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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 01/20/2011

The (late) skinny on this year's NatsFest

By Adam Kilgore

Over the weekend, while I was traveling, the Nationals announced the plans for their revised version of NatsFest. Some of you had asked about the event, and even if it's a little delayed, I'd be remiss if I didn't pass it along.

The event will be different this year than in the past t two years. Typically, it's been held right around now on the calendar. This year, the Nationals will hold it March 30, the day before opening day, at Nationals Park. The full 2011 opening day roster will be on hand for several activities.

"The feedback we received from our fans this offseason convinced us to do something new, exciting and unique," Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said in a release. "Unlike previous years, the 2011 NatsFest will be more inclusive for all our fans and offer them opportunities to interact with their favorite Nationals. Through this event, we hope to engage our fans like never before and get them excited for what is sure to be an electrifying baseball season."

The Nationals made the change, in part, because they figured more fans would be able to attend the event when it's outside, it's warmer and there's more space. That logic will be tested by obvious constraints. Many fans will have to skip school or work to attend on a Wednesday, and many of those same fans, presumably, will have already resolved to take Thursday off in order to attend the game opening day.

The full list of activities will be available in the coming weeks. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Season ticket holders should have a ticket for NatsFest included in their season-ticket package.

By Adam Kilgore  | January 20, 2011; 11:14 AM ET
 
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Comments

Unless this is a substantial money-loser for the Nats, why don't they just hold two of these things -- one like in the past and the new one just before opening day. Would that be such a big a deal? I'm sure a couple of players could be rounded up to participate in a mid-winter event, like the old caravan.

Posted by: nats24 | January 20, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

One of the main reasons I was not thrilled with the "old way" is how little interaction there was with players, long lines and the rooms with speakers were filled way before talks started. I realize most players will not be available in January and I kind of like being able to maybe watch a few drills on the field. Will be interesting to see what kind of access we will have to the players.

I am also biased in that retirement allows me the ability to do both events and I do understand that it will be difficult to have kids attend and that is a big part of growing the sport.

The obvious question is why can't you do both. Have the January event on a week-end for kids and those who work and open the park the day before opening day for those of us who can make that. Also, what happened to the exhibition game that used to take place right before opening day against a quality AL team?

Posted by: sjm3091 | January 20, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

One of the main reasons I was not thrilled with the "old way" is how little interaction there was with players, long lines and the rooms with speakers were filled way before talks started. I realize most players will not be available in January and I kind of like being able to maybe watch a few drills on the field. Will be interesting to see what kind of access we will have to the players.

I am also biased in that retirement allows me the ability to do both events and I do understand that it will be difficult to have kids attend and that is a big part of growing the sport.

The obvious question is why can't you do both. Have the January event on a week-end for kids and those who work and open the park the day before opening day for those of us who can make that. Also, what happened to the exhibition game that used to take place right before opening day against a quality AL team?

Posted by: sjm3091 | January 20, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

sorry about the double post, computer is slow today

Posted by: sjm3091 | January 20, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

It will depend on the length and timing of the event. I work close to the stadium and can use a couple of hours of leave for a long lunch or early dinner. If the lines are shorter for pictures/photos, so much the better. It was nice having the Caravan come to Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge for an intimate meet and greet in their grimey locker room (I wouldn't call it a Clubhouse). I guess they're giving up on suburbia.

Posted by: ramgut | January 20, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Can the Natinals really call it a "fan" fest when a grand total of 23 people show up?

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | January 20, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I didn't vote as I think both options are not ideal. The Sunday before Opening Day seems like the logical time, but ST is in full swing then. Maybe MLB should alter the schedule for 2012 to allow every club the opportunity to do this on the same day. Might be some great hype in coverage of every team's fan day -- like Midnight Madness for college hoops.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 20, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

And the explanation for the lack of a Winter Caravan is?

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | January 20, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I really like dfh's concept. Great way to "start" the season. Hype interest in each of the local clubs. Great pub on MLB Network.

Oh, wait, Bud the Dumb is still commissioner of baseball. Never mind!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 20, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Bad idea. A weekday afternoon in DC makes for a hellish drive home. Also my kids really liked going but I'm not taking them out of school to attend. Third, I'm not taking two days off work to attend fanfest and opening day.

Hold it at the convention center in January and "gently persuade" the players to attend. That's what the grown-up teams do.

Posted by: pwilly | January 20, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I rather like the new way. Never got close to a player in the old events because I detest waiting in long long long lines. Hopefully with more guys there that won't be as much of an issue this year. But I understand those who can't make it due to work/school commitments...

