Racing Presidents help christen “Natitude Park,” but Nats still don’t Let Teddy Win

Natitude on display at Washington Nationals Natitude ParkNatitude hastagPresidents race with NatitudeGeorge Washington wins the presidents race at Nationals ParkWhen the Washington Nationals introduced their much-misunderstood “Take Back the Park” program in February, and followed it in March with their 2012 Natitude marketing campaign, they put a lot on the line.

In shining a spotlight on past indignities, team president Andy Feffer left little room for error.  A poor start by the team or an overwhelming invasion by Phillies fans, and the Nats marketing team would be under major heat.

On Friday night, the Nationals doubled down on their brash marketing approach, renaming the stadium “Natitude Park,” and passing out “Our Park” signs to fans at the bottom of the stands.

Like it or not, the Nationals relentless marketing had an impact, as the term “Natitude” passed even “DC” and “Mitt Romney” among trending topics in the DC Twitterverse.

With group ticket sales curtailed, Phillies fans were dispersed throughout the ball park, and various attempts to start Phillies cheers were quickly drowned out by a packed house of Nats fans who clearly got the message, repeatedly drowning out the Phillies cheers every time they started.

The racing presidents ignited their Natitude by running through a giant hashtag to start their fourth-inning race. Apparently George Washington brought more Natitude to the table than his opponents, running away with the victory.

Before the game, rumors were flying from inside the stadium that the Nationals might let Teddy win if the game was a sellout.  It wasn’t, but it’s still very possible for Saturday afternoon, when the busloads arrive from Philly.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Nationals trot out “classic” presidents for Harper’s debut

Washington Nationals racing presidents begin the presidents race at Nationals ParkPresidents Race runs left George Washington Wins photo by Cheryl NicholsPresidents Race Teddy Roosevelt Loses with bulging pantsNationals Park was buzzing Tuesday night as the hometown fans got their first glimpse of rookie sensation Bryce Harper.

Harper is already beloved for his throwback-style approach to the game, and perhaps in appreciation, the Nationals brought back the “classic” racing presidents to kick off the homestand.  It was their first appearance of the season, and with luck they’re back to stay.

For those who hoped Harper’s debut might be an excuse for the team to finally let Teddy win, the fourth-inning festivities were yet another cause for disappointment.

The presidents ran left for the third time this season, moving the finish line to the third base side.  Teddy had an early lead, but may have been slowed by his bulging belly, which seemed to drop lower and lower as the race progressed.

George Washington put on a burst of speed to take the victory and move past Abe Lincoln in the season standings.

Finish line photos courtesy Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page

Video: Presidents race twice. Abe ambushes Teddy in the 13th inning. TJ takes two.

As promised, the Nationals moved the presidents race back to the first base line for Friday’s outing, but despite getting a rare second chance, the result was the same for poor Teddy Roosevelt.

The racing presidents on Segway personal trainersPresidents-Race-Extra-InningsIn the 4th inning, the presidents competed aboard Segway personal transporters, and despite his height, Jefferson managed to outmaneuver the other racing presidents, speeding around Teddy to take the victory.

Fans in attendance got a rare treat when the game stretched into the 13th inning: a second official presidents race. It was the ninth such opportunity in Nationals history — an opportunity that was wasted on Lincoln, who chose to hide in the bullpen instead of participate, then jump out mid-race to ambush Teddy Roosevelt.

With Teddy on the ground, Jefferson and Washington burst by and made it a two-man race, with Tom edging George at the wire to take an unprecedented 3-0 lead in the standings after just two home games.

The first race:

And the second race:

Videos courtesy YouTube member lfahome

Nats say presidents race move wasn’t to avoid foul play

The Nats are saying Thursday’s surprise change in direction of the opening day presidents race was not designed to avoid foul play by the likes of Jayson Werth, according to a report this morning by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.

The source said that the team plans to alternate which side of the field the presidents run on, a strategy that’s equally likely to confound any sabotage plans, and anybody else who wants to (ahem) cheer and/or photograph the finish line.

Steinberg is a close follower of the Let Teddy Win movement, and thank goodness, because the Post gets messages returned a lot faster than the rest of us. LTW’s inquiries about future plans for the race were not answered.

