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?

Nationals Promotion/Giveaway Schedule for 2013

The Washington Nationals 2013 game day promotion/giveaway schedule is out, including three bobblehead nights and four Saturday night post-game concerts, up from the three highly successful concert nights last season.

Based on past years’ choices, it’s a good bet we’ll see the team’s first bobbleheads for stars Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez and new centerfielder Denard Span (unless new racing president William Howard Taft gets the nod).  We’ll update the schedule below as soon as confirmed.  Additional giveaways will include a cap, t-shirt, pilsner cup, lunch tote, baseball tote, kids arm sleeve, team poster, and backpack.

UPDATE: Retiring manager Davey Johnson got the nod for Bobblehead #3 behind Harper and Gonzalez (see below), and the concert performers have been announced (Blues Traveler, Thompson Square, Gavin DeGraw, and Montgomery Gentry).

The popular Pups in the Park promotion, in which a section is reserved for canine guests, returns to Nationals Park for four dates in April, May, June, and September. The team has also added food promotions, including $1 Hot Dog, $1 Ice Cream, and $5 beer + peanuts nights.

It’s a robust promotion schedule, with only a few oddities (a cap that’s only for adults, a poster giveaway on post-game concert night).  Families should note that Kids cannot run the bases after the late Sunday start on August 11.

2013 Washington Nationals Promotional/Giveaway Schedule

Date/Time Opponent Promotion
Fri Mar 29 2:05 NYY Exhibition Game
Schedule Magnet (1st 20,000 fans)
Mon 4/1 1:05 FLA Opening Day Cap (1st 20,000 fans)
Wed 4/3 7:05 FLA $1 Hot Dog Night
Wed 4/10 7:05 CWS $5 Beer + Peanuts Night
Sat 4/13 1:05 ATL Gio Gonzalez Bobblehead (1st 15,000 fans)
Sun 4/14 1:35 ATL Pups in the Park
Screech’s Birthday
Kids Opening Day
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Sat 4/27 1:05 CIN Patriotic Series – Military Appreciation Day
Sun 4/28 1:35 CIN Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Tue 5/7 7:05 DET MLB Network Backpack (1st 25,000 fans)
Wed 5/8 7:05 DET $1 Hot Dog Night
Fri 5/10 7:05 CHI Pilser Cup (1st 15,000 fans age 21+)
Sat 5/11 7:05 CHI Pups in the Park
Sun 5/12 1:35 CHI Signature Sundays
Kids Run the Bases
Sat 5/25 7:15 PHI Lunch Tote (1st 15,000 fans)
Sun 5/26 1:35 PHI Signature Sundays
Kids Run the Bases
Mon 5/27 1:05 PHI Patriotic Series – Memorial Day
Thu 6/6 7:05 NYM Ladies Night
Sat 6/8 4:05 MIN NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Blues Traveler
Sun 6/9 1:35 MIN Pups in the Park
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Thu 6/20 7:05 COL $1 Ice Cream Night
Sat 6/22 12:05 COL Baseball Tote (1st 20,000 fans)
Sun 6/23 1:35 COL Bryce Harper Bobblehead (1st 15,000 fans)
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Wed 6/26 7:05 ARI $1 Hot Dog Night
Black Heritage Night
Mon 7/1 7:05 MIL $1 Hot Dog Night
Tue 7/2 7:05 MIL $1 Ice Cream Night
Wed 7/3 6:05 MIL Post-Game Fireworks
Thu 7/4 11:05 MIL Patriotic Series – Independence Day
Sat 7/6 4:05 SDG NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Thompson Square
Sun 7/7 1:35 SDG Signature Sunday
Kids Run the Bases
Sat 7/20 7:05 LAD Davey Johnson Bobblehead (1st 15,000 fans)
Sun 7/21 1:35 LAD Kids Arm Sleeve (1st 10,000 fans 12 & under)
Signature Sunday
Kids Run the Bases
Fri 7/26 7:05 NYM T-Shirt (1st 20,000 fans)
Sun 7/28 1:35 NYM Signature Sundays
Kids Run the Bases
Mon 8/5 7:05 ATL $1 Hot Dog Night
Thu 8/15 4:05 SFG Adult Cap (1st 15,000 fans age 21+)
Patriotic Series
Wed 8/28 7:05 FLA Hispanic Heritage Night
Sat 8/31 7:05 NYM NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Gavin DeGraw
Sun 9/1 TBD NYM Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Fri 9/13 7:05 PHI Patriotic Series – Heroes Day
Sat 9/14 7:05 PHI Pups in the Park
Sun 9/15 1:35 PHI Kids Run the Show
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday
Mon 9/16 7:05 ATL $1 Hot Dog Night
Wed 9/18 7:05 ATL $5 Beer + Peanuts Night
Sat 9/21 7:05 FLA Team Poster
NatsLive Post-Game Concert: Montgomery Gentry
Sun 9/22 1:35 FLA FANtastic FANale
Kids Run the Bases
Signature Sunday

UPDATE: Here is the Nationals Promotion Schedule 2014, in which the number of bobbleheads will triple

Presidents race is no longer “The Main Event”

The two longest standing criticisms of the Nationals presidents race appear to have been addressed in consecutive games.

The Nationals’ refusal to let Teddy Roosevelt win for nearly seven seasons was, of course, nationally known — a concern that reached even as far as the White House.

GEICO Presidents Race

Presidents race scoreboard introduction as it has appeared since Nationals Park opened in 2008
(Photo:Adam Fagen)

Presidents Race Nationals Park Scoreboard

Presidents race scoreboard introduction on Wednesday

(Photo:Adam Fagen)[/caption]But more grating to many Nationals fans was the introduction of the presidents race as “The Main Event” at Nationals Park.

Since opening day 2008, Nationals P.A. announcer Jerome Hruska has announced the arrival of the middle of the fourth inning with “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for the main event. It’s the GEICO presidents race!”

For true baseball fans, even those who liked the antics of the Rushmore Four, this was like nails on a chalkboard.

But on Wednesday afternoon, amid the frenzy of Teddy’s second victory and the heartbreak of a second playoff loss, was a gift to serious Nats fans.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Hruska announced, “it’s time for the Presidents Race!”

Whether this change is permanent, is tied to limitations on playoff sponsorships, or is related to a longer-term change remains to be seen. The announcement was accompanied by a new graphic that omitted the familiar GEICO logo, the GEICO logo was omitted from the presidents’ uniforms, and the ever-present GEICO Gecko was not in his usual spot at the finish line.  

State Farm is the official insurance company of MLB.

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