Tuesday, January 27, 2009

P-Nats Hot Stove Banquet

UPDATE: The Potomac Nationals announced The 14th Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction raised $3100 for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

“There were people concerned when they (The Washington Nationals) first came in they would take fans away from us," stated Art Silber, Owner of The Potomac Nationals. "But it's really almost two different things. The cost factor (to attend any game) is a significant difference. And I really believe that more than anything, the closeness has built up even more fans for us because a lot of the Major League Fans never came to Minor League games. Now, fans do have the opportunity as we always say: ‘See The Future Stars Of The Washington Nationals’."

"We market on that basis and it’s been pretty successful.”

Mr. Silber was standing among a packed house at The Hyatt Fair Lakes in Fairfax, Virginia. Nearly 200 Fans, Boosters and Sponsors of The Potomac Nationals were on hand to celebrate 2008's Carolina League Championship and look forward to another fresh start of young talent coming on board for 2009. Coming right behind Sunday's NatsFest at Nationals Park, January 25th became a Full Baseball Day for The African Queen and I. The 14th Annual Potomac Nationals Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction was in full swing. My Favorite Player Of All Time!! Frank Howard was on hand to engage the crowd, be his usual robust and outgoing self and entertain like not many former baseball players out there. And Bobby Williams, Director of Player Development for Our Washington Nationals was there as well. Mr. Williams giving the gathered P-Nats Fans and Boosters a preview of what to expect at Pfitzer Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia for the 2009 Season.

“Our Scouting Department has done an outstanding job over the past few years. We’ve had two great drafts in ’07 and ’08, "said Bobby Williams. "We are adding talent to this system. Talent which we didn’t have a couple of years ago. And now we have this talent that is down below and moving up. We have earned the right to the number one pick in this year’s draft. We also have the 10th pick overall. So it is really shaping up. It has the chance to be a spectacular draft this year.”

Art Silber agrees: “There is no question the team we had last year and the team will have this year are certainly better than the first (P-Nats) team of four years ago. But at the same time the quality of the coaching, the manager and the scouting has improved dramatically. I think when the new ownership group (The Lerners) came in with Stan Kasten—a person with as much baseball experience as he has and the tremendous success he had with Atlanta—he knew the right formula and he knew which pieces you must have in place to make it happen.”

Throughout the night, guests could bid on Silent Auction Items including the opportunities to be "GM For The Day" for the P-Nats, Or--Announcer at a 2009 Potomac Home Game. But Potomac Nationals items where not the only things available in the wide ranging auction. A Signed Hockey Stick from The Washington Capitals was there for the taking, as well a baseball bat signed by Hall Of Famer Tony Gwynn and another Baseball Package signed by Cal Ripken, Jr. All proceeds going to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

"Hondo" spoke privately with The Booster Club before the main event began, then shook hands and signed autographs for anybody wanting. Later Frank Howard gave his usual funny and self-deprecating speech to the gathering. (We haven't had the time to do the transcript, but here is an audio link courtesy of The Potomac Nationals).

What was clear throughout the evening's event is that the now 5-Year committment to Potomac by Our Washington Nationals is paying off dividends.

Mr. Silber seems very pleased: “This relationship is incredibly important. When you have the opportunity to be affiliated with a ball club that is in your backyard and your fans have the opportunity to see players at early stages of their careers and then maybe two or three years later see them playing in the Major League Ball Park and it’s all local—that’s a tremendous advantage. And certainly, the trend for many of the major league teams in recent years has been to try to have as many of their Minor League Affiliates as close as possible."

And Bobby Williams promised another quality group of young players for The P-Nat Fans in attendance at The Hyatt--Fair Lakes: "We have players down in our system, down below, who are going to be coming through Potomac this year. We’ve moved a lot of prospects up, but we have more players coming and that’s exciting. There will be some quality players here this year, if not at the start of the year, but later in the second half for sure. You can expect another good pitching staff. The rotation right now should have all prospects in it. The lineup is going to be an exciting mix of power and speed. Some guys who can run and some guys who can hit for power. Defensively, we are excited about the players that will be here. It should be a good defensive team. It should be a good group of guys.”

The Potomac Nationals first home game of 2009 is set for April 17th. On that night, attendees will receive a replica Carolina League Championship P-Nats Ring--similar to very ones given to Staff and The Players of The 2008 Carolina League Champions. 2009 Season Tickets are now currently on sale.

PS--I did ask Art Silber about the possibility of The Potomac Nationals getting a new stadium: “I think we are just a victim of the economic environment. Obviously, the county (Prince William) has been incredibly supportive. But they certainly can’t do anything right now. We are waiting any day right now to find out about the naming rights (for Pfitzer Stadium). If the naming rights are sold, we are all set to move ahead.” (and make things happen)

PSS--Mr. Silber who fills in as First Base Coach for The Potomac Nationals during each season, stated his goal is to become the very last person in Professional Baseball to wear jersey number 42--Jackie Robinson's number. Growing up in Brooklyn, Art was a diehard Dodger and Jackie Fan. Only he and Mariano Rivera of The New York Yankees are the only two persons left in Professional Baseball still allowed to wear the now retired number in the sport. They both wore 42 at the time baseball retired Jackie's Number forever back in 1997.


Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

There is no rule against wearing #42 in the independent leagues, so Silber is gunning to be the last person in affiliated professional baseball to wear it.

An Briosca Mor said...

If Mariano Rivera retires as a player and then comes back as a coach, would he still be allowed to wear #42? If so, I'd put my money on him outlasting Silber by a long shot - unless Silber can hang on like C. Montgomery Burns, that is.

Anonymous said...

This is an example of the great coverage Nats320 provides for All Things Nationals. We all owe SBF a debt of gratitude for the work he has done to bring us the story of the entire Nats organization--from Single A to the big leagues.

Thanks Nats320!