UPDATE: Soon after this posted, I heard back from a Nats spokesperson who wanted to point out that Thursday was not the first time that the Presidents have run that path. “We like to keep fans on their toes and mix the race up from game to game, depending on what works best,” she said. When had they run that path before? On the final race of the 2011 season.

Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page

Racing presidents at the White House Easter Egg Roll

Washington Nationals racing presidents at the White House Easter Egg roll with Al Roker

Al Roker on this morning's Today Show with Teddy and the racing presidents (among others)

One reason the role of Nationals racing president is so highly coveted is the opportunities it presents to appear around Washington, particularly in an election year such as this.

This morning, the presidents made their annual appearance at the White House Easter Egg Roll, and joined Al Roker on The Today Show with an assortment of costumed characters also in attendance.

One drawback of being 10 feet tall: They always make you stand in the back row for photos.

PhotoThe Today Show

Nationals Racing President Auditions Set for February 18

If you have presidential aspirations, it’s not too late to enter the 2012 race.

Washington Nationals Racing Presidents AuditionsAs expected, the Washington Nationals today announced their Presidents Race tryouts for 2012, to be held Saturday, February 18th at Nationals Park.

The Nats are looking for fun-loving team members between 5’7” and 6’ 6” in height, who can handle wearing a 45-pound costume for hours, and can run 200 yards in 40 seconds or less (yes, that’s with the costume still on).

Nationals presidents race tryoutsYou must also be available for at least 35 home games this year.

The Nationals have made the racing president auditions a Presidents Day weekend tradition. To score an invitation and your chance to run in the footsteps of giants, you must e-mail a cover letter, resume and recent photo to entertainment@nationals.com by February 10. Tryouts are closed to the public.

Nationals Racing President AuditionsIn previous years, candidates have been asked to race against each other, run a 40-yard dash, dance, and show their celebration skills during the tryouts, which are held rain or shine (Two years ago, auditions were held in deep snow).

For a sense of what’s in store, check out our video chronicle from last year’s auditions:

Jayson Werth calls for a Teddy Roosevelt victory on Sunday

Jayson Werth - Photo APAfter trying to interfere on Teddy Roosevelt’s behalf for the second day in a row, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth made clear his intentions.

“If Teddy can’t win, no one wins,” Werth said in the postgame press conference Saturday at Nationals Park, adding “I must be the last remaining member of the Bull Moose party, I guess.”

On whether Saturday’s ambush was planned, Werth said “I can’t really comment. When you stage a coup, it’s better to keep it quiet.”

Will the Nationals finally heed Werth’s wishes and let the team start the 2012 season without Teddy’s curse hanging over them?

“Let’s just say it’s Teddy Roosevelt’s last stand of the Rough Riders,” Werth said.

Sunday is their last chance this season to break the curse. What better gift on Fan Appreciation Day?

Photo/AP

George and the racing presidents commemorate 9/11

The Washington Nationals on 9/11 Remembrance DayThe Washington Nationals observed 9/11 Remembrance Day Sunday throughout the team’s 8-2 win over the Houston Astros. Many of the usual between-inning routines at Nationals Park were replaced by commemorative honors, videos, and tributes. Even the racing presidents showed solidarity, running their 4th-inning course wearing their new patriotic uniforms in single file behind our first president George Washington, who carried an American Flag from wire to wire.
Washington Nationals Presidents Race on 9 11

Video: That Cat Returns to thwart a sure Teddy Roosevelt Victory

That Cat returned to Nationals Park Tuesday night, and as the mysterious feline is known to do, threw a wrench into the presidents race procedings.

That Cat tackles Teddy Roosevelt in the Washington Nationals Presidents RaceThat Cat tackles Teddy Roosevelt in the Washington Nationals Presidents RaceWith a crowd braving the rain to see Stephen Strasburg’s return to baseball, perpetual showoff Abe Lincoln jumped out to a big lead, but as Abe traversed the warning track, Teddy Roosevelt put on an uncharasteristic burst of speed, passing all of the presidents and waving goodbye as he took the lead.

“Teddy’s got a huge lead now. There’s no way he’s gonna lose,” proclaimed Nationals Park P.A. announcer Jerome Hruska.

The kiss of death, apparently.

