We got to the convention center at around 9 am to wait for the doors to open for season ticket holders at 10:00. To our surprise, they let us in early at 9:30, but even waiting for 30 minutes seemed like a billion years because I was so excited.
While we walked in, a guy from WTOP radio interviewed me on the radio. I forgot what I said, but it’s always cool to be interviewed.
As we walked in, there was a humongous sign that said Welcome to NatsFest 2014, Washington Nationals fans and had pictures of Span, Rendon, Harper, and Gio on it’s sides.
Last year, NatsFest was at the Convention Center in DC. You can read all about 2013 Nats Fest in this post. This year, the Washington Auto Show was at the Convention Center, so the Nats decided to move their event to the Gaylord. One thing that was very good about having NatsFest at National Harbor was that it was all in one room on one floor, so you didn’t have to go upstairs and downstairs all the time. It was also so much bigger, but I still liked how last year’s event felt being in a smaller space. Also, the room had a rock-solid floor and you could see the pipes on the ceiling. It kind of looked like an oversized school gym. Last year’s Nats Fest was in the ballroom with carpeted floors and a dark ceiling so you couldn’t see any pipes, if there were any. It just looked better and the lights were not as bright.
The first thing I did was go get a photo taken at the bobblehead photo booth. They put your face on the 2013 Gio Gonzalez bobblehead.
Next, I got a picture taken with Anthony Rendon and new reliever Jerry Blevins. I had never met Blevins, so it was really cool meeting him for the first time. He seemed like a giant to me!
While my mom and I were off doing these things, my brother got his face painted, played some of the kids games and waited in line for autographs. Originally, the sign on the table at the autograph station said Stephen Strasburg was signing and they were so excited. But then it turned out that it was Sammy Solis and Ross Ohlendorf who were signing. Getting to meet the Nationals’ Ace would have been amazing, but it’s OK that they met Solis and Ohlendorf, because we never got Solis or Ohlendorf autographs before.
Then, I did some other activities like the batting cage, radar gun beware: I throw 35 mph 🙂 and the stealing home challenge. There was a huge strip of fake grass made to look like the third base line.
I also played in the MASN trivia, and I thought I did pretty well, but I didn’t win.
During the day, I met some fans who read my blog.
— Angie Wanner (@angielynn10) January 25, 2014
— Tammy F. (@tammyf4_nats) January 26, 2014
— Ryan Sullivan (@NatsGMdotcom) January 25, 2014
— Jakob Lang (@jakeNATS24) January 26, 2014
— Tiago Bezerra (@tdbJD) January 25, 2014
Last year, it seemed like the Nats lost most of the games I attended (please don’t think I carry a #MattsBatsJinx), but at NatsFest, I totally lucked out. I got to get Craig Stammen and Doug Fister’s autograph. It was great to welcome Doug to the team. I told him about MattsBats.com, and that I was doing a Matt’s Bats Chat with Chris Cotillo, who broke the news of his trade.
During lunch, I met Zach Walters and Ross Ohlendorf, who changed out of their jerseys and were just walking the event. You had to pay a lot of attention, because if you didn’t you might not recognize you were just standing next to one of the players you had come to see! Last year, when I least expected it, Bryce Harper just walked right by me. This year, when I saw Ross and Zach I went up to them and introduced myself to them and told them about this blog that I write.
Next, I watched the Name That Nat game. The game was hosted by my friend FP Santangelo. In Name That Nat, the players had to guess the players by their walk up song like Name That Tune. Jayson Werth, Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus played, and Ryan Mattheus won.
As the day wound down, I went to another autograph session. It was Ryan Mattheus and Scott Hairston. This might have been the highlight of Nats Fest for me. When I went up to get Ryan’s autograph, he recognized me instantly, because I’ve met him a couple of times and said, “Hey, Matt!” It was pretty cool that he did, because not many kids get this experience. He asked if I was going to Spring Training again this year, but unfortunately I’m not. I talked to him for a minute or two, and than I went on to see Scott Hairston. Ryan Mattheus is a very great guy, and later hung out with fans at the after party. I hope that he is fully healed this season and he gets that ball to sink.
