When James O’Hara and the guys at Citizens of Natstown asked if I wanted to write a post for the Every Nats Game’s A Story series, I had a lot of choices for what to write about. I have watched probably more than 500 Nationals games in the last four years and I could have written about a lot of important games I went to over that time. I went to the historic Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS, the first post-season game in Nationals history. I went to a memorable extra-innings game with one of my teachers in 2012 where the Nats came from behind twice and ultimately walked off on a wild pitch. I went to Bryce Harper’s first Opening Day in 2013 when he hit two home runs for the team. And there are so many more games. But when I had to decide on which game to write about, I chose something a little more ordinary: Sunday, June 7, 2009.
Not many Nats fans will remember what happened on June 7, 2009. The Nats were still sort of a terrible team, without superstars of today like Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth. In fact, there is probably no reason you would remember that 7-0 loss on a 76 degree June day. Nothing important happened if you look at that game on paper. But for me, that may have been the most important game of my life. That was my first baseball game and was the day I started to love baseball.
Since I was very young and we never went to a game before, no one knew if I would like it or be able to sit through the whole thing. So we bought the cheapest tickets we could get. We got to the stadium and took our seats way up high in the upper deck of the ballpark. 2009 was back when the Nats started the game with fireworks and I actually didn’t like them because they were too loud for me. I got into a habit of looking at the scoreboard for the entire game to help me figure out what was happening, but I was getting into the game a lot. Even though the Mets scored five runs in the 1st inning off Craig Stammen, it was still magical because it was my first game and I was doing something special with my father.
It wasn’t a good game, but sometime around the 5th inning something really incredible off the field happened. A man who was leaving the game early walked up to me and my dad and offered us his seats in the lower level. He had walked up to the highest part of the upper deck to find two fans who could use an upgrade. He gave the tickets right over to my dad! It was so magical, even six years later I still remember that he was wearing sunglasses, a sun hat and an orange shirt.
We took his seats to watch the end of the game. His seats were much better than ours. They were right around Section 130, only a few rows from the field. After a couple more innings, as the crowd started to leave the blowout game, we moved down to those folding chairs in that row right next to the Nationals dugout behind the tarp. I don’t know how you get to sit there on a normal day, but those are probably the closest seats you can get to the field without being on the warning track. The other fans encouraged me to try to get the players’ attention and maybe they’d throw me a ball. Well, I got one, and I still treasure that ball of cowhide today!
Since I loved the experience of this game so much, I started watching other Nats games on TV and kept going back to Nationals Park again and again. I wanted to learn more about the players, so I started buying baseball cards to learn about the players and their stats. All I wanted to do was stay up to watch the baseball game at night. But I couldn’t stay up until the end, so my parents ended up making me a deal that I could stay up a little longer to watch if I would write them a paragraph about what happened in the game. That was my mom’s trick to make watching baseball on TV past my normal bedtime educational. Well, those little paragraphs I wrote eventually became my blog, Matt’s Bats. They got me the website mattsbats.com and started posting my writings on a blog and on @MattsBats on Twitter and about a year later MLB Advanced Media offered to make me a Pro Blogger on MLB. This season I will be writing as a guest blogger for MASN and now I have over 1,300 Twitter followers. Did I mention I’m only 10 years old?
If I hadn’t have gone to this Nationals game, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post you’re reading right now. I would be watching SpongeBob or some junky TV show, or playing a video game. Instead, I went to the game and found my love of baseball. It’s amazing that one blowout win for the Mets in June 2009 would spark a love for the game of baseball, a loyalty to the Nationals and an early career in journalism.