A birds-eye view of the presidents race

Abe Lincoln extended his winning streak to 4 games at Nationals Park Saturday night, as the Let Teddy Win blog was invited once again to take part in the team’s semi-annual blogger’s night.

Nationals Park video control room

Live coverage of the presidents race from the Nationals Park video control room

For most of the bloggers in attendance, the highlights were likely the myriad interview opportunities with Nats players and management, and the opportunity to cover the game from the press box; but for this Presidents Race Fan, the high point was reporting on the race from the video control room high atop Nationals Park, where the magic is created for the stadium’s live HD scoreboard.

Nationals Park PA Announcer Jerome Hruska calls the presidents race

And the winner is... Abe!!!

It’s safe to say that Nats Park regulars would be blown away by the sheer number of people and skill required to deliver the elaborate graphics and live in-stadium coverage of every race; and speaking of that coverage, those who believe the play-by-play is all scripted need only watch Nationals PA Announcer Jerome Hruska call it live as the race unfolds on the field below.

Unfortunately, down on the field it was deja vu for Teddy fans, as Roosevelt took a huge lead before his glasses fell off, and Abe Lincoln came from behind to win for the 4th night in a row. George Washington fell into the Geico Gecko at the finish line, marking the first time in presidents race history that the sponsor was taken down.

Before the game, I had a chance to speak to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who guaranteed that he’d be behind the plate for Stephen Strasburg’s debut on Tuesday night. With 3 networks covering and over 200 press credentials issued, the buzz is building for that sellout game. Up in the press box, there was much speculation that Tuesday could be the night for Teddy to end his streak. We can only hope…

A special thanks to Nationals Senior Manager of New Media Chad Kurz for arranging the day.

Here’s the race as seen from the stands, courtesy of YouTube member lfahome:

And here’s the race as edited live in the booth and called by Jerome:

“That Cat” adds to a night of Nationals Park oddities

On a night that featured both a triple play and an inside-the-park home run, oddities seemed to be the order of the day on Wednesday as the Nats returned to Nationals Park to kick off a homestand vs. the New York Mets.

That Cat tackles Abe Lincoln, photo by Tom BridgeOff the field, TV chef and cookbook author Paula Deen offered to cook Nationals mascot Screech before throwing out the first pitch, and the racing presidents ran a rare relay race; but fans of the presidents know that when it’s time to kick things up a notch in the oddities department, nothing tops an appearance by “That Cat”.

The man-sized panther, who last appeared during an exhibition game in April, showed up to once again disrupt the presidents’ rhythm, this time as Abe Lincoln & Teddy Roosevelt formed a relay team vs. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

In the 4th-inning race, Teddy started out strong and handed the lead to Lincoln, running anchor. Abe looked like a sure winner, but he was ambushed by That Cat, who lept from the stands along the first base line to make a flying tackle.

George, running anchor for Tom, high-stepped to an easy victory.

Photos by flickr member tbridge.

More from Let Teddy Win Night at Nationals Park

Cathy over at WeLoveDC.com has a terrific recap of Let Teddy Win Night, including some fantastic and funny photos by Chris Rief.

After reading the article, click through to Chris’s Flickr photostream for a great slide show that’s also a wonderful tribute to Nationals Park.

Photo by Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie

Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke makes MSN’s “Home Run Hot Dogs” list

Yesterday MSN’s Delish.com published it’s list of Home-Run Hot Dogs: The Best Dogs from America’s Baseball Stadiums, and cracking the top 24 was our own Nationals Park Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smoke, “All the Way,” of course.

I’ve written in praise of the Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke before. It was nice to see it crack the list, but it definitely deserved a spot higher than #22. Writer Kiri Tannenbaum chose to give higher billing to a variety of dogs topped with oddities like blue cheese, bacon, brisket, tortilla strips, and even mayonnaise.

Comments are open, if you’d like to let Kiri know what you think.

Flickr photo by Steve Masters

Some cheers and a few jeers for the new food options at Nationals Park

When the Washington Nationals brought in the Levy Restaurant group to replace Centerplate a year ago, expectations were high for a major improvement in concession variety and service.

Perhaps they needed a year to get their bearings, because Levy has followed the incremental changes of 2009 with a number of very large wholesale changes for the 2010 season that begins today at Nationals Park.

THE GOOD

Nationals Park Red Porch RestaurantRed Porch Expansion. Rows of seats were removed to create more in-stadium dining tables for the centerfield Red Porch restaurant, and the menu was expanded to include new items like a Southwestern Steak Salad that’s big enough for two. You can reserve one of these tables in centerfield for one hour of any game during the season by calling 202.640.7947. [2011 UPDATE: The Red Porch no longer takes reservations.]

Flippin PizzaNo more Papa Johns. Since RFK days, Nats fans — especially Nats fans with kids — have suffered with tiny, doughy, Papa John’s mini pizzas, while Club level ticketholders enjoyed the option of Flippin’ Pizza slices.

Thankfully, Papa Johns has been banished from Nationals Park, replaced by Flippin Pizza stands selling actual slices on every level of the Park (behind Sections 115, 214, and 311).