For the second year in a row, I didn’t get to go to the kids press conference because we were just so busy. But at least two crazy things happened that I heard about. First, a kid asked Jayson Werth and Drew Storen how many home runs they were going to hit. That’s a little silly because Storen is a late innings reliever and almost never even gets a plate appearance. But Drew mentioned that he is actually a switch hitter! I knew that, but Jayson didn’t believe it until someone showed him one of Drew’s baseball cards. The funny thing is, Drew’s baseball card has an error on it about his postseason record, which I pointed out to Drew in November. Click below to hear that conversation with Drew Storen and HERE to read the full interview.
Jayson Werth of all people should have been able to point out the error because he hit the walk off home run that gave Drew the NLDS Game 4 win!
Another kid asked Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg how many girlfriends they have. Watch the video below.
The event ended with a game called Fields of Fortune, which was really Wheel of Fortune, hosted by my friend Dave Jageler. Bryce Harper won by a landslide against Strasburg and Tyler Clippard. My brother was actually able to answer one of the puzzles correctly– “Four Score and Seventh Inning Stretch”– before anyone else. That is because he is an expert on presidents as well as baseball.
When the event was over, I went to the National Pastime restaurant for the after party. The party was as good as last year. I talked with people I knew from Twitter and ate chicken fingers again (this may be a Nats Fest after party tradition). I also saw FP and Charlie Slowes, and, of course, most of the Nats Archive archivists and all the other #InternetWeirdos.
NatsFest was awesome in 2014. Check out a few more pictures people took having fun. And just to let you know, there are only 16 days until Pitchers And Catchers report!
If you read my blog all the time, you already know there are lots of kids doing interesting things in the world of baseball. There’s 16 year old Meggie Zahneis, MLB’s official Youth Reporter, 14 year old Matt Nadel from Baseball With Matt, 10 year old Frankie the Cub Reporter from Miami, and 12 year old Haley Smilow (interview coming soon). But today, I’m bringing you an interview with Chris Cotillo from MLB Daily Dish.
Chris is an 18 year old high school student from Boston. Chris became kind of famous this offseason for breaking lots of big trade news. People in the DC area know him for breaking the news of the Doug Fister trade. (The Tigers traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals for utility man Steve Lombardozzi, reliever Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray). Chris also broke the Ricky Nolasco contract with the Twins. He attended the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, where he appeared on MLB Network’s Hot Stove.
He has become friends with players and professional baseball journalists and is already kind of a celebrity himself. He is on his way to being a big-time baseball insider. Get ready for this Matt’s Bats Chat with Chris Cotillo.
Matt’s Bats: When and how did you get interested in baseball?
Chris Cotillo: I have always been interested in the game, and would track transactions and rumors in notebooks/Excel spreadsheets for as long as I can remember. I started a Twitter account to keep track of what was going on a couple of years ago, and it gained some followers pretty quickly. I joined MLBDailyDish in May, by reaching out to my current boss and telling him I was looking for a bigger audience. I have loved being with MLBDD since then, and really think the entire SB Nation platform is going to be one of the best sports media outlets online for decades to come.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 3, 2013
MB: You got famous for breaking the Doug Fister trade. I cover the Nats and almost everyone loved the trade and thought the Nationals got the better deal. What are your thoughts about the trade?
CC: I agree that the Nats did very well, on paper. They got a very good starter for a group of players who weren’t considered top prospects, which is always interesting. [Tigers GM Dave] Dombrowski knows what he’s doing in Detroit though, so he probably felt that the three he acquired were good fits for the Tigers’ organization. I expect them to thrive with Detroit just like I expect Fister to do well with the Nats.
MB: How do you go from just a regular kid to a real insider?
CC: Time and patience. Show baseball fans that you really love doing this and want to make a career out of it, and they’ll respect it and start following.
