Two Guys & a Map
Close To Home Tour
When we added the Ballpark Scorecard page to this web site, we realized that there was a stadium we'd forgotten to factor into Two Guys trip planning - the home of our local team, the Washington Nationals. We'd seen many games together at RFK Stadium since baseball returned to Washington D.C. in 2005 but going to a single game doesn't count as a Two Guys adventure. The Nats were going to move into a new stadium for the 2008 season so we realized that we'd have to act fast if we wanted to get RFK into the Two Guys column of our ballpark scorecard.
A quick look at some schedules produced the Close To Home Tour. There are a number of minor league teams within an easy drive of Washington so we decided on a plan that would get us to games on pretty much every level of organized baseball - Single A, Double A, Triple A and the Major Leagues.
This was unlike any other previous Two Guys trip. It was conceived and planned in about twenty minutes and was certainly the cheapest one in history as we never ventured more than 100 miles from home, sleeping in our own beds each night.
There were several firsts for us on this tour - neither of us had ever been to the ballpark in Richmond, so that was new. DC had never been to Bowie either. We both also realized when putting together the Ballpark Scorecard that while we still had several stadiums that we hadn't been to, we had each seen all but one Major League Baseball franchise play - the Colorado Rockies. Our first game of the tour took care of that.
On Friday, July 20 Dave battled his way through Virginia's awful rush hour traffic and picked up DC. We made our way to RFK Stadium to begin our "trip". RFK is not a great place to watch baseball. Opened in 1962, it was one of the first, if not the first, of the "multi purpose" facilities - stadiums that were designed for both football and baseball and weren't really suited for either. RFK actually did have a rich history as a football stadium - it was the home of the Washington Redskins for many years including their glory days when they won three Super Bowls.
However, its baseball history is much less stellar. When the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota, they were immediately replaced by an expansion franchise. That team, to put it bluntly, stunk. But that was the team and stadium of Dave's boyhood - the first Major League Baseball game he ever went to was there in 1966. Dave has many, many fond memories of watching those awful Senators teams play so he has a soft spot in his heart for RFK.
The expansion Senators were moved to Texas after the 1971 season and became the Rangers. For the next 33 years RFK Stadium was primarily a football and soccer stadium. Then, much to Dave's delight, Major League Baseball moved the Montreal Expos franchise to Washington D.C. before the 2005 season. That deal included a new stadium but while it was being constructed, baseball returned to RFK Stadium for three more seasons.
Dave's friend Kevin happened to have four tickets for this game and had generously offered up two of them to us. Kevin has always been an avid reader of this web site and once he actually used it as a study tool for a class in which he was substitute teaching!
We'll let Kevin relate that tale: "While substituting in a Sports Marketing class at a local high school two school years ago, I noticed the class was putting together group proposals to build a new professional sports stadium. Occasionally they had projects such as this where they had to come up with proposals that would convince a state or local government to approve constructing a new stadium or facility. But I noticed that many of the kids really couldn't come up with a place to start. They couldn't see the big picture. So I began asking which parks they'd been to and what they liked about them. Most had short, two-word answers, typical teenage responses that sounded something like, "I dunno."
So being a bit of a storyteller, I began telling stories of a friend of mine who travels about the country with one of his oldest and best friends, checking out baseball games. I told them that these guys put a web page together describing their experiences, the stadiums, what they liked and what they didn't like. I told them the name - Two Guys and a Map - and one of the kids got on a computer in the back of the room to Google it. He found the site and I had him print out pages from the 2004 Days of Awe Tour. I read aloud the parts about Great American Park, Comerica Park, and PNC Park. We talked about what it was that attracted Dave and DC to these parks. I read some other passages from the 2002 Midlife Crisis Tour and told them some of the stories that Dave told me about Pac Bell Park.
Then I encouraged each group to read through some of the passages to try and pick up some ideas for the stadium they were proposing in their project. They all began printing pages out and reading in their groups. They started asking questions, like if I'd ever gone with Dave and DC (ironically, I have been to games with both and even Danny the Mapholder, but they weren't official Two Guys and a Map tour dates, so I never got mentioned in any area of the web site). They asked about where Dave and DC were going next. They actually showed some energy and enthusiasm, at least for the rest of the 90 minute period. Their teacher mentioned to me a couple of days later that the kids were talking about the stadium web site I told them about. I thought that was a wonderful testament to the power of Two Guys and a Map!"
