Giveaway Review: Opening Day Nationals Sunglasses (Grade: B)

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The first 25,000 fans who arrived on Opening Day received a pair of white Nationals sunglasses and a red carrying case.

The Washington Nationals played their home opener on Thursday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 41,650. The first 25,000 fans to arrive at Nationals Park received a pair of white Nationals sunglasses and a durable red carrying case.

The irony of a sunglasses giveaway for a game that would be delayed for 1 hour and 25 minutes was not lost on many witty fans on social media.  When the sun reemerged from the storm clouds, fans began to unzip the Curly W glasses cases and slide on their new shades.

 

 

This Nationals promotion is deserving of praise for its originality. Over the last six years of attending Nationals games and promotional events, I have come across just one other pair of Nationals promotional sunglasses. That pair of red glasses was distributed at NatsFest in 2014 when the team was promoting its presence on social media.

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The marketers also did a good job differentiating themselves from the other teams around the league who mostly distributed Opening Day schedule magnets and, in a few cases, rally towels. Originality was also preserved while maintaing a high level of utility which was lost on many fans last season with the distribution of Opening Day tins.

blue jays
The Toronto Blue Jays were one of a few teams who did not distribute a schedule magnet on Opening Day.

Many fans already have a preferred pair of sunglasses which will undoubtedly relegate this new pair to a solid backup position (see: Jose Lobaton). They will, however, get a lot of wear from this writer who won’t turn down an opportunity to represent the Nationals!  
Grade: B

Giveaway Review: Jordan Zimmermann No-Hitter Bobblehead (Grade: A)

The first 25,000 fans who entered Nationals Park on Friday received the final “great moment in Nationals history” bobblehead featuring Jordan Zimmermann celebrating his 2014 no-hitter.

The evening took on an added level of significance because it is widely expected that Zimmermann will become a free agent during the offseason and sign with a different team.  Friday night was likely his last home start for the Nationals.

Even though the Nationals were teetering just two games from elimination, 31,019 fans showed up on a rainy evening to cheer on their beloved pitcher one more time and claim a bobblehead.

Fans appreciated the significance of the evening and enthusiastically Tweeted photos of the giveaway.

The familiar red bobblehead box depicts Zimmermann standing on the grass with his arms in the air as he celebrates the final out of the September 28, 2014 no-hitter.  The box, like the other 10-year anniversary bobbleheads, also has a short description of the moment.

“With the National League East title already clinched and home field advantage in the NL postseason securely in tow, the Nationals entered the final day of the regular season looking to get their work in and salute the nearly 2.6 million fans who watched them play over the course of the year.  But Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann had bigger plans.  Along with catcher, Wilson Ramos, Zimmermann stayed on the field for all 27 outs that day, completing the finest pitching performance of his career and the first no-hitter by a member of the Nationals.  As left fielder Steven Souzza Jr. secured the final out of the afternoon with an incredible diving catch, Zimmermann raised his arms skyward celebrating one of the greatest moments in team history.”

The bobblehead portrays that moment.  Zimmermann stands on a grassy platform in his home red jersey and white pants with his arms stretched to the sky.  A photograph of a crowd on its feet and Danny Espinosa watching the catch makes up the background of the bobblehead stand.  The back of the gray bobblehead stand says, “2015 Nationals 10th Anniversary” and “NO-HITTER 9.28.14.”

The night seemingly celebrated much more than the no-hitter.  A video montage featuring his first game in 2009 with the Nationals also played on NATSHD.

Unfortunately, hopes of another no-hitter were dashed after just 1.1 innings and he was tagged with the loss after he was unceremoniously lifted from the game for a pinch hitter.  Many seemed bothered that their wasn’t a more fitting close to his potential last game with the Nationals.

Fans, however, will always carry the memory of his incredible game and will have the bobblehead as a constant reminder of the time the normally reserved pitcher from Auburndale, Wisconsin pitched the greatest game of his career.

Grade: A

Giveaway Review: Nationals Earbuds (Grade: C)

The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park on Saturday night received Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.
The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park on Saturday night received Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.

The Washington Nationals brought back an unusual giveaway on Saturday, September 5.  The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park received a set of Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.

The T-Mobile headphones giveaway in 2013 was enormously popular and fans lauded how stylish they were on Twitter.  The over-the-ear headphones had a large “Curly W” on one ear and a script Nationals logo on the other ear.  The headphones were also expandable so they easily fit most fans.

Saturday’s giveaway generated very little traffic on Twitter.  The earbuds had two “Curly W” logos, but they were quite heavy.  The white wires are about twice as thick as iPhone earbuds.  These earbuds also lack a microphone which precludes fans from permanently swapping out their current earbuds.

