Abe Wins Fifth Straight to Close Nationals Homestand

Nationals Park has indeed become a friendly home for the Washington Nationals, who completed their longest homestand of the year Sunday with a third straight series win, raising their record at home to 10-8 as they leave town to play the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

The 2008 presidents race has taken on quite a bit of intrigue as well. This weekend, Nationals Park was visited by Pittsburgh Pirate mascots including the giant costumed pierogies from PNC Park’s pierogie races. On Saturday, they joined the racing presidents and were chased by Teddy Roosevelt yielding a giant fork and knife. On Sunday, they turned the presidents race into a relay, and the anchor leg was won handily by Abe.

Is this a sign of things to come?
Did you like seeing the other team’s mascots at Nationals Park (I’m trying to imagine the Philly Fanatic making it out alive)?

Perhaps lost amid the hullabaloo was Abraham Lincoln’s fifth straight victory, giving him as many wins so far this season as all the other racing presidents combined. Somebody’s got to stop the Great Emancipator before he puts the 2008 completely out of reach!

Photo by flickr user philliefan99

Equilibrium at Nationals Park

Could it be that we are seeing a state of order and balance established at Nationals Park? Time will tell, but the signs this week are very strong.

The first month at DC’s newest monument was certainly tumultuous. The spectacular collapses, jinxed batters, and injuries on the field were nothing next to the presidential booing, papal blessings, and cavemen and gorillas in the stands. Teddy Roosevelt showed his chops as an athlete, taking big leads in the presidents race only to be tackled by a panther and tripped by a giant banana.

Now out of nowhere the Nationals are stringing together wins and Shawn Hill is pitching like a staff ace. Even the scoreboard has started showing the correct information; but unfortunately, the surest sign that things are returning to normal is that Teddy is once again trailing the other racing presidents from wire to wire:

It’s hard to say which is more heartbreaking…

Parking at Nationals Park? Piece of Cake!

The presidential primaries have got nothing on the Washington Metro when it comes to negative advertising. Every day, I am bombarded by radio ads telling me that if I choose to drive to Nationals park, I will not find parking, miss the entire game, and regret it for the rest of my life.

What’s wrong with this picture?

As thousands of fans can testify, the free Nats Express parking has been a piece of cake since opening day. Simply drive to Lot 8 at RFK Stadium, hop on one of many
waiting shuttle buses, and be at the park in 10 minutes. There is never a traffic problem getting to Lot 8 via 395, and even after a game, the buses move quickly.

This week, as promised, my son and I decided to try one of the new cash parking lots which surround Nationals Park.

We chose Lot HH, because at $15.00 per game it’s the cheapest cash parking option, and while valet parking sounds convenient, it’s not likely to appeal to the masses.

Cash Lot HH at Nationals Park feels like one of those secrets reserved for DC residents in the know. The location is on South Capitol Street underneath the I-395 ramps — not easy to find if you’re not looking for it, but easy to get to from the C Street exit on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

Yes, it sounds like a scary location, but as you can see it was all well-lit, with it’s own traffic light and crosswalk to set you on your way to Nationals Park or back home without any hassles.

The parking lot was practically empty despite a near-sellout game, and the walk to the Nationals Park gate was a safe and leisurely 10 minutes, accompanied both ways by fans heading from the Capitol South metro stop.

As for traffic, here’s South Capitol Street right in front of Nationals Park a half hour before the first pitch on a dreaded weeknight.

So Metro, I have to ask, “Where’s the beef?” In reality, the worst backups I’ve seen near Nationals Park have been at the entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station.

I’m a big fan of Metro, but the team has got to put a stop to this scare campaign, which is keeping people away from the park. Stan Kasten and Adrian Fenty should both be calling for Metro to fire its ad agency and start over.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

This weekend should draw huge crowds at Nationals Park starting with tonight’s game against the Chicago Cubs, and the warm weather plus some well-timed heroics by Felipe Lopez may be just the thing the Nationals needed to spark a turnaround. This is a long homestand, and Nationals fans have probably started to figure out that the Metro’s continuing fear campaign about Nationals Park has no basis in fact.

