,000 fans 21 and up are the most stylish caps the team has given away.  The Velcro adjustable cap has a red brim and a raised “Curly W” sewn into the front of the grey crown.  The Miller Lite logo is blue and is less conspicuously sewn into the left side of the cap.

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Fans were excited about this cap giveaway and expressed their approval of the caps by posting instant feedback online.  Plenty of photos of fans posing with the caps flooded Twitter and Instagram which was expected because the cap is original and fashionable.

What did you think?  We thought it was a home run.

Grade: A

Nats Fans on the Road: Dodger Stadium

The Nationals played a three game series in Los Angeles. We caught up with fans who traveled to Dodger Stadium. (Nationals Twitter)
The Nationals played a three game series in Los Angeles. We caught up with fans who traveled to Dodger Stadium. (Nationals Twitter)

The Washington Nationals played a three game series against the Dodgers in downtown Los Angeles last week.  Fanfare surrounds the annual west coast trip to Chavez Ravine which is home of the league’s third-oldest ballpark.

We caught up with three fans—Julie A., Lisa D., and Josh M.—who shared stories about their experiences at Dodger Stadium.

Julie A.

Julie, a former Nationals on-field reporter for MASN, was in Los Angeles visiting family during the series.  Some of the most appealing aspects of this series were the pitching matchups.  Wednesday night’s contest between Jordan Zimmermann and Clayton Kershaw was enough to attract the attention of Julie and her father—a former Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Julie and her father watched the game from some great seats on the field level enjoyed a picturesque view of palm trees and mountains in the distance.  Her seats were not far from the current on-field reporter for the Nationals—Dan Kolko.

Fans who crave unique ballpark fare will hit the jackpot at Dodger Stadium.  Dodger Dogs are one of the most popular choices at the ballpark.  The 10-inch hot dogs can be purchased grilled or steamed.  Fans who prefer an all-beef hot dog should consider the “Super Dodger Dog.”  Julie also recommends the churros as a ballpark snack.

Lisa D.

Lisa permanently moved from Fairfax, Virginia to California in 2013 after attending college in “the golden state” and she has continued to support the Nationals from the West coast.  She traveled to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday to cheer on “her favorite guys.”

Like Julie, Lisa cited the “classic California feel” and the palm trees around the ballpark as aspects that make Dodger Stadium feel unique.  These features, Lisa said, are juxtaposed by the ugly parking lot that spans the 352 acre property.

Lisa also said the atmosphere in Dodger Stadium is much different from the atmosphere at Nationals Park.  Dodgers fans, she said, taunt their own players, visiting players and even the opposing team’s fans.

“They just love to be mean and nasty.  I’ve had food thrown at me for wearing a Nats jersey.  I’ve been yelled at and taunted mercilessly.  All of this without instigating anything.”

Fans who want the California feel, she said, may want to see a game in San Diego.

Josh M.

We caught up with Josh on Monday night shortly after he, his wife and two children made it back home from a vacation that included stops at Petco Park, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium.

Josh bought two tickets, for himself and his son, just a couple of rows behind the Nationals dugout.  In most ballparks, these seats come with their own perks because of close proximity to the players.  The location worked out and Josh and his son had baseballs thrown to them by Michael A. Taylor and Ian Desmond.

His wife and younger son sat in a different part of the ballpark and were surrounded by Dodgers fans.  The two Nats fans, he said, received some “second glances.”

Josh’s experience at the ballpark was marred significantly by his interactions with ushers.  The ushers, Josh said, are very strict about allowing fans into certain sections before the game for pre-game autographs.

“I though some of the Ushers at Nats Park were strict,” he said, “but Dodgers ushers are on a whole other level.”

The Nationals will not return to Dodger Stadium until next year unless they meet in the playoffs.  Check out the playoff schedule here.

Catching up with Frank Howard

It was a pleasure to meet Frank Howard--a Washington, D.C.--baseball icon on Friday afternoon.
It was a pleasure to meet Frank Howard–a Washington, D.C.–baseball icon on Friday afternoon.

