Racing presidents issue printable pardons excusing fans from work

The Washington Nationals have three weekday games coming up, and so have given fans the OK to play hooky in order to attend.

According to the team, the racing presidents got together during the All Star break to issue the following pardon, which “exempts all Nats fans from previous engagements in order to attend the three weekday afternoon games on August 7, August 21, and September 10.”

You may print out the specific pardon for the game of your choice at nationals.com.

Nationals racing presidents presidential pardon

After Memorial Day loss, fans plan chicken sacrifice Tuesday at Nationals Park

Led by self-styled “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman, Nationals fans will sacrifice a rubber chicken at noon Tuesday outside the Nationals Park centerfield gate.

Nationals rubber chicken man sacrifice breaks bad luckNationals Racing Presidents photo finish - George Washington edges Teddy RooseveltDespite outscoring opponents over the last eight games, the Nationals have won only two of those contests, and find themselves with a losing record after Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.

As we’ve reported previously, Kaufman has performed the ritual “dozens of times” in the team’s ten year history. The act, which is designed to “remove bad juju” from the ball park, has become less frequent as the team has done well in recent years, but pitcher Gio Gonzalez has adopted the cause, having participated in the most recent sacrifice himself last August. Some fans have begun sporting Chicken Mode t-shirts when Gonzalez pitches.

“Our injury plagued squad has fallen below .500,” said Kaufman. “They need the extra Chicken Mode juju to help heal them, and energize our sedated bats.”

In unrelated news, George Washington edged Teddy Roosevelt wearing military fatigues for the Memorial Day presidents race win.

Kaufman encourages fans to attend on Tuesday. “Although it’s a work day,” he said, “I hope all Nats fans who can make it to this short ritual at lunch time, will come to help add good juju to our team.”

Race video below:

Video for LetTeddyWin.com by YouTube member lfahome

Nationals fans ask “Where’s Terrance?”

Throughout the Nats’ first home series vs. the Atlanta Braves, a question was posed repeatedly on social media by fans at Nationals Park: Where’s Terrance?

Terrance Briscoe Nationals Park Cheerleader Nat Pack Terrance Briscoe Nationals Park Cheerleader Nat PackTerrance Briscoe Nat Pack Cheerleader Nationals Park Oklahoma City ThunderTerrance Briscoe Nat Pack Oklahoma City Thunder NationalsLove him or hate him, the ubiquitous Terrance Briscoe has been a fixture at Nationals Park since joining the Nat Pack cheerleading squad in 2009. Briscoe holds a special role within the Nat Pack, roaming the stadium with a great degree of autonomy and using his booming voice to lead the crowd in cheers.

“He makes Nats Park feel like home!,” said Nats fan Lynne Reynolds, who was one of several fans that started tweeting with the hashtag #WhereIsTerrance over the weekend. “His energy is boundless! He knows how to inspire and rally the crowd.”

“Terrance’s exuberance for the game is amazing,” said season ticketholder Lisa Milisa. “How can you not smile and cheer whenever he’s around?“

So where’s Terrance?

“I have been visiting my parents in Oklahoma City,” Briscoe said Sunday via email. That, and also leading the crowd in cheers for the NBA’s Northwest Division leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

“The difference between working a NBA crowd as oppose to a MLB crowd is the constant game flow,” Briscoe said. “There is not a lot of down time such as space in between at bats, pitches, and innings. It’s an effort to keep guests in the arena optimistic, loud, and smiling.”

Briscoe sent his love to Nationals Park fans, along with a promise. “When the playoffs are over,” he said, “I will be back in Washington, D.C. to help fire up the fans. I would like to work for the Nationals as long as they will have me.”

That may take some time. The Thunder has the second best record in the NBA, led by league-leading scorer Kevin Durant. If the Thunder makes it to the NBA Finals, Briscoe could be in Oklahoma until mid-June.

In the meantime, Briscoe’s message for Nats fans is one of patience: “Continue to be optimistic, along with diligently displaying your Natitude for each and every game.”

