How to wait out a rain delay

Last night, Jordan Zimmermann made his Major League debut and Joel Hanrahan recorded his first save of the season in front of just a few dedicated fans. If you were watching on MASN or listening to the radio, you probably saw a few dozen people gathered near the two dugouts. You may have been thinking, "those people are crazy." And, well, we probably were.

But there is perhaps nothing better than winning a game after a long rain delay. The crowds clear out and everyone moves in close for a really memorable experience. My first game like that was on Mother's Day in May of 2007. Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk off grand slam in front of a few dozen fans. It was a blast.

To be honest, I debated heading to the game last night; I really didn't want to sit in the rain for another loss. But it was the young rookie's debut and I just couldn't miss that, so I went. Here's how to make it tolerable and fun.

Check the Nats Weather Hotline:
Did you know that the team has an inclement weather hotline? If you call 202-675-NATS and select Option 5, you will hear the current status of the game. It's updated frequently and it's a good way to see if the Nationals will play, or even whether there will be a delay.

Don't come early:
Rainy days mean no batting practice. There is really no benefit to arriving early during rain delays, so don't. Stay at home for a few extra minutes and take your time getting to the ballpark.

Drive, if you can:
I always thought the Metro ran until a designated time after the last out, regardless of when that last out occurs. However, last night the scoreboard warned fans that the last train would leave at 11:45 p.m. Driving is really the best mode of transportation on rainy days. If not, consider bringing cab fare if you plan to stay to the final out, just in case.

Enjoy the Red Porch:
The service has improved and the food is delicious! We spent over an hour dining at the Red Porch last night. The corn dogs were a tasty treat, especially given the absence of one of my former favorite spots, Cantina Marina. I also tried the Caesar Salad, which was impressive. After dinner, our server suggested "Cookies and Milk." The tarp was still on the field, so we decided to indulge. The warm chocolate chip cookies are worth coming to the game, win or lose; rain or shine. If you do anything this season, go enjoy "Cookies and Milk" at the Red Porch.

Check out the Team Store:
It's a really good time to explore the park, especially if you are the kind of fan that can't miss a single out. And the Nationals are featuring a lot of great new items this year, starting with those brand new jerseys. Bob Carpenter informed me that his scorebook is now available. Jesus Flores has a Bobblehead. The team also added Alyssa Milano's Touch clothing line. There's really something for everybody. Rain delays are a good time to get your shopping done.

Bond with your usher:
Nationals Park has some of the friendliest ushers in baseball and they, like you, have a passion for baseball. If you're stuck waiting out a rain delay, why not get to know your usher a little bit better? Learn his or her name. Find out when and how they fell in love with baseball. You just might learn something or make a new friend. NatsTown certainly will feel more like a community if you take advantage of these opportunities.

Get a souvenir:
Because the players might have to warm up over and over again, plenty of baseball are tossed out into the crowd. With only a few dozen people gathered near the dugout, your chances are really great to take home a baseball. Last night, the team gave away more balls than I could count.

Know the rules:
There's some important basics. Before the game starts, the weather is monitored by the home team. They make the call. After the game begins, the umpires decide when to start and stop the game. An official game requires 5 full innings.

Get Some Work Done:
I used to write my graduate school papers in RFK's upper deck. Just be sure you're out of foul ball territory.

And the obvious:
Have an extended Happy Hour. The Red Loft was packed last night with fans watching the Capitals and trying out those new draft beer choices.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a rain delayed game at Nationals Park. It's worth the wait.

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