Teddy Roosevelt pulls the rug out from racing presidents on opening day

Teddy Roosevelt pulls the rug from racing presidentsTeddy Roosevelt wins opening day presidents race nationals racingOn a blustery opening day at Nationals Park, Teddy Roosevelt sent a message to his fellow Nats racing presidents, pulling a new trick out of his sleeve to run away with the first presidents race of the 2016 season.

The commanders-in-chief were greeted by a new Nats HD introduction video, after which Roosevelt appeared first from the center field gate. Teddy laid a welcome rug out for his fellow presidents, but as they entered the field, he pulled the rug out from under them, causing an outfield pile up.

Teddy dashed ahead unopposed, celebrating as he crossed the finish line. For now, Roosevelt can enjoy the rare distinction of being undefeated atop the presidents race standings.

Video for LetTeddyWin.com by lfahome

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.

IMG_6128

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

IMG_6130

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

IMG_6131

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).

IMG_6126

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.

IMG_6122

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

IMG_6123

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.

IMG_6125

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.

IMG_6140

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.

IMG_6143

The new racing president throw blanket

IMG_6141

The new racing president throw blanket

IMG_6142

New racing president patches

IMG_6144

Racing president hats

Abe Lincoln baseball cap

Racing president hats

IMG_6147

Racing president pennant

Teddy Roosevelt Magnet

New racing president magnets

Nationals presidents race to opening day, Abe gets endorsement from Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie endorses Abe Lincoln Washington Nationals Racing PresidentsIf you haven’t been following the Washington Nationals racing presidents on social media, this week wouldn’t be a bad time to start. Teddy Roosevelt and his big-headed compatriots  are making daily appearances around the DC area as part of a countdown to opening day campaign, and giving prizes to folks who show up and share on social media. More importantly, following their “workouts” has been pretty entertaining (in between they’ve even been sharing some classic GIFs from this website).

The presidents have conducted workouts at the Lincoln Memorial, National Harbor, and Farragut Square, and made appearances at a DC United match, a Navy baseball game (where Abe picked up an endorsement from NJ governor Chris Christie), the White House Easter Egg Roll, and the Maryland Police Academy. On Thursday, they’ll be at TC Williams High School, and Sunday at a University of Maryland baseball game. In between, they’ll be holding exhibition races at Nationals Park on Friday and Saturday.

Some highlights:

 

Photo:Joshua McKerrow/The Baltimore Sun

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.

For the First Time, Teddy Talks

Washington Nationals racing president Teddy RooseveltIn what appears to be a presidents race first, Washington Nationals racing president Teddy Roosevelt has given an interview to Chris Cwik of Yahoo’s Big League Stew, making this the first time since the Nats’ presidents appeared on the scene ten years ago that any of them has spoken.

In the interview, published on Presidents Day, Teddy says he’s “much better prepared for this season than I have ever been before.” He discusses his offseason film study, two-a-day workouts, and his ambitions to win the presidents race belt back from Abe Lincoln.

He also mentions his fear of the Easter Bunny.

As for the curse some fans attribute to him, he’s not buying it. “…if there a connection between how I do and the team, I don’t see it, we both have our sights set on giving everything we got to win.”

%d bloggers like this: