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A Seat at the Park by Hawkeye Pete Egan B.
 

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  • I have a partial season ticket package for the Washington Nationals. I have a seat that is right behind home plate, up in Section 314 – that’s the 3rd level up, but it’s a great view from there. I just have one seat. Sometimes, people look at me funny when I tell them I have one seat, not two or more – but that’s o.k. It doesn’t have to make sense to them – it makes sense to me.

    No, I am not a loner who goes to the ballgame and sits quietly in his single seat taking in the whole ballgame all by himself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I know this great psychiatirist, daugher of a former high level military official, who is like that – very cool lady, total baseball geek, all decked out in her red Nationals gear, scorebook on her lap, headphones tuned to the game broadcast, so she listens to the play-by-play while she watches the game and keeps score religiously, with her peanuts and her cracker jacks. She’s in all her glory at the ballpark, all by herself in her seat. This is how she unwinds after a day of shrinking heads. I understand her, and that. That could easily be me, too - but I also happen to be hopelessly gregarious.
  • I have friends all over that park. I own the joint (not really, but I act like I do). I might sit in my seat for an inning or two, but then my feet must ramble. A major league ballpark has lots of rambling room. I can pretty much ramble where I like in that park. Just above me, in the accessible seating section, sits my friend Jim and his wife, whom I have known since the Nationals first season in town - diehard baseball fans like myself. Jim is originally from South Dakota, where he once ran George McGovern’s first Senate campaign. Besides baseball, we have working for a McGovern election in common. I was once the head telephone man in Democratic headquarters in a little town in Connecticut when George ran for President against Tricky Dick Nixon. My McGovern race wasn’t quite as successful as Jim’s. That’s politics!
  • That just prepared me for when I ran for president myself – really. I literally ran for President. I ran with 60 pounds of President on my shoulders, reaching 12 feet in the air, and I ran against the rest of the Mount Rushmore crew - Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, and Tom Jefferson – I was George Washington. I ran the best presidential race, ever. I came prepared. I got suited up well ahead of the others, and I got out there, in the snow and the ice on the warning track, and I tested the traction, tested the balance, figured out the odds and formulated a winning strategy, then I went out there and left my presidential competition in the dust. Not once, but twice, just to prove it was not a fluke. I was 52 years old at the time. 45 others tried out, and only one of the rest were even over 40, my friend Keith, who was 42 at the time. He took the pictures. We didn’t even know each other before that day, but we old guys banded together in solidarity, as the rest of the competitors were young guns, all in their early 20’s and 30’s, full of presidential piss and vinegar. We were just wise, old fools out there, hopeless dreamers who still had a 12 year-old fan inside the aging exterior, still had that part of us that will never grow up, like Peter Pan and the lost boys.
  • Sadly, this is where I have something in common with good, ol’ internet-inventin’ Al Gore. I won my race – but not the job. In his case, it was the Supreme Court who barred him from taking the job he had won, fair and square. In my case, it was my age that blocked me from employment as a Racing President. I tried out again the following year, on Presidents’ Day, of course – same result. Won the race, but not the job. Twice ran, twice defeated. That gave me something in common with Adlai Stevenson, in addition to being hopelessly Liberal.
  • So, whenever I’m down there near the field, which I eventually am most games, I usually run into the guy who’s in charge of the Racing Presidents, in addition to all of the other entertainment stuff that goes on at the game, (which is quite a bit), my friend Tom Davis. (Not the former politician from Virginia by the same name). He still remembers me from my presidential runs. I’ve always suspected that if he’d had his way, I would have been selected, but I think the suits in the legal office had issues with a 50-something running around in that hot, sweaty outfit on 95 degree days, concerned with liability and what-not. I always wave and he says hi, and I always tell him I am available in the presidential bullpen, in the event one of the Racing Presidents comes up lame one game. I’m ready to go. Put me in, coach! He always laughs. He knows that the odds of finding me in that big ballpark, at any given time, are slim to none. I could be anywhere. I ramble. But just once – just one time – I would love to race with the presidents during a real, live ballgame. That would be cool. The other day, I told Tom that in 2 years, I’m trying out again, as a 60 year old. He just laughed and said he’d be voting for me.

    Charles Krauthammer is usually there, in his usual seat, another one who comes to games by himself, a baseball nut like me. Same with George Will. I have ridden in the press elevator up to the press box with George. I actually have a press credential for Nationals Park, from when I covered the Veterans in Baseball event for the Navy Memorial’s Navy Log Blog there, once. I got to interview one of my all-time favorites there, Yogi Berra, along with several veteran Negro League players. In addition to being a brilliant conservative political analyst, George is a diehard baseball fan. When asked why he never attends the annual correspondence dinner gala event, he simply says, “That conflicts with baseball”. George has his priorities in order. In the Nationals’ first season in town, Tim Russert was another regular at games. I saw him at the Father’s Day game with his Dad. They were playing the Yankees that day. I also ran into Spike Lee at that game, down from New York to see his Yankees play in the Nation’s Capital.
  • My friend Karen is an usher down in the accessible seats that are right at field level, just past the home team’s dugout. She used to be the usher for the seats right behind the dugout, but her knees are in bad shape now, so she works over there, where she doesn’t have to go up and down the steps all game. There’s an elevator that gets you down to that level. I’ve known her since 2005, as well. She used to always insist that I stay, and would find me a seat behind the dugout, whenever I went down there to see my friends behind the dugout.

    Now, her replacement over there has picked up the tradition. She must have told her about me, unless it was just my irresistable charm, but she treats me the same way Karen used to. I go down there to say hey to my friends Hugh, Lisette, and Elliot, who sit right behind the dugout, and she always lets me down there, and then always finds me a seat, if those guys don’t have an extra. These are the $70.00 seats. Mine cost $14.

    My old boss, David, a commissioned corps officer, a doctor, and one of the nicest human beings I have ever known, sits in seats even higher up than mine, in the 400 level. I might pop up there to see him before I make my way down to the field level. When I worked for David, I brought him to a ballgame to let him know that I was moving into a different job. A part of me wishes I never moved out of that job – he was just about the best boss I ever had. But, you have to move to grow, and all of that.

    These are just a few of my friends I hang out with when I go to a ballgame. So, you see, it actually does make sense that I just have one seat. When I go to a game with someone else, I always feel just a little restricted – most people go to a game to sit there and watch the game. Not me. For me, it’s a social event, and just like when I was a 12 year-old, roaming old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, going where I pleased. Some things never change!

    Photos: 1. My friend Lisette, with Neighbordeb’s former boyfriend, Jayson Werth, in the background, coming out of the dugout to take the field; 2. 21 game winner Gio Gonzales ready to fire a pitch; 3. My first presidential race; 4. Me as George; 5. Our nation’s Capital, seen from near my seats; 6. Washington Monument from the park; 7. Five of my 15 minutes of fame, being interviewed by Comcast Sportsnet after my first presidential run – “The Hawk will fly again!”
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