“Chaos” described as Nationals Park stops restricting fan movement during play [UPDATED]

As first reported by the intrepid Dan Steinberg at The Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog, the Washington Nationals have instituted a policy change for Nationals Park beginning with the current homestand.

Nationals Park Usher Signs StoppageNationals Park Usher Policy Stop Sign In PlayAbout 5 years ago, ushers assigned to the entrance of each section were issued red stop signs saying “Please wait for a stop in play,” as part of a new policy that restricted fans from entering their ticketed sections whenever a batter was in the batters box.

The policy was heralded by many season plan holders — particularly those whose seats were near aisles, with views that had been obstructed by constant fan movement.

However, the policy had also angered fans whose movement was restricted.

As somebody who has visited the park often with children (who tend to “need to go” more often then some of us), and who visits the presidents race finish line at every game, I regularly witnessed unfair levels of anger directed at ushers by uninitiated fans carrying arms full of hot dogs and melting ice cream.

Ushers also have had to hold back crowds so deep that most couldn’t see the field at all or understand why the line wasn’t moving, because a slow-working pitcher and a batter repeatedly adjusting his gloves were leading to at-bats approaching ten minutes in length.

Most major league ball parks do not have such a policy, but it wasn’t unique to Nationals Park, and while some fans have expressed anger about the change, the team is mum on the reason behind it. Rather than share their opinions, ushers have been asked to direct all comments to service@nationals.com; but as Steinberg reports and others have confirmed, the first two nights of the new non-policy have been described as “chaos” by some and have led to many complaints.

Nationals Park is known for it’s excellent site lines from all seats, but this policy change has clearly added a premium to those without an aisle between the seat and the infield.

UPDATE: Unconfirmed reports from Nationals Park suggest that the policy change was mandated by Major League Baseball representatives who visited the park this week. Only a handful of teams had such a policy.

For what it’s worth, it’s apparent that the new policy means that ushers at section entrances can no longer pay any attention to the game. With a continuous  stream of fans, those ushers must keep their backs to the field full time now.

Top Photo: Washington Post

New safety netting, food, in-game entertainment, and racing presidents merch among changes at Nationals Park in 2016 (photos)

Washington Nationals fans and players gave several changes to the Nationals Park experience a test run on Friday as the Nationals played the first of two preseason exhibition games against the Minnesota Twins in advance of Monday’s season opener in Atlanta.

Among the most talked-about changes was the new safety netting strung from section 116 to 129 above the team dugouts (I previously wrote about its anticipated impact on the fan experience). Fans behind the dugouts, who had enjoyed eight seasons of unobstructed interaction with players, will now view the game from behind a high protective net. An informal survey of fan reactions ranged from “awful” (from fans in the first few rows) to “not as bad as I thought” from fans who sit further back.

New netting at Washington Nationals Park baseball stadium

New netting stretches above the dugout from section 116 to 129

New netting at Washington Nationals Park baseball stadium

Fans in the best seats will find their perspective affected the most

At its debut Friday night, the net certainly caught both fans and players by surprise. Many children behind the dugout followed a tradition of bringing baseball gloves to the game, and — oblivious to the net between them — screamed for players to toss them a ball at every half inning. Sadder still, a few players throughout the night forgot and tried, leading the ball to either bounce back onto the field or fall into the dugout. Old habits die hard.

Between innings, Nats fans will find that in-game host Michael Ploger has been replaced by a fresh young face named Derek. Ploger moved on to a new career as a sports reporter.

Nationals Park in-stadium host

As part of a new sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch, the former Miller Lite Scoreboard walk has been rechristened the Budweiser Terrace. On game days, from the time the gates open until 30 minutes before first pitch, beers at the Budweiser Terrace bar will be $5.


The Red Loft has been renamed the Bud Light Loft, and the adjacent Beer Pen hospitality area is now the Budweiser Swing Big Beer Pen


The Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk has been renamed the Budweiser Terrace and new signage carries a “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” theme


Extended song lyrics are painted on the terrace steps

Food concession changes for 2016 are relatively few compared to previous years. The always-crowded Shake Shack on the terrace has been doubled in size, taking over the adjacent space once occupied by sister chain El Verano Taqueria (El Verano moves to a small freestanding kiosk nearby).


Shake Shack has doubled in size to handle the inexplicably long lines

The Nationals’ off-season “pitch your product” contest resulted in two new food concessions. On the main concourse behind left field, Haute Dogs and Fries replaces original Nats Park vendor Hard Times Cafe. Goodbye Cincinnati Chili. Hello hot dogs with toppings like New York Reuben and Vietnamese Banh Mi, plus lamb sliders and tater tots.


