Saturday, August 22, 2009

Picnic In The Park--2009

"How are you doing?" asked The African Queen.

My Favorite Player Of All Time!! responds: "I am still above the grass (not six feet under) and I am employed," replied Frank Howard. "I guess I can't complain!!"

Everybody busts out laughing.

With a rain delay setting back the start of tonight's game for 80 minutes, "Hondo" (under a tight schedule) was holding court inside Presidents Club at Nationals Park, telling stories, being his usual self-deprecating self and signing his Bobblehead given away tonight at The South Capitol Street Ballpark.

You can bet that if Frank Oliver Howard is anywhere within our proximity making a public appearance, we are going to find him.

Typical "Hondo"--as loud as can possibly be drowning out the television sets, the chatter and noise of plates throughout the club: "HOW'S THAT BLOG COMING ALONG? YOU GUYS STILL WRITING UP A STORM?" He says to Sohna and I upon seeing us.

There is no one like "The Capital Punisher" and once again this evening he individually chatted with, joked and made comfortable every single person who came to meet him. We love the man. He is just so genuine.

"Get someone to take that picture for us!! Come get in the on deck circle with me!!" he bellowed. "Hondo" is just too much.

And yet Frank Howard was just the icing on the cake, because August 22nd, 2009 was Picnic In The Park Day for Season Ticket Holders of Our Washington Nationals.

Was it ever good.

Pictures with Our Players, autographs, walk the field, sit in the dugout, throw a pitch in the bullpen. Or, take in a Question & Answer Session with Stephen Strasburg & Mike Rizzo, or Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler. For three hours this afternoon from 1PM to 4PM, Season Ticket Holders with a special ticket included in their perforated 2009 ticket books were allowed access to Nationals Park from Center Field Gate.

Gifford's Ice Cream provided FREE Ice Cream Bars. And each Season Ticket Holder received a redeemable coupon to turn into selected open Nats Dogs Stands for a hot dog, chips/fries and soft drink.

The event was well run. The Picture line moved rather quickly. Not being autograph seekers, someone else will have to chime in and tell us how that part of the program went. But we know for sure--Adam Dunn's autograph line was huge.

Upon entering the ballpark, we received a red Curly "W" water bottle as the giveaway. Then, Sohna and I headed over to The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Kiosk were "Blasts From The Pasts" were for sale. Baseballs, bats and jerseys of players no longer donning at DC Uniform. We picked up a Manny Acta signed bat. Others chose from Chad Cordero, Acta, Nick Johnson, Paul LoDuca or Anderson Hernandez jerseys (among others); bats from many different players and signed baseballs too.

Then off to The Nats Bar in The Stars & Stripes Club to listen to Stephen Strasburg, GM Mike Rizzo and MASN Broadcasters Johnny Holiday and Ray Knight talk baseball. Although he wasn't signing autographs or taking pictures, Strasburg did answers questions. Surprisingly, few asked, so I ended up throwing out three questions which he answered fully.

After that, it was over to the Homestead Grays Bar side of The Stars & Stripes Club for photos. There were two sessions going at the same time. Four Players or Coaches together. Fans took pictures with both groups after standing in one line.

First Photo Group--Randy Knorr, Josh Willingham, Wil Nieves & Alberto Gonzalez.

Second Photo Group--Steve McCatty, Ryan Zimmerman, Pat Listach & Mike Morse.

My Best Friend Screech!! stopped by for photos with not only us, but with little Andy who sits next to us in Section 218. Long time reader of Nats320, Katie, came over to say hello and speak with us for awhile. In fact, Katie was one of many fans that were kind enough to stop Sohna and I this afternoon and thank us for our fairly unique efforts in covering Our Washington Nationals. It's all about the fun and we really both appreciated everyone's kind thoughts today toward us--including Hank and his daughter Sarah.

This First Photo Session ran from approximately 1:45PM to 2:30PM

After taking pictures, we headed back over to The Nats Bar to briefly check in on Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler--who were holding court alongside David Gregory of NBC's "Meet The Press".

