Sunday, January 31, 2010

NatsFest 2010

The coolest things about NatsFest 2010--beside the frigid temperatures:

Hanging out with Our Players.

Checking out Ryan Zimmerman's Rawlings Gold Glove and Louisville Silver Slugger Awards.

Catching up with some friends at Nationals Park that we haven't seen since the end of the 2009 Season.

Having an entire Photo Station in the late 2PM Hour all to ourselves to tell jokes with Our Manager Jim Riggleman and Pitcher Jason Marquis. Good Stuff too. The unexpected highlight of the day.

And hearing News Commentator & Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist, George Will, call Team President Stan Kasten "A Bolshevik--in fact a communist" in the final Q & A Session when Mr. Kasten stated that he was not opposed to some extended use of Instant Replay in Major League Baseball.

That was Priceless!!

Especially when Stan Kasten replied: "I've been called worse!!" Tore the house down--everybody busted out laughing.

Our Team President can give out as good as he gets.

Fun Stuff and that's what NatsFest 2010 turned out to be. The opportunity to meet some of Washington's players, take a photo, get an autograph or ask a question--all in a baseball setting.

For nearly five hours this Sunday, a few thousand fans showed up at Nationals Park to take in the festivities. 10 different venues were active and everyone had to choose their activities wisely to make the most of the afternoon. Three Photo Stations, Two Autograph Stations, Visit Our Washington Nationals Clubhouse, Take a few swings in The Batting Cages, Questions & Answers with Front Office Staff in The Red Porch Restaurant, MASN Grip & Grin--along with the Kids Zone located in The Conference Centers.

Pretty well organized--at least for our desires. The photo stations moved rather efficiently--even Ryan Zimmerman's (and he did two set ups today). When The African Queen and I entered The Z-Man's first photo opportunity in the 1PM Hour, we were a few hundred back in line and we still made it to the front in about 20 minutes. Staff was moving everyone through. but it wasn't overly rushed. There was enough time actually to have a brief conversation. Our big thing is the photos (can you tell?) and we easily took shots with Tyler Clippard & Josh Willingham, Matt Capps & Craig Stammen, John Lannan & Nyjer Morgan, Riggleman & Marquis and Ryan Zimmerman at NatsFest.

The Visitors Clubhouse was the best venue for picture taking. The Locker Room backdrop with Nationals Batting Helmet and a couple of bobbleheads framed a more natural lighting set--which made for really good flash photography. The Press Conference Room Photo Station has compact florescent lighting and doesn't work as well for getting that crisp picture shot with your basic digital camera. Not bad by any means--but not as good as The Locker Room Set.

One complaint--The Fan Photo Guys taking pictures for profit at the Photo Stations sort of get in the way. They are so determined to get their pictures taken first that many fans feel intimated and believe they aren't allowed to take their own photo. Many times, it leads to The Fan Photo Guys & a family member/friend taking photos at the same time. Invariably, you can bet, many will end up with one person looking at one camera and others looking at the second camera--at the same time. We have. It's very awkward and it slows down the line at times. It really does.

Zimmerman's Rawlings Gold Glove & Louisville Slugger Awards are huge. They were displayed on two tables in Presidents Club. Really nice to see and enjoy in person. Sohna and I actually visited them twice. Once as our first stop today, then as NatsFest was winding down later in the afternoon.

We are not much into autographs, but some friends told us that it took approximately 40 minutes to get through any particular signing line. As it turned out, this was the only way for attending Nationals Fans to meet Ivan Rodriguez. "Pudge" did two one- hour signing sessions for his only appearance during this past week's Winter Caravan & Hot Stove Luncheon & NatsFest. Brian Bruney also only signed autographs. Ryan Zimmerman only took pictures. Clippard, Willingham, Capps, Stammen, Lannan, Morgan, Riggleman & Marquis all signed autographs and posted up for pictures with fans.

Approximately 200 fans (for each session), who signed up in advance at The Exxon Kids Zone under Garage C, where allowed entrance to The Red Porch Restaurant for the five Q & A's. Our General Manager Mike Rizzo led off the 30-minute sessions and was followed by Riggleman, then Mr. Kasten, George Will & finally--Rizzo, Riggleman, Kasten & Will joined ESPN's Baseball Correspondent Tim Kurkjian in a final wrap up session that was very lively and entertaining. That's the only one we attended in full.

