Barack Obama to throw out the first pitch at Nationals home opener

Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park for the Washington Nationals home opener on April 13.Ben Goessling reports in Saturday’s Washington Times that president Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener against the Phillies on April 13.

The Times cites a club source who spoke “on the condition of anonymity” because no announcement has been made.

Team president Stan Kasten and various members of the Natosphere have hoped that Obama will make the presidential first pitch an annual tradition in Washington. That seems more likely than converting Obama into a Nationals fan — at least in the short-term.

Lots of tickets still available at Nationals.com.

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…

Teddy Heads to Syracuse for Friday’s Hot Stove Dinner

syracuse-chiefs-logoTeddy Roosevelt is kicking off the new year with a trip to Syracuse, New York, to help welcome the Washington Nationals’ new AAA affiliate Syracuse Chiefs to the Nationals family.

This Friday, January 16, marks the Chiefs’ 48th annual “Hot Stove Dinner” — a $50-a-plate event in which fans shmooz with team brass and get a preview of the upcoming season. Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten and manager Manny Acta will be in attendance Friday night, along with Chiefs manager Tim Foli, but I’m betting the line will be longest for photos with our favorite racing president, #26 himself.

The forecast calls for snow showers and a high temperature of 12 degrees, so Teddy had better bundle up. If you’re heading to Syracuse, tickets are available at the Chiefs’ ticket office or by calling 315-474-7833.

Ideas to improve the Nationals Park experience

The Red Porch at Nationals ParkThis morning, Steven over at the Fire Jim Bowden blog posted his ideas for improving the fan experience at Nationals Park. Some of the ideas may not be practical, but I hope Stan Kasten takes it seriously. Some of the no-brainers include allowing fans to watch batting practice, and calling off the security guards when a fan throws back an opposing team’s home run. And yes, I’d like to know what happened to that planned big baseball over the red loft.

Possibly the best and biggest no-brainer of an idea is opening up the gates after the 11th inning and during the Saturday night movies. You’d be giving something away for free without cannibalizing revenues, boost concession sales, and specifically give back and build relationships with the community immediately surrounding Nationals Park. Check it out.

Teddy Roosevelt/Stan Kasten interview on ESPN’s First Take

CORRECTION: I had originally thought this would air Friday, but it aired this morning on ESPN2:

Nationals’ president Stan Kasten says in the interview that the presidents race is not fixed, and that “it’s inevitable” that Teddy will win. He also hints that there may be more 1-on-1 races in Teddy’s future like his recent race against the Orioles Bird.

Presidents race nominated again for best on-field promotion

It’s not necessarily a compliment to Stan Kasten to say that the presidents race is the best thing the Washington Nationals have going, but let’s just say that with half the starters on the DL and the team flirting with the worst record in baseball, the awards this year will be few and far between.

Washington Nationals racing presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abe LincolnRegular readers know that the Washington Nationals presidents race was named best on-field promotion of 2007 by Gameops.com, a web site which connects sports teams and
event producers with ideas and tools
for on-field promotions.

GameOps editor John Cudo, who works for the Cleveland Cavaliers
and himself spent 7 years as the
mascot for the Minnesota Timberwolves, reported this week that the Washington Nationals presidents race has been nominated again for best on-field promotion of 2008.

Cudo has written numerous times about the presidents race and claims a “mild addiction” to the Let Teddy Win blog, calling it “a season long tutorial on how to keep a promotion you do every night interesting.”

According to Cudo, the annual Best Of awards are among the most popular features of their site. Nominations come from readers and are judged by a panel of industry leaders and insiders. “The decision (last year) was overwhelming and simple,” Cudo told me via email. “Nearly everyone who had an opinion held the race in DC in very high regard.”

I’m rooting for the racing presidents to pull off the repeat. It may be Teddy’s best chance to claim a victory this year.

Photo by flickr member melanie.phung

Teddy Roosevelt Goes 0-for-Pittsburgh

The Washington Nationals’ long road trip started off with a whimper, as the team took just 1 of 3 games this week vs. the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Washington Nationals Racing President Teddy Roosevelt at PNC Park in PittsburghIt was however a slightly more successful series if measured in terms of fan goodwill. The rivaly between the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates falls somewhere between benign and nonexistent, so this year the teams decided to inject a little extra fun into the contest by sending mascots to the other team’s stadium.

After hosting the Pirates’ Racing Pierogies at Nationals Park in May, the Nationals visited Pittsburgh’s PNC Park this week with members of the Nat Pack in tow, including racing presidents George, Tom, Abe, and Teddy.

After Teddy’s disastrous turn running anchor for the presidents in relay races against the pierogies in games 1 and 2, the mascots hung up the cleats for game three today and just entertained the fans.

Kudos to Stan Kasten and the Nats organization for spreading the goodwill and putting the presidents on the road. I hope we get to see more of this type of reciprocity with other teams around the league.

Just keep the Phillie Phanatic out of Nationals Park.

Photo courtesy of Angela Calo

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