Frank Howard was a name at the bottom left corner of the Washington Nationals game notes.  He was obviously important.  The title of the section in the game notes was “Capital Punishers.”  The notes said the hit 237 home runs with the Washington Senators between 1965 and 1971—the most in Washington’s history.  Ryan Zimmerman was second on the list and he trailed Howard by 51 home runs.

Frank Howard's name was unfamiliar to a 23 year old Washington Nationals fan.
Frank Howard’s name was unfamiliar to a 23-year-old Washington Nationals fan.

Howard’s name dropped off the game notes a few weeks ago and his name disappeared from my mind until Monday morning when I discovered a unique Facebook event.

Frank Howard—nicknamed “Hondo,” “The Washington Monument” and “The Capital Punisher”—would be meeting with fans on Friday afternoon and he would be signing autographs on wine bottles at a Costco in Washington.  The event was supposed to promote Major League Baseball licensed wine.  You can read more about MLB’s journey into the wine business here and here.

Between Monday morning and Friday afternoon, I learned to appreciate Hondo’s accomplishments including his 1960 N.L. Rookie of the Year season, his 1963 World Championship and his two home run titles with the Washington Senators.  Hondo’s storied home runs which painted the RFK Stadium bleacher seats white also colored my perception of his career.

Hondo was a friendly and gentle man.  He spoke with fans and Costco shoppers (who didn’t know who he was) about his career with great pride.  The 6-foot-8-inch Washington sports icon was humbled when a fan started listing his nicknames.

“That’s what’s left of him,” he said, gesturing to his frame with a smile, when the fan rattled off Washington Monument from his list of nicknames.

Frank Howard signed a few autographs for me and wished me luck on my graduate school studies.
Frank Howard signed a few autographs for me and wished me luck on my graduate school studies.

Hondo told me he doesn’t go to Nationals games frequently, stating that he did not want to be a distraction to fans.  He beamed, however, with excitement when he discussed a prior speaking engagement at Nationals Park where he taught youth baseball players about the dangers associated with steroid use prior to a home game.  When he does go to games he will sit in a suite with the team’s staff.

I look forward to, hopefully, seeing Hondo back at Nationals Park in a few years.  It would be nice to see him shake hands with Ryan Zimmerman after he hits his 238th home run.

Cheers to you, Hondo.

In the Chatting Cage with Joe Ross

Joe Ross was a guest on the Chatting Cage on Wednesday evening.
Joe Ross was a guest on the Chatting Cage on Wednesday evening and he answered questions from fans.

Joe Ross, the Washington Nationals rookie pitcher, appeared on MLB Advanced Media’s Edward Jones Chatting Cage and he answered questions from fans for about 15 minutes on Wednesday evening.

The Chatting Cage is a web series moderated by Jeremy Brisiel and the show is influenced almost entirely by fans who Tweet or video chat questions to premier athletes and coaches.  Previous guests have included Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.

We sent our question to Ross on Twitter using the hastag #ChattingCage and were excited to hear his response. These were the top three questions that Ross answered on the show.

What is your favorite thing about Washington?

Probably the stadium and the fans.  I love pitching in front of the big crowds that we get, hearing them cheer as we score runs and getting some quality wins.  It’s really what I like.

The Chatting Cage is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel who has been joined by Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.
The Chatting Cage is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel who has been joined by Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.

Who has the better stuff on the mound you or Tyson [Ross]?

I’m gonna have to say Tyson.  Until, I can prove myself, by default, I would have to say him.  He’s doing really well. I get lucky enough, since I’m on the East coast, by the time our game is done, I can catch some late innings of his….He’s actually not a bad hitter as well. It’s always fun to watch him dig into the box.

What’s the biggest adjustment about having an everyday spot in the rotation?

Just going out and taking care of business. Once every five days starting, but four days between, is really when you get your work done. I think those four days are just as important, if not more, than your start days because those are what prepare you for your upcoming game. As long as you take care of business those days, I think you’ll be alright. That’s my main thing—trying to stick around the guys and trying to do some things that they do and kind of add on to my game.

