December 2014

My “2015” NatsFest Review

stageThe Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC was all decked out in red on December 13 for NatsFest. Because NatsFest was held in December this year, it was actually the second one in 2014! (Last season’s NatsFest– the first one in 2014– was held in January 2014).

The “2015” NatsFest was fun, start to finish. Twenty-eight players, coaches, broadcasters and team officials were at NatsFest, including National League Manager of the Year Matt Williams, “Face of the Franchise” and new first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Nats owner Mark Lerner, and the National who threw the first no-hitter, Jordan Zimmermann.

NatsFest is always fun because you get to see and interact with your favorite Nats players in a more relaxed environment off of the field.  There were fun games like “NatsFest Feud” and a gingerbread house making contest, where players competed against each other in fun games on stage.  There were also new features, like the MASN #SwagGrab where you could win autographed items by players like Denard Span, Jordan Zimmermann and Matt Williams, plus old favorites including the player photo opportunities, Q&A sessions, and autograph stations.

 

It was a fun filled way to spend a Saturday, and I want to tell you all about it.

As Nationals season ticket holders, we got in an hour early, right at 10am.  This is a great benefit because the convention center is basically empty and you can do whatever activities you want without waiting on line.  As soon as I got into the room, I headed straight to the MASN #SwagGrab claw machine because it was a new event and I wanted to win an autographed ball.  Unfortunately, the claw at NatsFest was just as tricky to use as the claw games at the boardwalk, so I didn’t win. My brother was the first kid to run the “Stealing Home” game, and he did it over and over probably 30 times the rest of the day.

Then I headed to the line for my first player photo of the day.  Lucky for me, I was taking a picture with pitchers Doug Fister and Aaron Barrett!

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Double lucky for me, that wasn’t the last time I ran into them that day.

Next, we went into the autograph line of Matt Thornton and Doug Fister.  I got Fister’s autograph on a ball and I got Thornton’s autograph on a mini bat I have signed by lots of other Nats.

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After a quick lunch, I went backstage to interview Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett.  I asked him what it’s like to experience NatsFest from a player’s point of view.  “This is my first NatsFest.  I did not go last year.  I think this is a pretty cool ordeal.  I like seeing how much the fans get to interact with the players, and I think it’s really neat for us to try to connect one-on-one, whether it’s a picture or an autograph or interview.  I think it’s pretty neat.”  He added, “I think it’s something we hopefully continue to do and give back to the fans for years to come.”

Stay tuned for the rest of my interview with Barrett, which will be in a separate Matt’s Bats Chat coming soon!

After talking to Barrett, I did a few of the games, like the batting cages and the kids games in the Family Fun Zone.

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pitch

I also played the Bingo game sponsored by the Nats Archive, and took a picture with some of the Archivists.

 

I also watched the end of NatsFest Feud, which had relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard face off against each other in a Family Feud style game with two fans.  Storen killed Clip in the game.

I then watched the Curly W Challenge, where shortstop Ian Desmond and his son Grayson, Aaron Barrett, and now-Tampa Bay Ray Steven Souza, Jr. teamed up with fans for a gingerbread house building competition.  It was very competitive, and Ian and Grayson pulled off a win.

After that, I played a game of RBI Baseball 14 on a Xbox One with Tyler Clippard and another fan.  We played Nationals versus Nationals.  At one point, I had the bases loaded and hit a grand slam.  Well, it was Stephen Strasburg who hit the grand slam.  Clippard remarked, “oh, well that’s never going to happen in real life!”

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clippard

This was a really cool experience, and funny enough, the second time I got to play Xbox with a Nationals player!  The other time, you may remember, is when I squared off against Stephen Strasburg.  (Read about it here).

Stephen Strasburg and I "bowling" in a game of Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

Stephen Strasburg and I “bowling” in a game of Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

Actually, that brings me to one of the highlights of my day.  A few of the many, many people who brought toys for underprivileged kids got the opportunity to meet Strasburg and Matt Williams.  I asked Strasburg if he remembered me from our Xbox adventure earlier this offseason.

 

After our game, Jerry Blevins came over to play against Clippard.  It was a fierce game.

