Nats roll out the red, and Teddy falls on wet, cold opening day

It’s fair to say that the 39,055 Nationals faithful who packed the home park for opening day are accustomed to end-of-game suffering. Unfortunately, a near-freezing drizzle forced them to suffer non-stop from Thursday afternoon’s opening pitch.

The home team sported a new look for 2011, with six new position players, an improved defense, new home uniforms, and a variety of other changes to the stadium experience; yet these improvements were little consolation for failing to score against the Atlanta Braves pitching staff.

While the team’s refreshingly solid defensive performance may portend good times ahead, there were no such signals from Teddy Roosevelt.

The 2011 presidents race season kicked off with an unusual relay race in which Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson jumped over hurdles in the outfield before attempting to push Teddy and George, respectively, to the finish line aboard rolling carts.

As Tom pushed George over the finish line, Teddy failed to gain his balance and fell off the cart onto the warning track.

The shared victory knocked winless fan-favorite Teddy into 3rd place in the presidents race standings after just one race. It could be a long season ahead.

The Nationals promised changes to the in-stadium experience for 2011. Unfortunately, letting Teddy win does not appear to be one of them.

This fan captured his own video from the upper deck. It’s notable not for the camera work, but for the drunken despair expressed over Teddy’s fate.

When the team introduced its new uniforms back in November, they also promised a renewed marketing focus for the Nationals around the color red and the Curly W logo.

Today, further progress was revealed in the form of new uniforms for the Nat Pack, new Curly W signage around the parking garages, Curly W backgrounds on all of the featured HD scoreboard videos, and revised scoreboard graphics featuring bright whites and reds to match the uniforms.

To this observer, these changes are well done and help to solidify the Nats’ marketing identity.

Now if only we could get Teddy’s Barbeque back…

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Roll Call covers the presidents race. It must be baseball season.

Opening day is here, and that means people who aren’t obsessed with baseball 12 months a year have started paying attention. Congressional daily Roll Call weighs in today on Teddy’s plight.

Who knows? The Nats have promised some surprises for the upcoming presidents race season. Perhaps today they’ll finally Let Teddy Win!

R.I.P. Teddy’s Barbeque

Baseball fans know that change is an inevitable rite of spring. One can only hope that the gains outweigh the losses — that for every lost Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, there’s a Jayson Werth or Bryce Harper to get excited about.

The Rough Rider at Teddy's Barbeque, Nationals ParkSo, too, is the case with the rest of the ball park experience, especially at Nationals Park, which is revamping some of its foodservice offerings for the fourth consecutive season, eliminating both Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and my personal favorite, Teddy’s Barbeque.

Teddy’s Barbeque was a mid-season acquisition in 2009, and was home of the Rough Rider — a jumbo beef short
Xtreme Loaded Dawgs at Nationals Park in Washington, DCrib brined for 12 hours then smoked for 12 hours more. Five Guys you can get anywhere, but the Rough Rider was ours — the Park’s closest thing to a unique signature dish. It looked like something Fred Flintstone would eat. It was delicious, and there was always a line.

The big steel smokers still stand in the same centerfield location, but
The Nach-Yo Dog at Xtreme Loaded Dawgs, Nationals Park, Washington, DCbeginning this season they’re being used only for hot dogs — or should I say Dawgs.

Yes, Teddy’s Barbeque has been replaced by yet another hot dog stand. I can confirm that those smokers impart a great flavor, but the real twist at Xtreme Loaded Dawgs is the toppings.

Choose from The Deli Dog with kraut
The Big Kid Dog at Xtreme Loaded Dawgs, Nationals Park, Washington, DCand thousand island dressing; The Heater with buffalo wing sauce and blue cheese slaw; the Nach-Yo Dog (top right) with pico de gallo, peppers, cheese and sour cream; the Frito Pie Dog with chili, cheese, and Fritos; or the most outrageous of them all: The Big Kid Dog (bottom right) with macaroni and cheese and Fritos on top.

Whether you find the concept cute or disgusting depends on your perspective, but one thing’s indisputable. The flimsy buns can’t hold all those wet toppings, so grab plenty of napkins.

New restaurants at Nationals Park, Washington, DCWhile it feels like we’ve traded down in the centerfield concourse, the team has been working to upgrade the fare just up the escalator at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk, with the addition of four new stands from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group in New York.

Coming soon are four established concepts imported from New York’s Citi Field: burgers and custard from the Shake Shack, pit barbecue from Blue Smoke, Belgian-style fries from Box Frites, and Mexican food from El Verano Taquería.

Nats fans should welcome any attempts to upgrade the foodservice and the fan experience, yet these off-season moves leave a bad taste in my mouth. It feels like we’ve traded away a unique signature player for some journeyman ones that will just help Mets fans feel more at home at Nationals Park.

UPDATE: While the new Miller Scoreboard Walk restaurants aren’t open yet, Teddy’s Barbeque has been set up under a tent up there. Unfortunately, they do not have the Rough Rider rib, but they do have the pulled pork and pulled chicken. Location is on the upper level directly across from the scoreboard under a white tent.

Rough Rider photo courtesy of Flickr member Kevin Harber

Rain hampers NatsFest, threatens opening day

A steady afternoon rain and temperatures in the 40s put a damper on the first-ever springtime NatsFest on Wednesday at Nationals Park, as many of the planned outdoor activities were moved, postponed, or canceled altogether.

An open batting practice had been billed as the main afternoon attraction,
Washington Nationals mascot Screech the Eagle at NatsFestbut the field remained covered for most of the day, leaving Nationals mascot Screech to pray for the sun to come out, and fans to wait until evening for meet-and-greet opportunities.

Fans were still invited to enter a raffle for a chance to race against the GEICO racing presidents, but the announcement of the winners was postponed, as was the race itself.
Washington Nationals players greet fans at NatsFest
Unlike previous years, there were no opportunities for fans to request autographs, but the change made for shorter lines and a much faster-moving meet-and-greet opportunity with nearly every opening day starter, plus a few players brought up from Florida for the event, including pitcher Stephen Strasburg and future stars Bryce Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg greets fans at NatsFest
Harper and Derrick Norris.

The forecast calls for a 70% chance of rain for Thursday’s season opener at Nationals Park. A team spokesman said that they would consider moving the game to Friday afternoon, but will not make that call until Thursday morning.

$5 tickets for today’s NatsFest and a chance to race the presidents

If you’ve ever wanted to run against the racing presidents, tonight may be your chance. Fifteen children and five adults will have that opportunity tonight at at Nationals Park.

The third annual NatsFest begins late this afternoon to kick off the Nationals home season. Tickets are free for season ticket holders, $10.00 for other adults, and $5.00 for kids under twelve. As of this morning, 1/2-price $5.00 tickets are also available at Goldstar.com.

New to this year’s event is a free presidents race raffle, with registration beginning at 4:00pm at the racing presidents photo station. Fifteen children and five adults will be selected to race on the Nationals Park warning track against George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy, in a total of four heats that will take place between 7:00pm – 7:45pm.

Other attractions at this year’s NatsFest include and on-field meet and greet with players on the warning track, Q&A sessions with players, broadcasters, coaches, and MLB legends, live music, batting cages, a silent auction, kids zone, mini-museum, and much more.

Full schedule here.

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