Thursday, April 08, 2010

Greater Washington Board Of Trade Welcome Back Team Luncheon

You can’t lament the team if it was to ever falter, or not get good attendance, if you are not out there supporting them early--before it’s sold out--before they become the next Washington Caps," stated Jim Dinegar, Chairman of The Greater Washington Board of Trade. "It is important to get out there when the team needs you the most. And they need us now."

Mr. Dinegar was standing inside a ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. moments after his organization--along with financial support from PNC Bank--had just conducted the very first Welcome Back Washington Nationals Team Luncheon. A season opener of a new sort bringing the Nation's Capital's Major League Baseball Team together with a very interested D.C. area business community.

“This provides a connection both ways for the players, the team representatives, The Nationals Organization--their front office representatives--to meet our members. We had three bank presidents here today and a number of managing partners for the accounting law firms because the Board of Trade really represents the professional services community," continued Mr. Dinegar. "But what we want to do (here today) is put names to the faces--not just those you've seen on a (video or computer) screen. And give our businesses the opportunity to consider season ticket sales, suite sales, advertising and cross promotions, sponsorships and the rest. That is what this is all about with The Nationals.”

The Baltimore Orioles have been doing a Welcome Back Luncheon for 30 years with the Greater Baltimore Committee. When that seed was planted in Mr. Dinegar's head, The Greater Washington Board of Trade contacted Our Washington Nationals Team President Stan Kasten and asked for only a few players to attend this inaugural event.

Mr. Kasten's response: "Are you kidding me? We want the entire team to come!"

And here's why:

Stan Kasten:" I told the players when we met the first day of spring training, we talked about the many other facets besides just playing the game. We talked about our community events and we talked about the business community. As I always say, this is the most important city in the world--not just because of the global events that take place here--but because of the people who assemble here and the business people you can meet that can benefit you (the players) for the rest of your lives. The associations and contacts you make in this city are unlike those you can make in any city in America. And I encouraged them all to take advantage of those contacts, take advantage of events like this and we’ve had great, great cooperation from everyone. Just look at the spirit from all our players that showed up today.”

The guest list for April 7th's first Welcome Back Team Luncheon was pushing 300 attendees, that included Our Washington Nationals Ownership--The Lerner Family, Nationals Front Office Staff and most every player and coach currently on the roster except for Willie Harris & Craig Stammen (personal commitments) and Jason Marquis (scheduled to pitch last night's game). A total of nearly 50 people representing Washington Nationals Baseball sat with the Board Of Trade's business members. A different player at every single one of the 30 tables.

After the lunch was served and completed, The Board Of Trade Chairman hosted a roundtable discussion with Stan Kasten, Our General Manager Mike Rizzo and Our Manager Jim Riggleman for nearly 30 minutes. The best comments coming from Mike Rizzo explaining his development plans for Stephen Strasburg:

Mike Rizzo: “Stephen Strasburg is, of course, a terrific talent. He’s got a lot of years of success ahead of him. We feel we need to bring him along at the right pace. We need to develop him like any other front of the line prospect because you are a prospect until you prove yourself in the Major Leagues. We are going to do what is best for Stephen Strasburg and what is best for The Washington Nationals for the long term. We feel he needs to work on several parts of his game as a Major League pitcher. We need to protect him as far as innings thrown. And teach him the small nuances of pitching that really goes unnoticed to most people--controlling the running game; fielding your position; he’s never hit in a game in the last six years. He needs to go down there and put his time into the minor leagues just like most every other front line prospect. And when he finally does get to the Major Leagues--to get there and stay there for the rest of his career--not a guy we want to shuttle back and forth.”

Our General Manager taking the long-term approach which is exactly what everyone inside the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom on April 7th had on their minds during this Welcome Back Luncheon:

Jim Dinegar: This is what the Board of Trade is about as well. We want to bring together the strongest financial supporters of the team, sponsors, advertisers, the suite purchasers and all the rest--to bring them together in a more informal setting to let the team know that these are the faces in the seats that can provide financial support, the long-term approach that is stability for them and us. That really is the genesis of the idea.”

Mr. Dinegar was thrilled when Stan Kasten told him enthusiastically to "book this again next year!"--let's make this an annual event. And the Board of Trade Chairman believed if he had placed a signup table for 2011 at the Ritz-Carlton when yesterday's first Greater Washington Board Of Trade Welcome Back Team Luncheon had concluded, they would have sold out every table again.

"We didn’t take out big ads. We weren’t looking for this to be the ‘Hot Stove’ or open to what I would call the ticket buying general public. It was really meant to bring the business community together and it worked," concluded Jim Dinegar.

Roundtable Photo of Riggleman, Rizzo, Kasten & Dineger--courtesy of The Greater Washington Board of Trade.
All Other Photos and Video--Copyrighted Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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