Many people choose to use headphones instead of earbuds because they have trouble getting earbuds to stay in place.  It was almost impossible to fit these earbuds in my ear and to get them to stay in place when I ran or walked.  A stadium employee that I met had the earbuds wrapped around his ears, but told me that he couldn’t get them to stay in place either.

Nationals Earbuds

It was a great idea to follow up on the popular 2013 headphones giveaway with a similar product.  These earbuds, however, will probably remain inside my nightstand until my iPhone earbuds finally break.

Grade: C

Chia Werth (Watch it Grow)

The first 20,000 fans who showed up at Nationals Park on Wednesday, August 5 to see the Washington Nationals face the Arizona Diamondbacks received Jayson Werth Chia Pets.  The giveaway gained national attention from news outlets like ESPN and it quickly became a must have item.  Fans started lining up as early as 4:00 p.m. to get their hands on what Valerie Camillo, the Nationals chief marketing officer, called a “unique item worth the effort.”

Starting Sunday, we will begin growing the tera cotta planter and we will post daily pictures here for your amusement.

Werth Chia Pet

Werth Chia on Day 0
Werth Chia on Day 0
Werth Chia on Day 1
Werth Chia on Day 1
Werth Chia on Day 2
Werth Chia on Day 2
Werth Chia Day 3
Werth Chia on Day 3
Werth Chia on Day 4
Werth Chia on Day 4
Werth Chia on Day 5
Werth Chia on Day 5
Werth Chia on Day 6
Werth Chia on Day 6
Werth Chia on Day 7
Werth Chia on Day 7
Werth Chia on Day 8
Werth Chia on Day 8
Werth Chia on Day 9
Werth Chia on Day 9
Werth Chia on Day 10
Werth Chia on Day 10
Werth Chia on Day 11
Werth Chia on Day 11
Werth Chia on Day 12
Werth Chia on Day 12
Werth Chia on Day 13
Werth Chia on Day 13
Werth Chia on Day 14
Werth Chia on Day 14
Werth Chia on Day 15
Werth Chia on Day 15

Giveaway Review: Nationals T-shirt (Grade: B+)

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The “Curly W” is prominently displayed on the 2015 American University T-shirt giveawy.

The first 25,000 fans who entered Nationals Park on Friday received a free Washington Nationals T-shirt courtesy of a prominent team sponsor–American University (AU).

I was surprised to learn about the partnership between the Washington Nationals and an area university when an agreement was first announced in 2012.  At the time, I was an undergraduate student at The George Washington University and my only exposure to ads for my school were those in the newspaper and on television.  Advertising to 3 million fans at Nationals Park over the course of a season seemed more exciting and effective.

AU proudly describes its target market in a press release calling D.C. baseball fans, “smarter than average, upwardly mobile, politically and socially vocal.”  “In other words,” it states, “Nationals fans are wonks.”

In previous years, the AU T-shirt giveaway had a Nationals logo on the front of the shirt and the neologism “wonk” in much bigger print on the back of the shirt.  In 2012, Dan Steinberg, writer for the DC Sports Bog, poked fun at the use of the word on the shirts calling it cliche

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“Wonk” appears much less prominently and in much smaller print this year.  The text is also relegated to the right sleeve of the shirt.  A large “Curly W” logo is displayed more prominently this year than it did in previous years and is around twice the size of the AU logo printed on the back of the shirt.

From a marketing perspective, AU pleases fans who added another Nationals shirt to their dressers while simultaneously making impressions with thousands of middle school and high school age children who will undoubtedly wear these shirts in hallways of their schools.

The design of the only Nationals T-shirt giveaway of the season is not nearly as impressive as other shirt giveaways around the league.  Fans at 13 Friday Mets home games, for example, have received shirts with more exciting designs like retired numbers and player silhouettes.

The Mets had 13 T-shirt giveaways this season.
The New York Mets had 13 T-shirt giveaways this season.

The T-shirt gets bonus points for being extremely easy to wave during the salute to the military.

Grade: B+

Giveaway Review: Nationals Cap (Grade: A)

Baseball caps are one of the most personal giveaways of the season.  Just think about it.  You arrive at the ballpark and you immediately personalize it by adjusting the size, bending the brim or turning it backwards.  These giveaways are retained by fans for years and, unlike Jayson Werth Chia Pets, are less likely to appear in an Ebay listing.

The Washington Nationals have distributed thousands of caps courtesy of Miller Lite over the last five years.  We saw tri-color caps in 2011, retro caps in 2012, mesh caps in 2013 and even caps retrofitted with bottle openers in 2014.

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The 2015 caps distributed to the first 15,000 fans 21 and up are the most stylish caps the team has given away.  The Velcro adjustable cap has a red brim and a raised “Curly W” sewn into the front of the grey crown.  The Miller Lite logo is blue and is less conspicuously sewn into the left side of the cap.