Haute Dogs and Fries replaces longtime Nationals Park vendor Hard Times Cafe (the awning touting wings and nachos will presumably be replaced soon)


The Banh Mi Hot Dog at Haute Dogs and Fries

The other local winner, Pinch Dumpling, is up on the Gallery level, as part of a conscious effort to bring more exclusive food items to the fans in 300- and 400-level seats. The steamed or fried beef, pork, or vegetable dumplings should be a welcome addition, though I’m worried that with a price of $10 for six dumplings, its location behind the $5 Grandstand seats might not be the smartest real estate decision.

Pinch Dumplings Nationals Park

Pinch Dumplings debuted Saturday on the Gallery level behind section 302

Pinch Dumplings - Nationals Park Washington

Six Dumplings from Pinch Dumplings include your choice of side (such as slaw) for $10

Across from Pinch, two new concessions by DC restaurateur Mike Isabella are expected to open on April 7: Catchfly will feature Southern-style food such as ribs, coleslaw, popcorn chicken and waffle fries. Kapnos at the Park will have gyros, falafel, cheese steaks, fried Greek potatoes and hummus.

Mike Isabella Catchfly Kitchen and Kapnos at Nationals Park

Two new concepts by DC chef Mike Isabella, Kapnos at the Park and Catchfly Kitchen, will open on the Gallery level when the regular season begins

Wondering where your jerk chicken went? After two seasons next to the Nationals Park Kids Zone, Jammin’ Island BBQ has moved back upstairs to a cart next to the Bud Light Loft. Its previous location will be something called “MLB Knockout,” presumably an extension of the Kids Zone.


Nursing mothers at last have an air conditioned private lounge at Nationals Park that even includes play space for toddlers. The new Lansinoh Nursing Mothers Lounge opened late last season and is located on the mezzanine at section 223.

Nursing Mothers Lounge section 223

The new Lansinoh Nursing Mothers Lounge on the mezzanine level (Photo: JDLand)

Splurging for PNC Diamond Club tickets? A complete renovation of exclusive dining area and lounge behind homeplate has dramatically expanded its capacity. The facility was stripped of most baseball memorabilia and expanded to two levels that appear to be jam-packed with chairs and tables. The expense account crowd might feel a little more like cattle with this new setup, but they’re more likely to find a table during rain delays, and the club seating no longer extends to a tent outside the stadium.


For kids of all ages, a new pin trading station has been installed near section 138, where hundreds of pins can be purchased or simply traded, Disney-style.

Pin trading station near section 138

The Nationals pin trading station (Photo: JDLand)

Finally, the Nationals promised better selection and pricing at the Team Stores in 2016, and what better way to expand selection than by introducing a whole section filled with racing president souvenirs. Racing president blankets, racing president patches, racing president hats and t-shirts, racing president magnets, racing president banners, and stuffed presidents are but a few of the souvenir items featuring George, Tom, Abe, Teddy, and Bill.


The new racing president throw blanket


The new racing president throw blanket


New racing president patches


Racing president hats

Abe Lincoln baseball cap

Racing president hats


Racing president pennant

Teddy Roosevelt Magnet

New racing president magnets

Fans choice bobblehead voting now open – Here are the choices

The Washington Nationals have revealed the choices and opened the voting for the “fans choice” bobblehead giveaway scheduled for Friday night, September 9.

Fans can choose from among 30 players, including many who will not likely make the 25-man roster, but NOT third baseman Anthony Rendon (who has previously had a gnome but not a bobblehead).

Choices are Aaron Barrett, Wilmer Difo, Matt Grace, Nick Lee, Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere, Joe Ross, Blake Treinen, Chris Bostick, Stephen Drew, Taylor Jordan, Jose Lobaton, Jonathan Papelbon, Felipe Rivero, Pedro Severino, Trea Turner, AJ Cole, Brian Goodwin, Shawn Kelley, Rafael Martin, Oliver Perez, Tanner Roark, Sammy Solis, Matt den Dekker, Abel De Los Santos, Trevor Gott, Spencer Keiboom, Tyler Moore, Yusmeiro Petit, Clint Robinson, and Michael A. Taylor.

The wide variety of choices is great, but the huge number of options mean a likely free-for-all in which 10% of the votes may be more than enough to win. With only 24 hours to vote, there may not be much time for lobbying by the players. Here’s hoping most votes are limited to likely big leaguers such as Murphy, Revere, Ross, Lobaton, Rivero, Papelbon, Turner, den Dekker, Robinson, and Moore.

This is the second time the Nationals have run a fans choice bobblehead promotion. The first time was 2014, when fans selected relief pitcher Tyler Clippard over manager Matt Williams and other teammates.

