Photo: Courtesy of Penn Social
Photo: Courtesy of Penn Social

Draft Picks: Where To Watch Football

Football season is back! It’s time to rock our oversized jerseys, grub on the best American bar food, and hang out with a crowd to support our favorite college and NFL teams. The DMV has endless options for where to catch the game, but we’ve narrowed it down to 10 spots on our radar this season. Read on to learn about these spots and their drink specials, high-quality TV setups, team allegiances and more.

10 Tavern
Drink specials: $5 craft pints, $5 cocktails, $4 domestic drafts/bottles, $6 wine
Teams: All DC and Maryland teams
This new, upscale sports bar is entering its first NFL season, and the 10 Tavern team is hoping the flood of Caps fans that took advantage of over 30 TVs during hockey season turns into an excited football crowd this fall. 10 Tavern is all about happy hour, which goes practically all day, from 11:30 a.m. to 7:10 p.m., and includes $5 craft pints and cocktails, and $4 domestic drafts and bottles. The Chinatown spot recently participated in the DC Burger Battle at Hill Country Backyard Barbecue, so it’s no secret that the food is high quality. The bar is still working on updating its food specials menu. “We are a scratch kitchen sports bar, we don’t have your typical bar food,” says general manager Jackie Carlton. 707 G St. NW, DC; www.10tavern.com

BlackFinn Ameripub
Drink specials: $22-$30 draft towers, $18 Guinness Blonde buckets (six bottles), $3.50 Miller Lite drafts, $4 Dos Equis drafts, $4 Blackfinn Amber drafts, $5 Heineken drafts, $5 Sam Adams drafts, $5 Angry Orchard drafts, $6 Bacardi drinks, $7 Belvedere and Red Bull drinks
Teams: University of Tennessee, Northwestern University, Appalachian State, Miami Dolphins
Blackfinn’s set-up is ideal for watching football. “You cannot turn your head and not see a TV,” says Blackfinn’s Kam Khazai. They’re great beer specials pair up nicely with a quality menu too., making it “the perfect combination of cheap beer and quality eats!” The bar itself is one big football fan and its mixed fan-base makes it so that there’s always someone to cheer with. For certain big games, the crowds can get large and rowdy in the best way possible. 1620 I St. NW, DC; www.blackfinnameripub.com

Champps
Drink specials: $5 cocktails, $5 craft beer of the month
Arlington’s biggest bar features 50 TVs altogether, with five big screens that will always be showing a local team’s game. For any and all football fans, Champps makes it easy to watch the game with sound by going to the designated area that has your team’s game on. The stadium-style seating offers over 300 seats, including two outdoor patios and a 43-seat bar. Though the football-themed food and drink specials menu has yet to be finalized, bar manager Sean Auld says Champps is the place to be because of the fun atmosphere and events, including watch parties and karaoke. 1201 S. Joyce St. C-10, Arlington, VA; www.champps.com

City Tap House
Drink specials: 32-oz. stein of Victory Homegrown Lager or Victory Seasonal for $10
Get cozy in DC’s laidback “man (or woman) cave.” Surrounded by cozy rustic décor, City Tap House makes it easy to watch any game that’s on, whether you’re sitting in the dining room or the bar area. Lots of hotel guests and brunchgoers swing through City Tap, so you can expect the food and dining experience to be top-notch. You’ll definitely see a lineup of different jerseys at the bar, making it a perfect place for some friendly competition. “Between the multiple televisions/games and our knowledgeable staff on beer, food and football, we hope to create a fun experience,” says City Tap’s Lisa Cascone. 901 9th St. NW, DC; www.citytap.com

Mason Inn
Drink specials: Change daily
Teams: Ravens, Falcons, Panthers, Steelers, Green Bay Packers
Glover Park is home to Mason Inn, the official DC bar of the Baltimore Ravens. This bar is one of a kind, with fans of everything from SEC college football to East Coast NFL teams there to catch the game, including the occasional Redskins fan. Mason Inn shows every SEC game on Saturdays, and will focus on fantasy football this season by setting a few TVs to RedZone. “One thing that sets us apart is our entertainment license,” says owner Corey Lockett. “We can have a live band onstage while you are cheering on your team. For example, for New Orleans-based teams, we can have a brass band during halftime or play through commercials.” Drink specials are always changing, but guests can expect some kind of themed punch or shot available as a special. 2408 Wisconsin Ave. NW; www.masoninndc.com

