Nationals 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.
As 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!”
Kasten 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 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?
The 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…