As Teddy passed by the stands in section 134, That Cat pounced.

Teddy never saw what him him, and George stole the tape.

Slo-mo take-down video follows:


Videos courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Full Video: Presidents Race Marriage Proposal at Nationals Park

Nationals Park Marriage Proposal - Racing Teddy Roosevelt for her affectionsThis you have to watch.

Twitter was all abuzz Wednesday after we told the story of the very lucky Jennie Kushlis, who’s fiance’, Matt Hendrickson, raced Teddy Roosevelt to win her affections.

Here now is the incredible video of the whole thing, compiled for the couple by Emma Patti Photography. It’s pure joy:

If you’d like to hear Matt’s video a little more clearly, that can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Race vs. Teddy Roosevelt wins DC man his bride

Matt Jennie and Teddy Roosevelt - Photo by Emma Patti Photography

Photo: Emma Patti Photography


Jennifer Kushlis loves Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, her love for the Washington Nationals’ racing president runs so deep that her boyfriend of six years, Matt Hendrickson, decided he would have to literally win her affections from Teddy before asking for her hand in marriage.

“I absolutely love the Presidents’ Race,” Kushlis said. “It’s the highlight of my summer, several times over.”

Nationals Park Presidents Race Marriage Proposal Jennie Kushner Matt Hendrickson" title="Nationals Park Presidents Race Marriage Proposal Jennie Kushner Matt Hendrickson

Nationals Park Marriage Proposal - Matt challenges Teddy Roosevelt

Video: Emma Patti Photography

Washington Nationals Park Marriage Proposal Presidents RaceBut Matt was up for the challenge. After nine months of planning, it all came together Sunday at Nationals Park.

Kushlis, 27, an Account Director at a local PR firm, arrived at their Kalorama home to find a note announcing that a Town Car would be arriving shortly to pick her up.

The driver whisked her directly to Nationals Park, where a Nats employee met her and led her onto an empty field with a table set behind home plate.

That was the cue for the HD scoreboard to light up with a video in which Hendrickson explained his dilemma, and challenged Teddy to a race for her affections.

“I realize that you have strong feelings for another man,” he explained. “Teddy and I both know that it would be impossible to ask you to choose between us, so we’ve talked and decided that the only way to settle this once and for all is with a race.”

With that, Teddy appeared from the centerfield gate, followed closely by Hendrickson.

“[The video] was absolutely hilarious,” said Kushlis, “and the only thing that kept me from sobbing through the whole event.”

Nationals Park Marriage Proposal Presidents RaceNationals Park Marriage Proposal - Teddy Roosevelt hands over the bride-to-beNationals Park Marriage Proposal Jennie Kushlis Matt Hendrickson

Matt and Jennie Engaged at Nationals Park - Photo by Emma Patti Photography

Photo: Emma Patti Photography

Teddy put up a good fight, but Matt won the day, and when Jennie met him at the finish line, he got down on one knee and proposed.

The families of both DC natives had been hiding on the Nationals Park concourse, and when Kushlis accepted, the celebration began.

“It was, by far, the best day of my life,” said Kushlis. “Matt’s incredible. The proposal was truly the best ever.”

Hendrickson, who works for Washingtonian Magazine, began scheming up the proposal during last year’s baseball season. “As my jealousy over Jennie’s love for Teddy grew, the idea to race him for her heart emerged,” he said. “Having survived an earthquake and a hurricane the week of my big plan, I felt like it was meant to be.”

Hendrickson has nothing but praise for the Nationals and Director of Ballpark enterprises Maggie Gessner, who coordinated everything.

And what of the jilted Teddy? “He’s a great sport,” said Hendrickson. “Teddy was first class.”

No wedding date has been set, but as the planning begins, says Kushlis, “I wouldn’t put it past Matt to involve Teddy somehow.”

Meanwhile, she hasn’t lost her love for the hero of San Juan Hill, saying his huge smile is what separates him from the other presidents. “George and Tom are hard to tell apart at times, and Abe looks so stern. Teddy’s the one in the bunch you’d want to have a beer with.”

Now that she’s engaged, that’s the best Teddy can hope for.

Matt’s video is above. We’ll have the full video of Sunday’s events in a few days.