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern
Drink specials: $12 Miller Lite pitchers, $14 Yuengling pitchers, $16 Blue Moon pitchers, bucket specials (six beers for the price of five)
Food specials: Half price food options from 7 p.m. to close
Teams: Broncos, Seahawks
This classic sports bar has the best of both worlds, with an outdoor café including high-top tables, an outdoor patio (covered and heated with three TVs showing games), and a full bar on both the first and second floor. There’s not one bad seat in the house with DIRECTV on 35 TVs. “Football at [Penn Quarter] is a legendary party,” says general manager John Scherr. “Come see for yourself. Our TV setup is second to none.” Don’t miss out on the party atmosphere and game day drink specials at Penn Quarter.639 Indiana Ave. NW, DC; www.pennquartersportstavern.com

Penn Social
Drink specials: $4 Miller Lite and Blue Moon, and $5 rotating local craft draft
Welcome to DC’s “Sunday football melting pot.” Penn Social keeps game day fun with 15 screens, including 11 12-inch HD projectors, one 22-inch HD projector and four HD TVs. The Penn Quarter staple shows every game on its screens, making it a go-to bar for fantasy leagues. Although it’s not team specific, don’t miss a chance to win Redskins tickets throughout the season. “The ambiance at [Penn Social] is casual and fun,” says Penn Social General Manager Sara Norman. “We keep it light. But we’re serious about our gridiron.” 801 E St. NW, DC; www.pennsocialdc.com

The Prospect
Drink specials: $5 Jameson, $5 draft beers
Team: Redskins
This U Street location takes Monday night football very seriously, serving an authentic dish from the home team’s city every week, as well as The Prospect’s award-winning wings. Though the bar is “hail to the Redskins first,” according to general manager Anthony Joines, you can still find Patriots, Steelers and even Cowboys fans catching their team’s game on one of the 45 HD TVs. Joines says this neighborhood spot encourages rivalries, and “it’s a magical thing to see so many different kind of NFL jerseys sitting next to each other.” 1214 U St. NW, DC; theprospectdc.com

Public Bar
Drink specials: $2 off beer, wine and cocktails (Monday through Friday from 4-8 p.m.)
Teams: Raiders, Ravens, Redskins
This Dupont Circle bar is home to over 50 TVs – including the largest HD projection screen in DC – and also has the highly sought-after NFL package, making it easy to please sports fans who come to kick back. Though drink and food specials are always changing, there’s guaranteed to be beer specials and wings for game day. Watch a game on any of the three levels, whether it’s on the rooftop, in the lounge or right inside at the bar. Ravens and Redskins fans are always welcome, and friendly rivalries are encouraged, but Public Bar is home to the DC Metro Raiders Booster Club, who takes over the lounge level whenever the Raiders are playing. Bartender Abby Dubose notes that Public Bar is definitely a chill spot. “People are comfortable here, and it’s clear,” she says. “You can scream and jump and go crazy, or you can kick back and relax all at once, and it’s fine and fun.” 1214 18th St. NW, DC; www.publicbar.co

Union Jacks Rio
Drink specials: Pitchers and buckets of beer
Team: Redskins
Gaithersburg’s mega-pub has all the goods when it comes to watching your favorite football team, preferably the Redskins. With over 20 TVs, including four on the patio, Union Jacks Rio is able to play different games so one side of the bar can watch the Ravens while the other can catch the Skins. While this bar has a general population of Redskins fans, it’s still a friendly atmosphere. “Why wouldn’t you come here?” asks general manager Rob Whetzel. “We’ve got the biggest amount of space with the most TVs in this area.” 9811 Washingtonian Blvd. Gaithersburg, MD; www.unionjacksrio.com

Photo: Will Niccolls Photography
Photo: Will Niccolls Photography

Mountain Biking the DMV

On an early summer Saturday at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, a half-dozen early risers congregate in a parking lot, stretch their limbs, and strap on helmets and gloves before climbing onto brightly colored mountain bikes.

Moments later, excited hoots and hollers pierce the muggy morning air, followed by a whoosh of kinetic energy as the group drops single file into a dense forest trail under a cooling canopy of hardwood trees surrounded by fragrant wildflowers. The 80-minute ride around a 10-mile loop – just a half-hour from downtown Washington – sends these riders hurtling down ravines, chugging up hills, blasting through creek beds, and hopping over occasional logs and rocks. It will also leave them flecked with mud, covered in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.

