Guinea Pig Files: Stealing 2nd Base

Fretting over my wardrobe options prior to the “Stealing 2nd Base” event without the slightest thought of running shorts on my mind, we received a phone call about an hour before leaving for Saturday’s game. “Can you run? We’d like you to run in from center field to get the base,” Oh my! My husband asked, “Both of us?” and the response was only one of us could go on the field, so he ever so sweetly allowed me to do the honors. There went my plan for flip-flops and capris. Switch in running shoes, looser capris (after contemplating but quickly rejecting running shorts as an option) and a running tank under my Nats red shirt. Ok, ready. I just prayed I wasn’t going to have some embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

I had no idea what to expect, but am very relieved to report no wardrobe malfunctions occurred! Part of the Dream Foundation package was field passes and watching the game from the Presidents Club, which in itself is pretty darn awesome. While on the field, we had our photo taken with second baseman, Danny Espinosa (who I complimented, but fear jinxed since he didn’t hit too well that game). Then we wined and dined and made it to our seats for the start of the game. I only had one glass to try to help how nervous I was getting. I didn’t want to run to the wrong base or something with more. I also had learned my run would be timed and even if I didn’t make it in the allotted 30 seconds, I’d still get to keep the base, of course.

Wait! 30 seconds?! Have you seen how far it is from the center field wall to 2nd base?! I thought ok, maybe I can do it since I’ll be empty handed on my sprint out.

Wrong! I was escorted through the “bowels” of Nats Park past the bullpen (which had a garage-style door rolled up and I could see into) “Ooh, can I stop and snap a photo?!” (no, no time) to the holding pen where the racing presidents enter the field in the middle of the 4th. I spotted a shiny clean base on the floor up against the wall. Uh oh, what’s that for? All the better to run with, my dear! As I would learn later.

Let me tell you, you cannot see a thing from behind the outfield wall. I had no idea what inning it was, how many outs there were — nothing! You can’t even see the jumbotron. Once I gathered it was the top of the 3rd, every time the crowd cheered, I guessed another out was made (although, even that is hard to gauge given how many visiting fans come to Nats Park). Entertainment director Tom Davis joined us and confirmed each out and I was relieved to hear they upped the time to 45 seconds. The PA guy asked via walkie-talkie, “What if she doesn’t make it in 45 seconds? What do I say?” and Tom replied, “she’ll make it.” showing more confidence than I was feeling in myself as a very sporadic and admittedly lazy runner (but former — very former triathlete).

“One more out, get ready!” Davis announced. He, two Nat Pack girls and I huddled behind the hidden door in the outfield wall and I mentally entered “the zone”, tuning out almost everything else except my single focus on when I was told to “go” and the base oh so far away in front of me and the heavier-than-it-looks awkward clean one in my arms (I’ve been told they weigh just over 14 pounds, plus have a pole sticking out the bottom). I heard the PA announcer, but didn’t really pay attention to what he was saying. Once I was told to go, I tried to take off like a shot (and ever so gracefully nearly tripped) and then my focus was entirely singular, except for one thing…

YOU NATSTOWN!! I heard you! The cheers penetrated my “zone” and fueled me on. I wondered if the players are unable to tune out the cheering as well and if we cheered more as a whole, would the team fare better? Well that thought flitted through my mind briefly with what little thought I was able to have, anyway. Oh, this distance is pretty far…. Almost there… Wonder how much time is left? Glad I pulled those hanger straps off my shirt so they don’t flop out… Turn around… 17 seconds left. I can make it… Whoa, those cameras sure can do a close-up (as I peeked at the jumbotron)! Thank goodness holding this base covers my belly….

I admit, I slowed up as I neared the finish line since I could clearly see how much time was left on the scoreboard and knew I’d make it. Whew! Was I faster than a speeding Coffey? That was my main goal!

So thank you NatsTown for the energetic cheering and support! Loved it! Also, apparently I was a guinea pig and the organization would like to do more of these. So stay tuned on how you too may possibly be able to run on the field during a game without getting tackled or tazed by security. For now, I have the glowing feeling of being the first non-employee to ever run on the field at Nats Park during a game with permission. Kinda cool.

On the way back, I did get that shot of the bullpen from the tunnel, and bullpen coach Jim Lett gave me a thumbs up and said, “nice running, Cathy!” Awesome sauce.

Many thanks to the Dream Foundation and especially Vera, who coordinated this for us, Danny Espinosa for being so nice, and my husband who I know really wanted to be the one who ran on the field but let me do it instead. And hey, the game was the first of a 3-game winning streak for the Nats. Coincidence? I think not!