Sunday, January 25, 2009
"Isn't this wonderful?" asked The African Queen.
"Amazing turnout," exclaimed Team President Stan Kasten as Sohna and I ran into him inside Diamond Club at Nationals Park this afternoon. "Imagine how many MORE would have shown up if we had LOST MORE THAN 102 GAMES LAST SEASON!!?? (Smiling Broadly--Joking) He wasn't far from the truth. For the headcount for today's Inaugural NatsFest held by Our Washington Nationals reached well into the thousands. So many fans showed up this cold Sunday at The South Capitol Street Ballpark, security staff had to open additional gates to move patrons more quickly through The Centerfield Gates.
"You realize you could extend the program a few more hours and most everyone would stay?" I mentioned to Mr. Kasten.
"Yes," he replied. "Not only that, but we now know that we can expand this and make it even better. This is a far better turnout than we ever expected. I am really pleased with not only this NatsFest, but all of our Winter Caravans over the past few days. Great turnouts everywhere. Just Great!!
Honestly, there was so much to do and see throughout the four hour NatsFest at Nationals Park today. So much so, it was impossible to do it all. Autographs & Photos with players, Hit in The Batting Cage, Questions and Answers with Front Office and Baseball Experts, as well as, even the opportunity to audition for MASN's 2009 Nats Baseball Commercials. Mr. Kasten rolling his eyes and shaking his head in wonder upon seeing a portion of my performance. Honestly, once inside the ballpark a plethora of activities awaited. And nothing better for us then relaxing inside The Home Clubhouse of Our Washington Nationals.
Along with Original Section 320 Friends, Julie & Troy, we decided to enjoy the comforts of Our Home Team's Lounge Chairs. They were mighty comfortable. Feet up, head back, watching Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes interview Jim Bowden in one of the scheduled Q & A's inside Diamond Club--I even had time for a short snooze. Fabulous. Then, we all headed over to Ryan Zimmerman's Locker for the obligatory picture before exiting and touring elsewhere. Of all the different opportunities awaiting any fan today--this simple moment--visiting the clubhouse was our favorite. That is one terrific home dressing room--very special.
In the four hours aloted to enjoy what NatsFest had to offer today, we had to choose wisely and plan accordingly, to make the most of the opportunity. We are not big autograph fans, so we passed on player signings in The Stars & Stripes Club. Good thing we did, because the lines at one point with Our Manager Manny Acta, Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen were extraordinarily long snaking throughout the third level of the ballpark--and this was not even 30 minutes since the gates opened for entry.
So we all headed up stairs to the 4th level suites were few happened to be in line early for photos with our players. Willie Harris and Elijah Dukes were first up for us and we quickly moved from them over to another suite to find Terrell Young and Garrett Mock. "What a surprise to see you two!!" stated Mock upon seeing us walk into the room. "Terrell lets take a break now." (Joking) Garrett Mock's pretty cool in our book, very engaging and extremely friendly.
Not one hour later, in the exact same spot, the lineup to take a photo with Our Franchise Player Ryan Zimmerman was, as one usher stated: "From here to The U.S. Capitol!!" He also wasn't far from the truth. Does Our Number 11 EVER draw a crowd.
Probably one of the least visited, but most educational events of the day was The Negro League Baseball Players and Memorabilia on display, some for sale, on the third base side of The Stars & Stripes Club. Former players Al Burrows, Jimmy Bland, Bert Simmons and Ray Banks were nothing short of fascinating to meet & greet. We must have spent a good 30 minutes there chatting up the guys and talking with Ray about his wonderful collection of Negro League Artifacts & History. They were a lot of fun.
Comments mentioned to Sohna and I as we passed friends and readers of Nats320:
"This is just great!!"
"What a wonderful time we are having."
"The Nationals really did this right!!"
And yeah, we also believe Our Washington Nationals did a good job. People were enjoying baseball on a cold, wintry day. You could visibly see the smiles and the fun many were having. No, it was impossible to do everything--but that was not the point. The idea was enjoy the day.
NatsFest 2009 was extremely entertaining.
In fact, when Sohna, Julie, Troy & I took in the final Q & A of the day with Mr. Kasten, Our General Manager Jim Bowden, Asst. GM Mike Rizzo and Our Manager Manny Acta you could see that no fan really wanted to leave. If Our Washington Nationals had truly extended the hours--maybe we might all still be at Nationals Park right now.
Of course, The African Queen and I ran into many old friends, met some new ones and were quite pleased with the plethora of Nats320 readers that made the effort to stop us, say hello, and thank us for our efforts. We really appreciated your kindness.
Other activities included The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Silent Auction for memorabilia and their special Curly "W" Ties--all proceeds going to The Dream Foundation Charities. Although we only attended the final Q & A of the afternoon, Our Washington Nationals set the format up so that you could see and hear Charlie's Guests most anywhere inside the ballpark on the various monitors and speakers. With that as a option, Sohna and I passed on those sessions to concentrate of other activities. So, if you attended the George Will, JimBo, Manny Acta or Phil Wood Sessions--please let us know in the comments section what intrigued you the most about those appearances. Our understanding was that Mr. Will and Phil were outstanding.
If anyone deserves to have a pre-game/post-game show concentrating on Our Washington Nationals--it's got to be Phil Wood--universally appreciated. In fact, that picture just above is Sohna and I with Phil and Hank Thomas--Walter Johnson's Grand Son.
NatsFest was free for Season Ticket Holders.
NatsFest had Free Parking.
NatsFest had a ton of things to do and see.
NatsFest 2009, as Sohna mentioned to Stan Kasten at the top of this post--Was Wonderful!!
We enjoyed every minute.
Let's do it again in 2010--next time even Bigger--and Even Better!!
And one final thought--if today proved anything, it's that Our Washington Nationals DO have a fan base. A solid one. A population that appreciates the team. Sohna and I might have enjoyed experiencing that joy more than anything else.
Yes, NatsFest made for a very good day.
PS--Of course The African Queen and I still hadn't received our fill of Nationals Baseball this Sunday at the conclusion of NatsFest. We immediately jumped into our car shortly after 5PM and headed out to Fairfax, Virginia for The Potomac Nationals Hot Stove Banquet where My Favorite Player Of All Time!! Frank Howard was headlining. No way I am going to miss out on "HONDO". The P-Nats had invited us.
Much more on that event coming tomorrow.
All Photos--Copyright Nats320