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Kasten doesn't like visiting team cheers in D.C.


Fan invasion. (By Greg Fiume - Getty)


Any time Stan Kasten goes on the radio to discuss the phenomenon of visiting fan invasions at Nats Park, I must transcribe his every word. My job status depends on this. It's written into the contract. And so, a few days late, I present to you Mark Plotkin grilling Kasten about the Nats Park crowd makeup, delivered via Friday's WTOP Politics Hour.

"I am not a singular phenom,"said Plotkin, who apparently roots for the White Sox over the Nats despite his years in this city. "There are others,"he continued. "Mets fans, terrible Cubs fans -- something should happen to the -- all these people that have loyalties, even to the point where sometimes you're accused of there [being] more people in the stadium who are rooting for the opposing team than the hometown team."

"Well, it's a particular phenomenon here with this team." Kasten replied. "A writer said to me last week, 'You know, there aren't lifelong Nats fans.' Yeah, unless you're less than five years old, there couldn't be. And that's part of the process that we go through, and this is how it starts.

"We give you a reason to be interested in the local team, to be curious enough to come out. We try to give you a good time while you're there, try to have the team continue to build and become successful. And when something amazing like the Strasburg phenomenon comes along, it helps you get more energized, and that's how the process begins, Mark. It's gonna overtake even you. In time, you're gonna be converted as well....And that's why we don't mind even when fans of other cities come to our ballpark. It happens everywhere, We know it's gonna happen."

Plotkin continued, asking Kasten what it feels like to hear cheers for the visiting side.

"I don't like it," Kasten said, "but I understand that that's how the process begins. When we can get people into the ballpark -- even when they come for other reasons -- if we give them enough of a good time, give them a reason to get behind our team, the process of turning them will happen. And it will happen, because I think we are on the right track."

You know, I've parsed radio transcripts for signs of unacceptable D.C. disloyalty as much as anybody, but I'm not sure I could find a cross word to say about this answer. It's nice to hear Kasten say he doesn't like those visiting cheers; the fear is that the people upstairs haven't cared about this issue. Feeling like it's a problem is the first step.

Kasten was on for a full hour, so there was plenty of talk about plenty of baseball issues, but since Plotkin is wont to ask slightly off-the-beaten-track questions, I figured I'd provide some of those responses. You can listen to the full thing here.

On the 2010 attendance: "It started off slow, because coming out of spring training, our season ticket base was down yet again this year....When we committed to building through scouting and player development, there was a process that was gonna take time. there was no shortcut to it. And that's what we've done, and we're coming through it now. And this year we will see an upturn in attendance. By the time the year's over, we will have more people this year than we had last year. Last year was about 1.8 [million], I think the first year was like 2.7 or something like that. I think this year we'll go over the 1.8, because in the last month we've seen the worn turn. we have finally started going north again."

On neighborhood development: As far as reviving the neighborhood,I'll say this. this year we'll draw whatever it is, a million 8, 2 million people into that part of D.C. And five years ago, four years ago, three years ago, there were no visitors to that part of D.C., so it's already been a big plus for the Navy Yard and that part of the Anacostia neighborhood. I don't think there's been the development that all of us foresaw coming, and that's frankly because of the turndown in the economy and the real estate semi-bust that we've been in. But it's bound to happen. There's too much good there. As i said, there's the 2 million people -- on our way to 3 million people I think very soon -- coming there every year. We have a magnificent waterfront on our doorstep. All the pieces are in place to still be what we envisioned someday: a grand nightlife area of entertainment, shopping, restaurants, etc."

On mixing modern presidents into the President's Race: "I think we've done a good job with the whole presidents thing. I think they are the four Rushmores, so hardly anyone can argue with their eminence. And living presidents, or even recent presidents, would be somewhat controversial, especially in this city. So i like where we are with our presidents."

On adding a patch or pin promoting D.C. statehood or voting rights: "I certainly understand how you feel, and my own personal sympathies aside, remember I'm a resident of D.C. myself....We consider ourselves and our very proud to be representing the national pastime in he nation's capital. We take that very seriously. We welcome all comers of any political stripe. We are a politics-free zone....So anything that comes close to being controversial or political, we stay away from....We're not expressing a view one way or the other. we're staying away from it. And we're keeping everything about Nationals Park away from that kind of political controversy, because we want everyone to feel welcome there."

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 21, 2010; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Media , Nats  
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Comments

Don't know when it actually fell during the interview, but if Plotkin waited to grill Kasten on DC voting rights in Congress until the very last segment, I'm shocked. If the Nats had bullpen carts, Plotkin would demand they have "No Taxation Without Representation" license plates.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | June 21, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

In the 80's, people moved to places like Springfield and Vienna to escape the sprawl. In the 90's, Ashburn was still called Sterling and there were more cows in Loudoun County than people. We added literally millions of people to the area over the last few decades, and they all came from somewhere else. Given how easy it is to keep up with your hometown team via the internet and cable these days, it's no surprise these people are still loyal to other teams. I can't begrudge that.

But what really bothers me is how many people are raising their kids to root for other teams. Remember when you were a kid, and everyone picked on the little brat who insisted on cheering for the out of town team? Yeah, that's your kid, and everyone in school hates him.

