“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

Nationals new racing president: William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft is the Washington Nationals’ new racing president, joining George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt in the team’s fourth-inning presidents race.

Nationals Racing President William Howard TaftThe peerless Dan Steinberg broke the story for The Washington Post late Friday, in advance of the team’s official announcement planned for today at NatsFest, the Nationals’ mid-winter fan festival at the DC Convention Center. “Bill,” as the Nats will call him, will make his official appearance at 2:15pm.

Taft, who also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has been nicknamed “Big Chief” by the Nats brass. A Twitter account appeared Friday evening at @NatsBigChief27, signaling the prominent role the team plans for him in social media. He is just the second racing president to have his own Twitter account.

Taft had been pegged as a 35-to-1 longshot on this page just this morning, but apparently Teddy Roosevelt himself made the decision to go with the notoriously obese Republican who succeeded him as president.

“Teddy has handpicked the next president for the Presidents’ Race,” Nationals COO Andy Feffer told Steinberg. “There was a great amount of banter and discussion back and forth, but Teddy won out with his recommendation.”

If Big Bill is to in fact displace Teddy as a fan favorite, it would not be the first time that Roosevelt hand-picked his successor. At the beginning of his second term, Roosevelt tapped the former judge to be his Secretary of War, then four years later campaigned aggressively for Taft and helped hand him the White House.

It wasn’t long, however, before Roosevelt concluded that Taft had abandoned his progressive ideals, and became one of President Taft’s most vocal critics. Roosevelt ultimately formed the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party to run against his former colleague.

Looks like more than enough fodder for 4th-inning antics to come. Photos to follow.

Nats say presidents race move wasn’t to avoid foul play

The Nats are saying Thursday’s surprise change in direction of the opening day presidents race was not designed to avoid foul play by the likes of Jayson Werth, according to a report this morning by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.

The source said that the team plans to alternate which side of the field the presidents run on, a strategy that’s equally likely to confound any sabotage plans, and anybody else who wants to (ahem) cheer and/or photograph the finish line.

Steinberg is a close follower of the Let Teddy Win movement, and thank goodness, because the Post gets messages returned a lot faster than the rest of us. LTW’s inquiries about future plans for the race were not answered.

UPDATE: Soon after this posted, I heard back from a Nats spokesperson who wanted to point out that Thursday was not the first time that the Presidents have run that path. “We like to keep fans on their toes and mix the race up from game to game, depending on what works best,” she said. When had they run that path before? On the final race of the 2011 season.

Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page

Dan Steinberg explains why Teddy’s going to win on Monday

Could Monday be the day we’ve all anticipating — even begging for — for nearly five years?

In tonight’s Sports Bog over at washingtonpost.com, the always-on-the-ball Dan Steinberg spells out ten reasons why Teddy Roosevelt could win the presidents race on Memorial Day.

In addition to the vocal opinions of Jayson Werth and the reactions we’ve chronicled here, Steinberg points out many other reasons it makes sense for the team from a Marketing standpoint to let Teddy win on Memorial Day.

I’ll add another: It could take an event of Great Bull Moose proportions to steal the thunder from Roy Halladay and the Phillies.

Whatever happens at Nationals Park tomorrow, I know I’ll be there to see it. Here’s hoping FP’s prediction comes true.

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