With all-star slugger Bryce Harper smashing game-winning home runs and ace pitcher Max Scherzer fanning batters left and right, the Washington Nationals roared into first place in the National League East to start the 2017 season, invigorating a fanbase that hopes to see the team hoist a World Series trophy later this year.
Nationals Park – almost always crackling with fan energy – is pulsing with renewed excitement this spring after a disappointing end to a 2016 season that saw the team make an early playoff exit. Strong play early in 2017 is putting plenty of fans back in the seats, and the team’s front office is working to make the ballpark experience better than ever.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to refresh the park and create new experiences for fans,” said Valerie Camillo, the Nationals chief revenue and marketing officer. “We have an 81-game season, so we like to refresh it not only between seasons, but even within a season.”
The Nationals have partnered with Major League Baseball to launch a customized phone app that allows fans to buy and manage their tickets, order concessions for quick pick-up during the game, and access all sorts of Nationals news, promotions and in-game activities. Fans can even share tickets with friends directly from the app on their phones, and upgrade their seats in
Speaking of smart phones, the Nats’ front office says it recognizes that connectivity is important to its busy Washington area fanbase, which is why they nearly doubled the number of Wi-Fi access points throughout the ballpark. So don’t worry: if you must, you can still check and send those weeknight work emails easily from your seat.
As usual, the franchise is planning popular giveaways of player bobblehead dolls (Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Tanner Roark) several times throughout the season, as well as a snow globe featuring National League Cy Young winner Scherzer on May 24 and a Harper action figure on August 29. A Chewbacca koozie is on offer for Star Wars Day on May 27. The freebies don’t stop there. There Nats will also distribute a patriotic tank top on Flag Day, an Oktoberfest beer stein, a tote bag and even a fedora. Check the team’s website for exact dates.
Also, make sure you show up to the ballpark with an appetite. New food offerings for 2017 include a variety of chicken wings and tater tots in flavors that include Chesapeake Bay, steakhouse, BBQ and buffalo. Fans in the Norfolk Southern Club will have access to BBQ pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, and smoked baked potatoes. And keep an eye out for the new chicken fried steak and biscuits at the Virginia Country Kitchen concession stand, as well as Italian sausage burgers in the main concourse. One of last year’s new food favorites – Rye’s babka ice cream sandwich cart – is back with its fresh deli sandwiches, as well as those of the ice cream variety.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to get your drink on, too. In addition to plenty of Budweiser, Bud Light and other varieties of beer, the ballpark now features the Devils Backbone Left Field Lodge. The lodge is a Devils Backbone Brewing Company stand that includes picnic tables for fans to enjoy their brews and great views atop Nationals Park. If beer is not your thing, then look for the brand new mojito cart – Rum Runners – serving mojito cocktails throughout the season in the Center Field Plaza. Anheuser-Busch’s alcoholic seltzer water, SpikedSeltzer, comes in lime and grapefruit flavors.
Also new this season, the Nats are boasting the most stunning seats in all of professional baseball. The DC franchise has partnered with MGM National Harbor to launch the Dugout Club, featuring eight luxury leather recliners situated at field level right next to the Nats dugout. The sweet seats come with televisions, a private restroom, a personal attendant and a stocked refrigerator. But in order to score these tickets, you’ll need to go beyond the Nationals box office. They are not for sale to the general public, however.
“[They are] for customers of MGM’s [M Life rewards program], and they are determining who their best customers are and [who] will get to come on down,” Camillo said.
Meanwhile, on the field and in the clubhouse, Nats players and their manager, veteran Dusty Baker, are sounding confident in their chances this season. But they also know they have a bullseye on their backs after winning 95 games and their third NL East in five years last season. After a tough 4-2 loss to the Phillies in mid-April, Baker sounded philosophical about the long – and promising – season ahead.
“The whole season, every day is going to be a fight,” Baker told reporters after the loss. “Especially when you’re the incumbent division winner, teams are going to get up for you, and so it’s a matter for us to just keep fighting.”
“As the season goes on, we’ll get more and more adjusted, and as these guys get more at bats, we’ll be better and better.”
Learn more about the Nats’ 2017 season at www.mlb.com/nationals.