My family went back over to the MASN booth to take a picture on the couch with Ryan Zimmerman.

zimmerman

It was really cool to meet him again, and when I told him I was the kid interviewed his wife Heather a few years ago, he remembered me. That was really cool. I hope to bring you a Matt’s Bats Chat with Ryan Zimmerman soon.

We ended NatsFest by watching The Last Out, hosted by Kevin Frandsen. He was really funny. His guests were Jordan Zimmermann and Craig Stammen, and Steven Souza, Jr. It was a funny Q&A where they talked a lot about Zimmermann’s no-hitter and Souza’s amazing diving catch with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th to save it.

After that, all the players came on stage to say a final farewell.

players

As fans filed out of the convention center, we walked over to the JW Marriot Marquis, which is connected by tunnels, for the unofficial after-party.  Who walked over with us?  Ryan Zimmerman! That was sort of AWESOME! He was walking pretty fast because I think he didn’t want to get swarmed by other fans who may have seen him.  But we did get to talk a little as we walked.

The after-party is usually the best part of NatsFest.  A few celebrities usually show up, like F.P. Santangelo, Charlie Slowes and a few players.  This year, I got to talk to Mike Rizzo and actually got a news scoop from him!  (Read about it here).  Bottom line, I broke the news Nationals that Rizzo wasn’t going to consider leaving DC to join the Toronto Blue Jays, as was rumored earlier that day.

 

That was the end of NatsFest, and I was tired after the day.  We ended up being at the convention center for about 11 hours– from 9:30 in the morning to about 8:30 at night.

I just wanted to end by saying HAPPY HOLIDAYS! to everyone.  I also wanted to remind you that if you haven’t finished your shopping for your kids, you should check out my HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE FOR KIDS, which has ideas for the kinds of presents to get for kids who like baseball and other sports.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo Will NOT Be Going to Toronto

During NatsFest yesterday, the rumor started that the Toronto Blue Jays were considering hiring Mike Rizzo to be their CEO.  This caused a lot of concern for Nationals fans, because Mike Rizzo has built the Washington Nationals into a great team that has won the NL East two out of the past three years.

I saw Mike Rizzo after NatsFest and asked him about the rumor:

 

 

This was breaking news to a lot of Nationals fans.

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that Nats fans can have some relief.  The man who has traded Steve Lombardozzi, Zach Walters, Mike Morse, Tommy Milone, Matt Capps, Alex Meyer, and Cristian Guzman for Doug Fister, Asdrubal Cabrera, A.J. Cole, Gio Gonzalez, Wilson Ramos, Tanner Roark, and Denard Span will be staying here in DC.

Winners of My Gift Guide Giveaways and NEW Contest!

IMG_0006When I published my Holiday Gift Guide with recommendations for presents to buy for kids who like baseball, I also announced that I would be giving away some items from the gift guide.  I’m happy to announce the winners of the Giveaways from my Holiday Gift Guide. They are:

I will email the winners soon about how to get the prizes.

And now for a new Giveaway contest!

I also am excited to announce that I am giving away a Fathead decal with a value up to $100!
I included Fathead decals on my 2013 Gift Guide and 2014 Gift Guide because they are really cool.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN THE FATHEAD GRAPHIC

You can get Fathead decals for all your favorite Nats, mascots, logos, and movie characters.

You can get Fathead decals for all your favorite Nats, mascots, logos, and movie characters.

(I am using a website called Rafflecopter to help run the giveaway)

Fathead LLC is the industry leader of graphics products for large & small spaces – led by authentic, officially licensed sports & entertainment graphics. Fathead gives fans the opportunity to feel passion For Real by bringing their favorite inspiration to life. Based in Detroit, Michigan, Fathead manufactures all products in the USA and Canada for purchase worldwide.  Fathead carries thousands of images and maintains over 500 license agreements with leading consumer brands across many industries and professional sports leagues.  For more information, visit www.Fathead.com.  Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Fathead. FOR REAL.™

 

“Microstras”: My Adventure Playing Xbox with Stephen Strasburg

IMG_3248Have you ever wondered what its like to play Xbox with Nationals fireballer (and famous gamer) Stephen Strasburg?  I was lucky enough to be one of the few Nats fans to have this cool experience when I went to the Microsoft Store opening at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on November 22.  Two hundred lucky fans were allowed to take on Strasburg as part of the grand opening celebration, and Microsoft gave me a press pass to cover the event, interview Strasburg, and play game against him on Xbox.