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Fans were excited about this cap giveaway and expressed their approval of the caps by posting instant feedback online.  Plenty of photos of fans posing with the caps flooded Twitter and Instagram which was expected because the cap is original and fashionable.

What did you think?  We thought it was a home run.

Grade: A

Nationals at 10: Newseum Exhibit

The Newseum attracted large crowds of Nationals fans over the weekend
The Newseum attracted large crowds over the weekend of fans who came to see the Nationals at 10 exhibit.

The Newseum opened a new exhibit in partnership with the Washington Nationals this weekend called “Nationals at 10: Baseball Makes News.”

Many Nationals fans got an advanced look at the exhibit highlighting 10 memorable media moments of the team’s first 10 years of history at an after-hours baseball themed party on Thursday.

We were happy to score discounted tickets this weekend for just $10.00 (plus tax) as part of an opening weekend promotion.  Visitors 18 and younger will be able to visit the Newseum free through Labor Day.  Adult tickets will cost $22.95 (plus tax).

The compact gallery exhibit, located on the second floor, was crowded with Nationals fans, on Sunday afternoon, who walked around the exhibit and reminisced with other fans dressed in Nationals caps and jerseys.  Fans joyfully recalled witnessing some moments while regretfully sharing stories about what they were doing during other moments.  Fan interaction was certainly an added bonus.

The multimedia exhibit, designed by Tyler Jordan, utilizes three walls of space, a large TV and sports memorabilia (jerseys, bats, balls, lineup cards etc.) on loan from the Nationals to tell the stories about the coverage of the games.  Adjacent to the main exhibit are smaller monitors that provide a more general history of baseball in Washington, D.C. though archival photographs depicting players and presidents.

The exhibit will be on display through November 29, but it’s not a problem if you don’t think you will be able to make it. We took plenty of photos!

  1. Baseball Returns to Washington (April 14, 2005)
Memorabilia: Lineup card from first game of the inaugural season
Memorabilia: Lineup card from first game of the inaugural season
  1. Last Game at RFK Stadium (September 23, 2007)
Memorabilia: Lineup card from the final game at RFK Stadium
Memorabilia: Lineup card from the final game at RFK Stadium
  1. First Game at Nationals Park (March 30, 2008)
Memorabilia: Home run bat and autographed ball from Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run
Memorabilia: Home run bat and autographed ball from Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run
  1. President Obama’s Opening Pitch (April 5, 2010)
Memorabilia: Baseball autographed by President Barack Obama, jersey signed by President Obama and a Nationals jacket
Memorabilia: Baseball autographed by President Barack Obama, jersey signed by President Obama and a Nationals jacket
  1. Strasburg’s sensational debut (June 8, 2010)
Memorabilia: Pitching rubber and rosin bag from Stephen Strasburg’s debut, front page of Washington Post sports section featuring Strasburg, Sports Illustrated magazine featuring Strasburg
Memorabilia: Pitching rubber and rosin bag from Stephen Strasburg’s debut, front page of Washington Post sports section featuring Strasburg, Sports Illustrated magazine featuring Strasburg
  1. Harper Makes Headlines (April 28, 2012)
Memorabilia; Autographed jersey from Bryce Harper’s debut; game used cap and helmet from Harper’s debut, game used base from Harper’s debut, “Clown Question” t-shirt, Sports Illustrated magazines featuring Harper, Washington Post sports section featuring Harper
Memorabilia; Autographed jersey from Bryce Harper’s debut; game used cap and helmet from Harper’s debut, game used base from Harper’s debut, “Clown Question” t-shirt, Sports Illustrated magazines featuring Harper, Washington Post sports section featuring Harper
  1. Teddy Wins! (October 3, 2012)
Memorabilia: Shoes worn by Teddy when he won his first President’s Race
Memorabilia: Shoes worn by Teddy when he won his first President’s Race
  1. Werth’s Walk-Off Home Run (October 11, 2012)
Memorabilia: Jayson Werth’s jersey from Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS
Memorabilia: Jayson Werth’s jersey from Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS
  1. Nats Clinch the NL East Title (September 16, 2014)
Memorabilia: Washington Post sports section featuring the Nationals celebration, champagne bottle and cork from the locker room celebration
Memorabilia: Washington Post sports section featuring the Nationals celebration, champagne bottle and cork from the locker room celebration
  1. Zimmermann’s No-Hitter (September 28, 2014)
Memorabilia: Home plate from the no-hitter
Memorabilia: Home plate from the no-hitter

Grandstand Seating: Just 5 Bucks

Fans  began to line up 3.5 hours early to purchase $5 tickets on Saturday.
Fans began to line up 3.5 hours early to purchase $5 tickets for Saturday’s 1.5 games.

The A-to-Z Guide for Nationals Park gives fans a very short description of Grandstand seating.