Nationals Victory Knot PretzelVictory Knot Pretzel. Only available in the Red Loft, this popular item imported from other stadiums where Levy runs concessions is a 2 pound pretzel in a pizza box with three sauces for dipping — a sweet cinnamon creme, a spicy chipotle honey mustard, and savory beer cheese. You definitely want to share this item.

Healthy Cart. Give the Nats high marks for listening and trying. Fans on restricted diets, or who just want to eat healthy — even at a ball park — will find gluten free items, chopped vegetable salads, low fat wraps, and yogurt parfaits at this cart which moved to a better spot on the very busy main concourse behind the 3rd base stands. Alas, on Saturday afternoon, when the lines were 15 minutes deep at every concession stand from hot dogs to beer, the Healthy Cart was the only visible vendor in the Park with no waiting.

THE BAD

Ridiculous waits. You really want to cut these people some slack since it’s the beginning of the season, but 2 years of experience tells us not to chalk this up to “working the bugs out.” As in previous years, we saw people reach the front of the line and still have to wait 5 minutes for simple food orders while a more-than-capacity staff stood around waiting for the next guy to fill the order.

Hard Times Cafe at Nationals ParkReally, people. The limited menu at your food stand is designed to keep things efficient and fast. So why do I wait several minutes for a hot dog after I’ve reached the front of the line? A notable exception continues to be the Hard Times Cafe concession, where every employee seems to understand why they are there, and the line always flies.

Signage.The menu signage continues to prioritize adherence to corporate design standards over actual usefulness. The reimagined Taste of the Majors stand is a case in point. Gone are the wonderful garlic fries and other goodies from major league parks. Now pretty much all they sell is foot-long hot dogs. The menu, unfortunately, lists “DC Dog,” “Phillies Dog,” “Braves Dog,” “Mets Dog”… You can wait in line for 15 minutes to get to the front before finding out what the difference is between these various foot longs. By the 4th inning of the exhibition game, the staff had already given up on explaining the menu, and was just asking people when they got to the front what they wanted on their hot dogs.

Bottomless popcorn. A new gimmick this year is the Bottomless Popcorn available at any Nats Dog stand. For $5.75, you can get a huge bucket of popcorn — enough to make anybody sick. For $7.00, you can get the “Bottomless Popcorn,” which comes with free refills throughout the game. The catch? You can keep coming back for refills, but the Bottomless bucket is about 1/3 the size of the regular-sized bucket. Is this a smart way to please your customers and keep lines short? Adding insult to injury: my sister just asked for the smallest size popcorn, and was sold the bottomless variety.

Nationals Park Chicken & Waffle sandwichThe Chicken and Waffle Sandwich. OK, I’ll admit I haven’t tried it, but I really am scared of this thing. Available at the new Change Up Chicken stand behind Section 130 on the main concourse, it features fried chicken on top of waffles, covered in syrup. Defibrillator not included.

Running out of food. When you charge $11 for a sandwich or $9 for a hot dog, I assume your margins are high enough to account for a little waste, so it’s really frustrating when you run out of food in the 5th inning. The Dupont Deli behind section 227 used to have some very nice salads, but notoriously was supplied with only 4 or 5 of them to last the whole game. This year, the salads have been replaced with hot panini sandwiches — grilled cheese, italian, or turkey. They were out of grilled cheese before Saturday’s game even started.

Nats lose. Teddy disqualified. Good thing this was an exhibition.

A huge crowd filled Nationals Park for this afternoon’s game between the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox. The year’s only exhibition game in DC was meant to be a final warm-up for the season that starts Monday. Nats fans were simply grateful that this one didn’t count.

With Craig Stammen spotting Boston an early lead, and Tim Wakefield shutting down the Nats on the field, the faithful looked to the 4th-inning presidents race for signs that 2010 would be different.

Instead, what transpired suggested that the conspiracy that continues to deny Teddy Roosevelt his first presidents race victory is alive and well.

Teddy had raced out to an early lead over the other presidents when That Cat, who has foiled Teddy numerous times in the past, appeared from the centerfield fence. Chasing down the presidents, the Cat tackled Abe, Tom, and George in succession, but ran into a stiff-arm from Teddy Roosevelt.

Teddy held off That Cat, pushing him to the ground just before crossing the finish line, but Screech stepped in and immediately disqualified Teddy for “unnecessary roughness.” For the first time ever, That Cat was declared the presidents race winner.

Video courtesy of YouTube member lfahome

Dave Matthews Band coming to Nationals Park

Dave Matthews Band will perform at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on July 23, 2010Dave Matthews Band will perform at Nationals Park on July 23, as part of its tour for the its album, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”. They are joined on the tour by Zac Brown Band.

The Washington Nationals announced the concert today. Tickets and parking will go on sale to the general public on Friday, February 26 at 10:00 a.m. through tickets.com.

This is the 2nd concert in Nationals Park history, following last year’s successful Billy Joel and Elton John concert.

Photo by Flickr member Dena Flows

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