Kevin and his daughter Wendy were supposed to join us at the Nationals game. We were beginning to think they might be no-shows when, in the fourth inning, Dave's phone rang - it was Kevin, saying that Wendy's basketball game had taken longer than expected but that they were on their way. Kevin was concerned that this would jeopardize his chances for the Two Guys and a Map Hall of Fame but his worries were assuaged when we presented him with a proclamation of his enshrinement shortly after he arrived. Kevin eats this sort of thing up. Wendy, being 14 (or maybe just because she's smart), thought this was stupid but was kind enough to not say so in front of us.
The Nationals put up a better fight than they had in the miserable performance we'd seen in Florida a few months earlier on the Sunshine State Mini Tour. They got good pitching but shot themselves in the foot with three errors and a critical double play set up by an incredibly boneheaded running play by Ryan Zimmerman. They ended up losing by a score of 3-1.
The next night Dave had a much easier time getting to DC's place and we were off to Bowie, MD. Our destination was Prince Georges Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles Double A team, the Bowie Baysox (Bowie is in Prince Georges County.) Bowie got the franchise in the early 1990s and Prince Georges Stadium was built shortly thereafter. It's a nice little ballpark. One distinguishing feature is a carousel on the hill next to the playing field.
This being minor league baseball, there was a lot of promotional activity going on - fans were pulled out of the stands to play Musical Chairs, race the mascot and dress up in inflatable sumo wrestling costumes to square off for prizes. And of course, Dancing With The Stars night, in which a local newspaper reporter and a local TV newscaster attempted to dance with dance instructors.
Oh yeah, they played a baseball game too - back-to-back home runs in the third inning led to a Baysox 5-2 win over the Erie SeaWolves. This was followed by a nice fireworks display.
Day three was our longest driving day of the Close To Home Tour - DC drove to Dave's house and we headed south on Route 95 towards Richmond. Route 95 is notorious for its awful traffic and this proved to be true, even on a Sunday afternoon. We made it to The Diamond, the home of the Richmond Braves (Atlanta's Triple A franchise), shortly before game time. It was Hispanic Heritage Day, which the Braves were celebrating by retiring the number of one of their long time players, Chico Ruiz (this is not the same Chico Ruiz who was a utility player for the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1970s.)
The Diamond, which was built in the early 1980s on the same site as the Braves previous field, is a pretty utilitarian, no frills park. It's designed to be a good place to watch baseball - no more, no less. All of the seats are in a two-deck grandstand with no outfield or bleacher seats. That provides excellent sight lines from everywhere in the house. We got seats six rows from the field, near home plate for $10 each. (We love minor league baseball! Seats in that location in RFK Stadium would have cost $120 each.)
The home team got off to a horrible start, giving up five runs in the top of the first. The Braves starting pitcher went to a 3-2 count on each of the first six hitters in the lineup and threw close to 50 pitches while every batter in the Toledo Mud Hens lineup came to the plate. An errant throw over third base by the catcher (who got thrown out of the game in the second for arguing balls and strikes) didn't help. Richmond never mounted much of an offense and by the time the fifth inning was completed, they were losing 6-0.
Before leaving Richmond, Dave had an idea. He used to go to a wonderful soft ice cream stand in Northern Virginia called Frozen Dairy. Over the years Frozen Dairy had gone downhill, getting rid of the original equipment that made the ice cream so good and adding things like pizza to the menu. But his sister-in-law Karen had come across a place that was very similar to the original Frozen Dairy. Carl's is in Fredericksburg, VA which is halfway between Richmond and Dave's home in Springfield.
The next night we headed for Woodbridge, VA, the home of the Potomac Nationals (Washington's Single A team.) Pfitzner Stadium is located at the back of a cluster of Prince William County government buildings. Other than the softball fields right in front of it, Pfitzner is pretty non-descript - all metal construction with no real distinguishing features.
This franchise has been affiliated with many different teams over the years - the Pirates, Cardinals, Yankees, White Sox, Expos and Nationals to name a few. Several notable Major Leaguers have passed through Woodbridge as noted on a white board inside the park.
Dave's softball teammate Ben shares the duties of official scorer for both the Major League and Single A Nationals. When he heard about the Two Guys visit to Potomac, he arranged for passes to be left for us at the gate. We got our tickets and went in, stopping at the booth where the game officials sit to chat with Ben for a few minutes, then headed for our seats which were right behind home plate.
With that the Close To Home Tour came to an end. We normally don't go on trips in odd numbered years but 2007 was full of Two Guys activity - first the Sunshine State Mini Tour, then this one and in August we hit the road again, heading out to the Midwest.
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Created on 22 July 2007. Last Updated:
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