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The Citi Open and the Blue Crabs

Posted by Sean Rowland on August 11, 2015

Rock Creek Park Tennis Center Exterior

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Seeing a new sport live for the first time is quite exciting and since there are not many left I haven’t seen, this made my first tennis visit even better. I left Jersey around 8:30 AM and with my Dad having the same great planning and timing sense as me, we met within a minute of each other in Gettysburg (he departed from Rochester, NY). After a small and rather terrible lunch (really snack) at the Gettysburg Visitors Center cafe, we then went into the Visitors Center, which was exponentially better. It’s relatively new and the museum does a great job not only depicting the horrific battle, but also the Civil War times before and after battle. Even if you can’t see the rest of the town or battlefields, stopping at the Visitors Center for a few hours is a must-do.

We then drove an hour to Gaithersburg, MD, where we set up shop for the weekend. I researched for a while the best stop and this was ideal for the simple access to the hotel and easy drive to the large parking at the Metro Station in Shady Grove. Speaking of DC’s subway system, the Metro is awesome as a visitor. It’s easy to follow and the stations are straight-forward as they are mostly underground in that brutalist arcing cylinder. Everything is clearly marked as we had no problem all weekend finding our route and following the right line and direction. Plus the SmarTrip payment method is simple. For the Citi Open, we took the Red Line from Shady Grove to Van Ness and after a little looking around, found the 20-seat shuttle bus to Rock Creek Tennis Center. The District’s biggest park has been home to this ATP event since 1969 and we were there for the Quarterfinals. We entered into the grounds where merchandise tents led to a crowded pseudo food court, which featured expensive items, highlighted by a Thai stand (give me Paradorn Srichaphan, one time!). Centering the surrounding outer courts is the Main Stadium, which I still can’t figure out its official name. The facility is older, but the intimacy makes for great views all around. Unfortunately, it’s bleacher seating in the upper level, while the “box seats” down below surprisingly feature temporary folding chairs. For the match, it was John Isner against Ricardas Berankis. Congrats to the Lithuanian for making the Quarters, but I was really hoping to see Andy Murray in his spot. Regardless, this one at least went three sets as it looked like the Big Man was going to dominate after taking 28 minutes to win the first set. Berankis got an unexpected break to win the second, 7-5 and then the best part of the match was Isner’s immediate break back in the third. He went on to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Though I’m not a fan of big serve, short rally  tennis, I very much like Isner and have followed his career closely. He is a genuine, nice, humble person that I wish the best. Look for much more details in the stadium review of the Citi Open later in the week.
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Georgetown

The Georgetown Waterfront in DC

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Saturday was all about touring DC and though I’ve been at the National Mall twice, it was during my grade-school days when I didn’t have the appreciation I do now. The weather was great…85 degrees with relatively low humidity on a DC August day is a gift. We hopped on the Metro again and the free parking at Shady Grove made that the right choice as we used the Red Line to reach Metro Center and then hopped on the Orange for the Smithsonian. After gasping at the torn-up lawn and our tainted Monument/Capitol views, we checked out the original Smithsonian building in what is essentially a castle. Then it was over to the packed Natural History Museum. Pretty cool, but it’s such a broad overview of everything that I prefer more specific museums that go more in depth into a subject. Still some great stuff in here with the big ticket item being the Hope Diamond. We had a great lunch at the cafe next door and then we walked over to the Air & Space Museum. However, the line to get in was so long that we changed plans and went back to where we started, in front of the National Archives. This stuff interested both of us and we couldn’t go wrong, so we spent the rest of the afternoon here and it was well worth it. It’s more than just historical documents as the displays are quite varied and well done. From there, we went to Georgetown, which is not just the University. This neighborhood is a former city that actually is older than Washington. It’s an up-class section loaded with shops, bars and restaurants along M Street. Tree-lined streets frame the hilly sections to the north and the Georgetown campus has a few impressive photo-ops. Then there is the Waterfront along the Potomac River which has turned from industrial dredge when my Dad was there in the 70s, to a bustling park. We had dinner right on M Street at Clyde’s and the Tuscan Sausage Ravioli was superb. To get back to the hotel in Gaithersburg, we hopped on the DC Circulator bus to the DuPont Circle, which led to the Red Metro to Shady Grove. We probably walked 5-10 miles on the day, but DC is such an incredible city (that many in the East Coast take for granted) and there is soooo much to see. I was glad to spend it with my Dad and take in as much as we could.

The nice weather continued Sunday as we headed our separate ways with my car pointed Southeast. The destination was a section of the state that is quite rural and different from the 95 corridor…Charles County in Southern Maryland, more specifically Waldorf. That’s the home of the Blue Crabs from the Atlantic League, at least Waldorf is the stated city as if you look at the map, getting a true ballpark location is a challenge. There’s not much in this area, but I did see the historical home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who unknowingly fixed the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, just hours after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. The story is fascinating and the scene on this country farmland makes it so easy to visualize what happened 150 years ago. This is such a terrific stop as the non-profit volunteers who run the tours are delightful. This is a part of sports travel that I did not expect when starting out, but have fallen in love with. Getting to stadiums brings you to parts of this great country you wouldn’t normally go and there are always surprises at each stop.
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Regency Furniture Stadium Interior

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The town of Waldorf is not exactly historic however as the center is a six-lane road that is a national chain store paradise. Go ahead, think of a big-box retailer or a nationalized restaurant and I bet it is in one of the side strip malls lining this road. Not my cup of tea, but it serves this booming area 30 miles southeast of DC. Housing is exploding in the area and that is evident on the drive to Regency Furniture Stadium. The vast parking lot in front of the park leads to a refreshingly different exterior design, which actually resembles a house with its beige siding and red panel roof. Given that this is the Atlantic League and their ballparks are so darn similar, I was expecting more of the same. Instead, I was blown away by such a terrific set-up. Check it out in the picture above as I love how the seats turn inward towards home plate (though you better watch every pitch). I even like the partially enclosed concourse behind home plate as it is not necessary to have the walkway 100% open to the field. The Blue Crabs have a great thing going on with an excellent park, though other aspects could be a little better, like the underwhelming food selection. Also, as unpopular an opinion this may be, I found the on-field MC Ron Lord (the tye-dye guy) to be incredibly annoying. He constantly was getting in the way of watching the game, whether it was standing on the dugout during action or his interrupting comments, I moved seats a few times just to get away. Even while the Blue Crabs were in a decisive moment in the 10th inning, he was loudly spewing some non-sense unrelated to the game. From a neutral perspective, his interactions with the fans were awkward too. While he drove me nuts, I was certainly in the minority as the crowd loved him. As for the game, it was a battle of blue ocean creatures as the Bridgeport Bluefish took on the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The visitors built a 3-0 lead, but to the delight of the home fans, a Gustavo Molina blast tied the game in the 6th inning. Despite only six runs scored, the game past the 3 hour mark before going to extra innings (note to baseball at all levels: you need to fix 9-inning games that go longer than 3 hours!). We went to the 10th, where a Bridgeport run was answered by Southern Maryland in the bottom half. Casey Frawley was inches from winning the game, but his long shot hit the top of the wall and only one run scored. The Bluefish finally put the game away in the 11th and won 5-4. The trip home was thankfully pleasant as I took a route that avoided all traffic and tolls, getting back to NW NJ in less than five hours. Look for official reviews on the right-side of the page by next week.

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