Nats' opener: Crowds, security, loss don't spoil party

Local,Sports,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Alana Goodman

Washington fans decked out in red, white and blue flooded the streets around Nationals Park on Monday to celebrate the team's season opener, and they weren't about to let a loss to Philadelphia dampen their enthusiasm.

"Opening day is a blast, always," said 26-year-old Mike Vasquez, of Crystal City, even as he nursed a scraped elbow he said he got from a tussle with a few unruly Phillies fans.

"The game was pretty cool -- there were lots of people. It was pretty packed," said Ken Chavez, 24, of Manassas.

Even President Obama made a cameo appearance in front of the sellout crowd of 41,290, tossing the ceremonial first pitch.

"He rocked! It was great," 39-year-old Alexandria resident Natalie Pease said of the toss.

Others were more critical of the president's performance. "His pitch was high and to the left," said Joe Anderson, 24, of Crystal City. "Way to the left -- no pun intended."

"At least [Obama] didn't bounce it like last time," said Manassas resident Shawn Christian, 24, referring to the president's pitch that would have come up short at last year's All-Star Game in St. Louis, were it not for a charitable scoop by Albert Pujols.

But fans enjoying beer, live music and 80-degree weather outside the stadium Monday acknowledged that they hit some snags on the way to the ballpark. Obstacles such as crowded Metro trains, ramped-up security and rowdy Phillies fans made the trip to the park less than pleasant for some.

"It took longer for me to get through security here than at Reagan National Airport," said Anderson, who complained that the Secret Service agents stationed at the entrances looked through his cell phone. Anderson and Vasquez said it also took them an hour on the Metro to get from Crystal City to the Nationals' stadium.

Christian said that the drive in from Manassas was "awful." "We almost got in a fight with Phillies fans [on the way]," he said, adding that Phillies fans apparently did not know how to use the turn signals on their cars or stay in their own lanes.

Despite the pregame hindrances and their team's 10-run loss, Washington fans were optimistic about the rest of the season and some new faces in Nats uniforms.

"The future looks bright," Anderson said.

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