Oklahoma City Thunder Photos courtesy of Wendall Curry

Details/Photos from new food stands at Nationals Park

Nationals Park Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

Sushi made to order at South Capitol Sushi

Nationals Park Sushi Menu - South Capitol Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

The Washington Nationals unveiled more than a half dozen diverse new food options to Nationals Park fans on Friday, and the early buzz was almost universally positive, despite several stands selling out of signature items.

In previous years, many of the stadium’s ethnic and “upscale” offerings had been isolated to the Scoreboard Walk and restricted Club level, but the newest concessions have brought more variety to the main concourses where most of the park’s foot traffic occurs.

Directly behind the Nationals’ dugout boxes at Section 129 is a new stand called South Capitol Sushi, where maki sushi is rolled to order.

Selections include vegetarian and cooked options, but bright, fresh raw tuna and salmon were on hand to be sliced to order for the spicy tuna and salmon avocado rolls. As a bonus, at $8.00 each, they looked to be a relative value considering the quality of the ingredients on display.

Nationals Park Sushi - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

South Capitol Sushi – Section 129

Lines were forming as early as 11:00am at the new Nationals Park outpost of “Top Chef” celebrity Mike Isabella’s G Gourmet Sandwiches behind section 136 along the first base line. The trimmed-down menu features five items from the 14th Street restaurant, including a hot chicken parmesan sub that was drawing raves in the stands, a delicious but very messy hot roasted cauliflower sub with romesco and pickled vegetables (extra napkins required), a cold stuffed Italian hero, and the eponymous “Drewno,” a delicious (if pricey) house-made kielbasa with sauerkraut, named not for the Nat’s reliever, but for Chef Scott Drewno from DC’s The Source.

If you’re hungry, the G Italian hero is easily the largest sandwich served at any of the Nats Park stands. The Italian meats are high quality, but they are inexplicably dressed not only with oil and vinegar but also mayo. The sandwiches were so popular that Isabella, who was on hand for opening day, ran out of food and had to shut down the stand by the fourth inning.

G Sandwiches by Mike Isabella at Nationals Park - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

G Gourmet Sandwiches by Mike Isabella – Section 136

G Sandwiches by Mike Isabella at Nationals Park - Washington Nationals Stadium Food

G Gourmet Sandwiches by Mike Isabella Menu

Mike Isabella's G Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich Nationals Park

Mike Isabella’s G Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich (extra napkins required)

Mike Isabella's G Italian Hero Sub Sandwich Nationals Park

Mike Isabella’s enormous G Italian Hero

Mike Isabella's Drewno G Sandwich Kielbasa Nationals Park

The Drewno features house-made kielbasa and sauerkraut

Nationals Park G Sandwich Chicken Parm by Mike Isabella - Photo by  MAURA JUDKIS Washington Post

The G Chicken Parm Sandwich (Photo:Maura Judkis/Washington Post)

On the third base side of the main concourse behind section 114 is the new Chesapeake Crab Co., offering a simple menu of crab cakes, a crab grilled cheese with brie on sourdough, or crab “snack chips,” an upscale take on nachos featuring Old Bay kettle chips, crab queso, roasted corn and tomato salsa.

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. – Section 114

Menu: Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food

Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. Menu

Crab Grilled Cheese - Chesapeake Crab Cake Co. - Washington Nationals Park - Stadium Food Options

Crab Grilled Cheese with Brie on Sourdough

Crab Nachos - Photo by Scott Allen Washington Post

Crab Shack Chips (Photo: Scott Allen/Washington Post)

Vegans, vegetarians, and those looking for healthy options will welcome the new Field of Greens food stand behind section 113 on the third base side. The extensive menu includes cold salads, vegetables and fruit, plus a number of soy-based imitations of more traditional ballpark food, such as burgers, hot dogs, and even a cheese steak.