See the whole interview here.

Solved: The Nationals Park “Mysterious” Ground Rule

The line to the left of the foul pole is not a foul line.  We unlocked the "mystery" behind this line.
The line to the left of the foul pole is not a foul line. We unlocked the “mystery” behind this line on Saturday.

“Why are there two foul lines in left field?”

I’ve been asked that question two or three times over the last five years.  On each occasion, I posited two or three explanations before changing the subject.

The subject was unavoidable yesterday as I walked with my friend Scott along the warning track during the afternoon season plan holder appreciation event.  We were walking toward the corner.

Scott and I went to the Season Plan Holders event Saturday afternoon and asked about the line.
Scott and I went to the Season Plan Holders event Saturday afternoon and asked about the line.

“Why are there two foul lines in left field,” Scott said.

We brainstormed for a few minutes and then an opportunity presented itself.  Besides the umpires, who best knows the rules of the ballpark? A groundskeeper.

Scott and I called over a groundskeeper who smiled as if he had heard our question dozens of times this season and was about to explain a great mystery.

The line on to the left of the foul pole is not actually a foul line.  The line to the left simply demarcates where a gap between the wall and the outfield reserved seating begins.

If a bounding ball bounces to the left of that line, it is in play.  Look for players to try and leg out a triple.  But if a bounding ball bounces to the right of that line, the ball is dead and results in a ground-rule double.

Ground Rules

The groundskeeper said this unique ground rule has not resulted in any confusion this season, but we will be on the lookout and will update this post as soon as something happens.

Mystery solved.

Nationals at 10: Newseum Exhibit

The Newseum attracted large crowds of Nationals fans over the weekend
The Newseum attracted large crowds over the weekend of fans who came to see the Nationals at 10 exhibit.

The Newseum opened a new exhibit in partnership with the Washington Nationals this weekend called “Nationals at 10: Baseball Makes News.”

Many Nationals fans got an advanced look at the exhibit highlighting 10 memorable media moments of the team’s first 10 years of history at an after-hours baseball themed party on Thursday.

We were happy to score discounted tickets this weekend for just $10.00 (plus tax) as part of an opening weekend promotion.  Visitors 18 and younger will be able to visit the Newseum free through Labor Day.  Adult tickets will cost $22.95 (plus tax).

The compact gallery exhibit, located on the second floor, was crowded with Nationals fans, on Sunday afternoon, who walked around the exhibit and reminisced with other fans dressed in Nationals caps and jerseys.  Fans joyfully recalled witnessing some moments while regretfully sharing stories about what they were doing during other moments.  Fan interaction was certainly an added bonus.

The multimedia exhibit, designed by Tyler Jordan, utilizes three walls of space, a large TV and sports memorabilia (jerseys, bats, balls, lineup cards etc.) on loan from the Nationals to tell the stories about the coverage of the games.  Adjacent to the main exhibit are smaller monitors that provide a more general history of baseball in Washington, D.C. though archival photographs depicting players and presidents.

The exhibit will be on display through November 29, but it’s not a problem if you don’t think you will be able to make it. We took plenty of photos!

