Sunday, January 25, 2009

NatsFest 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


Anonymous said...


Nobody covers the Nats like you do. The media need to have some type of an award for what you do - seriously!

I was standing in line with Steve Walker yesterday, you guys were talking about his book on the '69 Senators, due out this spring.

I was going to say hi to you, but you are extremely popular.

Thank goodness for comments!

Thanks as always,


VCUAlum Kyle said...

NatsFest 2k9 was very special day!!!!
To the franchise, thank you very much!

All the players in the photo oppurtunities were great to my 7yr old cuz and my friends. They were all very engaging which was great.

SBF, Highlight of the day for my friends, family,& I was the clubhouse/batting cage. My 7yr old cuz went 1-2 as I went 0-2 in the cage, lets just say I will never let that one down.

For me never being in the Diamond Club or Presidents Club it was a treat to see the stadium. But the ultimate highlight was getting to be out by the best seats in the house behind home plate. Had some great photos taken today out there!

To the Nats you need to raise the victory curly "W" flag today, because today you guys are 1-0 in 2009.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about others, but I hadn't realized that there was a Negro Leagues exhibit until I read it here. Would have loved to have visited with them! I'd printed the schedule from the team site, so I didn't carefully read the handout before entering the fest.

Having visited with the players at the Pfitz on Saturday and having seen the clubhouse and other areas on a previous park tour, we spent our day listening to the talks (exiting and reentering the room each time). Phil Wood was great! We missed George Will because, although we arrived at 12:40, we didn't gain entrance to the park until almost 1:30. They needed to have more gates open. Would also have been nice to have a warmer room for the talks and hot rather than cold beverages available.

Anonymous said...

It took a while to get inside the gates. The lines were long and we didn't get in until 1:30pm. Other than that clinch, everything else was really well done. Got Zimmerman for a picture, took batting practice, toured the clubhouse. My top three moments of a very nice day. Thank You Nationals!

Anonymous said...

SBF - Great pics, as I couldn't move from my spot in the President's Club.

I see you had pics in the President's Club too. Sorry I missed you as I had a dealer's table in the President's Club selling Ryan Zimmerman and other Nationals player's items. Its amazing how happy one person was to buy Joel Hanrahan's cleats and another got Cristian Guzman's Mother's Day pink bat and a family bought one of my Zimmerman Father's Day HR paintings retelling their family story of that day in 2006 in RFK. Amazing.

The crowd was great and met so many people too.

I also won the Ryan Zimmerman Opening Day 2008 HR jersey in the afternoon session of the Dream Foundation auction which was my highlight!!!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Jay: The African Queen says just stop us and say hello next time. We are pretty friendly. Thanks for the nice comments. We enjoy Our Washington Nationals in our own unique way.

Anonymous said...

It was good to see you and Sohna. It really felt like baseball was in the air! Great recap, as always. I agree nobody covers the Nats like you do.

There were only 2 ticket-takers at the Centerfield gates to handle the thousands who showed up at 1:00pm. I'll chalk that up to low expectations and assume it won't happen next year. Otherwise, the event was terrifically well done. It had a casual feeling, which was great. For people who don't usually have access to the clubhouse (or to the Presidents Club for that matter), it was much better than a tour. You could just hang out and enjoy it.

You didn't mention the Kids Zone, and it's worth noting that it was one of the least crowded sections of NatsFest. The whole thing was set up inside the Club Level conference center, so parents could let small kids run around without worrying that they were going to lose them. Kids could meet the presidents and the Nat Pack, plus there was a moon bounce, wiffle ball, Guitar Hero, balloon animals, face painting, caricatures... and nearly every member of the Nat Pack was in there, so there were plenty of adults to help out.

I had only one disappointment, and that was when Jim Bowden didn't directly answer my question about whether the Lerners had ever nixed a proposal that he and Stan had brought to them. He gave a great speech about how committed and willing the Lerners are to spend money, but he didn't give a definitive "no" either.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were in the "Zone"
all weekend!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone answer why Ryan Zimmerman didn't sign for fans?

I can imagine he's got a contract with some company, but c'mon, the "so-called face of the franchise" should not blowing off fans for an autograph -- especially kids. I saw his with my own eyes.

Real bad move by Zimmerman, and I'd hate to see the man get a reputation for being a jerk.