Field of Greens - Vegan Food - Washington Nationals Park - Vegetarian Option

Field of Greens – Section 113

Field of Greens Menu - Vegan Food - Washington Nationals Park - Vegetarian Option

Field of Greens Menu

Nationals Park Vegan Food Stand - Field of Greens - Veggie Cheese Steak - Washington Nationals Stadium

The Veggie Cheese Steak at Field of Greens – Section 113

Grilled Portobello Sandwich - Washington Nationals Park Stadium - Field of Greens - Vegan Food Stand

The Grilled Portobello Sandwich at Field of Greens – Section 113

Salads at Washington Nationals Park Stadium - Field of Greens - Vegan Food Stand

Veggie Chop Salad, Greek Salad, Fruit Cup, and Veg Out Cup at Field of Greens

Burrito fans can herald the return of Bullpen Burritos to Nationals Park. Bullpen Burritos was a fixture at the stadium when it opened in 2008, but the stand disappeared in 2010. Now it’s back, featuring made-to-order steak, chicken or vegetarian burritos and burrito bowls, with a choice of toppings including rice, beans, guacamole, roasted tomatillo salsa, and pico de gallo.

Nationals Park Bullpen Burritos

Bullpen Burritos – Section 140

Bullpen Burritos - Photo by Scott Allen/Washington Post

Bullpen Burritos Burrito Bowl (Photo: Scott Allen/Washington Post)

Fans up on the 200 level can now add a thai noodle stand, including vegetarian option other than the Shake Shake ‘Shroom Burger, to the popular food choices along the Scoreboard Walk. Intentional Wok can be found behind section 233, and offers a simple menu of pad thai, drunken noodles, or veggie noodles, all cooked by batch in woks and served in classic takeout food containers with chopsticks.

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Walk - Washington Nationals Stadium Food Stand/Cart

Intentional Wok – Section 233

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Wok - Stadium Menu

Intentional Wok Menu

Nationals Park Chinese Food Stand - Intentional Walk - Washington Nationals Stadium Food Stand/Cart

Pad Thai at Intentional Wok

Chinese Food Container at Intentional Wok Nationals Park

Intentional Wok serves noodles in traditional takeout food containers

And it doesn’t stop there. The Nats added another location for Ben’s Chili Bowl behind section 141, and adult beverage choices also received an upgrade, with two new carts serving local craft beers that will change throughout the season, plus several new outposts (near sections 113, 130, and 306) offering pre-mixed cocktails with barrel-aged bourbon.

To be clear, there have been good food options at Nationals Park for years. If you haven’t had Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smoke, you haven’t had the full Nationals Park experience. The shawarma and falafel at Max’s Kosher Grill behind section 143 continue to be the sandwiches to beat in the stadium (but being strictly kosher, they are not open on Fridays and Saturdays). Jammin’ Island Barbeque makes great jerk chicken and ribs. Hard Times Cafe Cincinnati chili still warms the soul on cool evenings (and has the fastest service in the park), and Fluffy Thoughts Bakery behind section 135 is the undisputed dessert king. The Scoreboard Walk restaurants from Union Square Restaurant Group (Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Box Frites, and El Verano) remain incredibly popular, and the team’s outside food policy is still the best in professional sports.

However it’s safe to say that until now, interesting and healthy food options for the average fan remained the exception in a sea of bland burgers and chicken fingers. The plethora of interesting new options should help both attract more fans and smooth out the lines at all of the food stands throughout the Park.

So what have you tried and what do you recommend?

Nationals Fans Choice bobblehead vote between Tyler Clippard, Adam LaRoche, Matt Williams

Nationals fans have until this Friday to submit their votes for the “Fans Choice” bobblehead to be given away to the first 25,000 fans at the team’s penultimate home game Saturday, September 27.

The finalists are pitcher Tyler Clippard, first baseman Adam LaRoche, and manager Matt Williams.

Fans can vote via text, Twitter, or Facebook, and will be automatically entered to win a prize package from the Nationals. There is no limit to the number of times a fan can vote.