The Nats Express continues to be a smooth and easy free option for parking at Nationals Park (even on Saturday when DC United will be playing at RFK), and with the Nationals having also announced the availability of cash parking near the park for home games, I may give it a try tonight, just to report on how smoothly it goes. By all accounts, the $15.00 lot is a short, safe, well-lit walk from the park.

With the weather turning warm, I hope to see all of you who’ve been ordering Let Teddy Win! t-shirts to show up and show your support for our favorite president. After each race, the presidents reach the finish line near the Nationals dugout, then head up the aisle by section 127. Wear your shirts tonight and join us in the aisle at the bottom of section 128 with a “Let Teddy Win” cheer in middle of the 4th inning!

No Divine Intervention at Nationals Park

Nationals fans had high hopes that the Pope Benedict XVI might leave behind some holy mojo for the home team after presiding over mass at Nationals Park just a few days ago.

Unfortunately, Mets pitcher Johan Santana had other ideas, scattering 7 hits and ruining another good outing by Nationals pitcher Tim Redding to kick off the Nationals’ longest homestand of the season.

Sadly, Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t feeling it either, as Abraham Lincoln kicked off the homestand by moving into a tie with Thomas Jefferson for the season lead in the presidents race.

Worst of all was the presence of a vocal minority of Mets fans at Nationals Park — the first time we’ve heard such a heavy rooting contingent for the visiting team since our new stadium opened.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain too loudly since I’ll be at Verizon Center for the Wizards playoff game on Thursday night, but it sure would be nice if tomorrow’s crowd at Nationals Park was a little more vocal in support of Shawn Hill. Cheer for Teddy(!), and I’ll see you in section 128 for Friday night’s game against the Cubs.

Photo by Flickr user cyurasko

The Nationals’ Big Marketing Mistake

After their first complete homestand at the new Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals are ranked 20th among Major League Baseball teams in home attendance, and averaging fewer paid spectators than the team did at this point in their first season at RFK stadium.

Perhaps most striking is the lack of bodies in the new stadium’s most visible seats — the “Presidential Seats” which sit directly behind home plate and serve as a backdrop for televised shots of the batter’s box.

Possible reasons for the lackluster attendance have been much debated. Team president Stan Kasten says he’s “very pleased” with attendance given the cold weather and the hot playoff pursuits of other DC sports teams. Others have cited the high cost of Nationals Park tickets and concessions, or the team’s losing record.

I blame it on The Myth.

The Myth was born from a well-intentioned effort to promote the use of Metro to get to Nationals home games. Team, city, and Metro officials worked their tails off to get the word out. They talked about it non-stop, held press events, and devoted significant advertising and PR dollars to the cause.

The problem? They put the creative message in the hands of marketing amateurs, and the campaign went negative.

Why not? Negative works, right? Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are some of the greatest tools in the marketing arsenal. Attacking the competition (in this case, trying to park at the Park) is a time-tested and reliable method of getting people’s attention. Positive is boring.

So the message got delivered, and it wasn’t “Take Metro!” or “Try our free parking shuttle!” The message was clear. Parking is a nightmare. Take Metro or your life will be miserable.

Local news producers love fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It helps them invent drama where none exists. So they jumped on the bandwagon quickly with “public interest” feature stories about how terrible the parking situation is going to be.

A radio ad running non-stop for the last 6 weeks profiles a man who drives around Nationals Park for inning after inning looking for a parking spot. The man is desperate. He is miserable. He misses the entire game. The voiceover intones “Don’t drive and try to park at Nationals Park!”

It worked too well.

I know dozens of people who have shared or partial-season ticket plans. In March, as they picked their games, everybody told me that they were trying to avoid the first few homestands, “to let them get this parking and traffic mess figured out.”

The Myth is that transportation to Nationals Park is a nightmare, and this myth was created by the team itself. I haven’t seen any meaningful traffic, parking, or crowd issues. It’s time for the powers that be to pull this campaign and go positive instead.

Nationals Park from photo by Flickr user Ouij.
Navy Yard Metro from photo by Flickr user MissChatter.