Posted by: bryc3 | June 21, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Kasten comes off like a sleazy used car saleman. Remember, this is a guy that actively recruited Philadelphia fans to come to Nats Park when the Nationals played the Phillies. So, notwithstanding his comments, I don't think the opposing cheers bother him too much.

Posted by: poguesmahone | June 21, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

1. It's tourist season during a big portion of baseball season
2. The DC area attracts people from locals that don't have the economic hiring power of this area.(ex: the pittsburg brain-drain phenomena)
Both groups will be anti-Nats.

Posted by: Hattrik | June 21, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

People coming to cheer for the other team I can deal with - it's people at Nats Park wearing completely random team gear that drive me nuts. Leave the f*cking Red Sox hat at home for a night.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 21, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Speaking from the other side of the coin, I grew up and lived most of my life in Northern VA, listening to my Dad talk about the Senators (and being bitter about them being taken away), and having no real "home team" to root for. I became a Braves fan sort of by proxy. But I was done with that as soon as the Nats came to town.

Unfortunately, from the fan perspective, my job situation took me to California in 2005, and I've been here ever since. So I've been a visiting team fan, sporting the curly W, in Anaheim, LA, and San Francisco. I follow the local teams, but no amount of marketing gimmicks will change my loyalties to MY home team.

As someone said above, with the internet, satellite radio, MLB cable packages, etc., it's really easy these days to keep up with your team from anywhere in the country. I certainly do. So I can't really begrudge lifelong fans of other teams who cheer for their guys at Nats Park.

The key for the Nats -- and certainly Strasburg mania will help -- is cultivating a loyal, local fanbase. Kids who will grow up rooting for the team and pass that along. As Kasten said, there are no lifelong Nats fans -- yet.

Posted by: js_edit | June 21, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Every mom and dad that takes their kids to the game are planting the seed that makes one a lifelong fan. My kids have been going to games since 2005 and now are old enough to go by themselves, they are homers and love the Nats. We suffered for 33 years and becuase of that at least two generations of people have no idea about the highs and lows of a baseball season or team loyalty. When I look back at that 33 years I'm amazed how we could have been satisfied with 16 football games a year and only half of them at home.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 21, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@js_edit - Good for you. I love it, and would be the exact same way if I had to relocate.

@bryc3 - You're right on the money. I am admittedly immature when it comes to professional sports fandom and things I get bent out of shape about are silly.

That said, as a native Arlingtonian, I cannot stand being at DC sporting events with fans from other teams. I understand the "DC is a transient area" deal and all of that, but it's still annoying. What's worse is that these "great fans" from all of the other areas (primarily New York, Philly, Chicago and Pittsburgh) generally show up en masse only when their team is good, and then stake moral high ground with respect to how much better the fans are in those respective cities. What a crock. When a team sucks, attendance is not good anywhere (for the most part). Further, many of these visiting fans are obnoxious. At Friday night's Nats game I had the pleasure of sitting a few rows behind a drunken moron wearing a Blackhawks sweater, who at every opportunity drew attentiont to himself and the sweater, while simultaneously lifting the shirt to expose his beer gut and shouting expeletives, all within earshot of my 11 year old son. It's that type of nonsense that keeps me from taking my son to Skins' games, unless we sit on the Club Level where only 10% of the people are real fans anyway.

I will conclude this rant by saying that the most disgusting, vile, of all visiting team creatures, however, is the contrarian, "know next to nothing" type of fan who grew up in the DC area but roots for teams in cities which they couldn't pick out on a map if you spotted them the state. You know who you are. They go to games for the sole purpose of annoying others and starting fights. I laugh at them, because they don't really care about sports, nor do they feel any real joy when their team wins, or angst when it loses. They're the idiots wearing the Romo jerseys; wearing the Cavaliers jerseys at the Wizards-Cavs playoffs series a few years ago (The Cavs? Really? At least I've seen the Pearson and Dorsett jerseys since elementary school). Bottom line: if you choose your favorite based on whether they've won a championship in the last 5 years, or have a future hall of famer on their roster, or because you like to be annoying, then you're pretty much a loser (in my view).

Thanks for listening.

Posted by: columbiapike | June 21, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Kasten...what slime. Stan the Philly Man. The guy ignored Nationals fans and actively sought out the support of Philadelphia Phillie fans..thousands of them. And he has the gall to say he doesn't like the visiting teams fans?

Blow it out your ear you gasbag. Just go run your miserable franchise into the ground some more. How bout building a team that will draw some local fans? Maybe a team that isn't a 100-loss embarrassment every season? Idiot.

Posted by: jollyroger2 | June 21, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

How about a presidential relay--Veeps start, with presidents as anchors. The Rushmore Four make for an interesting set of match-ups:

WASHINGTON/ADAMS: This pair gets off to a relatively slow start--John Adams was derided as "His Rotundity" during his term as Vice President--but don't discount his tenacity. Adams wasn't afraid to mix it up, politically (leading to a break with Jefferson/Madison)--an interesting contrast to GW's "I Cannot Tell A Lie" aloofness. GW, of course, is a strong anchor--the Father of Our Country was a renowned horseman and soldier.