VIA TEXT: Text 5 for Williams, 25 for LaRoche or 36 for Clippard to 99778

VIA TWITTER: Tweet #NatsBobbleVote plus #ClippardBobble, #LaRocheBobble or #WilliamsBobble

VIA FACEBOOK: Like the photo of your choice on the team’s Fan Choice Bobblehead album.

UPDATE: Tyler Clippard was the runaway winner.

Photo: Keith Allison

Washington Nationals Promotion Schedule for 2014

The Washington Nationals have tripled the number of bobbleheads given away this year as part of their 2014 game day promotion/giveaway schedule (full schedule below).

The schedule includes a whopping seven bobblehead nights, with quantities jumping from 15,000 per game to 25,000 per game, for a total of 175,000 bobbleheads, vs. just 60,000 in the previous several seasons. Honored this year will be Jordan Zimmermann, Denard Span, Wilson Ramos, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, racing president William Howard Taft, and Tyler Clippard (decided by fan vote over Adam LaRoche and manager Matt Williams). This will be the second bobblehead day for both Harper and Desmond.

The NatsLive free postgame concert series returns with three dates, down from four last season. Bands are to be announced.

Other giveaways include a Jayson Werth garden gnome, plus caps, t-shirts, an eco-friendly shopping bag, kids socks, a bottle cup (for adults only), a travel blanket, and a stocking cap on the final day of the season.

The popular Pups in the Park promotion, in which a section is reserved for canine guests, returns to Nationals Park for four dates throughout the season.

2013 Washington Nationals Promotional/Giveaway Schedule

Date/Time Opponent Promotion
Sat Mar 29 2:05 DET Exhibition Game
Schedule Magnet (1st 20,000 fans)
Fri 4/4 1:05 ATL Opening Day Cap (1st 30,000 fans)
Sat 4/5 7:05 ATL T-Shirt (1st 20,000 fans)
Sun 4/6 1:35 ATL Screech’s Birthday
Kids Opening Day
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Tue 4/8 7:05 FLA Social Media Event TBD
Wed 4/9 7:05 FLA $1 Hot Dogs
Thu 4/17 7:05 STL Jackie Robinson Day
Sat 4/19 1:05 STL Pups in the Park #1
Sun 4/20 1:35 STL Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Sun 4/27 1:35 SDG Jordan Zimmermann Bobblehead (25,000 fans)
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Tue 5/6 7:05 LAD Eco-Friendly Shopping Bag (1st 25,000 fans)
Fri 5/16 7:05 NYM Wilson Ramos Bobblehead (1st 25,000 fans)
Sat 5/17 4:05 NYM Pups in the Park #2
Patriotic Series – Armed Forces Day
Sun 5/18 1:35 NYM Baseball Equipment Drive
Signature Sundays
Kids Run the Bases
Mon 5/19 7:05 CIN $1 Hot Dogs
Mon 5/26 1:35 FLA Patriotic Series – Memorial Day
Tue 5/27 7:05 FLA Black Heritage Night
Sun 6/1 1:35 TEX Kids Socks (1st 10,000 fans 10 & under)
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Thu 6/5 4:05 PHI NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Plain White Ts
Wed 6/18 7:05 HOU $1 Hot Dogs
Thu 6/19 7:05 ATL Ladies Night
Fri 6/20 7:05 ATL Bottle Cup (1st 15,000 fans 21 & Over)
Sun 6/22 1:35 ATL Cap (1st 20,000 fan)
Pups in the Park #3
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Mon 6/30 7:05 COL Bryce Harper Bobblehead (1st 25,000 fans)
Tue 7/1 7:05 COL Travel Blanket with Strap (1st 15,000 fans)
Wed 7/2 6:05 CHI Post-Game Fireworks
Fri 7/4 11:05 CHI Patriotic Series – Independence Day
Sun 7/6 1:35 CHI Signature Sunday
Kids Run the Bases
Mon 7/7 7:05 BAL Social Media Event #2
Sat 7/19 7:05 MIL NatsLive FREE Postgame Concert: Austin Mahone
Social Media Event #3
Sun 7/20 1:35 MIL Denard Span Bobblehead (1st 25,000 fans)
Signature Sunday
Kids Run the Bases
Sat 8/2 7:05 PHI Food Drive
Sun 8/3 1:35 PHI Food Drive
Signature Sunday
Kids Run the Bases
Tue 8/5 7:05 NYM Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (1st 25,000 fans)
Fri 8/15 7:05 PIT Cap (1st 15,000 fans 21 & over)
Sat 8/16 7:05 PIT NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Martina McBride
Sun 8/17 5:05 PIT William Howard Taft Bobblehead
(1st 25,000 fans)
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Wed 8/20 7:05 ARI Toys for Tots Drive
Thu 8/21 4:05 ARI Ian Desmond Bobblehead (1st 25,000 fans)
Sun 8/24 1:35 SFG Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Sun 9/7 1:35 PHI Pups in the Park #4
Kids Run the Show
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Mon 9/8 7:05 ATL Social Media Event #4
Wed 9/10 4:05 ATL Patriotic Series – Heroes Day
Tue 9/23 7:05 NYM Hispanic Heritage Day
$1 Hot Dogs
Fri 9/26 7:05 FLA Team Poster (1st 20,000 fans)
Sat 9/27 4:05 FLA Tyler Clippard Bobblehead (1st 25,000 fans)
Sun 9/28 1:35 FLA Stocking Cap (1st 25,000 fans)
FANtastic FANale
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday

“Red Carpet” look to blanket Nationals Park Concourse

At Saturday’s NatsFest, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner revealed during an interview on 106.7 The Fan that a “hot looking” red coating that “looks like you’re walking on carpeting” is among the changes in store for fans at Nationals Park this season.

Washington Nationals Mark Lerner at NatsfestNationals Park Concourse Red Floors“We knew it would take about five years, six years before it would get really dirty and you couldn’t get it clean anymore,” Lerner told 106.7’s Holden Kushner. “We put a textured coating on it that is absolutely fantastic, looks like you’re walking on carpeting.”

“Same color?” asked Kushner.

“No, it’ll actually be red,” Lerner said. “So it’s hot looking.”

The Nats’ principal owner also promised that in addition to new food offerings and computerized menu boards, the concession lines “will be a lot quicker… A lot of money’s being spent and we’re excited about it.”

Lerner described two new party suites available for single game rentals, and shared his impressions upon first meeting the new Nationals Manager Matt Williams.

You can listen to the entire interview at CBSLocal.com.

Update: Photo at right from the Nats

Why the Lerners want a roof over Nationals Park

News that the Lerners want to add a roof over Nationals Park has caused quite a Thanksgiving week stir among Nats fans, with many questioning the hubris of the request and others calling into question the necessity. Over at The Post, Adam Kilgore and James Wagner have compiled an analysis of rain delays and postponements showing that 88 games have been affected in the team’s first six seasons there.

Whether 88 is a big number or a small number can be debated, but that would be missing the point. The real question for the Lerners (and ultimately for the fans), is how many games had attendance impacted by weather. That number could easily be five times higher.

For better or worse, this is a team that depends on a la carte ticket sales. Even when there was a surge in season tickets after the 2012 season, the team capped sales at about half the stadium capacity, and that includes partial season ticket plans. I don’t know if that was an attempt at manufactured scarcity, or some philosophical statement by the owners, but unless the Nats win several World Series in a short period of time, it is likely to continue to be the state of things for the Washington Nationals.

It’s a much more complicated analysis, so I can only speak anecdotally, but it’s my observation that unless the Orioles, Yankees, or Red Sox are visiting, if the forecast is anything other than sunny and warm, attendance will be somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 capacity. And of course, that’s just announced paid attendance. When the actual weather matches the forecast, the true attendance is always much lower. We’ve all been in Nationals Park when the forecast is cold and drizzly, and it turns out to be cold and drizzly. The place is pretty empty.

I’ve had to list a number of my tickets on StubHub over the years. The consistent #1 determinant of whether they sell is… the weather. When the forecast is bad, even when the game is played without postponement or delay, you can’t give them away. By contrast, when the weather is nice, tickets sell even if it’s the Padres or Astros in town.