  1. Baseball Returns to Washington (April 14, 2005)
Memorabilia: Lineup card from first game of the inaugural season
Memorabilia: Lineup card from first game of the inaugural season
  1. Last Game at RFK Stadium (September 23, 2007)
Memorabilia: Lineup card from the final game at RFK Stadium
Memorabilia: Lineup card from the final game at RFK Stadium
  1. First Game at Nationals Park (March 30, 2008)
Memorabilia: Home run bat and autographed ball from Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run
Memorabilia: Home run bat and autographed ball from Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run
  1. President Obama’s Opening Pitch (April 5, 2010)
Memorabilia: Baseball autographed by President Barack Obama, jersey signed by President Obama and a Nationals jacket
Memorabilia: Baseball autographed by President Barack Obama, jersey signed by President Obama and a Nationals jacket
  1. Strasburg’s sensational debut (June 8, 2010)
Memorabilia: Pitching rubber and rosin bag from Stephen Strasburg’s debut, front page of Washington Post sports section featuring Strasburg, Sports Illustrated magazine featuring Strasburg
Memorabilia: Pitching rubber and rosin bag from Stephen Strasburg’s debut, front page of Washington Post sports section featuring Strasburg, Sports Illustrated magazine featuring Strasburg
  1. Harper Makes Headlines (April 28, 2012)
Memorabilia; Autographed jersey from Bryce Harper’s debut; game used cap and helmet from Harper’s debut, game used base from Harper’s debut, “Clown Question” t-shirt, Sports Illustrated magazines featuring Harper, Washington Post sports section featuring Harper
Memorabilia; Autographed jersey from Bryce Harper’s debut; game used cap and helmet from Harper’s debut, game used base from Harper’s debut, “Clown Question” t-shirt, Sports Illustrated magazines featuring Harper, Washington Post sports section featuring Harper
  1. Teddy Wins! (October 3, 2012)
Memorabilia: Shoes worn by Teddy when he won his first President’s Race
Memorabilia: Shoes worn by Teddy when he won his first President’s Race
  1. Werth’s Walk-Off Home Run (October 11, 2012)
Memorabilia: Jayson Werth’s jersey from Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS
Memorabilia: Jayson Werth’s jersey from Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS
  1. Nats Clinch the NL East Title (September 16, 2014)
Memorabilia: Washington Post sports section featuring the Nationals celebration, champagne bottle and cork from the locker room celebration
Memorabilia: Washington Post sports section featuring the Nationals celebration, champagne bottle and cork from the locker room celebration
  1. Zimmermann’s No-Hitter (September 28, 2014)
Memorabilia: Home plate from the no-hitter
Memorabilia: Home plate from the no-hitter

Nats Fans on The Road: PNC Park

Joann traveled to Pittsburgh on a Nats Destination trip. (Joann H.)
Joann traveled to Pittsburgh on a Nats Destination trip and she took some terrific photos at PNC Park.

The Washington Nationals traveled to PNC Park last Thursday to play a four game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Many Nationals fans made the five hour road trip to Pittsburgh and they made their presence known with their Curly W apparel and “N-A-T-S, NATS! NATS! NATS!” cheers.  We caught up with two Nationals fans this week—Joann and Daria—who made the trip.

Joann

Joann traveled with her husband to PNC Park as part of an organized Nats Destinations trip.  Nationals fans can pay a flat rate and receive tickets to two games, first class hotel accommodations, a tour of the ballpark and a gift bag.  Participants also receive credentials to attend a pre-game reception with a current Nationals player.  Joann said Clint Robinson attended last weekend’s reception.

The program, she said, was “very well organized.”  “My favorite part was how smoothly everything went…Everything was well planned.” One other exciting part about the trip is that travelers get to spend time with other Nationals fans.  Her favorite part about the way was structured was that she and her husband were able to spend time with other Nationals fans.

The Nats Destinations organizers hooked her and the other travelers up with great seats at the ballpark for the games on Friday and Saturday.  The teams secures tickets with face values between $40 and $70.  Joann had quite the view for the Friday and Saturday game.  She ate some great food (an “amazing” pulled pork and pierogi sandwich) and snapped some impressive photos.

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The next Nats Destination trip is September 11-13 in Miami.

Daria

Daria, a 10-year season ticket holder, arranged her trip to Pittsburgh as part of a larger trip that also brought her to Jacobs Field—home of the Cleveland Indians.

The North Shore neighborhood around the ballpark has many hotels.  If you can’t get a spot at a hotel with a view of the ballpark, there are plenty other hotels, like the Marriot (where Daria stayed), that are just a 15 minute walk from the ballpark.

One of the most defining aspects of PNC Park is the view of the skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge which spans the Allegheny River.  Fans walking to the game can cross the bridge, which is closed to traffic on game days, to safely get to and from the ballpark.  All seats, with the exception of the bleacher seats, have excellent views of the skyline and the bridge.