Losing Streaks Continue at Nationals Park

With George, Tom, and Abe having each won one of the first three presidents races at Nationals Park, and the snakebitten Washington Nationals coming into the evening on a 6-game skid, the question on the mind of Nats fans was whether they would see the end of somebody’s losing streak tonight against the Florida Marlins.

Unfortunately, the luck of neither Teddy nor the team changed tonight, as Thomas Jefferson took the 4th inning contest to take the season lead, and our Nats suffered their fourth heartbreaking one-run loss just ten games into the season. After consecutive sweeps by the Cardinals and Marlins, the Nationals 3-game winning streak to start the season is a distance memory.

Friday night the Atlanta Braves come to Nationals Park for the final series of this homestand. Let’s hope for a big turnout and an end to some losing streaks this weekend!

Photo by flickr user afagen.

Five Things That Need Work at Nationals Park

Last week I wrote about 5 things I love about the new Nationals Park. Truth be told, I could have gone on to list dozens more items, from food to views to little design details, but most of these things have been well documented by the press.

Perhaps the best compliment I could give to Nationals Park is that my list of points for improvement is so short, especially when I confine the list to things that the Lerners have control over changing.

#5: Game info on the scoreboard.We know the scoreboard operators will do a better job at keeping up now that they are used to their new toy. That’s not my complaint. The problem is that despite the vastly increased scoreboard real estate, in some cases we don’t seem to have as much info as we had at RFK. Specifically, information about a batter’s previous at bats doesn’t have a permanent spot on the scoreboard and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough. In addition, the pitcher’s pitch count shown does not distinguish balls from strikes — a great bit of info we had on 2 screens at RFK Stadium. If this info appears anywhere, I missed it.

#4: A Sign to Ease the Congestion, Please. The great new food options along the 3rd base line have created a terrible traffic jam in the first couple of games at Nationals Park. The lines have been so bad for Ben’s Chili Bowl that the entire concourse
is reduced to gridlock. Savvy fans have already figured out that this isn’t necessary, so how about educating the rest of the crowd? Put up a big sign with arrows above Ben’s that says “Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smokes are available at all hot dog stands.”

Nationals Park Fan Photos#3: Update the “Fan Photo” options. The new “Fan Photo” photographers roaming the park are a fun addition that I hope generates some big revenue for the team (look for the photographers in the green shirts). Unfortunately, if they take a photo you like, there is a surprising paucity of nice framing options commemorating the inaugural game or inaugural season. Instead, the outdated offerings include a $150 option framed with dirt from RFK stadium, and a $34 acrylic-enclosed Nationals History that starts “The Washington Nationals have played only two full seasons through 2006…” C’mon Stan. I’d love to throw you more of my fan money, but…

#2: 41,888 Cupholders please. Much was made in the press about how Nationals Park would have 41,888 seats and 41,888 cupholders. Unfortunately, Nationals Park does not deliver on the latter. There were reports of many seats without cupholders. The main culprits are the angled rows where the number of seats is reduced as you get closer to the field, such as in section 110 along the 3rd base line. It seems to me that the team could come up with a solution, such as installing two cupholders on the back of a single seat.

#1: Explain the rules to Teddy! If Teddy is every going to have a chance to win the presidents race at Nationals Park, he can’t be kept in the dark. Last week’s opening night debacle, in which Teddy ran straight into center field rather than around the warning track with the other presidents, suggests to me that somebody on the inside is trying to mislead our 26th president. This is unfair! Teddy Roosevelt is among the smartest and most physically fit presidents in U.S. history. Give him a level playing field and Teddy will win!

Photos from flickr users randomduck, tbridge, Scott Ableman, and afagen

Nationals Park Tour Tickets Go On Sale This Morning

Nationals Park BullpenThe Washington Nationals have announced that they will offer behind-the-scenes tours of Nationals Park on non-game days beginning Saturday, April 19. Adult tickets cost $15.00 and go on sale this morning, April 7 at 10:00am.

The 75-minute guided tour of Nationals Park promises an “up close and personal” view of the the Washington Nationals’ home dugout and state-of-the-art clubhouse, plus the Nationals bullpen, batting cages, press box, a luxury suite, the PNC Diamond Club, the Lexus Presidents Club and the Stars & Stripes Club.

