December 2015

My Top 5 Favorites From Nationals Winterfest

2015-12-11 Natsfest

The Washington Nationals introduced something new this season- a two-day holiday-themed fan fest called WinterFest. That means that there was double the activities and double the fun! The Nats also introduced some new games, like the “Slider” which is basically a tubing slide, and the “Snowball Run” which is where you run in a large inflatable ball. I have some personal favorites from this year’s WinterFest, and I want to tell you about them. I think that the Nationals did a great job with Winterfest this year, and I especially like the new 2-day setup.  I attended the first day with my family and the second day with a friend’s family.

So without further adieu, here are my to 5 faves from Nats Winterfest!

5. Baseball Exhibit

The Nationals brought some items originally shown at the Nats at 10 exhibit at the Newseum. For people who did not get the chance to visit the Newseum when the exhibit was open, the Nationals let the people have an opportunity to see the historical baseball artifacts. Also, the exhibit had New Era hats from each minor league team in the US and Canada. I liked the Everett AquaSox hat.  Minor league teams have such great names and logos.  I also liked the Vermont Lake Monsters and Las Vegas 51s.

4. 2-Day Format

The new 2-day format of Winterfest made it so much less crowded and nice to visit. In past years, when there was only 1 day of NatsFest, there were much more people on that day, therefore making it a hour investment to get an autograph. It was much nicer with an emptier Convention Center, and made it more enjoyable for the fans.

3. Season Ticket Holder Autograph Session

Before Nats Winterfest started, the team allowed 2015 Season Ticket Holders to get autographs from their favorite Nats stars. We were lucky enough to get Stephen Strasburg, Matt Grace, Oliver Perez, Shawn Kelley, Mike Rizzo, Dan Kolko, and new pitching coach Mike Maddux’s autographs. While there was a long line to get the autographs, it was really cool that the Nats did the autographs for STHs this year.

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2. Snowball Run The Nationals designated an area for the “Snowball Run” this year. The Snowball Run is where you get into a giant inflatable ball that looks like a snowball. You could walk or run in the snowball, making it really fun for everyone. The main target for this event was children, and if you saw the line, you could tell that it was doing its job. Conveniently, it was located close to the kids area, batting cage, video pitch tracker, carnival game, and Stage, so it was easy to get to.

Before we get to my number 1, I wanted to remind you that there is still time left to enter the final round of FREE GIVEAWAYS from my 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.  You win get cool things like toys, books and a personalized Louisville Slugger bat.

1. Lip Sync Battle I mean, who attended Nats Winterfest and DIDN’T watch this! It was hilarious seeing the players lip sync to different songs, and it was nice that the players got to pick fans to lip sync with them. For instance, on Saturday, Anthony Rendon put on a great performance of “Bad To The Bone,” and on Sunday, Bryce Harper serenaded a young fan while singing “My Girl.” But the funniest performance was also by Harper and the rest of his team. He sang “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls, which made it amusing to watch. I think that this takes the cake, without a doubt.

Now, this was REALLY the best part of Nationals WinterFest:

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Listen to what it sounds like:

 

Check out some selfies below I took with some of the players after the event.

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MORE Giveaways From the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

With just a few shopping days left before Christmas, you may still be wondering what to get for the baseball fan in your life.  That’s where my 2015 Gift Guide comes in. There are lots of great ideas for kids and adults.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran some giveaways for some of the items on my gift guide.  Now, I have a few more things to give away, including a personalized Louisville Slugger bat! So if you missed out on the giveaways the first time or didn’t win anything last time around, you have a second chance to win these awesome prizes and gifts. So here is the 2nd round of the giveaways!

SECOND CHANCE- MAP YOUR TRAVELS POSTER

mapyourtravelsThe Map Your Travels poster was the most popular giveaway item the first round, getting almost 100 entries! I have a couple more more to give away. The Map Your Travels MLB Ballparks Map is a map where you can mark every stadium in the MLB you’ve been to. If you have a traveler who is also a big baseball fan, this is absolutely the most perfect gift to get them! Enter the giveaway today by using the giveaway code BALLPARKCLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE.

 

SECOND CHANCE- SMARTY MARTY BOOK and SCOREBOOK

For any young basesmartymartyball fan wanting to know how to score the game, the Smarty Marty book and scorebook is the perfect gift. Written by the San Francisco Giants reporter Amy Gutierrez (“Amy G”), it gives kids a real-life example of a kid learning how to score a baseball game. The book was also a very popular giveaway last time and one of my favorite things on the Gift Guide, and you can take home an autographed book today by using the giveaway code SCORINGCLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE.

