See You In Knoxville
This morning, Jeffrey Hester and his son Alan jumped in their car to begin a journey of over 400 miles, from their home in Winchester, VA to Knoxville, TN. They are going as baseball fans, but not going to see the Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A affiliates of the Chicago Cubs, whose season ended a month ago. Hardly a baseball hotbed this time of year, Knoxville is simply the logical stopping point in a larger journey, the yield sign at the fork in the road between St. Louis and Atlanta, the two possible destinations where their beloved Washington Nationals will play their first-ever playoff game, set to take place this Sunday.
“I looked at the map and Knoxville seemed to be a good halfway point,” said Hester over the phone on Thursday, a day after he watched the Nats wrap up the best record in baseball in person at Nationals Park.
Originally an Orioles fan, Hester gave up his old fandom in the late ‘90s, only to pick it up once again when the Nationals moved to the Nation’s Capital in ’05. A season ticket holder ever since, he has found his baseball spark reignited this year from a fitting source.
“They broke my heart when they fired Davey Johnson,” recalled Hester of the Orioles and their former skipper parting ways. “It’s kind of funny how things come around.”
Now Hester and his son are all in on the Nats, and are prepared for both contingencies. Should the Braves knock off the defending World Series Champions at home, the Hesters will have just over 200 more miles left ahead of them to get to Turner Field for Game 1 of the NLDS. Should the Cardinals finally solve Kris Medlen and extend their season, it will mean another nearly 500-mile trek to the Gateway to the West.
“My son and I, we don’t want to do the trip in one day, especially if it’s St. Louis,” explained Hester of the journey, which could end up being over 1,800 miles round trip.
Either way, they plan to be back in D.C. in time for Game 3 on Wednesday and each of the eight possible postseason home games. The elder Hester estimates he has attended between 25-30 games at Nationals Park this season, but this won’t be the first time he has seen the Nationals away from the District, as he was able to catch the Sunday finale of the Nats sweep at Fenway Park in June. In Boston for a friend’s wedding on Saturday, it was the only logical way for a die-hard fan to complete the weekend. Now, their journey will take them to eastern Tennessee as they await the Nationals next opponent – and their weekend destination – to be determined.