For what it’s worth, bad weather includes the inevitable mid-summer heat waves that hit DC every year. When it’s 100 degrees outside and the air quality is Code Red for a day game, there may not be a delay, but the entire first base side of the stands becomes no man’s land.

I’m sure the Lerners have compiled and analyzed this data, and I’m sure it’s compelling.

This of course says nothing about whether a retractable roof would be an eyesore, or what circumstances would determine whether it’s opened or closed. There are surely negatives to the idea; but as a fan I want the team to be able to fill the stadium with other fans.

Filling every seat is the single biggest thing the Lerners can do to make for a better day at the ball park. It pumps the crowd and the team, it throws of the opposing pitchers, and it funds free agents and long-term contracts.

Would a roof drive away some fans? Would it be retractable? Would it be an eyesore and block the sun when the weather is nice? Should the Lerners pay for it themselves? Is it even possible to retrofit a roof onto an existing ball park? All good questions. But it’s a good conversation to have.

Photo: Chris Rief

Video: The Amazing Race at Nationals Park

The Amazing Race Nationals Park Racing PresidentsSunday’s full season finale of The Amazing Race is available for viewing now at CBS.com. The episode features a challenge that was filmed at Nationals Park in December of last year. Nats mascot Screech and the racing presidents are featured prominently.

Watch the full episode here or check out these Nats Park highlights:

Racing presidents, Nationals Park to be featured on finale of CBS’s The Amazing Race Sunday

 It looks like a mid 60s pennant to me. "Off the floor in '64"CBS’s The Amazing Race will feature Nationals Park, the Nats’ racing presidents and mascot Screech, as the season finale takes place in Washington, DC.

The episode was shot last December, and features a task in which participants are suspended from a zip wire stretching from the center field plaza to the top of the stadium, and toss baseballs as they fly above the mascots on the diamond below.

The episode airs this coming Sunday night at 8:00pm. Preview below.

Chicken sacrifice planned for noon Thursday at Nationals Park

In response to Davey Johnson, Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman Sacrifices a chicken at Washington Nationals ParkChicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park dugout - Chicken ModeIn an effort to break the team’s losing streak, Washington Nationals “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman will perform a ritual sacrifice of a rubber chicken in front of the Nationals Park center field gate at noon on Thursday.

Kaufman has performed the ritual many times since 2005, whenever he determines that the Nationals have hit a streak of particularly bad luck. Last season, chickens were sacrificed after a string of injuries to the team’s catchers, and again after the Nationals lost Game 3 of their playoff series vs. the Cardinals. Just ten weeks ago, Kaufman was called into service by a Washington Capitals fan to help end their own losing streak.

Kaufman, who inspired Chicken Mode t-shirts, also plans to burn sage on Thursday, to honor a postgame request by outfielder Jayson Werth. “Somebody was talking about Phil Jackson the other day,” Werth said after Wednesday’s loss. “We need to call him up, have him come in and burn some sage or something. We’re not very feng shui.”

No word on whether Jackson will make an appearance, but the ritual will be open to the public.

Nationals Park to boost WiFi for fans, AT&T app promises relief for mobile data users

Comcast announced this morning that it has been selected by the Washington Nationals for a multiyear contract to deliver Gigabit ethernet and expanded WiFi availability within Nationals Park.

“When we first opened the ballpark in March 2008, our fans were not utilizing our WiFi network to the extent that they do now during an average game, which is why we needed to increase the bandwidth supporting our Internet service,” Nationals Chief Technical Officer Nationals Jason Zachariah said via press release. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the ballpark experience for our guests, and we look forward to working with Comcast in the coming years to help us keep pace as our technology demands evolve.”

Comcast suggested that the upgrade is complete, and that Nationals Park “now has enough capacity to allow thousands of fans to order food and beverages via a website from their wireless devices.”