Participants in Nationals Park tours will have opportunities to throw a pitch in the Nationals Bullpen, among other interactive activities.

A reduced rate of $12.00 will be available to groups of 15 or more, seniors 55 or older, military personnel, and children age 12 and under. Children under the age of 2 will be admitted free. Groups of 25 or more may request a private tour.

Tickets will go on sale at Nationals.com, at the stadium Kiosks near the team store at Nationals Park, and at the Box Office during normal business hours.

Nationals Park bullpen photo by Scott Ableman.

Nationals Park Open House This Friday & Saturday

If you didn’t score tickets to opening day and can’t wait to see Nationals Park, here’s your chance. Today the Washington Nationals announced an open house at Nationals Park with email invitations sent to subscribers of the “Nationals Insider” email list.

Though the team is playing on the road this week, Nationals Park will be opened the the Welcome Home Nats Open House on Friday, April 4th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, and on Saturday, April 5th from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. An online RSVP and ticket printout are required for entry, however there does not appear to be any limit to the number of tickets which may be requested.

Concessions will be open, as will the Build-a-Bear Workshop and the Strike Zone interactive games. The racing presidents will also be there for fun and photo opportunities.

If you aren’t a high roller, this may be your only chance to check out the the Presidents Club, The Diamond Club and Stars & Stripes Club. All will be open for everybody in attendance.

During Saturday’s open house, the Nationals game vs. the St. Louis Cardinals will be broadcast live on the new 101-foot wide high-definition video screen. Unfortunately, parking will NOT be available, so take Metro!

More information is available from the Nationals at 202-675-NATS. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can sign up for the Nationals Insider newsletter here.

Five Things I Loved About Nationals Park

Cup holders in every seat at Nationals ParkI know it’s just one game, but a few things about the opening day experience at Nationals Park left me quite hopeful about the notion that this is where I’ll be watching baseball games for the rest of my life.

Here are five of the reasons:

#5: Big Cup Holders. The team’s food policy states that you can bring 1-liter bottles of water into Nationals Park. Not being a soda guy, I picked up a case of 1-liter water bottles last week in preparation for the season. As you can see, that big 1 liter kahuna fits perfectly in the new cupholders.

Thankfully, my seat actually has a cupholder. Some seats did not, but that’s another story for another day.

#4: Four-Way Chili. Savvy Nationals fans back in the 2006 season at RFK Stadium knew how to find their way to the 300-level terrace food court, where Hard Times Cafe Hard Times Cafe at Nationals Parkhad a brief run as the food vendor of choice for the discerning palate. Now Hard Times Cafe is back at the new Nationals Park, serving fine Chili Nachos and “Chili Mac,” known to true devotees of Cincinnati chili as a “4 way” (chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions). You’ll find Hard Times Cafe at Nationals Park next to Red, Hot & Blue in the left field food court.

Helmut Sundae
#3: Helmut Sundaes. One of the great injustices of the past 3 years is that I’ve been taking my kids to major league baseball games without buying them helmut sundaes. Maybe it’s me, but for a kid, helmut sundaes are as much as part of the sport as the 7th inning stretch. Now at Nationals Park, we finally have the real deal.

Washington Nationals 10th Man#2: Home Town Fans. OK call me crazy for dreaming, but opening day gave me hope that Nationals Park will deliver the best home field advantage in DC sports. Home colors, home traditions, home angles, and most importantly, home town fans. Sunday was the first Braves game I’ve been to when I didn’t hear the tomohawk chop, and when Chipper hit that homer, the place went dead silent. That’s the way it should be. Here’s to cheering only for the home team at Nationals Park.

Let Teddy Win!
#1: Racing Presidents (What Else?). I started this site because the racing presidents are the first truly unique hometown tradition that we can call our own. They are great fun, and give kids of all ages another reason to become Nationals fans.

I was incredibly pleased to find that the team has made them a huge part of the fan experience at Nationals Park. The presidents race itself has been expanded, plus Teddy, George, Tom, and Abe greeted us at the centerfield gates and reappeared near the kids zone after the 4th inning. The Nationals had no idea how big the racing presidents could be when they were first created, but it’s equally clear that they are astute enough to build on this great fan tradition.