JEFFERSON/MADISON: Little Jimmy Madison (youngest of the Framers of the Constitution) has quicker feet than Adams, but he and Adams will probably end up fouling each other in the early part of the race--they came to disagree about the role of the Federal government early in the Republic. TJ is a somewhat weaker finisher than GW--he's a lover, not a racer, after all.


LINCOLN/A. JOHNSON: A. Johnson is the dark horse in this race, and probably the weakest of the Veeps. A tailor by trade and not known for his physical prowess. Probably best known for being the only President to have been impeached (until W.J. Clinton). Lincoln makes up ground with long strides and straight talk.

T. ROOSEVELT/W.H. TAFT: OK, this isn't even fair. Taft is the greatest American president in terms of gross tonnage--a flabby counterpoint to T.R., that great exponent of what they called "physical culture." Not sure if Taft's other achievements in the Senate and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would help him on the track. Sentimental fan favorite, though: WHT was a HUGE (ha!) baseball fan. He invented the Seventh Inning Stretch! He started the tradition of presidents throwing out the first ball on Opening Day! He detested intentional walks and bunts as cowardly! Plus, with Taft in the race, T.R. will almost NEVER win--keeping a Nats Park streak alive.

What do you think?

Posted by: ouij | June 21, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

What poguesmahone and jollyroger2 said. This marketing genius managed to fail to draw fans to one of the great dynasties in baseball history. I wish they'd fire him and bring in a local guy who cares about local fans.

Posted by: gbooksdc | June 21, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

To those people who grew up elsewhere:

I grew up in Brooklyn, too late for the Dodgers. I became a Mets and Yankees (yes, it is possible) fan; the two greatest things I saw in person as a kid was Tom Seaver striking out ten in a row and Mickey Mantle going 5-for-5 against the Washington Senators (!) on Memorial Day 1968.

I spent my entire adult life in Washington wishing we had baseball, and when we got it back I made a conscious decision to throw myself into the home team completely. What was the point of that long wait otherwise?

It has been completely worth it. Whatever the disapppointments on (and off) the field may be, nothing compares with living and dying each day with your home town team.

And, I might add, being with my own daughter at Ryan Zimmerman's Father's Day home run to beat the Yankees four years ago (can it be?) is one of the great sports thrills I ever had.

So, you transplants. Give up those old hats. Let it go. You won't regret it.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 21, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Stan Kasten is giant effing a-hole. I cant even read his garbage without blowing a fuse. He is a master of twisted logic.

Yeah, you bring 1.8 million people to the SE Waterfront and think it is great just because without the team there would be nobody there. F You. The city paid 640 million to move you crap team there. When they calculated revenue from the stadium, they probably reasonably assumed a competent MLB team would be there that would draw at least average attendance. According to Stan, drawing 50 people to the area would be acceptable. Total jerk

I hate Stan Kasten more every time he speaks

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 21, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Stan Kasten is giant effing a-hole. I cant even read his garbage without blowing a fuse. He is a master of twisted logic.

Yeah, you bring 1.8 million people to the SE Waterfront and think it is great just because without the team there would be nobody there. F You. The city paid 640 million to move you crap team there. When they calculated revenue from the stadium, they probably reasonably assumed a competent MLB team would be there that would draw at least average attendance. According to Stan, drawing 50 people to the area would be acceptable. Total jerk

I hate Stan Kasten more every time he speaks

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 21, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"The DC area attracts people from locals that don't have the economic hiring power of this area.(ex: the pittsburg brain-drain phenomena)"

@ Hattrick

You're assuming that most Steeler fans who go to FedEx or M&T Bank grew up in the Pittsburgh area and moved out of the area. This may be true for many, but I have good reason to believe that a whole bunch of them are---like Cowboys fans---bandwagoners. I've actually heard Steelers fans call up the Lamar/Dukes show and admit they grew up in D.C. or Virginia and simply became Steeler fans because of the Super Bowls that team won.

Edward J. Cunningham
Rockville, MD

Posted by: femfour | June 21, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

@bryce3

Amen! On Amazon.com, I stumbled on a book called "86 Years" about the Red Sox, and one of the reader's comments said that he was a proud Red Sox fan and he was rasing his kids to be Red Sox fans too---in Toronto. It also bothered me when I read that radio boss jock Mike O'Meara was taking his daughter, who was born in the Washington area to Fenway Park for her first baseball game rather than Nationals Park or OPACY. In fairness to O'Meara, he has been FAR more supportive of the Nationals than either the Sports Junkies or the Mike Wise show. (I refuse to listen to the Wise show anymore.)

My father was raised in New York and my late mother came from the San Francisco area. I wasn't raised to root for the Yankees or Giants. I rooted for the Orioles until their owner made clear he was openly and adamantly opposed to the return of baseball to Washington. Now I'm a Nats fan, and when my team finally reaches the promised land, I will have more joy and satisfaction than the poor schmoes who never root for ANY local team their entire lives but simply any team that happens to be in first place.

Edward J. Cunningham
Rockville, MD

Posted by: femfour | June 21, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

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