UPDATE: The full video, including Jennie’s amazing reactions, is now up here

Photos courtesy of Michelle Kushlis except where noted.

Teddy shows no fight before record Nats Park crowd

Phillies fans at Nationals Park - CBP South - Citizens Bank Park SouthGeorge Washington wins the Washington Nationals Presidents RaceGEICO Gecko introducing the GEICO Presidents Race at Nationals ParkAn all-time record crowd of 44,675 squeezed into Nationals Park Saturday night, but everybody on the field, including Teddy Roosevelt, appeared to have nothing left after Friday night’s late-inning heroics.

It was estimated that as much as 50% of the standing room only crowd hailed from Philadelphia, but with the Phillies staking a 5-0 lead, and the Nationals doing nothing but squandering opportunities, the mood felt increasingly like a Phillies home crowd as the night wore on, capped by a group of fans in the outfield who held signs spelling out “Welcome to Citizens Bank Park South.”

In the fourth-inning presidents race, Teddy Roosevelt finished in last place for the second night in a row, as George Washington sneaked by Thomas Jefferson for the victory. Teddy seemed ready to admit that the race is fixed against him, tweeting after the race “Drats, foiled again!! If only I could race a vegetable or something!”

The night also featured a change to the presidents race introductions. For the last four seasons, Nationals Park P.A. announcer Jerome Hruska has intoned “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for the main event. It’s the GEICO Presidents Race!” Hruska’s bold introduction is the subject of much derision by fans who take offense at the notion that something other than the game would be called “The Main Event.”

While the unfortunate phrase didn’t change, the emphasis did, at least for one night. Fans on Saturday were instead greeted by a new video featuring the sponsor’s soft-spoken Gecko. It may not satisfy the critics, but it was a nice clarification between between the voice of the team and that of the race’s commercial sponsor.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Photos/Scott Ableman.  All rights reserved.

Video: Wardrobe malfunction at Nationals Park

Presidents Race wardrobe malfunctionThe Washington Nationals racing presidents were not all on their game Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

As the presidents were announced, George Washington banged his head into the centerfield gate, subsequently hitting Thomas Jefferson with a backwards head butt before the race even started.

The impact apparently knocked open Jefferson’s uniform, because the Sage of Monticello completed the race with his uniform open — a no-no in the usually Rated-G NatsTown. One of the mascot handlers raced to the finish line to cover him up and preserve his modesty.

Abe took the win.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Teddy’s shark attack targeted Terry Francona

Shame on me for missing this one, but Sunday’s Shark attack by Teddy Roosevelt was more than just a celebration of Shark Week.

Washington Nationals racing president Teddy Roosevelt celebrates Shark Week - Photo by Cheryl NicholsAs Dan Steinberg pointed out in the outstanding DC Sports Bog, there was a Boston Red Sox cap stuck in Teddy’s teeth.

The cap was a swipe at Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who had taken his own swipe at Nationals fans and the presidents race during a conversation with reporters. “We don’t need to have president races or mustard racing ketchup”, he said. “Our fans like our baseball, and I actually really think that’s cool. Nothing against mustard.”

Funny. When I visited last summer, Fenway felt like a giant after-work happy hour, they played a watered-down version of baseball with a DH, tossed beach balls in the stands, and fans poured out early because the team was losing.

Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network

Teddy the shark attacks George, Tom to kick off Shark Week

Washington Nationals Racing President Teddy Roosevelt dons a Shark mask for Shark WeekWashington Nationals racing president Teddy Roosevelt celebrates Shark Week - Photo by Cheryl NicholsShark Week starts today, and ever the student of popular culture, Teddy Roosevelt got into the act by donning a makeshift shark mask and cardboard dorsal fin for Sunday’s game vs. the New York Mets at Nationals Park.

With Jaws music in the background, Teddy followed the other presidents out of the gate and chased them down, one by one.

Teddy dispatched of both Washington and Jefferson with his razor-sharp cardboard jaws, but he couldn’t catch up to the speedy Abe Lincoln, who crossed the finish line with his limbs intact.

NOTE: After yesterday’s post, the Nationals have updated the standings they show on the scoreboard during the race, properly crediting George with his July 10 victory. We are in sync once again.

Attack photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nats News Network
Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome.

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