It’s a scene that plays out hundreds of times each week throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, which over the past decade or so has become one of the nation’s premier mountain biking locales. Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland offer dozens of excellent trail riding options an hour or less from DC, a fact that surprises some considering the region’s relatively low altitude and urban setting.

Martin Fernandez, who has written three outstanding books about biking in the DMV area – including Mountain Biking Virginia and Mountain Biking the Washington, D.C./Baltimore Area – told On Tap that the region is “a virtual mecca for mountain biking.”

“We’re lucky,” Fernandez said. “In Virginia, coupled with the riding trails available in Maryland and bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you could spend several years and not ride all of what is available.”

A big chunk of the credit for the sport’s growth in the area can be attributed to the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE). Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the nonprofit recreational organization started out as a club of about 30 mountain bikers; it now boasts more than 1,500 members and is steadily growing. Ernie Rodriguez, who has served as MORE’s president for the past four years, said the group’s mission is reflected in its slogan: “Riding bikes and building trails since 1992.”

“Everything goes under that – the social experience, the advocacy effort, the communication with public land managers, and the building and maintenance of trails,” Rodriguez explained over hamburgers and beers at MORE’s annual summer celebration at Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland last month.

As we talked, about a hundred people of all ages were heading out for, or returning from, trail rides in the lush green park. They milled about – chatting and laughing, swapping bike and trail tips, and professing their love for the sport. Local bike shops and national bike manufacturers showed up to provide free bike swag, bike maintenance and demo rides on fancy new models.

MORE’s work is entirely volunteer-based, and its members don’t just ride bikes and rock cookouts – they get to work. MORE volunteers devoted more than 6,000 hours of labor on area trails last year alone. The group maintains more than 400 miles of natural-surface trails in 41 state and county parks throughout the region, and has constructed nearly 100 miles of new, sustainable trails. The club also leads hundreds of rides each year at area parks, ranging from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

While men often seem to outnumber women on area trails, that could be changing. Anne Mader, owner of The Bike Lane – a full-service bike shop with locations in Reston and Springfield – said she is selling more mountain bikes to women than ever before, and that manufacturers are making bikes specifically designed for them. Mader sometimes teams up with MORE to offer riding clinics for women.

“Twenty years ago, when I started mountain biking, there were very few women,” she said. “And now I go to some trailheads and there are almost more women than guys. The sport is definitely growing for women. A lot of women are coming to it in their 30s and 40s, getting into it later in life – maybe because they’re not running anymore but want to be out in nature.”

Mader also said there is a misperception of the sport as death-defying and dangerous. It can be that, certainly – but it doesn’t have to be.

“Mountain biking can be as easy as going on a nice single-track trail and riding just to be outside,” she said. “There really is a trail for every ability level.”

Rodriguez encouraged anyone interested in the sport to check out MORE’s website at www.more-mtb.org. He said even if you don’t have a bike, the group could help you find a loaner for an initial ride and then a good deal on something used if you take to the sport.

“It’s a good way to meet some really great people,” he said. “It’s really exhilarating to ride, and you get to be out in nature. What more could you ask for?”


Must-ride local trails

Fountainhead
One of the most revered mountain biking destinations in the region, Fountainhead, near Fairfax Station, Virginia, has a little something for everyone: easy, flowing single-track, moderately difficult technical areas and an expert section that will put even the most skilled of riders to the test.

Patapsco
Located in a big valley near Ellicott City, Maryland, Patapsco features an appealing mix of fast-flowing trails, rock gardens, bridges, and switchback curves with well-maintained berms and trails. This park also features a pump track where riders can practice their jumps.

Rosaryville
Rosaryville in Upper Marlboro, Maryland is an excellent trail for beginners and intermediates, featuring a 10-mile perimeter loop through a beautiful forest with a fun, easy flow, a few moderate ascents and a generally mellow vibe. Be careful to look for equestrian riders who share the park.

Learn more about all three tracks at www.singletracks.com

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Hand Painted Swinger at Nationals Park

Nats fans enjoyed more than a ball game Friday night when they were treated to a concert by local rock band Hand Painted Swinger. The crowd got pumped for the game at Budweiser Terrace, jamming to modern and classic rock hits while the Nats got ready to face the Texas Rangers! Photos: Devin Overbey

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

From Belgium to DC: Washington Mystics’ Budding Superstar Emma Meesseman

The Washington Mystics’ Emma Meesseman is an extremely busy person. The 6’4” center from Belgium had just ended her EuroLeague Women season with BC UMMC Ekaterinburg before heading to DC for the start of the Mystics campaign in late May. But before getting comfortable, she prepared to head back home to participate in the FIBA world championship qualifiers with her national team. Prior to her venture to Europe last month, we had a chance to speak with the budding superstar about her newest teammate, players she looks up to and flying in airplanes.