Voting is open now at Nationals.com and ends Friday morning at 10:00am ET.

How new on-field netting will affect fans at Nationals Park

The Washington Nationals announced Thursday that the on-field netting behind home plate will be expanded to surround most of the infield to the outer edges of both dugouts in 2016. The move is in response to new Major League Baseball guidelines regarding field netting, issued in December.

New Nationals Park Net Expanded Infield

The new netting at Nationals Park will extend to the end of each dugout.

Washington Nationals Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman

Fan-player interaction like this will now have to be conducted through a net

Rubber Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman delivers chicken soup to a recovering Ian Desmond

“Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman delivers chicken soup to a recovering Ian Desmond

Foul Ball Nationals Park - by Scott Ableman

Expect fewer balls to be tossed into the stands at Nationals Park

Nat Pack Washington Nationals Park

No word yet on whether the netting will affect the Nat Pack’s ability to interact with fans from atop the dugout

The move means a significant increase in the number of fans at Nationals Park who will must view most of the action through a net. Most obviously affected are fans in sections 127 through 129 along the first baseline, and sections 116 through 118 along the 3rd baseline. However, fans in adjacent sections will also be affected, depending on how far back they sit. It remains to be seen whether the new netting will be high enough to affect fans in the Club level as well.

The impact on the Dugout Box and Infield Box sections will be many:

Fewer autographs. Players have historically stopped to sign autographs well before the game starts. This will presumably be limited now to the outfield foul territory.

Less fan interaction. Nationals players have a history of interacting with fans behind the dugout, most notably “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman, who tosses bubble gum to players and has even been known to bring them chicken soup.

Fewer balls for kids. Players, coaches, and ball boys have always loved tossing balls to kids sitting behind the dugout during each game. The netting will virtually eliminate this.

Better photo equipment required. For fans behind the dugout who like to take photos of the action, an advanced camera lens with manual focus and a very large aperture will be needed to “blur out” the netting.

Millions of blurry photos and videos. Say goodbye to crisp close-up smartphone photos and videos of game-winning at bats. Any camera that relies on auto-focus will inevitably focus on the net, and not the action beyond it.

Fewer goodies? Fans in these sections surely have more than their share of t-shirts by now, but it remains to be seen whether the new netting will interfere with the Nat Pack’s ability to use the top of the dugout for 7th inning stretch, t-shirt tosses, etc.

We’ll look to answer these questions, including how many fans are affected, during the exhibition games before the start of the season.

Photos: The Washington Post, Cheryl Nichols

Nats invite fans to state their case for invitations to a private clubhouse party

Nats Clubhouse SocialIn March of 2015, Nationals Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Valerie Camillo asked her team to identify the Nats fans most deserving of a “thank you” for their support of the team on social media. Barely two dozen received cryptic invitations to what became the first Nats Clubhouse Social, a private party in the Nationals Clubhouse a few days before the start of the season. The evening offered an intimate and exclusive gathering of rabid Nats fans and special guests, including Camillo herself, principal owner Mark Lerner, broadcaster FP Santangelo, the racing presidents, and more.

This year, the Nationals announced via social media that they are repeating the event, and this time asking fans to nominate themselves:

Like the invitation says, get creative, and use hashtag #NatsClubHouseSocial. You have until 5:00pm.

Photos & Video from Star Wars Day at Nationals Park: Jedi Knights, stormtroopers, an epic battle between costumed racing presidents, and Teddy Roosevelt dressed as a Wookie

Sunday was the first Star Wars Day at Nationals Park. The Nats transformed every aspect of the fan experience into an intergalactic voyage, but the hit of the day by far was the Nationals’ racing presidents, who dressed as characters from the movies and were swarmed by the sellout crowd wherever they went.

Despite the brutally hot weather and the 5-0 beating that the team took at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s fair to say that the promotion was a resounding success, though when it came to the 4th-inning presidents race, the Nats forgot two important rules: the good guys always prevail, and you always let the wookie win.

More on that in a moment, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, here without further ado is our photo compendium of the Nats Star Wars Day.

