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!