On Tap: When did you start playing basketball, and what attracted you to it?
Emma Meesseman: I started playing when I was five years old. At that time, I just loved playing all kinds of sports with a ball. I did like basketball a lot though, because my mother used to play and achieved a lot of things in Belgium. I wanted to do the same thing and be better.

OT: What are your personal expectations for this season? 
EM: I just want to get better at every aspect of the game. Overseas, I have been working a lot on shooting the ball quicker. It’s more technical, so I’ve got to keep bringing that to the court.

OT: Some people have mentioned you as an MVP candidate. Is that a goal of yours?
EM: My ultimate goal is to get that ring with this team. I will try to do my best and give everything in order to do so, but individual titles have never been a goal for me.

OT: I know you haven’t played much with Elena Delle Donne yet, but what has that experience been like so far?
EM: It has been great. She’s a great player and person, and it is so fun to even think about all the possibilities that we have with her. We’re still getting to know each other better, but I am sure we’ll have a fun season.

OT: Is this the most talented team you’ve ever played on? What do you expect from the Mystics?
EM: It pretty much is. It is definitely the one that gives me the best feeling and makes me really believe that we can achieve something big. I don’t want to think too far [ahead] already. I am more of a person that takes everything step by step, game by game. We just have to win as many [games] as possible in order to get to the playoffs.

OT: What players do you look to for inspiration and improvements on your game?
EM: I don’t watch specific players for certain moves. But I can watch any basketball game and see moves and think to add them. I do like the style of Larry Bird a lot. I find myself more and more looking up clips of him.

OT: A lot of European players adopt NBA teams growing up. Did you adopt a team, and if so, do you still root for them? 
EM: Growing up, I never watched a single NBA game. I watched some highlights of different games, but I never rooted for a team. Since playing in the WNBA, I’ve gotten to watch games on TV, so if there is one team that I look up to, it’s the San Antonio Spurs. The way that they play together is like magic. To me, that is perfect basketball.

OT: It must be tough to balance playing on pro and national teams. Do you ever get tired of traveling around the world so much? What do you do on all those plane rides?
EM: This year is the first year I combined the national team with the WNBA. I’ll have to wait and see how that goes, but on both teams, there is a great staff that helps me the best they can. It is kind of hard to be away from home year-round, to keep playing basketball nonstop. But as long as I take care of my body and keep loving basketball, I fully enjoy it. I do have to admit that traveling used to be way more exciting than it is now. Being on a plane is boring now, and I hope every single time that I’ll be able to sleep to pass the time.

OT: Is it hard to watch the Mystics when you’re away for prolonged amounts of time?
EM: I have not been in that situation just yet, but can for sure imagine it will be hard to see them play while I am overseas. But I would feel the same if I was not able to play with my national team.

OT: What’s your favorite part of playing in DC?
EM: The city is amazing to me. It is the place that feels closest to home for me. Also, the fact that when I came here, Coach T [Mike Thibault] was completely rebuilding the team; I was kind of here from the start. It’s so cool to see the progression we have made, and to play with teammates that are friends.

For more information on the Washington Mystics’ 2017 season, visit mystics.wnba.com.

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Gary Russell Jr. vs Oscar Escandon

Backed by an enthusiastic local cheering section of friends and family, Russell (28-1 with 17 knockouts) used a devastating array of jabs and combinations to send Escandon (25-3 with 17 knockouts) to the mat twice before referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight just one minute into the seventh round of the 12 round fight. Photos: Mike Coleman

Photo: Michael Coleman
Photo: Michael Coleman

Fight Night Thrills at MGM National Harbor

MGM National Harbor hosted a raucous, rowdy and relentlessly entertaining fight night this Saturday, May 20 as hometown hero Gary Russell Jr. knocked out Óscar Escandón in the seventh round to retain his World Boxing Council featherweight title.

