For Nats, there's no place like new home
Acta, players thrilled to have a stadium to call their own
WASHINGTON -- Yes, it was good that the Nationals won their first game at Nationals Park, a 3-0 victory over the Orioles on Saturday evening. But it wasn't the game that stood out for the players and manager Manny Acta. They now look at Nationals Park as their permanent home.
As Acta put it after the game, "There no place like home."
The fans are the reason the Nationals feel that way.
Everyone took notice that the fans are closer to the field at Nationals Park than they were at RFK Stadium. There were 25,000 at Nationals Park on Saturday, and it sounded more like 50,000. It was that loud, according to Acta.
"It was beautiful. It was nice to see all the people come out in these types of conditions in an exhibition game," Acta said. "It's just the way new ballparks are built. Even when we had big crowds at RFK on the Fourth of July, the people were so far away from the action. [Nationals Park] makes it seems like there were more people."
Right-hander Jason Bergmann didn't care that he was the first Nationals hurler to throw the first pitch -- a ball -- at Nationals Park.
"It was nice, but it was only for one pitch. After that you have to go to work," Bergmann said. "It's cool to have your own park, your fans. It was only half-full, but it was pretty loud out there. This is our home park, and we are glad to be here."
The big question was, how did the park play for the hitters and pitchers? Spacious RFK was a pitcher's park and for now it appears that Nationals Park will be no different. It was cold on Saturday, and the wind was blowing from left to right field. It was tough for right-handed hitters to drive the ball to left and left-center field.
In the fourth inning, for example, second baseman Ronnie Belliard hit a line drive to left-center. It looked as though Belliard would have an extra-base hit, but the wind prevented the ball from carrying, and Orioles left fielder Jay Payton ended up catching the ball.
"If you hit a hard ball, it went nowhere in left-center field," Belliard said. "I think if I hit it down the line, I would have probably hit a double. Other than that, I think it's a beautiful park. I think we have to wait until the summertime to see if the ball is going to jump."
Said Bergmann: "We have to play to the field. It's not RFK. We'll see. It's going to take us a good homestand to figure out what this place is really going to do. Really, it's cold out. The hitters are probably holding back at the bat. We'll see when the weather starts heating up."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.