As fans get closer to the ballpark, they will find plenty of history and excitement.  Fans walk by statues of four Pirates Hall of Famers including Bill Mazeroski.  The statue of Mazeroski was unveiled in 2010.  Daria enjoyed the block parties held by the main gates.  The block parties are held on Federal Street (just outside of the left field) on most Fridays and Saturdays and they feature live entertainment along with food and beverage options.

Feeling safe is critical to having a positive fan experience and Daria felt comfortable cheering for the Nationals in her Nationals gear.  She stood when Ian Desmond hit a home run, but was also “mindful of not being an obnoxious fan.”  She chatted with the Pirates fans who sat around her seats and said she, “felt no hostility and had no hassles” at the ballpark.

Nationals fans should definitely add PNC Park to their lists of ballparks to visit.  It comes with a good recommendation from Daria who said she “would definitely go back to PNC Park.”

Grandstand Seating: Just 5 Bucks

Fans  began to line up 3.5 hours early to purchase $5 tickets on Saturday.
Fans began to line up 3.5 hours early to purchase $5 tickets for Saturday’s 1.5 games.

The A-to-Z Guide for Nationals Park gives fans a very short description of Grandstand seating.

Seating in Sections 401 and 402 offers a great value at $5 per ticket for Regular, Prime and Marquee Games ($15 for Diamond Games). Grandstand seats go on sale at Nationals Park each gameday 2 1/2 hours prior to first pitch. Grandstand seats are limited to one (1) ticket per customer and the customer must be present at time of purchase. Upon purchasing Grandstand seating, fans must immediately enter Nationals Park.

There is very little information besides the above quotation about these seats available online.  I’ve been buying Grandstand seats for the last few years so this blog post should answer most questions you may have about “the cheap seats.”

The Grandstand seats are located in Sections 401 and for 402.
The Grandstand seats are located in Sections 401 and 402 and the seats are mostly covered.

What are the seats like?

Sections 401 and 402 are on the Gallery Level of Nationals Park and they are among the most under-appreciated seats.  These seats are on the shady side of the ballpark making them ideal for sunny days.  Almost all of the seats in these two sections are covered making them perfect for days when the forecast calls for rain.  They are also in close proximity to bathrooms and the escalator providing for a smooth exit from the ballpark.

Lines for Grandstand seating can form 3.5 hours before a weekend matchup.
Lines for Grandstand seating can form 3.5 hours before a weekend matchup.

How early do you need to be to get tickets?

The tickets go on sale 2.5 hours before first pitch.  How early you need to be is really a function of three factors—the day of the week, the opponent and whether there is a desired giveaway.

I’ve had virtually no issues getting a seat in the Grandstands during weekday games.  Last week, for example, I purchased a seat just one hour before the first pitch of the Tuesday, July 7 matchup between Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto.  That night was also a 10-Year Tuesday Giveaway, but a lapel pin is less highly sought after than a Jayson Werth Gnome.

My luck was much different for the Friday, July 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I arrived at the box office about one hour before the first pitch and was disappointed to find out that the Grandstand seats were all sold out.  The least expensive tickets available were $42.  Grandstand seats can sellout quickly especially if the Nationals a premiere opponent like the Dodgers.  It is recommended that you leave work early on Friday to get your tickets.

Weekend games typically draw the largest crowds.  Lines for Grandstand seats routinely start to form 3.5 hours before the first pitch, but you generally don’t need to get in line until 2.5 hours before the game.  One benefit of arriving early is that you can request a seating preference (like an aisle seat) at the box office.

Are seats always $5?  How often are tickets $15?  What’s the deal with playoff seats?

Grandstand seats are almost always $5.
Grandstand seats are almost always $5.

Grandstand seats are almost always $5.

This season there were only three “Diamond Games” when Grandstand seats were $15—Opening Day and both regular season Yankees games.

Unfortunately, Grandstand seats are not available for $5 during the playoffs.  Expect to pay around the same price as an Upper Gallery seat during the playoffs—around $50 per ticket including fees.

We hope you found this helpful.  See you in the Grandstand!