Backed by an enthusiastic local cheering section of friends and family, Russell (28-1 with 17 knockouts) used a devastating array of jabs and combinations to send Escandón (25-3 with 17 knockouts) to the mat twice before referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight just one minute into the seventh round of the 12-round fight.

After the match, a jubilant Russell, 28, joined the crowd in an impromptu birthday singalong for his father.

“First and foremost, I got to say, ‘Happy birthday’ to my father,” he said in the microphone after Dock stopped the fight. “I fought a tough competitor. I knew Escandón wanted to come and bring his best. I knew he was going to come forward. I was ready for him.”

The main event was one of a half-dozen intense boxing matches in the MGM’s sparking new theater Saturday afternoon and evening. The theater and ring exploded into momentary chaos during the undercard preceding the Russell fight.

Andre Dirrell seemed to lose his International Boxing Federation super middleweight title bout against José Uzcátegui when the Venezuelan challenger landed a vicious blow to Dirrell’s chin that sent the champion to the mat at the end of the eighth round.

But referee Bill Clancy later determined the blow came after the bell, and awarded the victory to Dirrell on a disqualification. Shortly afterward, Dirrell’s trainer charged Uzcategui and landed a punch on him before being subdued by ring officials. The shocking turn of events led to scuffles inside and outside of the ring, but order was soon restored.

The fights were broadcast nationally on Showtime, which helped lend a festive air to the entire event. Afterward, excited spectators – many dressed to the nines – poured into the MGM’s gleaming, gilded lobbies, still buzzing about what they just saw.

MGM National Harbor has already proven itself as a draw for top-flight musical entertainment. Saturday’s nationally televised fights proved that the facility is more than worthy of championship boxing as well.

MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-971-5000; www.mgmnationalharbor.com

A Night at the Park (6)

A Night at the Park

Locals enjoyed “A Night at the Park” an event hosted by Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman and the ziMS Foundation. This benefit has helped the ziMS Foundation raise more than $3 million in its fight against Multiple Sclerosis. The evening included cocktails and food, live and silent auctions and a performance from Virginia native and country star Canaan Smith. Photos: Devin Overbey

Photo: Michael Coleman
Photo: Michael Coleman

A Night at the Park Aims to Strike Out Multiple Sclerosis

A few hundred fortunate Washington Nationals fans got to rub elbows with some of their favorite players at the ballpark Monday night while contributing to a good cause at Ryan Zimmerman’s eighth annual A Night at the Park event to benefit victims of multiple sclerosis.

The Nationals slugger, who is enjoying a spectacular early season behind the plate with a jaw-dropping .420 batting average, joined teammates Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzales and others to raise nearly $1 million for the progressive nerve disease. Zimmerman’s ziMS Foundation has collected more than $3 million for the cause over the past eight years.

The exclusive party at the Norfolk Southern Club at Nationals Park gave guests a chance to mingle with Zimmerman and his Nationals’ teammates, sip cocktails, and nosh on salmon and steak while bidding on some impressive sports memorabilia and listening to a spirited set of live music by rising country star Canaan Smith.

“Nights like this don’t happen unless you guys step up to the plate, and every year you guys have,” Zimmerman told an admiring audience. “I hope you know how much we appreciate it.”

The first baseman, who attended the University of Virginia, explained how he started his foundation a dozen years ago as a way to help those, like his mother, who suffer from the terrible disease.

“The foundation was started basically in the living room of my parents’ house,” Zimmerman said. “We started with a golf tournament in Virginia Beach, and we do a bowling event in Charlottesville, where I went to school. It’s a completely volunteer-run foundation, and we’ve been able to give back over $3 million. Whether this cause means anything to you or it doesn’t, it means a whole lot to me.”

The Cy Young Award-winning pitcher says he enjoys lending his time to the event, and it’s no surprise the annual fundraiser has become such a success.

“Zim’s been here forever, and he’s the face of the franchise,” Scherzer said. “It’s for a great cause, and it gives everybody a chance to see the players in person; a great auction event with great items and a concert as well. He and Heather [Zimmerman’s wife] do a really good job of supporting the community.”

Learn more about the ziMS Foundation here.

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As If at Nationals Park

Every Friday home game, the best place to pre-game is at the Budweiser Terrace inside the ballpark. This week,  the Nats played the Mets and fans enjoyed cold Bud and Bud Light and great tunes from As If, the ultimate ’90s tribute band! Photos: Devin Overbey

Washington Nationals
Photos: Courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

Nats Put Fans First

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
real-time.

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.