Then, down to the main concourse to check out the autograph lines. Four stations set up. Two on the first base side and two more on the 3rd base side of Nationals Park. Ronnie Belliard flat out cracking me up upon seeing The African Queen walk by. "Hey sweetie!! How you doing!! (nearly jumping out of his chair for a hug) "I am a little sweaty," replies Sohna.

"That's OK," says Our Number 10, "YOU LOOK GOOD!!" (Big smile on his face)

Adam Dunn was receiving fans on the other side of the concourse and signing away. No doubt, Our Number 44 had the biggest lines all day long. Dunn was very popular in the autograph line.

This gave us the opportunity to walk down onto the field. Fans were allowed to enter from the steps between Sections 127 & 128 near the home dugout--and parade around the warning track which surrounds the field.

That tour coincided perfectly with heading back up to The Homestead Grays Bar for the final photo session of the day which ran from approximately 2:45PM to 3:30PM

3rd Photo Group--Collin Balester, Josh Bard, Craig Stammen & Jorge Sosa.

4th Photo Group--Elijah Dukes, Willie Harris, Sean Burnett & Garrett Mock

Willie Harris: "I knew I would see you two. Are The Mets still talking to themselves?" (in reference to The MASN Commercial produced involving me earlier this year).

Elijah Dukes: "Why would The Mets be talking to themselves?"

Sohna: "It's in the commercial they did.

Elijah Dukes: "What commercial?"

Willie Harris: "We did a commercial together, you didn't know that?"

Elijah Dukes: "Really?" (totally surprised)

Garrett Mock (looks over): "You need to get with the program and watch more TV!!"

Everyone busts out laughing.

It was after this moment The African Queen and I came across this young couple. Die Hard Nats Fans that were out with their twin 6-week old girls. The first outing ever for the young ladies. Both of whom were sporting Pink Nats Attire for the show. Very cool, starting them young.

Additionally, we came across Our Racing Presidents throughout the park and--to Our Washington Nationals Staff's great credit--when it began to rain near the end of The Picnic In The Park, team officials allowed every fan in attendance to pick up their Frank Howard Bobblehead along the first base side of The Main Concourse--underneath "The Ball Game" rotating art piece. A simple gesture that many appreciated. No one had to go out in the rain and re-enter the park, as originally stated in the program, just to pick up their bobblehead.

Sohna was very happy with the day's events. She saw all her boys this afternoon: Ryan Zimmerman, Ronnie Belliard, Elijah Dukes, Willie Harris and Wil Nieves. This Picnic In The Park was a well run event. In fact, each and every subsequent time Our Washington Nationals have conducted such large scale "Meet & Greets" these past few years, they have just gotten better and better. And finishing off with Frank Howard made for one very fun day at Nationals Park for The African Queen and I.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

Even though the weather wasn't great, the Nats were prepared for it and did a great job with this event.

We didn't do the autographs either mostly because the lines were long, real long. The photo lines weren't long and that was great! The kids really liked it.

Another good Season Ticket Holder event!

Steve Walker said...

SBF and AQ,

Thank you for this write-up. Unfortunately, family commitments prevented me from attending this wonderful event. I'm actually a bit teary-eyed, because it reminds me a little of the photo days the Senators used to have when us little kids could go on the field for autographs and photos with our heroes like mine -- Ed Stroud, Paul Casanova, Del Unser, Lee Maye, Mike Epstein, and, of course, Frank Howard. These kind of events, so truly special, so utterly unforgettable, are what we lost when the Senators moved away. It took a long time to return, but I'm so grateful that my little 6-year old son and others like him will now know the thrill that I felt and will one day cherish those memories -- and, hopefully, repeat them with their children and grandchildren for years and years to come.

Baseball is truly a wonderful game and I'm so grateful we have a team. I'll look for you all at the game today. My friend Marty is graciously letting me use on of his club level tickets.

So, are you allowed to tell us by whom Hondo is now employed?

Anonymous said...

SBF- AS many others do, i love Hondo and tried to locate him by walking around the stadium. I guess he never made it to the common folk area. Was he there for the picnic?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous @ 1:42PM. We are not sure whether he was in attendance at The Picnic In The Park signing as we were mostly at the photo stations. We just happened to run into Hondo later. We did not even know he was there until we saw him signing.