A student’s Major League debut

Helen Doyle is engrossed with her first professional sports experience.
Photo by: Alex Houle

This baseball season, many Americans are breaking out their baseball caps and heading out to stadiums. And since baseball is known as “America’s Pastime,” what better place to see a baseball game than in the nation’s capital.

On a warm night in late June, the National Student Leadership Conference journalism and mass communication students boarded buses and headed to Nationals Park for a night of Washington Nationals baseball.

For many students, the game was yet another baseball experience — perhaps in a new city or new stadium.

But for Helen Doyle, a 17-year-old NSLC student, the game took on an even greater significance.

“I’ve never been to a professional sports game before,” she said before the game. “I’m really excited to see what it will be like.”

Her statement was met with surprise by those on the bus.

“You’ve never been a baseball game!” one student exclaimed. “Like never ever?”

As Doyle shook her head, she was bombarded with the excited voices of the students, ensuring she would “love the game”.

When Thursday night arrived, Doyle bounced on the bus in jubilation.

“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like,” she said. “All my ideas about baseball games come from movies like Moneyball and Fever Pitch.

The bus ride was short. Students pulled up to the stadium just before dusk. The heat was sweltering as students entered the stadium.

“Holy crap!” Doyle exclaimed as she entered the stadium. “That’s big!”

The stadium, large enough to seat 41, 546 people, was constructed in 2008. Nationals Park is the first green baseball stadium and cost more than $611 million to build. It is, many people believe, worth every penny.

Doyle, however, was uncomfortable with the price tag.

“It just seems like a lot of money,” she said. “I can’t imagine any experience being worth that much.”

As the night continued, however, Doyle began to see why Washington made such an investment in baseball. .

We explored the sprawling stadium before heading towards the stairs leading to our seats. As we reached the stairs, we were stopped by the booming voice of the announcer coming over the loud speaker.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, will you please stand and remove your hats for the singing of our national anthem.”

The surrounding crowd, who moments before had been bustling and shouting, fell still and silent. As if choreographed, everyone took off their hats and turned to face the large American flag in the stadium.

Doyle’s surprise and amazement could hardly be surprised.

“It’s very interesting,” she said. “Everyone knew what they were supposed to do. It’s very moving.”

The Washington Nationals Scoreboard
Photo by: Alex Houle

As we finally reached our seats the quick decision was made to go get something to eat.

Doyle laughed as she said, “I’ve heard the hot dogs are good.”

We walked around the many food stands in search of a meal that caught our fancy.

There are so many choices,” Doyle said. “It’s very impressive.”

We settled on chicken tenders and fries which Doyle enjoyed immensely.

“I’m surprised the food’s so good,” she said.

As we finally sat down for the game, the people sitting next to us gawked in amazement when the learned that this was Doyle’s first baseball game.

“So you’ve really never been to a baseball game before?” one man asked.

Doyle shook her head laughing.

This man’s surprise was shared by many.

“In my opinion, I don’t think you can call yourself an American without seeing at least one baseball game,” said fellow NSLC student Nicole Emmert.

“It should be made a rule,” added Natali Rey.

And as the night wore on, Doyle had a change of heart about the importance of seeing one baseball game.

“I think this experience is changing my mind,” she said. “I think that every American, or person in general even, who has the opportunity to go to a professional baseball game should. It’s a great experience.”

As the game ended, students boarded the bus, sad that the game was over but exhausted from the night’s activities.

Doyle took her seat with a look of pure contentment.

“That whole experience was really fun,” she said. “Everything, the food, the stadium, the community, the game–all of it was so exciting and so purely American. Baseball is really America’s pastime.”