MB: What is it like becoming a celebrity quickly and at a young age?
CC: I wouldn’t really consider myself a celebrity, I just get to do what I love doing and enjoy every second of it. This gig would be enjoyable for me even if people weren’t noticing, so it’s an added bonus that people have really taken interest to my work in the last couple of months.
I feel the same way as Chris. I would still like writing my blog even if I didn’t have as many readers. But I am lucky too that so many people give me good feedback.
MB: Who has helped you get to where you are?
CC: Everyone around the game has been extremely helpful (sources, other reporters), and of course my terrific support system at home (parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, teachers, principal).
MB: Is there anyone you met who you were really starstruck to meet?
CC: I am always really starstruck by members of the 2004 Red Sox team. Those guys wrote the story of one of the greatest memories of my childhood. I’ve gotten to meet most of them recently, and I’ve loved those opportunities.
MB: When you were at the Winter Meetings, did you get to be at the player introduction press conferences? What other cool things have you gotten to do?
CC: Yeah, I saw both Granderson and Saltalamacchia get introduced in addition to the Halladay retirement presser. Before that, I got to cover the World Series and ALCS at Fenway in October, which was also a tremendous experience.
MB: What are your 2014 postseason predictions before Spring Training starts?
CC: Honestly, it’s too early to tell for me. There are so many key players out there (Tanaka, Santana, Garza, Jimenez, Cruz) and a whole undeveloped trade market, so I will wait to see how the rest of the offseason pans out to make my predictions.
MB: Which team had the best offseason this year, in your opinion?
CC: Again, maybe too early to tell on that. There is still a ways to go. So far, I really like what the Rangers have done. Choo and Fielder will definitely make a difference for them next year, and they’re likely to add a starter as well.
MB: Being from Boston, are you a Red Sox fan, or now that you are a journalist are you just a fan of the game?
CC: I’m a fan of the game at this point. I try to root for people in the game who I know personally, and wish them the best if they have helped me out with my reporting. I was happy to see the Sox win the World Series last year because I’m still a fan of the city of Boston, and it was cool to see the entire city rally around something positive in October after what we went through in April.
MB: What do you like to do when not covering baseball?
CC: I really live the normal teenager’s life–homework, going to sporting events, eating, sleeping, hanging with friends, etc. I’m awake for like 19-20 hours a day, so there’s time to do a lot.
Chris is really getting a lot of respect as a baseball reporter. Using the internet, he found a way to be one of the best kid reporters in the country and also one of the most knowledgeable best baseball reporters period. He is a great role model for kids like me who love baseball and want to make a living writing when they grow up.
If you have know someone who would be interested in talking to me for a future interview, go to mattsbats.com/contact to send me a message. Check out this list of people who I have already interviewed.
NatsFest is January 25, 2014 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. I am so excited for it! I have been waiting all year for the 2014 NatsFest until they FINALLY announced it, and now it is just a few days away! In 2013, NatsFest was completely awesome. I went to almost everything, met a lot of people, and had a lot of fun at the after party. READ ALL ABOUT NATSFEST HERE.Here is my preview of the cool things you can do at 2014 NatsFest.
First of all, here is a map of the event. They have a lot of the same things as last year, but this year everything is on the same floor.
I am most looking forward to the autographs. We got some autograph vouchers, but they are already sold out, so I hope you already got yours. I also want to do the batting cages and player photo stations. We’ll look at the bobbleheads and the Clubhouse Store and Authentics, but probably won’t buy anything. I’m going to stop by the @Nationals booth.
There are also special events happening all day. Check out the Schedule.
There will be things going on from 10:00 until 3:00. The doors open early at 10:00 for season ticket holders and 11:00 for everyone else.
They haven’t announced which players are going to be at the photo stations, who will be signing autographs, and who will be doing player story times. I think that is a game day decision. I am definitely going to try to go to the Kids Press Conference at 1:45, but I think I have the 1:30 autograph session. There’s also a Player Instructional this year that could be interesting.