Posted by: NatsFly | January 20, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

BTW, nice article by Boz today, hope he is right. Also enjoyed the AK article on SS's rehab, may it continue to go well. All this baseball writing turns my thoughts happily to spring.

Posted by: NatsFly | January 20, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Agree about Boz's article, really makes your heart beat a little faster thinking me might just be a year from turning the corner.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 20, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

@NatsFly...THam said, in her exchange, this morning that Boz had lost his father-in-law, but he would be back, soon.

Condolences to the entire Boz family. Do what you have to.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | January 20, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

dfh, very good idea. Since it won't happen this year, could the team hold the fan fest in the early evening? I wd love to go, but I probably can't get away from work two days in a row.

Posted by: Section109 | January 20, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"'The feedback we received from our fans this offseason convinced us to do something new, exciting and unique,' Nationals COO Andrew Feffer said in a release"

So, Adam, what did Feffer, or anyone else with the Nats on the business side, say in response to your questions when you called to ask some follow-up questions in connection with the press release? What's that? You didn't call and ask them any questions? Really?

I don't understand how you can continue to let the Nats skate with their canned remarks and spin, and why you don't push back at all. If they won't answer, that's fine--then you can report that, and make them look bad. You clearly have a view on this kind of stuff: "...That logic will be tested by obvious constraints." So why don't you ask the questions and do the reporting to back it up?

Also, you could have mentioned in your piece that many, many other teams have winter events. They usually hold the event at the local metro convention center, to great success.

I'd also be interested to know the answer about the canceled Winter Caravan.

Many people around DC have been suggesting recently that the Nats are (still? once again?) really thinly-staffed and hurting on the business/marketing side of things. Is that true?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | January 20, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

This is so sad! I wanted to attend the NatsFest this year but it looks like I can't since I'll still be at work & I don't think I can take two days off. I definitely be there for opening day! Go NATS! :)

Posted by: mink23 | January 20, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

This is like the final exhibition game they used to have at home on Saturday or Sunday when opening day was on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. It looks like they're basically opening up the last preseason practice with some player access. The winter thing is a way to get people warmed up in January.

Posted by: Arkymark | January 20, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Someone should tell Kevin that he can still get his George F. Will fix in the Washington Post. And if he's looking for a line to stand on in the winter cold, the lobster truck is caravaning around town on a daily basis.

And if the Nats' marketing is so bad, how is it that so many people know enough about it to complain? Perhaps Yogi is the only person alive who could cogently answer that question.

Posted by: FeelWood | January 20, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"This is like the final exhibition game they used to have at home on Saturday or Sunday when opening day was on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday."

Except that unlike that exhibition game, STH aren't forcced to buy tickets for it as part of their package. I wonder how many people lamenting the loss of a Winter Caravan would be changing their tune to one of complaint if the Nats held a Caravan and forced every ticket buyer to pay for it whether they wanted to attend the events or not?

Posted by: FeelWood | January 20, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I was told that the event would be about three hours long-- 4pm-7pm or so, which is substantially less than what the Nats Fest had been (let alone the caravan). Throw in an hour long practice, and there's not going to be much time for "fan interaction". All in all, this now likely becomes a profit center if anyone comes, because costs are extremely minimal.

Additionally, the STH Hot Stove lunch (the best event on the Nats calendar) is also gone-- to be replaced by, well, nothing. Apparently there were a few events in the offseason that select STH got targeted for- so that was supposed to be the replacement for Hot Stove.

All in all, this blows. Scheduling it on a weekday is asinine-- it means families can't attend. Even scheduling it late afternoon would mean that I have to fight rush hour traffic to go pick up my kids, fight rush hour traffic to get back in, and it's a school night. I recognize that the schedule leaves it as Wed being the only option, but that's just another reason to keep it in the winter.

At the end of the day, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT". It wasn't broke, so unclear why they changed it up ( although I'd be willing to guess-- the January events cost too much) and the Nats organization is happy to go into 2011 with a STH base under 10,000. Expect to see some 4 digit attendance nights in April and September-- and frankly-- the team reaps what it sows.

Nuke the marketing budget, and the fans might choose to nuke their baseball ticket expenditures.

As someone from Philly, I don't think the DC fans boo enough. So BOOOOOOOOOOOOO Nats! BOOOOOOOOO Mr. Feffer and your lame press release.