In related news, long-suffering AT&T customers have a new option for voicing their concerns about spotty service during heavily attended games. Their upgraded app, AT&T Mark the Spot now can be used to mark specific locations and times of signal failure. The app saves the information and transmits it to AT&T later when a data signal is recovered.

Nationals Park free postgame concerts announced, Paul McCartney to visit July 12

The Nationals announced Friday that Nationals Park has been added as a stop on Paul McCartney’s Out There tour on July 12. Tickets go on sale Friday, April 12 at 10:00am through Tickets.com.

Performers were also announced for the NatsLive post-game concert series. Blues Traveler (June 8), Thompson Square (July 6), Gavin DeGraw (August 31) and Montgomery Gentry (September 21) will perform free concerts for ticketholders after Saturday night games this summer. With last week’s announcement of bobbleheads for Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, and Davey Johnson, our Nationals promotion/giveaway schedule is now filled out for the season.

Season ticket holders react to the Nationals’ souvenir “commemorative” paper tickets

The Washington Nationals are pitching their new Ultimate Ballpark Access as a great boon for season ticket holders. As noted in our annual opening day review of changes at Nats Park, many features of the new access cards have yet to be introduced, so the benefits will be seen over time.

Nationals Opening Day Souvenir Ticket and Ultimate Access Cards

Season ticket holders received one souvenir opening day ticket per account, along with the new “Ultimate Access” cards

Washington Nationals Souvenir Commemorative Ticket Replacement $3.00

The Washington Nationals are selling ticket holders “souvenir” paper tickets for $3.00 each.

In the meantime, the team went out of its way to appease those looking for a paper ticket, announcing before the season that season ticket holders would receive one commemorative “souvenir” paper ticket for opening day, and could obtain additional souvenir paper tickets for any game at the ball park for an added fee of $3.00 per ticket, with the funds going to the Nationals Dream Foundation.

“Not approaching the level of the commemorative tickets in years past,” wrote Nats fan Gerry Gleckel Jr. about the opening day ticket, “…and only one per subscriber? Should my two seatholders trade every half inning? Yuck.”

Then Monday, the $3.00 souvenir tickets made their debut at Nationals Park, and an informal poll of season ticket holders at the park and on Facebook produced a flood of reactions ranging from mild disappointment to unprintable outrage. Here are just a few of the responses:

“Not impressed,” said DC resident Susan Vavrick. “I would have thought a commemorative ticket would look nicer than that.”

“Three bucks for a piece of paper that isn’t the real ticket? C’mon,” said journalist and DC resident Max Cacas. “Give people a chance to print it out at the ballpark for free, and charge a modest fee to have a nice print suitable for framing. But not this way.”

“It has to have images on it before I’d buy,” added DC resident Andy Kostas.

“Don’t these people understand that many fans like to tickets as momentos of particular games?,” asked Alfonse Mannato. “Just stupid to charge $3 for a souvenir that lacks images.”

“How can they be so smart in team building and so ignorant in something as simple as this?,” wrote Virginia season ticket holder James Taylor. “Go figure, I sure can’t.”

And finally, from DC blogger and season ticket holder Tom Bridge:

“Nothing says ‘I was there’ quite like ‘Not Valid For Entry.'”

Personally, I applaud the Nats’ desire to be technology trendsetters, but if I’m in the ball park when Stephen Strasburg pitches his first no-hitter, I think I’m going to want to frame something better than this.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Received a positive comment worth sharing from Nats fan Michael Cusick: “It is pretty hard on the eyes. I think all would have been forgiven if they had put a little hologram on it. But the three bucks goes to charity (if I heard the story right) so I’m OK with it. And I would rather have a good team than fireworks and fancy ticket stubs.”

Food, parking, organ music, and other changes at Nationals Park for 2013

The swagger that comes with high expectations wasn’t the only new thing on display at Nationals Park on opening day Monday. The Nationals have made a number of small changes to the ballpark experience for 2013.
Championship banner at Nationals ParkNationals Park Scoreboard Walk PhotoNationals Park Clubhouse Team StoreNationals Park Organist - Washington Nationals

In the park itself, NL East Champion banners now hang above the centerfield gate entrance, above the center field HD scoreboard, and outside the Presidents Club. The giant Scoreboard Walk photo has also been changed to feature Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the 2012 playoffs. In the scheme of things, the signage changes are small, which makes the recent whining by a prominent Phillies blogger all the more perplexing.

