Taft “retiring” to Palm Beach as well, leaving original Rushmore racing presidents at Nationals Park

Nationals New Racing President William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft is introduced to Nats fans in 2013

Washington Nationals racing president William Howard Taft will arrive this weekend at the Ball Park of the Palm Beaches and stay for good, joining the other “retired” racing presidents Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge in their new home in West Palm Beach.

According to a report in the The Palm Beach Post, the Nats have made the decision to “retire” Taft as well, leaving just the original Mount Rushmore Four — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt — to race at Nationals Park during the Major League season.

The four were the only racing presidents for the beter part of seven seasons before Taft joined the presidents race in 2013. The addition of Taft was intended to “mix things up,” according to a marketing executive who is no longer with the team.

Teddy Roosevelt could not be reached for comment.

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Nationals 2017 Promotion Schedule: Fewer Bobbleheads, more special events, plus action figures, snow globes and more

nationals-magic-8-ball-promotion

As promised, the Washington Nationals revealed their 2017 promotion/giveaway schedule this morning, and while there are many creative new promotions in store, it was surprisingly bereft of the bobblehead dolls that trea-turner-bobbleheadchewbacca-koozie-washington-nationalswashington-nationals-fedoraso many fans look forward to annually.

Previous years have featured as many as six or seven bobblehead giveaways. In 2017, there will be only three: Daniel Murphy (April 14), Trea Turner (May 12) and pitcher Tanner Roark (June 9).

Starters who’ve never had a bobblehead doll, including Adam Eaton, Joe Ross, and Anthony Rendon, will have to wait for another season.

Bryce Harper, who’s had his share of bobbleheads, will be honored this season with a Starting Lineup Action Figure on August 29.

The schedule features a whopping two dozen promotions that require a special ticket purchase, such as Yoga in the Outfield, college days, Ladies Night, Pups in the Park, and Teacher Appreciation days. Such events have been hugely popular in the past and are clearly the focus of a Nationals marketing team looking to bring new audiences to Nationals Park.

New giveaways of note include the opening day Magic 8 Ball (April 3) and Nationals Fedora (July 26) that had previously been revealed, plus a Max Scherzer snow globe (May 24), a Chewbacca Koozie for Star Wars day (May 27), a Flag Day patriotic tank top (June 14),  a kids’ coloring book (July 30), and a beer stein for Oktoberfest (September 29).

It is expected that Signature Sundays and Kids Run the Bases will return on Sundays, though the Nationals did not announce those dates yet as part of the official calendar.

Likewise, no Nats Postgame Live concerts have been announced.

 

Known dates are below. Items noted with an * require a special ticket, even if you are a season plan holder. Any additional promotions will be updated here as they are announced:

2017 Washington Nationals
Promotion / Giveaway Schedule

Date/Time Opponent Promotion
Mon 4/3 MIA Nats Magic 8 Ball (20,000 fans)
Tue 4/11 STL Blossoms and Baseball
Wed 4/12 STL Military Appreciation Day
$1 Hot Dogs
Fri 4/14 PHI Daniel Murphy Bobblehead (25,000 fans)
Sat 4/15 PHI Scout Day
Jackie Robinson Day
Sun 4/16 PHI Easter Egg Hunt*
Kids Opening Day
Screech’s Birthday
Sat 4/29 NYM Pups in the Park
Sun 4/30 NYM Youth Baseball & Softball Day
Tue 5/2 ARI Irish Heritage Day*
Wed 5/3 ARI U.S. Navy Day
Thu 5/4 ARI Weather Day*
Fri 5/12 PHI Trea Turner Bobblehead (25,000 fans)
Nurses Appreciation Day
Teacher Appreciation Day
Sat 5/13 PHI Pups in the Park
Sun 5/14 PHI Mother’s Day Carnation (5,000 fans)
Mother’s Day Brunch*
Wed 5/24 SEA Max Scherzer Snow Globe (25,000 fans)
Thu 5/25 SEA Federal Workforce Day
Sat 5/27 SDG Star Wars Day
Chewbacca Koozie 
(25,000 fans)
Sun 5/28 SDG Memorial Day Observance
Yoga in the Outfield*
Fri 6/9 TEX Tanner Roark Bobblehead (25,000 fans)
Sat 6/10 TEX Pups in the Park
Scout Day
Mon 6/12 ATL U.S. Army Day
$1 Ice Cream
Tue 6/13 ATL LGBT Night Out
Wed 6/14 ATL Flag Day Tank Top (25,000 fans Age 21+)
Sat 6/24 CIN College Day*
Seniors Stroll the Bases
Sun 6/25 CIN Pups in the Park
Your Baseball & Softball Day
Mon 6/26 CHI Champions Day
Mon 7/3 NYM Postgame Fireworks
Tue 7/4 NYM Independence Day
Thu 7/6 ATL Neighborhood Day
Sat 7/6 ATL Taste of the World*
Sun 7/7 ATL College Day*
Tue 7/25 MIL U.S. Marine Corps Day
Teacher Appreciation Day*
Wed 7/26 MIL Nationals Fedora (25,000 fans)
Thu 7/27 MIL Camp Day*
Sat 7/29 COL Ladies Night*
Sun 7/30 COL Kids Coloring Book (10,000 fans Age 12 & under)
Mon 8/7 MIA U.S. Coast Guard Day
$1 Ice Cream
Tue 8/8 MIA College Day*
Thu 8/10 MIA B1G Ten Night*
Fri 8/11 SFG ’90s Night
Sat 8/12 SFG Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Day
Sun 8/13 SFG Firefighter Appreciation Day
Scout Day
Tue 8/15 LAA Tote Bag (25,000 fans)
College Day*
Fri 8/25 NYM National Park Service Day*
Sat 8/26 NYM Faith Day*
Sun 8/27 NYM Jewish Community Day*
Tue 8/29 MIA Bryce Harper Starting Lineup Action Figure (25,000 fans)
Wed 8/30 MIA Seniors Stroll the Bases
Thu 9/7 PHI Pups in the Park
Sat 9/9 PHI Champions Day
Sun 9/10 PHI Patriotic Series: Heroes Day
Yoga in the Outfield*
Tue 9/12 ATL College Day*
Wed 9/13 ATL $1 Hot Dogs
Thu 9/14 ATL College Day*
Sun 9/17 LAD U.S. Air Force Day
Scout Day*
Fri 9/29 PIT Oktoberfest: Beer Stein (25,000 fans)
Teacher Appreciation Day*
Sat 9/30 PIT Pups in the Park
Sun 10/1 PIT Youth Baseball & Softball Day*
Youth Soccer Day*

Bobblehead, fedora, and koozie photo courtesy Washington Nationals

“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.

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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

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

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The new racing president throw blanket

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The new racing president throw blanket

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New racing president patches

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Racing president hats

Abe Lincoln baseball cap

Racing president hats

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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.

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