It would be nice if the Post could ask some questions and not just feed us the press release info.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 20, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

?pu wohs elpoep 32 fo latot dnarg a nehw tsef "naf" a ti llac yllaer slanitaN eht naC

esuba tropeR | MP 71:21 1102 ,02 yraunaJ | POOPCM_YPOOP :yb detsoP


POOP - THAT'S JSUT BACKWARD THINKING!

Posted by: KilgoreQTrout | January 20, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Kilgore, is there some technological device that allows you to do that automatically, or do you sit there and manually recreate Poopy's moronic comments backward? Either way, it's genius...

Posted by: baltova1 | January 20, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

In my discussions with the team on this, they didn't think anyone would miss the winter events (caravan, hot stove lunch, winter fan fest). So if you will miss them, drop Mr. Feffer a note at andrew.feffer@nationals.com to let him know.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 20, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The winter caravan was always terribly organized anyway.

Posted by: dfh21 | January 20, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

After taking in 2 Winterfests in January I plan to skip this one and wait for real baseball the next day, thank you.

Posted by: JamesWebster | January 20, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"4pm-7pm or so, which is substantially less than what the Nats Fest had been (let alone the caravan). Throw in an hour long practice, and there's not going to be much time for "fan interaction"

There will be 25 players available for fan interaction instead of the 6-8 they had at the winter event. More players = more lines = shorter lines = more interaction, even though the timeframe may be an hour or so shorter than it was in the winter events.

Posted by: nunof1 | January 20, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"Scheduling it on a weekday is asinine-- it means families can't attend. Even scheduling it late afternoon would mean that I have to fight rush hour traffic to go pick up my kids, fight rush hour traffic to get back in, and it's a school night."

Have your kids take the Metro in, then drive them home.

Posted by: nunof1 | January 20, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Kilgore, is there some technological device that allows you to do that automatically, or do you sit there and manually recreate Poopy's moronic comments backward? Either way, it's genius...

Posted by: baltova1

I agree. It's gold Jerry... gold.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 20, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm taking off in March to go to Spring Training, and Opening Day. My employer is understanding but still, like most season ticket holders, I have professional obligations as well. Essentially this means I can't go to an event that I would love to go to.

Could someone find out when this alleged poll took place of fans that called for this change?

Posted by: raymitten | January 20, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

The fanfest should be held at the Washington Convention Center if they are worried about space. I loved taking my daughter last year but the day before opening day, in the middle of the week, on a school day, are they crazy? The first firing of the year should be whoever came up with this idea.

Posted by: weo333 | January 20, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

"Have your kids take the Metro in, then drive them home."


She's 5. Don't think she's ready to navigate the system on her own yet. But she loved FanFest the last two years. Bummer for her. Pudge was her favorite player because he spent time talking to her when she got a ball signed.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 20, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

"Have your kids take the Metro in, then drive them home."


She's 5. Don't think she's ready to navigate the system on her own yet. But she loved FanFest the last two years. Bummer for her. Pudge was her favorite player because he spent time talking to her when she got a ball signed.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 20, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

They did do a survey of STH but it asked stuff like "What word comes to mind when you think of the Nationals from a baseball perspective?" and "What word comes to mind when you think of the Nationals from an operations perspective?"

There was nothing anywhere nearly as detailed as "What do you think of the Fan Fest?" I personally think that it's a load of crap that they did this based on fan input. It's all about getting it done less expensively.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 20, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Not all STH received that survey of which you speak. You did, I did, but I know others didn't. Similarly, they could have done another survey related to NatsFest and other topics that went to some STH but not to us. Or they could have done focus groups or something similar. The point is, they could easily have gotten STH input that we don't know about. That's the nature of doing such surveys - a representative sample is used to determine the desires or thoughts of a large body. Like political polling done to predict elections, often quite accurately.

And it's great that your 5 year old enjoyed last year's NatsFest, and a real shame that you can't take her again this year because it would necessitate you taking off from work and fighting traffic. But I don't have a 5 year old and I work within walking distance of the ballpark, so Wednesday from 4-7 is much more convenient for me than having to schlep into town on a weekend would be. But why should they always cater to STH like you instead of STH like me? Why can't this year be my turn?

Posted by: nunof1 | January 20, 2011 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't they cater to every fan? The Nats need to start developing a wider fan base anyway. Having a January event and this other thing in March could be a start. But I guess they've already decided to cancel the usual January NatsFest.