More significant are the retail changes. One of the two banks of ticket windows on N Street NW has been replaced by a flagship team store, and several team concessions inside the park have been renamed “Clubhouse,” with new locations added around both the main and mezzanine concourses. In some cases, these new concession locations block formerly open views of the field from the concourse.

For those who drive to Nationals Park, expanded retail development in the area is taking its toll on Nats’ official parking lots. Since Nationals Park opened, lots G, J, M, N, V, and HH have disappeared from the Nationals’ official parking options.

This season, the disappearance of $5.00 lot HH from the official parking map caused concerns for budget-minded drivers. We recommended this parking option in previous years, so it was some relief to find that the lot is in fact still operating on a cash basis. The price is now $10, and still a bargain.

The Nationals had an organist playing in the center field plaza before Monday’s game, and word on the street is that it was a trial run, with the Nats’ brass considering making it a permanent fixture at games. Notably absent from Monday’s opener were persistent scoreboard cheer-starters, noise meters, and other artificial enticements we’ve come to expect. Logic holds that if the Nats keep winning and selling out, it shouldn’t take more than a little organ music (and a couple of Bryce Harper home runs) to get the crowd going.

Nats fans still mourning the departure of slugger Michael Morse via trade got a bittersweet surprise during the seventh inning stretch. After “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” fans were treated to A Ha’s “Take On Me,” Morse’s walk-up song that became a crowd favorite in 2011 and 2012. Morse may be in Seattle now, but if fans continue to sing along, expect the Nats to keep using it.

Turkey Hill Ice Cream and Papa Johns Pizza at Nationals ParkShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaPresidents Race Intro Video2013 brings new food options to Nationals Park, some of which may not be welcome. On the pizza and ice cream front, Flippin’ Pizza and Breyers have been replaced by Papa Johns and Turkey Hill. Papa Johns was the team’s pizza purveyor from 2005 through 2009, and fans cheered its departure three years ago when their bland mini pizzas were replaced by actual slices by Flippin’ Pizza. Unless the product has changed, this feels like a step backwards.

In the centerfield food court, local favorite Red Hot & Blue has been ousted in favor of H Street Lebanese mainstay Shawafel. Shawafel serves a selection of Lebanese wraps containing shawarma (chicken or beef/lamb), felafel, or fried cauliflower, plus french fries that are unquestionably the best at Nationals Park.

Shawafel is a nice, if redundant, addition. Max’s Kosher Grill serves superior felafel and shawarma on the other side of the concourse, but being kosher, they are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Up in the Club level, we’re told to expect cupcakes from Fluffy Thoughts Bakery in McLean. These are hands down the best cupcakes in the DC area, and Fluffy Thoughts is concocting some special baseball-themed flavors for Nationals Park. More on that later.

Of course, 2013 brings a major change to the fourth inning presidents race, where the Nats have introduced a fifth racing president, William Howard “Bill” Taft. The presidents are being introduced by a new video that was created during February’s cross-country trip to Mount Rushmore, with presidents dashing from Mount Rushmore through various landmarks on their way to the starting line at Nationals Park.

Perhaps the biggest change to the off-the-field experience is the introduction of Ultimate Ballpark Access cards for season ticket holders. The program promises many benefits that have yet to be introduced, so we’ll withhold judgment for now. The Nats have been very quick to fix early mistakes with the way cards are managed, so as flawed as it may be, it may be wise to wait a few months to see how the the program develops. One exception: Season ticket holders looking for a souvenir paper ticket are being charged $3.00 each for something that looks like it came out of an inkjet printer. The Nats should kill this fee if they can’t at least improve the quality.

What do you think of the changes so far?

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