The Microsoft Store chose the game.  We played Kinect Sports Rivals, a game that allows you to choose from a selection of sports game. The cool thing about Kinect is that you use your body to control the action, not a controller.  Stras and I played bowling. Here’s no surprise: he was very competitive.  I saw him throw down perfect strikes to kids younger than me.  That, too is no surprise, that Strasburg can throw strikes.

Strasburg was so fun to play against.  It was awesome to see the determination and effort he put into every game he played with the fans.  But here’s the surprising part of my day – I pulled out an unexpected win against him! He is well-known to be a huge fan of video games, so I was totally expecting that I would go in and lose big against him.

Stephen Strasburg and I "bowling" in a game of Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

Stephen Strasburg and I “bowling” in a game of Kinect Sports Rivals on Xbox One.

It made me feel so good to win. I definitely didn’t expect it! Stephen took the loss pretty well.  If you ever find your self playing Stras in Xbox, here’s a tip  – just stay calm. I did, and I won.

I asked him what skills video games can teach that can be useful in baseball and in life.  “Being able to talk to each other and collaborate and work together as a unit,” he said.  “Playing Call of Duty, playing online with my buddies, people I’ve played on teams with in the past, you have to rely on communication and teamwork to go out there and not get destroyed.”

I was really lucky we didn’t play Call Of Duty or some other action game Strasburg usually plays because then I definitely would have lost.  Strasburg definitely would have had the advantage if we played a driving game too.  I once played Forza 5 – I’ll just say that I owed a lot to the fake body shop.

In past seasons, Strasburg has brought his game system on the road with him.  “Last year I didn’t bring it. We have a little girl now and once you have kids you don’t play games as much. But before, I’d play games with the other players. We would play Tiger Woods… I hope there’s another PGA game coming out this year.”

 

The Bethesda Microsoft Store showed their dedication to the area by making technology grants to organizations like the Wounded Warriors Foundation, the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase, the National 4-H Council, and the Imagination Stage, and others.  The store has a variety of Windows 8.1 laptops, desktops, tablets, Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles, games, controllers, and Kinect sensors, Microsoft smart bands, and Windows phones with a improved camera and Cortana. photo4

Earlier that morning. they cut the ribbon and officially opened the store for business.  I happened to be the first non-Microsoft worker to set foot in the new store, which I think is amazing.

I took advantage of the store opening special to buy myself an Xbox 360 using my allowance money from taking in and out the trash cans each week.  They had Xboxes and Toshiba tablets on sale for only $99 that day!  Even at full price, the 4GB Xbox 360 costs only $199, and Microsoft’s newest system, Xbox One, is $399 (although both are on sale for the holidays).  I included them on my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids.  Microsoft Store manager Tiffany Traynum explained why the Xbox One makes a great gift for kids: “First of all, Kinect. You can also play online with your friends. You can access social media like Facebook. You can access your One Drive. You can even search the internet on Xbox One, so I think that makes it a wonderful gift for kids.”

Also as part of the store opening celebration, there were lots of raffle prizes.  Some people won an Xbox One, a Jambox, and lots of gift cards to the Microsoft Store.  I was lucky enough to win the one thing I wanted most: a signed Stephen Strasburg baseball!  Stras signed it right smack on the sweet spot!

It was an amazing way to open the Microsoft Store at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Definitely check it out next time you are in the area, although hanging out with Stephen Strasburg is not guaranteed to happen again!

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 If you’re still deciding what to buy the kids in your life for the holidays, check out my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide https://mattsbats.com/2014/11/26/black-friday-holiday-gift-guide-for-2014-slash-2015/.  I wrote it myself, so kids will definitely like it.  Also, I am giving away a lot of cool products.  The first round of giveaways is here: https://mattsbats.com/2014/11/28/giveaways-from-my-2014-holiday-gift-guide-for-kids/ and there are more to come!