I don’t know for sure, but the Nats may also do a Wheel of Fortune-style game near the end because there’s something called “Fields of Fortune.” Last year the final game was Nationals Jeopardy! where three Nationals players answered Nats-related questions. It was one of the best things of the event.
Here are the players who are going to be at NatsFest according to the Nationals.com website:
- Jerry Blevins, LHP
- Tyler Clippard, RHP
- Ross Detwiler, LHP
- Danny Espinosa, 2B
- Doug Fister, RHP
- Gio Gonzalez, LHP
- Scott Hairston, Goon Squad
- Bryce Harper, OF
- Ryan Mattheus, RHP
- Tyler Moore, Goon Squad/1B/OF
- Ross Ohlendorf, RHP
- Anthony Rendon, 2B
- Tanner Roark, RHP
- Sammy Solis, LHP
- Steven Souza, OF
- Denard Span, OF
- Craig Stammen, RHP
- Drew Storen, RHP
- Stephen Strasburg, RHP
- Zach Walters, SS
- Jayson Werth, OF
- Matt Williams, MGR
Sadly, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche aren’t going to be there. I wished Desi was there because he is always a fan favorite. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche weren’t there last year either. I’m really hoping Ryan Zimmerman comes next year because he is one of the few players I have never gotten an autograph from. I also hope I get to meet some players I haven’t met before like Jerry Blevins, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark, and Ross Ohlendorf, and a few others. I also want to meet the OTHER “Matt the Bat,” Matt Williams (who also wears #9).
There was a story on Sunday that the National are looking to sign free agent closer Grant Balfour and possibly trade Drew Storen. Balfour would be a good addition, but I hope Storen doesn’t leave (Click here to read my interview with him from November). Fans would also like him. Nats fans loved singing “Take On Me” for Michael Morse’s at bats and would love to do the Rage when Balfour comes on to close. Anyway, I hope BOTH Storen and Balfour are at NatsFest.
I am also really looking forward to seeing some of the people who I have gotten to know online and at other events. I hope to tweet live from the event, so you should follow @MattsBats on Twitter. I’ll be wearing my white Nationals home jersey with “Matts Bats 9” on the back. See you later this week!
I love going to baseball games. It just brightens up my summer. When the season is over, there’s one thing that helps me remember my summer of baseball games: my collection of baseball memorabilia and giveaways from games.
Many of the things in my collection were given away as promotional items at games. The ball park giveaways make great souvenirs. I know that the giveaways are really a huge advertisement and a way to sell more game tickets, but they are still cool to get and collect.
At every stadium in the country, there are always fireworks, post-game concerts, hats, and t-shirts. A lot of promos are for adults only (especially, for some reason, in Baltimore), but sometimes there are kid-specific giveaways that only fans under 12 get. It’s a great way for teams to attract families to the game. The baseball teams want kids to become passionate fans of their home team, kind of like how I am about the Nationals.
Many teams have already announced their 2014 promotions and giveaways, including the Pirates, A’s, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, Rockies, Braves, Phillies, Reds, Twins, Red Sox, and Cardinals. The Nationals haven’t announced their promo items for 2014 yet, but I bet it’s coming soon. So I’m going to give my opinion about the promotions they should give out and list some of my faves from the other teams that have already announced their 2014 ballpark promotions.
First, the most popular giveaways at Nationals Park are the bobblehead days. I think there is a good argument that the bobbleheads in 2014 should feature Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Matt Williams. I think Werth should get a bobblehead because he really turned it on at the end of last year. Plus, it would be cool to see his beard on a bobblehead. Desi should get a bobblehead this year because he was a Silver Slugger for the second year in a row. However, Werth and Desmond were featured on bobbleheads in 2011. And maybe Matt Williams should get one to honor his first season as manager, but the Nationals just gave away Davey Johnson bobbleheads last year. So my guess for who will be on the 2014 Nationals bobbleheads are: Jordan Zimmermann (for his amazing pitching the past 2 seasons), Denard Span (for his error-less season and MLB-leading hit streak) and Tyler Clippard (for his clutch bullpen performances the past 2 years and because it would look cool with the goggles). My dad thinks Wilson Ramos will get one this year.