A few fans mentioned to us they were disappointed the Q & A's had filled up to size capacity before they even had a chance to get their names down. But we did notice that one such gentleman later had made it in for a few sessions after those who had signed up earlier--apparently didn't actually show up. Everything had worked out for him--eventually.

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation was selling game used and past player memorabilia in The Presidents Club and auctioning a Stephen Strasburg signed jersey. $20 autographed Bats, $10 to $15 Dollar signed baseballs and $50 Jerseys. The African Queen and I picked up a Red Curly "W" authentic Manny Acta uniform top.

The Kids Zone in Conference Center Rooms 3 & 4 was packed!! Moon Bounce, Face Painting, Spin The Wheel for a prize, Baseball Toss and, of course, My Best Friend!! Screech!!!

We got a total kick out of the MASN Grip & Grin because when we walked in--who's taking pictures with fans? Phil Wood!! Cracked us up. Just about 20 minutes earlier, Sohna and I had been chatting with Phil inside The Stars & Stripes Club. We see and chat with him on a regular basis. It was really funny. All of us laughed over the irony throughout the photo taking.

Also in the MASN area, fans could have caricature drawings made by a local artist.

Funny story of the day. We ran into Mark Strattner--The 10 Millionth Fan in Our Washington Nationals history. You may recall in 2009, he was honored with a Ryan Zimmerman autographed jersey, Presidents Club Tickets, other assorted goodies and an actual seat from Nationals Park engraved with his name. Asking Mark where's the chair finally situated now? He responds: "I am the most popular person in my office (it's displayed at his work place). I sit in it during meetings. Everyone wants to sit in it. People are constantly coming over, and stopping by. I am the most popular guy at work. So much so, I have to lock my office door at night to make sure it doesn't get stolen!!" Mark Strattner told the story so well at the time, he had everyone standing in line with us awaiting pictures with Lannan & Morgan--enthralled.

As everyone exited The Visitors Clubhouse after taking pictures with our players, fans came across a The Visiting Clubhouse's Weight Room displaying autographed jerseys of some of the greatest players in recent history including: Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Nolan Ryan, Gary Carter, Trevor Hoffman, and Tommy Glavine among the nine hanging on the walls.

Finally, many thanks to quite a few folks who stopped Sohna and I along the way today to thank us for the effort we make and the fun we have to cover Our Washington Nationals in a very unique and original way--including Shoshana and Michael.

Overall, we had a wonderful time at NatsFest 2010. Things moved more smoothly than in 2009--during the 1st NatsFest. For Season Tickets Holders, it's a free event and nice way to finish off four days of local Winter Caravan Stops and the Hot Stove Luncheon. Much cooler than the the outside temperature.

All photos copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Mr. NATural said...

Jeff and Sohna,

Great report on Nats Fest. You got a complete report WAY before the Nats got theirs filed! You got the scoop!

I thought Nats Fest was fantastic. Geez I hate to read notes from attendees, griping about this or that. Do they ever consider how easy it would have been for the Nats to cancel the even due to weather? Or how early all the Nats staff had to get up on a freezing Sunday morning, so they could shovel out of their own driveways before getting to the park to shovel snow there?

I think they all deserve a lot of credit.

To me, Nats Fest is the day the winter ends. It's so much fun, no matter how cold it is, just to be able to go out to the park.

One funny thing struck me that some of the baseball experts might comment on. Some of the stands were selling jerseys of players and former players. Looking at them all, I thought: MAN we've had a lot of players go through here since 2005! I wonder if we've had more players go through in a 5-year period than any other team?

Anyway, bottom line, Nats Fest was a blast and I thank the team for holding it.

Mr. NATural

Unknown said...

NatsFest was a blast! When I arrived at about 11:15 there were plenty of wristbands left for all the speakers. Zim's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards were impressive.
The best part for me was being able to take a few swings in the batting cages. The line was much shorter (I made it down there at about 11:30) than last year, and they even gave me a few extra pitches!
SBF, you're right, the Fan Photo people were annoying (even while just trying to get decent pics of Zim's trophies). I never liked how they accosted everyone upon entering the center field gate during the season, but they did seem more annoying at NatsFest.
Overall, a well-run event with something for everyone, and nothing felt overly crowded.

Tom said...

U da man & Woman!

Pete said...

Wonderful Coverage as always we appreciate the time and talent the two of you share with us the Fans.

Mikey said...

Great event!!!! Had a fund time very cool tomeet pudge. Did you see that one of the stands were selling gyros!!!! Very good ones too. Anyone know if they are going to sell them during the season?