Signs of Life at RFK
Even before the Lerners officially take over ownership of the Washington Nationals, even before the announced July 21 "reopening" of RFK Stadium, there are some initial signs of life at the sad old ballpark:
1. The team is playing much better, not a contender by any means, maybe not even a .500 team, but certainly well enough to escape being lumped together with the Pirates, Royals and Marlins as baseball's worst. Credit goes to a revived pitching staff--the bullpen is not nearly as atrocious as it had been through the first five weeks of the season, and maybe I'm being overly optimistic but it appears that Frank Robinson is finally showing a tiny bit of restraint about plugging the truly awful Joey Eischen into games where he can send the Nats' chances plummeting in a matter of one or two pitches. Emergency starter Mike O'Connor might actually be a keeper, and very very emergency starter Shawn Hill might stick around for a couple of weeks anyway. And who knows, someday John Patterson might come back. And Livan Hernandez appears to be back, or at least has gotten past the horrifying first-inning blues that plagued him through the first weeks of the campaign.
2. The promotions and marketing sides of the operation are showing signs of life. The new TV campaign asking fans to come up with their own ideas for instant Nats traditions is a bit lame, as I mentioned in an earlier post, but the spots are at least funny. And now a reader tells me that the Nats are approaching folks who had bought season tickets last year but let them lapse this year: The team is offering such folks vouchers for free tix to any Nats game--and not just upper deck ducats that the team can't give away. No, the ex-season ticket holders are being offered the best seats in the house as enticement to check out this year's edition.
Here's one fan's account of his experience with this new promotion:
'm one of the Nats season ticket holders who chose not to renew after an offseason of a worsening team and no change in ownership. I've been to a few games this season and will likely renew next season as the Lerner-Kasten Era begins its rampage through the NL East. But I got a nice letter in the mail this week from the Nats saying, "We noticed you didn't renew, we hope you come back, here are two vouchers for the best available tickets to any upcoming game." A similar letter in March might've gotten me to renew my tickets, but better late than never! For as much as current Nats management has gotten wrong, it was a nice gesture.
And here's what that same fan wrote to me after he took the Nats up on their offer:
They do mean best available -- I went to cash them in today, and they said they'd have given me Diamond Box ($100 seats behind home plate), but only had two seats together and I had a group of three. Even so, two $50 freebie seats did buy a lot of goodwill with me!
3. Actual ice cream, soft serve, from a machine, in a cone. Will wonders never cease. The machines--I've found two of them--are on the field level behind home plate and on the upper deck just slightly up the third base line, near the (you'll pardon the expression) dippin dots.
4. At Saturday's game, they played Chuck Brown's Bustin' Loose--but not in the 7th inning stretch, just before the game. Still, it's progress. Now, about getting rid of the country tunes on the nightly Fans Pick the Song game....
Have you seen any such signs of life? Or evidence of backsliding?
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