 

SECOND CHANCE- OYO MINIFIGURE

OyoThe ultimate stocking stuffer, you can take home a minifigure of the hottest stars from MLB and other college and professional sports. You can build football fields, hockey rinks, baseball diamonds, and much, much more. I think that Oyo minifigures are a great gift for the aspiring architect. Sets are affordable, and they fit in the stocking. But you can enter to get one of the MLB’s best FOR FREE! Just use the giveaway code MINIFIGURE and enter to win one– your choice of Mike Trout or Buster PoseyCLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE.

SECOND CHANCE- SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COOKBOOK

SIThe Sports Illustrated “Food, Football, and Fun” cookbook is a great resource to use when you are stumped on what to make for dinner one night. It uses sports themed recipes, like football shaped whoopie pies. If you know anyone who loves to support their team and loves to cook, enter the raffle for this cookbook. I guarantee that the results will be scrumptious! Use the code RECIPE to enter.  CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE.

 

NEW!- LOUISVILLE SLUGGER PERSONALIZED BAT

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Maybe I saved the best for last.  If you win this raffle, you get a CUSTOM Louisville Slugger wood bat, personalized the way you’d like!  Kids and baseball fans everywhere dream of being like Major Leaguers and having their names or signatures on Louisville Slugger bats. That’s why giving a personalized Louisville Slugger bat this holiday season is the perfect gift.  They make great focal points in offices, dens, bedrooms and man-caves.  Enter to win using the giveaway code SLUGGER, and you can win a one-of-a-kind bat to have.  You may not want to take your personalized bat to the cages, and that’s where you may want to invest in the Louisville Slugger Youth 2016 Prime 916 Baseball Bat.  It’s a powerful bat designed for the best amateur players.  CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE.

I hope you enjoyed these giveaways, and good luck! Thank you to all the companies that sponsored giveaways on my gift guide, like Louisville Slugger, New Era Caps, Franklin Sports, OYO Sports, Map Your Travels, SI Kids, and author Amy Gutierrez.

Check out all my recommended gifts for the 2015 Holiday season.   And there are more great items on my 2014 Gift Guide and 2013 Gift GuideClicking on the links not only helps show the companies that you like my recommendations, but it helps me too!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Raffles for all giveaways listed on this page start on 12/17/15 at 12:00am and last 1 week.  They’re all free to enter.  Operators of MattsBats.com have full discretion to select winners based on successfully completed entries, 1 prize winner per raffle.  Winners must be willing to pay S&H costs if alternative delivery cannot be arranged.  Delivery before Christmas 2015 is not guaranteed and unlikely.  There is no affiliation with MLBAM or MLB.com.  If you have any questions, contact us. Other giveaways via Twitter.

My Coverage of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom Ceremony

IMG_5413Last week, I had one of the most amazing experiences since I started MattsBats.com.  I had the chance to visit the White House to attend the Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony as part of the press pool.  On November 24, 2015, President Barack Obama awarded the medal to 17 Americans who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  I was invited to cover the event because the President awarded the Medal of Freedom to baseball Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Yogi Berra, who died in September.

Willie Howard Mays, Jr. was born in segregated Alabama in 1931.  He made his major league debut in 1951, and became one of the best baseball players in history.  President Obama said, “we never saw an all-around five tool player like Willie before and haven’t seen one since.” He stepped into the history books as a 2-time MVP, with 660 career home runs, a .302 lifetime batting average, 12 Gold Glove awards, and 24 All Star appearances.  In awarding the medal to Mays, President Obama said: “It’s because of giants like Willie that I even thought about running for president.”

Mays

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was one of our country’s most beloved and memorable sports heroes. “What could be said about Yogi Berra that he couldn’t say better himself?” President Obama remarked.  He was one of the greatest catchers in the history of baseball and had “the winningest career in the history of American sports.”  He was a 15-time All Star, winner of 10 World Series championships, and a three-time league MVP.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy during WWII.  He fought on D-Day at Omaha Beach and came home with a Purple Heart.  President Obama presented Yogi’s award to his son Larry.

