Nats Caravan Hits the Bowie Safeway
So the festivities were already underway by the time I reached the Bowie Town Center Safeway this afternoon. Manny Acta, Mike O'Connor and Nook Logan were signing autographs, passing out Nats visors, passing out WTWP chapstick, etc. They were positioned next to the Starbucks and in front of the Signature Soup bar (today's special: Broccoli and Cheesy Cheddar). It was festive.
But things got a lot more festive when Giant Abraham Lincoln showed up, pushing a shopping cart. Several children, who were positioned near Manny Acta, absolutely lost their minds.
"Hey you, you're big," 5-year-old Mary Beth Smith said.
"Hey, you have a big head," 4-year-old Brien Hill said.
"He has a big head," Mary Beth said.
"He has a big head," Brien agreed.
"He's shopping," Mary Beth said.
"He's shopping," Brien agreed.
"He's shopping for big heads," Mary Beth said.
Then they ran off behind Abraham Lincoln, tiny children of Hamelin to his massively-headed Presidential Pied Piper. Frankly, I ran off behind him too. I admit, I'm unnaturally attracted to the Giant Presidents. I think they're among the greatest things going in professional sports. That's why my heart skipped so many times when I read Stan Kasten's recent quotes in the Nats 320 blog about an increased role for the Presidents this season.
VP of Communications Chartese Burnett confirmed this to me yesterday. It's apparently important to note that the Giant Presidents are not mascots, per se; they are in-game entertainment personalities. But Burnett said the Presidents would now be appearing at more community functions, in more team promotions and during more in-game entertainment events. "I just know that you're going to be seeing a lot more of them," she said.
So I wondered how the ordinary Safeway shoppers of the world would treat one such President, which is why I tailed Giant Abe on his goodwill tour through the store. He stopped in the meat department.
"Yes, may I help you?" Hollis Phifer asked Giant Abe. "Is he on stilts?"
I asked Mr. Phifer if he knew who Giant Abe was with.
"Not Sarah," Mr. Phifer said.
When I told him it was the Nats, he approved. "We need something like that; everybody else has something," he said. "It would be nice to have something to put yourself in perspective."
Giant Abe stopped at the checkout lanes and helped some customers with their bags.
"You're a little overwhelming, dear," 72-year old Bea Quarles told Giant Abe as he bagged her groceries. "You want to double those, please?"
She didn't know who Giant Abe was with, either, nor had she recognized him as a former President, but when I explained who he was, she also approved. "He's something special, something different, and that's us," she said. "And at 72, whatever I say is good."
(Later, I was showing some store employees my photos of Abe with the groceries. They were impressed.
"Hey, he does the courtesy clerk job better than they do," Moses Herald said. "We need to hire him, for real.")
Before he left the checkout area, Giant Abe posed for photos with Nan O'Neill.
"Hey Abe, she voted for you," shouted out Nan's son-in-law, Dave Lanham.
"Oh no he didn't say that," a Safeway employee whispered.
(Of course, Dave had previously told me that his mother-in-law worked on Teddy Roosevelt's primary campaign, so this wasn't surprising to me. Dave, a Nats season ticket holder from year one, was a bit giddy about today's events; he had brought his son, 8-year-old Jack, who technically was at a "dentist appointment." Dave had stopped by the in-store Starbucks and spent a decent amount of time hanging out by the autograph table.
"I told Manny, now I can say I've had a cup of coffee with the Nats," Dave said, which I had to admit was a pretty good line.)
At some point Giant Abe also made it to the deli, where he met deli clerk Kristen Settles. Later, I asked Kristen if she knew who Giant Abe was with.
"Isn't it a bank?" she asked, but with some prodding she came up with the Nats. She had mixed feelings about Giant Abe.
"It was kind of scary, my co-worker ran away while I was making a sandwich," she said, but she actually liked him, all in all. Maybe I was hearing what I wanted to hear, but I was hearing that people liked that Giant shopper, despite the fact that we were in Safeway.
"Everybody has a bird, an animal, something like that," Dorian Wade said. "It's funnier, it's better, it's more original."
"I thought it was hilarious," Ganesh Persaud said.
"The first time they came out I said, 'This is a home run, an absolute grand slam,'" radio voice Dave Jageler said.
"What's his name, that always loses, Teddy?" said center fielder and Bog fave Nook Logan. "He's got to work out, go to a little speed camp. Tell him to come work out with me; we'll do some leg presses, some skips, some jump stops. Stop tanning in the sun, got to work out in the offseason."
"The Giant Presidents reflect what we have in the city, the nation's capital," partial ticket plan holder Ray Smith said. "I think it's a great idea; it's great entertainment."
Not that there weren't dissenting opinions.
"Screech is nicer, and he likes the Nationals more," Ray Smith's son, 9-year-old Raymond, said. "That guy's scary."
And, of course, there were suggestions for how to improve Giant Abe.
"Next time have him breakdance or something," Herald suggested.
"Or have him do the A-Town Stomp," Ericka Nicole Lynn Farrish said. "Tell him to do that."
And really, the day that Giant Abe takes the field at RFK and does the A-Town Stomp would be a wonderful day, indeed.
(Ericka Nicole Lynn Farrish hopes to be an actress, and requested I put her name in bold type.)
January 24, 2007; 3:42 PM ET
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