I like bobbleheads best when they present the players in their uniform, in action poses. Check out this dual Homer Bailey bobblehead the Reds are giving out to celebrate his 2 no-hitters. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a double bobblehead before!
I saw that the Angels are giving away Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver and Mike Trout gnomes instead of bobbleheads.
The Angels have great promotions, like this Mike Trout hat from last year.
I took at look around the MLB at which baseball teams have announced their 2014 giveaways, and here are my favorite promotions other teams are giving out:
2. Sergio Romo Superhero Socks (SFG)
3. NL Champions Ring (STL)
4. Hawaiian shirt (LAA)
5: Babe Ruth Bobblehead (LAD)
6: Fleece Blanket (LAD)
7: Replica ’64 WS Ring (STL)
8: “Autographed” Baseball (LAD)
9: Yasiel Puig Fathead (LAD)
10: Homer Bailey Dual No-Hitter bobblehead (CIN)
I saw some other promotions from around the league that are kind of lame. The Mets are giving away Rainbow Loom rubber bands in Mets colors at one game. The Dodgers are giving away Hello Kitty mini bobbles and the Giants are giving away a Hello Kitty doll; although my three year old sister would probably like that. The Dodgers, however, have some of the best promos this year of any team, even though they are giving away a kind of stupid inflatable chair. It’s hard to get excited about a chair.
Here are some suggestions for promo items the Nats should give away.:
Lots of teams give away jerseys, and the Nats should give out a replica jersey for all fans with Harper’s name and number on the back.
They should also give water bottles. They did that a couple of years ago. They were very popular and we still use ours almost every day.
Maybe on June 17 (closest home game to Father’s Day), they should give away a tie.
It would be great to get a lunch box or cooler bag. I take my lunch to school in a Buster Posey cooler bag that the Giants sold at Safeway in the Bay Area
Some of the games early in the year and late in the year get cold, so they can giveaway fleece blankets.
Two things I would love to see, which some teams give out, are team baseball card sets (like the Blue Jays are doing) and Fatheads (like the Dodgers). How cool would it be to get an Ian Desmond Fathead?
Finally, Instead of the scarf they gave out last year, in 2014 the Nationals should end the season with a knit hat with a Jayson Werth beard attached to it, like the Mariners gave away last season. That’d keep your chin warm in January 2015!
Let’s keep an eye out for the 2014 Nationals Promotion Schedule. Share your ideas with me on Twitter @MattsBats, and I will tweet out some of the good ideas I hear from you!
A few weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down and talk to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. You probably have seen him reporting on Sports Center or Baseball Tonight, or live from games or at other baseball events.
When I met Tim, we talked for a long time. He was interesting to talk to and he gave some really good answers to my questions. For example, I asked him what is the craziest thing he’s ever seen happen in a game, and believe me: it is crazy! He’s seen maybe thousands of baseball games, so keep reading to see what Tim Kurkjian thinks is the craziest thing he has ever seen at a game.
He’s also a really nice person and knows more about baseball than almost anybody else in the country.
I’m really excited to share with you this Matt’s Bats Chat with Tim Kurkjian. Take it away, Tim!
Matt’s Bats: How did you get into journalism?
Tim Kurkjian: I got into journalism when I started writing for my high school paper, The Pitch, at Walter Johnson High School (in Bethesda, MD). Then I went to the University of Maryland and majored in Journalism. After that, I went to the Washington Star, then I went to Dallas Morning News, then I went to the Baltimore Sun, then I went to Sports Illustrated, and 17 years ago I went to ESPN. So, journalism is something that I’ve been really interested in for the last 40 years when I turned about 15 years old.
MB: What’s your favorite ballparks to visit?