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In addition to Mays and Berra, this year’s awardees included: Bonnie Carroll (founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS), Shirley Chisholm (posthumous) (first African-American woman elected to Congress), Emilio Estefan (music producer), Gloria Estefan (Latin music singer), Billy Frank, Jr (posthumous) (advocate for Native American treaty rights), Lee Hamilton (former Indiana representative), Katherine G. Johnson (NASA mathematician), Barbara Mikulski (longest serving female senator) (Maryland), Itzhak Pearlman (violinist), William Ruckelshaus (environmentalist), Stephen Sondheim (composer), Steven Spielberg (movie director), Barbra Streisand (singer and actress), James Taylor (singer), and Minori Yasui (posthumous) (human rights leader).

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Now, let me let you in on what it’s like to go to the White House as credentialed media for an event like this.

The event did not start until 5:00p.m., but you obviously need to be there early.  I left school very early: at 11:50 a.m. After running home and getting dressed in a suit, my mom and I hopped on the Metro to head downtown to the White House.

IMG_5380We arrived at the Northwest gate of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue a little before 2:00 p.m., which was the time press could start pre-set.  The Secret Service checked our IDs and made sure we were on the list, and then we had our bags screened and walked through a metal detector like at an airport.

Once we were through security, we walked on the driveway to a courtyard between the West Wing and the Residence. While on that walk, we saw the stations where the cameras and news reporters are stationed to report from the North Lawn.

While waiting there, we saw the most famous dogs in America, Bo and Sunny! They were coming in after their walk.

 

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When all the press members arrived, we went up into the White House, through the front door.  We made a left into the East Room so all the reporters could claim a spot and set up equipment.

After that, we went to the Press Briefing Room to wait while the White House staff got the room ready for the event.  To get there, we walked back outside the White House.  It’s along the corridor connecting the Residence to the West Wing.  The Briefing Room is the room you see when President Obama or White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is giving a press conference on television.

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We were waiting in the Press Briefing Room for a while and decided to explore.  Located behind the room are puny offices for the White House Press Corps.  There are also some vending machines there. It was very cool to see behind the scenes of how news is made. Everyone was really nice to me and showed me around the space.

After waiting for a while, they called for us to return to the East Room.  We entered the White House again, this time to music played by the White House Marine Band. Guests trickled in, including some famous guests like will.i.am, James Brolin, former attorney general Eric Holder, Rep. Steny Hoyer, DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who has a cane made out of a baseball bat.  At around 5:10, the honorees were introduced, followed by a sudden crescendo in the music. Hail to the Chief started playing.  Everyone stood up, and President Obama and Michelle Obama entered the room.  He welcomed the crowd and spoke.

I knew about some of the honorees, like Berra, Mays, and Spielberg, before, but I had never heard about people like Shirley Chisholm, Katherine Johnson and Minori Yasui. When President Obama introduced them and spoke about their lives and accomplishments, it was so interesting. Each person who received the award did something really great to help our country.

After the ceremony, some of the honorees came over to the press for interviews. I was hoping to be able to see Willie Mays, but unfortunately, he went home early so I didn’t get the chance to interview him. But I was able to take a picture with Steven Spielberg, and get close to some of the other award recipients, including Barbara Streisand, James Taylor and Itzhak Pearlman.

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The whole ceremony lasted about a hour.  When it was over, the invited guests stayed for a reception, and the Marine band played music relevant to the honorees, like the theme song from E.T. and Don’t Rain on My Parade.  They took the members of the press out of the building through a back way out the East Wing.  We saw a portrait of Hillary Clinton and a bust of Henry Clay, yes, made out of clay.

It was really amazing being able to take in this ceremony firsthand from the historic East Room of the White House and to be in the same room as some of the most famous and celebrated Americans in politics, music, sports and science.

LansdowneBONUS COOL FACT: In the East Room, there is a famous portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart called the Lansdowne Portrait. When I saw it, I recognized it and asked my mom if that was the original. She said yes because it’s hanging in the White House!  Well, later that week, we went to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. While walking through the Presidents exhibit, we saw the exact same portrait of Washington! I was confused. How could it be in two places? Here’s the explanation: The National Portrait Gallery has the real, original one, not the White House!  My mom was wrong.  The one at the White House is a replica, but painted by the same artist. There are, in fact, more replicas by Stuart in the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut and the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts Museum in Philadelphia. Also, copies not painted by Stuart are located at the US House Chamber and the Rayburn room of the Capitol. How can you tell the copies from the original?  “In the copies, the book at the lower left hand of the picture has “UNITED STATES” intentionally misspelled as “UNITED SATES.” I wish I had known that when I was in the White House so I could check it out for myself!