Update: The Nationals have been selling 1,500 Standing Room Only tickets for the regular season games. Those seats go on sales as soon as all physical tickets are sold, including unsold tickets and they are available at the box office if they do not sell out online. Last season, postseason Standing Room Only seats sold out completely online so box office sold nothing on the day of the game.

Action Photos Series (Nationals vs. Dodgers)

Nats Gallery Blog is pleased to announce the launch of its Action Photo Series.  Starting today we will be accepting photo submissions to post on our blog.  Please Tweet us or email us (NatsGalleryBlog@gmail.com) your favorite action photos from the series and we will share them.  Your photos will all receive photo credit and we will happily share your Twitter handle!

This first pilot gallery comes from Mike who joined us for Sunday’s game!

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Nats Fans on the Road: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a great place to see the Nationals play on the road.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a great place to see the Nationals play on the road.

Nationals fans should consider a day trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards next season for the Battle of the Beltways.  The series is very popular and it attracted 137,031 fans who streamed into stadium in downtown Baltimore for the final series before the All-Star break.

The MARC train is a great way to get to Baltimore for a game.  It runs during rush hour and it also has a limited weekend schedule.  Fans who arrive at Baltimore Penn Station can take a short ride on the light-rail shuttle directly to the ballpark.  The ride home from the game could cost you $17 if you miss the MARC train and have to take Amtrak.

We arrived early at the ballpark on public transportation and took a terrific tour of the ballpark.  This slide show will give a sense of some of the most unique features of the stadium and it should also show you the best places to catch balls, get autographs and stay cool on a hot day.

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We also caught up with two Nationals fans this weekend—Nick and Taylor—who both went to the game on Saturday when the Nationals came from behind twice to win 7-4.

Nick

Nick traveled to Camden Yards to see the Nationals play for three very good reasons.

  1. It was a great opportunity to follow a DC team he loves.
  2. The trip was a short enough distance away and does not require overnight stay.
  3. It is fun to see your team play on the road.

One of the unique aspects about Camden Yards that Nick experienced before settling into his seats behind home plate was watching batting practice from behind the Nationals dugout.  Unlike Nationals Park, which cordons off most of the ballpark until 1.5 hours before the game, the entire ballpark opens 2 hours before the game.

Nick had a great seat behind home plate, but cautioned about obstructed views.
Nick had a great seat behind home plate, but cautioned about obstructed views.

You may also notice in Nick’s Instagram post that Camden Yards does not have high nets that encircle the playing field during batting practice.  This means that there are plenty of opportunities to catch balls and get autographs, but it is important that you stay alert for batted balls.

Max Scherzer signed autographs for only Nationals fans before the game.
Max Scherzer signed autographs for only Nationals fans before the game.

Nationals fans interested in attending a future game at Camden Yards should choose their seats carefully.  “The sight lines are good,” Nick said, “as long as you’re not under the overhang from the upper deck in the lower bowl.”  Although fans in these seats will have great views of the entire field, the scoreboards may be blocked by the overhang.

Walking around the concourse during play could also be detrimental to fans, like Nick, who traveled for the sole purpose of watching the game.  Camden Yards does not have an open concourse, so fans will miss play when they are away from their seats.

Taylor

Taylor made her first trip to Camden Yards in recent memory with a friend on Saturday night and it was her first time seeing the Nationals play on the road.

Taylor traveled to Camden Yards for the first time in recent memory. It was her first time seeing the Nationals on the road.
Taylor traveled to Camden Yards for the first time in recent memory. It was her first time seeing the Nationals on the road.

One of the most distinguishing attributes of the ballpark to many fans, including Taylor, is the brickwork.  It can be found pretty much everywhere at Camden Yards.  Its presence is most obvious in the 1,116-foot long warehouse in right field.  It can also be found clustered along Eutaw Street, Babe Ruth Plaza and Orioles Legends Park.

Taylor is looking forward to the next matchup between the Nationals and Orioles, but will have to be patient because the teams don’t meet again until September 21.