First, representing the evil empire:

Nats racing president “Honest” Abraham Lincoln was Darth Vader (of course):Nationals Star Wars Day Darth Vader Abraham Lincoln

Nats racing president George Washington as Darth Maul:Darth Maul Nationals Star Wars Day

Nats racing president William Howard Taft as Boba Fett:Nationals Star Wars Day Racing Presidents Boba Fett

Next, representing the good guys:

Nats racing president newcomer Calvin Coolidge as Luke Skywalker:Nats Star Wars Day Luke Skywalker Racing Presidents Calvin Coolidge

Nats racing president Thomas Jefferson as, yes, Princess Leia:Nationals Star Wars Day Princess Leia Racing Presidents Jefferson

…and Nats racing president Teddy Roosevelt as Chewbacca the wookie:Nationals Star Wars Day Teddy Roosevelt Chewbacca Wookie

The inspired costume for Teddy was a seeming nod to the Let Teddy Win movement, leading some in the stands to adopt a “Let the Wookie Win” chant during the 4th inning race, a reference to this notable clip:

The costumes certainly didn’t stop with the racing presidents. Actors posing as Luke, Han, Leia and all of your favorite characters were stationed throughout Nationals Park to pose for photos with fans, but the most overwhelming presence was that of the evil empire, which stationed stormtroopers, imperial guards and officers both on and off the field.

Darth Vader makes his entrance:Darth Vader Nationals Star Wars Day

Imperial guards, officers, and stormtroopers:Washington Nationals Park Star Wars Day Costumes

Emperor Palpatine and the evil galactic empire deliver the lineup card for the Dodgers: Nationals Star Wars Day evil dodgers

Bryce Harper is surrounded by Stormtroopers during the national anthem:Nationals Star Wars Day Bryce Harper

R2D2 in the house: Nationals Star Wars Day R2D2

Jedi Master Screech the Eagle: Nationals Star Wars Day Screech

Fans got creative in ways too numerous to mention, and several were selected to go on the field and help introduce the players.

Star Wars Day Nationals Park fans costumes

Nationals Star Wars Day Costumes

Nationals Park Star Wars Day Costumes

On Nats HD, PA announcer Jerome Hruska used a voice filter to sound more like Yoda, and introduced the epic battle to come in classic Star Wars fashion. When it came time to introduce the players, every Dodger was represented as an imperial stormtrooper, while every member of the Nationals was given the hero treatment.

Nationals Park Star Wars Day Scoreboard

Washington Nationals Park Star Wars Day

Nationals Park Star Wars Day Max Scherzer

Finally, there was that matter of the presidents race. The fourth inning ritual started with the famous Star Wars Cantina music, and then pitted the galactic empire against the rebel alliance as Darth Vader (Abe Lincoln), Boba Fett (William Howard Taft), and Darth Maul (George Washington) took on Princess Leia (Thomas Jefferson), Chewbacca (Teddy Roosevelt), and Luke Skywalker (Calvin Coolidge) in a relay race.

Teddy (Chewbacca) handed Coolidge (Skywalker) a big lead in the anchor leg, but George (Darth Maul) passed Cal and engaged him in a light saber battle on the first base line.

Racing Presidents Star Wars Day Luke Skywalker Darth Maul

Cal lost his light saber, George took the win, and in keeping with what transpired on the field, the evil empire prevailed.

Video for LetTeddyWin.com by lfahome

Nationals Park introduces Pepe Food Truck by chef José Andrés

The Nationals’ debuted another new local food option for fans at Nationals Park with the introduction of Pepe Food Truck by celebrity Spanish chef José Andrés.

Jose Andres Pepe Truck Nationals Park

Jose Andres Pepe Truck Nationals Park Pollo Frito

The spicy and rich Pollo Frito at Pepe Food Truck

Jose Andres Pepe Truck Nationals Park Mushroom sandwich

The Elana, featuring Portobello mushrooms and carmelized onions on crispy bread

The truck, named “favorite truck in all of Washington” by Washingtonian Magazine, made its debut inside the right field plaza outside the new team store on Friday night.

Like the popular celebrity sandwich stand G by Mike Isabella on the first base side of the concourse, the small menu features a handful of premium-priced sandwiches with gourmet ingredients.

Pepe by José Andrés stands out from other food options at Nationals Park in three significant ways. First, unlike other sandwich stands in the Park, the sandwiches here are served piping hot. On Friday night, even after a long walk back to the opposite side of the stadium, our sandwiches were hot and toasty, but a welcome departure from the typical pre-made sandwich or frigid bun.

Second, the menu will not be fixed. On Friday night, the four sandwiches included a spicy fried chicken sandwich, a confit chicken breast sandwich with bacon, a rich “sausage burger”, and a dynamite vegetarian sandwich with portabello mushrooms and carmelized onions on a delightfully crispy bun.

Finally, you won’t find Pepe Food Truck at every game. In true food truck fashion, you’ll have to pounce at the opportunity when you see it, because it may be gone the next minute. Pepe won’t be at Nationals Park on Saturday, but they’ll be back for Sunday’s series finale.

Friday’s Menu:

Jose Andres Pepe Truck Nationals Park Menu

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