Rachel Levitin: Arrive early, stay until the end

There's a lesson I learned while I was kid watching ballgames at Wrigley Field: Get there early and stay until it's over - no matter what.

That lesson tried my patience for years. Non-baseball fans would ask me, "Why watch such a boring game, especially if the team you're watching isn't making a run for a playoff spot?" Years later, watching baseball in Washington, I know why getting to a game early and staying until it's over (no matter what) makes sense.

The game on the field is the fun part. Let's not forget that. Fans often remember who hit the walkoff grand slam after a 3-2 count in the wee hours of the night against a division rival. It's hard to forget the pitcher who struck 14 batters faced in his major league debut, who came back from Tommy John surgery and continues to impress his audience. But those aren't the only good kinds of baseball memories.

With loss comes the appreciation of the little things.

This is not to say that the Nationals are losers, though some cynics might disagree on that point. But the ballpark experience is a baseball memory worth treasuring, even while a team's win-loss record tests your patience.

It's hard to do with a slew of weekday night games, but getting to the ballpark before the game is the most relaxing feeling in the world. It's a transport back to the carefree days of summer when the grown-ups in attendance didn't have to worry about going to work the next day and could stay up late watching their team in person. It's an excuse for a kid to hang out with friends and family. It's solace from the day's mundane activities. It's a place to go when you need somewhere outside for four-walled work space or home. It's somewhere to go when the last place you want to be is going through the motions of some mundane activity.

There are three more home games this season - one night game and two day games. The summertime oasis that is Major League Baseball will soon be gone until spring comes again. If you can, spare some time and get to the park early. Stay until the game's over. Loiter just a bit while making your way out the gates. After doing so hundreds of times, I can safely say that I can't imagine attending a ballgame any other way.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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