TK: I have covered a game now in 58 different Major League stadiums and my favorite is still Fenway Park, just because it’s the oldest one. I love the history of the game. I love the tradition of the game. And the fact that that’s where Ted Williams played and that’s where Babe Ruth used to pitch – that stuff really means something to me. So I love all the new ballparks, including Camden Yards, but Fenway Park is my favorite.
MB: Who was your favorite player when you were my age?
TK: When I was your age, I had two favorite players. Eddie Brinkman was my favorite player on the Washington Senators because he was a little short stop who could really play defense and that was what I really liked to do when I was a kid. And my other favorite player when I was your age was Willie Mays. And even though he played for the San Francisco Giants and was 3000 miles away from me, he was the best player in the game. He was this iconic star. He’s the guy that I kind of hooked along with because I figured he’s the best player ever and I need to get closer to him.
MB: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen fans or players do during a game?
TK: I saw Bo Jackson one night in Baltimore. I watched him run to try and catch a fly ball. And he caught it and he didn’t have time to stop himself from running into the fence. So he kind of ran up the fence and around the fence. It’s a famous ESPN highlight now. But he almost looked like a race car going around a curved and ramped track. He kind of ran up the fence and down without ever touching it. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
MB: What kinds of lessons can the game of baseball teach kids?
TK: Baseball can teach a very important life lesson about teamwork. There’s nothing better than being on a team. And that’s what Major League Baseball teaches us, that’s what Little League baseball teaches us, that’s what high school baseball teaches us. You have teammates that you have to look after. You have teammates that you have to take care of no matter what. The winning and the losing of the game is really important, but the loyalty to your teammates is what this is all about, whether its on the Major League level or anywhere else. Teamwork expands well beyond baseball. When you go to work, you have teammates there, too, and you have to look after each other.
MB: What do you expect in 2014 in baseball?
Listen to Tim’s answer:
TK: I expect a bunch of surprises, just like this year. I didn’t expect the Red Sox to win the pennant or win the World Series. I thought they would come in last place. I thought the Nationals would win the World Series and they didn’t even finish in the playoffs. So 2014 is going to be filled with surprises but I think the Nationals are going to play the Tigers in the World Series in 2014. If I’m right, that will probably be the first time I’ve ever been right this far in advance.
[Tim gave this answer before the Nationals acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers, and before the Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. On Dec. 31, Kurkjian said on ESPN that he still predicted the Nationals would win the World Series and that Bryce Harper would win the Triple Crown. FINGERS CROSSED!]
MB: What’s your favorite baseball-related memory?
TK: My favorite memory is the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. That was more than a baseball story, that was a story about commitment. It was a story about loyalty. It was a story about love of a team and a neighborhood and a state. It was about a player that went out there and tried as hard, and played every single day for 15 years in a row. That’s what made that so special. I’ve covered over 3000 Major League games, but that was probably the most special night that I’ve ever spent in a Major League ballpark.
MB: What are your favorite things to do in DC?
TK: Number one is to go to the Nationals games, since I love baseball and I love going to the ballpark. I love to go to the Orioles games, which is in Baltimore, but its still the DC area. Sometimes I like to go watch the Wizards play or the University of Maryland play because I’m a big basketball fan also. But beyond all that, I still love going to the museums and the landmarks in DC, whether it’s the Lincoln Memorial or the Air and Space Museum, whatever it is, that’s where I like to go.
MB: Tell me something about yourself that’s not baseball related?
TK: I really, really love basketball. I still like to play even though I’m 56 years old. I still love to go to watch high school basketball games. And I mostly love now to go to Syracuse University, where my son goes and my daughter used to go. And when I go there I love to watch the Syracuse basketball team because, other than the University of Maryland where I went to school, that’s my new home basketball team. Everybody knows that I cover baseball for a living, but basketball is my second love and I really like being around that and that’s my hobby in the offseason – watching and playing basketball.
That’s all I have for now of my interview of Tim Kurkjian. I really want to thank him for talking to me and all of you for reading this. If you know other interesting people who’d be interested in talking to me, send me an email.