Natsfest returns January 2013 at DC Convention Center

Bryce Harper at NatsFest 2011Jayson Werth and Michael Morse at NatsFest 2011Racing Presidents at NatsFest 2011The Washington Nationals have announced the return of NatsFest, an off-season fan festival featuring meet-and-greet opportunities with players, staff, and future prospects, plus interactive sessions, family activities, memorabilia, and of course racing presidents.

The winter weekend event was a hit with fans in previous years, but was poorly attended after being moved to a weekday in late March 2011. There was no NatsFest in 2012, and the team had been mum about whether the event would return.

NatsFest 2013 will take place Saturday, January 26 at DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center from 12:00pm – 4:00pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children. Children 2 and under are admitted free.

Season ticketholders get a $5.00 discount per ticket, and get an exclusive admission from 11:00am – Noon.

In previous years, lines for player autographs have stretched to over an hour. The Nationals hope to quell this problem by limiting autographs to those who purchase $20.00 “autograph vouchers.” The number of vouchers will be limited, and proceeds go to the Nationals Dream Foundation.

There will be separate area for kids including face painting, balloon art, inflatables, and mascot appearances, including the racing presidents.

Full details at Nationals.com.

UPDATE: Fan activities will include player and mascot photo stations (this is separate from the pre-purchased autograph tickets), “Player Story Times” for kids, caricatures, games, a trophy display (Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards?), and booths with giveaways including MASN, 106.7 The Fan, and the Junior National Kids Club.

Major league players in attendance will include new off-season additions Dan Haren and Denard Span, plus Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Danny Espinosa, Christian Garcia, Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Ryan Mattheus, Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, Kurt Suzuki, Chad Tracy, Jayson Werth, and Jordan Zimmermann. No word yet on whether Rafael Soriano will be there, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Notably absent from the list are manager Davey Johnson (traveling in Africa), third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (on his honeymoon), pitcher Stephen Strasburg (hosting his annual charity 5K run in San Diego), and first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Minor Leaguers on board for NatsFest include Corey Brown, Brian Goodwin, Nathan Karns, Ryan Perry, Anthony Rendon, Will Rhymes, and Matt Skole.

GM Mike Rizzo, owner Mark Lerner, and broadcasters Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo, Charlie Slowes, and Phil Wood are also scheduled to participate in special presentations and Q&A sessions.

Toe-to-Toe with Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Stan Kasten at first-ever NatsFest

Natsfest crowd at Nationals ParkNationals Park was abuzz with life on this cold winter day as thousands of Washington Nationals fans were drawn to the first annual NatsFest fan fest. For the ticket price of just $10.00, Nats fans were able to wander through the usually-restricted field level concourse, lounge in the home team clubhouse, sit in a $300+ Presidents Club seat, take a swing from live pitching in the Nats’ indoor batting cage, and mingle with the likes of manager Manny Acta, General Manager Jim Bowden, team President Stan Kasten, broadcasters, players, and more.

Jim Bowden answers questions from fans at NatsFestAs Steinberg documents well in this evening’s Sports Bog, the Q&A sessions with Acta, Bowden, Kasten, and Assistant GM Mike Rizzo were packed and lively, with numerous questions about the team’s off-season spending (or lack thereof); but Kasten also drew a number of terrific questions about the fan experience, and in what Steinberg called “perhaps the best moment of the day,” addressed the Teddy question.

Kasten told the crowd that he has been a visitor to LetTeddyWin.com. “I’m asked all the time about this Let Teddy Win stuff,” Kasten said, “and ‘Stan, when is Teddy gonna win?’ as if I’m Nostradamus or something like that. How could I know…? But I do know this: Law of averages says he’s gonna win some day, and the only way to be sure you’re here for when that happens is to come every night!”

Stan Kasten answers questions from fans at NatsFestKasten promised a number of changes to the fan experience for 2009, including expansion of the Red Porch to bring tables into the stadium seating area, centerfield plaza improvements to include a “fire pit,” and more food options including value meals at concession stands and “experiments with all-you-can-eat sections” on select game nights.

Kasten also shed some light on why the giant baseball that had been depicted above the Red Loft in pre-construction renderings of Nationals Park never appeared for the inaugural season, explaining that “something” would be installed above the red loft, but that it was pending negotiations with sponsors. Considering that Kasten oversaw the installation of the giant Coke bottle above Turner Field in Atlanta, it’s all making sense now.

The Washington Nationals Racing Presidents at NatsFestThe Nationals racing presidents were noticeably absent from the concourses and activities throughout the park, but could be found behind a door being guarded by Nationals mascot Screech in the “Kids Zone,” a large room in the stadium’s conference center.

Who knew ball parks had conference rooms?

Washington Nationals Racing President Abe Lincoln at NatsfestThe Kids Zone looked remarkably well-staffed and organized, with young Nats fans being entertained by Clint Khoury and the Nat Pack, plus racing presidents Teddy, Abe, George, and Tom, and activities including a moon bounce, wiffle ball, face painting, balloon animals, caricatures, and even a Guitar Hero arcade.

Most remarkable was that the kids zone crowd paled in comparison with the lines that formed for all the “adult” activities. Even the wait for a hand-painted caricature was minimal compared to the time people were spending upstairs waiting for a photo with Ryan Zimmerman. The kids looked like they were having a blast, though it made me nervous to see Abe Lincoln helping kids in and out of the moon bounce. I just don’t trust that guy…

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