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!

FisterBarrettfam

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.

thornton

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.

battingcage

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!”

rbibaseball

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.

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