What’s the Strangest Thing You Saw on Opening Day at Nationals Park?

Nationals Park Opening Day photo by Scott AblemanMy son and I had a lot of fun meeting people on opening day at Nationals Park. Even without Ryan Zimmerman’s fairytale-like heroics, it would have been a remarkable night to remember.

It was also a night for spotting local celebrities and a variety of oddities you don’t usually find at a ball game.

For example, it’s not every day you head to the concession stands at a major league ball park and pass by a man with a high-definition broadcast digital camera on a heavy-duty tripod taking photographs of a chili dog. Yet there he was. Obviously one of the big stories for locals was the presence of Ben’s Chili Bowl on the concourse behind the 3rd base line.

On Tony Kornheiser’s local radio show
this morning, Mr. Tony fixated for some time
Don Sutton in a Tuxedo?on the site of Don Sutton wearing a tuxedo. Sutton came down from the broadcast booth to act as “master of ceremonies” for the player introductions. I have nothing but respect for Sutton, the hall-of-fame Dodger pitcher and current Nationals broadcaster; but I have to agree with Mr. Tony. Sutton looked like a waiter from Morton’s in that getup.

What’s the strangest thing you saw on opening day at Nationals Park?

The Season Begins with a Bang at Nationals Park

Nationals Park Grand OpeningI will post more later today, but suffice to say the grand opening of our new Nationals Park was nothing short of a smashing success for every Washington Nationals fan in attendence.

Every Washington Nationals fan, that is, except Teddy.

Though Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run thrilled and delighted the crowd, our great and much misunderstood 26th president disappointed his loyal fans once again. Whether he was trying to cheat or was just confused about the rules is uncertain; but while George, Abe, and Tom began their sprint along the warning track, Teddy simply shot across center field.

Had he not stopped to chat with a couple of members of the Atlanta Braves outfield, Teddy might have beaten George across the finish line, though whether he would have been disqualified remains an open question.

George’s achievement as the first racing president to win the presidents race at Nationals Park has been reflected in the newest section of letteddywin.com — the Presidents Race Standings page, which will continue to be updated throughout the season.

Video by YouTube user jrgwx

Flickr photo of opening day at Nationals Park by Scott Ableman

Changes to the Presidents Race at Nationals Park

Tonight is the big opener at our new Nationals Park, and presidents race fans are eager to see what Teddy Roosevelt has in store for the 2008 debut. Reports are that he’s been working out for the 2008 campaign, and that his last-place finish in last night’s preseason warm-up was just designed to lull the other presidents into complacency. In addition to being in great shape, we hear he may have a few new tricks up his sleeve.

Among the changes we’ll see this year is that the presidents race has been moved from the path that was traditionally used at RFK Stadium. As fans at the Nationals only preseason game at Nationals Park saw, the racing presidents no longer enter from the right field and run along the foul line towards home plate.

In Nationals Park, the racing presidents are being introduced one at a time from the center field fence, and then race around the warning track toward first base.

Those of us seated in the sections along the first base line should have nothing to complain about. Our shouts of “Let Teddy Win!” should be just the thing Teddy needs to help motivate him to his first victory.

See you all at the park tonight!

Flickr photo by excellent Nats fan MissChatter

Music at Nationals Park – Song Results Are In!

Chuck Brown will be played after any Nationals player hits a home runThe Nationals asked and you voted. Here are the songs that will be played at Nationals Park home games starting with tomorrow’s exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles.

At the 7th Inning Stretch
(after Take Me Out to the Ball Game)
Shout by Otis Day and the Knights

After a Nationals Home Run
Bustin’ Loose by DC native Chuck Brown (pictured)

After a Nationals Win
Beautiful Day by U2

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m particularly disappointed by the first choice, but not surprised. If you put this to an internet vote, the winner is going to be a song that everybody knows, not a song that’s more appropriate. Let’s hope the team finds a role for You Gotta Have Heart elsewhere in the new stadium traditions.

Photo of Chuck Brown by flickr user svetlana80


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