Anonymous said...

The Nats do a wonderful job getting folks excited...maybe now the mgmt group should help focus on the part that really matters...the 162 games. In the end...that's what counts.

Wish the team all the best for 2009. It does not good. Certainly hope for more than the expert predictions of 50 wins. My office has the team between 54 and 58 wins. Please hope my prediction of 60 wins holds up.

Keep them straight do a wonderful job of keeping the riff from the raff.

Anonymous said... said...I had only one disappointment, and that was when Jim Bowden didn't directly answer my question about whether the Lerners had ever nixed a proposal that he and Stan had brought to them. He gave a great speech about how committed and willing the Lerners are to spend money, but he didn't give a definitive "no" either.

I just want to know why Lerner didn't veto Paul LoDuca and Johnnie Estrada.

I hope they have learned their lesson on the bottom of the fringe players, oh yah, that's right they got Daniel Cabrera.

Where is the accountability on Bowden's success/failure ratio?

In 2007 he looked "smart" by taking Dmitri Young and then in 2008 that pickup has turned into a 2008/2009 mistake and same with Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez were on his watch.

Let's hope this is the year Jim Bowden looks like a genius!

Anyway, great event and next year it will be a signature event as everyone who went this year will go again and the people that didn't go will go based on how great it was!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2:38PM. Ryan Zimmerman didn't have to be there or go on the caravan and he did while taking more time to take photos and talk with fans. Maybe next year he will do autographs. He has done autographs on Nats excursions before as I got a free autograph at the ESPN Zone and many freebies at the ballpark, but I think this photo set-up was a more meaningful exchange to more fans (over autographs) taking photos, but hey, everyone can disagree.

Do you realize that at most FanFests the "star" players are either paid by the team to sign for free or you pay for the autographs. Check the St. Louis Cardinals website for Albert Pujols, or the Phillies in-season event for Ryan Howard or the Brewers for Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder just to name a few.

Also, at the Cardinals FanFest it is a lottery to get one of the 100 autographs that Pujols will sign and you still have to pay for them.

This company in Tampa handles Ryan's memorabilia so I am sure they can help you out:

They also had a table in the President's Club selling Zim bats, jerseys, cleats, batting gloves, photos, balls and were taking people's personal items to get signed. They also were getting unsigned Zim apparel in the new jersey styles.

An Briosca Mor said...

I was talking today with a coworker who was at the Potomac caravan stop. Apparently Zimmerman was asked by someone there about why he wouldn't sign, and the answer was that he has a contract (with some autograph show outfit, not the Nats) that prohibits him from signing at such events unless he charges for it, and he doesn't want to do that. When asked how much per signature he'd have to charge, the answer was $10. How would your average kid feel about having to pay ten bucks for Zim's autograph, when everyone else's is free?

Anonymous said...

SBF and AQ,

It was great seeing you both again at NatsFest! My son and I had a wonderful time both there and at the P-Nats fantastic dinner (I met Miss Chatter there, who also does a nice Nats blog). It was so neat seeing a championship cup and banner for one of the good guys!

I have lots of good memories already with baseball back in D.C. Yesterday's fan fest is now added to the list, near the top!

Nice job, Nationals and you, SBF, for your great coverage of our favorite team!

p.s. - Jay, thanks for the note about my upcoming book! The AQ is right, she and SBF are really nice, don't hesitate to say hello! We Nats fans have to stick together!

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Once upon a time, that would have been considered greedy, but unfortunately that's the way things are right now. I can't blame Zimm one bit. Just glad that I got a photo with him at NatsFest!

Anonymous said...

NatsFest 2010 is an event that has "at the D.C. CONVENTION CENTER" written all over it. I felt that the crowd was just too large to fit comfortably into the ballpark. The autograph line was unbelievable -- nearly a two hour wait to get to the table. For me, Phil Wood's segment was the highlight of all the talks. I felt like REALLY Old Nats Guy when I realized that I was probably the only one in the room who understood his "Ernie Oravetz" joke.

Anonymous said...

I had a great time at NatFest 2009.
The lines were a little long, but I think they had more people than were expected(which is a good thing) It was great to see the lovely AQ and SBF. Sorry for the confusion with my twin son. I plan to be down home again in April, scorecard and rosary in hand, to cheer and pray for Our Beloved Nats.