I went to the 2009 one; it was OK but the lines were long and the indoor areas were jammed up with people. Best parts were seeing the clubhouse and the press box - things I'd miss out on if the event's held at the convention center.

Posted by: kilterfinnerty | January 20, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Annoying to the extreme:

Deadskins fans that are also Ori'holes fans ... and who won't adopt the Nationals even as their "National League" team.

Got sour milk?

Posted by: periculum | January 21, 2011 12:43 AM | Report abuse

The Nats do an excellent job of putting these events on. They are a lot of fun. The naysayers aren't going anyway, but if you are a baseball fan, you will have a great time.

Posted by: cr8oncsu | January 21, 2011 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I also voted for the January (weekend) fest. For me, it's more convenient than a weekday, and it breaks up the cold, dark, days of bitter recriminations (or however it was phrased in the Burns' documentary). Also, as someone else noted, I'd already made spring training plans for March.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 21, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

"But why should they always cater to STH like you instead of STH like me? Why can't this year be my turn?"
Because the point of these events is (or should be) to build the fan base. Having an event that is inconvenient for most to attend is not going to build the fan base. To me it's sad that the beautiful $650 million stadium sits 2/3 to 3/4 empty many days and nights.

By eliminating events that can appeal to a wider audience, the Nationals are perpetuating the problem. Yes, there are some people who work at DOT or the Navy Yard for whom this will be extremely convenient. But for most people (especially the more mildly interested type who you're trying to get excited about baseball), a 4pm event is a non-starter.

This will probably end up being a decent event for those who can make it because the crowds will be significantly smaller than in previous years. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of trying to get the word out about the team.

And other posters have it right, there's no reason why this event couldn't be an additional event on top of the January events (although it's really not an "additional event", because it's basically the same as what they offered around the exhibition game the last couple years anyway-- i.e. STH could get in early and watch practice and participate in signings and photo ops with the players).

Posted by: pennquaker | January 21, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

@baltova1 @SCNatsFan

!sknahT .hguorht gnimoc aixelsyd ym tsuj s'tI .pu POOP tuhs ot smeeS

Posted by: KilgoreQTrout | January 21, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"By eliminating events that can appeal to a wider audience, the Nationals are perpetuating the problem."

Perpetuating what problem? That the fan base hasn't been built up enough yet? Well, what did the Winter Caravan do to build up the fan base? Attendance (at games, as well as at the caravan events) went down every year they had it. Perhaps that's why they decided to mix things up this year and try something new. In reality, the fan base won't get built up until they field a better team. I'm glad that's what they seem to be concentrating on now instead of holding niche events in the winter for people who are already fans.

Posted by: FeelWood | January 21, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"The Nats do an excellent job of putting these events on. They are a lot of fun. The naysayers aren't going anyway, but if you are a baseball fan, you will have a great time."

Yes, I've really enjoyed the events, so much so that I'm annoyed that I am going to have to miss it because I'm taking time off to support the team in other ways (i.e., going to spring training and attending opening day). I'm a full STH since day one, and want to support the team. But having a Nats fest on a weekday the day before Opening day doesn't allow me to attend. I'm not going to have a great time because its being held at a time that makes it difficult for working people to attend.

Posted by: raymitten | January 21, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

And if the Nats' marketing is so bad, how is it that so many people know enough about it to complain?

We know they must be doing a great job because there are 10-15 people online saying they think they're doing a lousy job. Personally, I have no desire to interact with athletes, and as far as I can tell they have no desire to interact with me, but it irritates me when they say they're doing something in the interest of fans that I think they're doing in the interest of themselves.

Posted by: Arkymark | January 21, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't complain here. Write an email! I did. They gave me their reasons (which I don't agree with and wrote back to tell them so!)

1. Weather is warmer in March - Gee I guess freezing my keester off the past several Opening Days has been a figment of my imagination.

2. More players are available - Last year you had plenty available at different events throughout the winter.

3. Its in the evening so it won't affect people's schedules - If you start it at 1 and run till 7, either someone has to get out of school/work early or it won't be worthwhile.

I think they just were lazy and didn't schedule any Winter activities and now they are covering their you know whats!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | January 22, 2011 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Weather in a hall is warmer than January or March outdoors. Players are pretty much available in January, they just don't think it's worth coming for. 1-7 is not the evening. They'd have done better in my eyes just to say they're not having a winter festival cause that's only for teams that have trouble filling their stadium, but they are going to have an open practice the last day before the season, and at least you don't have to buy a ticket to an exhibition game.

Posted by: markfromark | January 23, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

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