Seating in Sections 401 and 402 offers a great value at $5 per ticket for Regular, Prime and Marquee Games ($15 for Diamond Games). Grandstand seats go on sale at Nationals Park each gameday 2 1/2 hours prior to first pitch. Grandstand seats are limited to one (1) ticket per customer and the customer must be present at time of purchase. Upon purchasing Grandstand seating, fans must immediately enter Nationals Park.

There is very little information besides the above quotation about these seats available online.  I’ve been buying Grandstand seats for the last few years so this blog post should answer most questions you may have about “the cheap seats.”

The Grandstand seats are located in Sections 401 and for 402.
The Grandstand seats are located in Sections 401 and 402 and the seats are mostly covered.

What are the seats like?

Sections 401 and 402 are on the Gallery Level of Nationals Park and they are among the most under-appreciated seats.  These seats are on the shady side of the ballpark making them ideal for sunny days.  Almost all of the seats in these two sections are covered making them perfect for days when the forecast calls for rain.  They are also in close proximity to bathrooms and the escalator providing for a smooth exit from the ballpark.

Lines for Grandstand seating can form 3.5 hours before a weekend matchup.
Lines for Grandstand seating can form 3.5 hours before a weekend matchup.

How early do you need to be to get tickets?

The tickets go on sale 2.5 hours before first pitch.  How early you need to be is really a function of three factors—the day of the week, the opponent and whether there is a desired giveaway.

I’ve had virtually no issues getting a seat in the Grandstands during weekday games.  Last week, for example, I purchased a seat just one hour before the first pitch of the Tuesday, July 7 matchup between Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto.  That night was also a 10-Year Tuesday Giveaway, but a lapel pin is less highly sought after than a Jayson Werth Gnome.

My luck was much different for the Friday, July 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I arrived at the box office about one hour before the first pitch and was disappointed to find out that the Grandstand seats were all sold out.  The least expensive tickets available were $42.  Grandstand seats can sellout quickly especially if the Nationals a premiere opponent like the Dodgers.  It is recommended that you leave work early on Friday to get your tickets.

Weekend games typically draw the largest crowds.  Lines for Grandstand seats routinely start to form 3.5 hours before the first pitch, but you generally don’t need to get in line until 2.5 hours before the game.  One benefit of arriving early is that you can request a seating preference (like an aisle seat) at the box office.

Are seats always $5?  How often are tickets $15?  What’s the deal with playoff seats?

Grandstand seats are almost always $5.
Grandstand seats are almost always $5.

Grandstand seats are almost always $5.

This season there were only three “Diamond Games” when Grandstand seats were $15—Opening Day and both regular season Yankees games.

Unfortunately, Grandstand seats are not available for $5 during the playoffs.  Expect to pay around the same price as an Upper Gallery seat during the playoffs—around $50 per ticket including fees.

We hope you found this helpful.  See you in the Grandstand!

Update: The Nationals have been selling 1,500 Standing Room Only tickets for the regular season games. Those seats go on sales as soon as all physical tickets are sold, including unsold tickets and they are available at the box office if they do not sell out online. Last season, postseason Standing Room Only seats sold out completely online so box office sold nothing on the day of the game.

Inside Pitch Live and Nationals Prize Packs

Winners of Inside Pitch Live competitions can score a Nationals Prize Pack.
Winners of Inside Pitch Live competitions can score a Nationals Prize Pack.

If you go to Nationals Park early for batting practice, there is a chance that you’ve seen plenty of episodes of Inside Pitch Live on NatsHD.

Inside Pitch Live is hosted by Mike Ploger, the Nationals in-game host, and it often features three contestants who compete in a variety of amusing competitions.  Some of the more common games are Pictionary and trivia.  There have also been unique competitions like last year’s hot dog topping contest which was judged by David Guas—the host of Grill Nation on the Travel Channel.

As I entered the stadium on Monday evening through the center field gate, I was asked by Natalie, a member of the NatPack, if I wanted to participate in that evening’s episode.  I agreed and was joined by two other Nationals fans including the purveyor of the Jayson Werth Gnome twitter account.

When the show started, we introduced ourselves to the fans and answered questions from Mike about how many games we went to this season.  I also showed off my Bear Alert poster (which has since been praised by Aaron Barrett himself).

The competition was formatted so that the three of us would compete for two Nationals prize packs.  The theme of the first competition was Thomas Jefferson trivia.  I began to think back to high school history class (the Louisiana Purchase, the Barbary War, Deism etc.) to try to get a friendly competitive advantage.

The questions were pretty simple and I actually won, so I didn’t participate in the next competition—a Rock Em Sock Em Robots fight!  Here are some of the questions from trivia:

I answered questions about Tom during trivia. (Nationals)
I answered questions about Tom during trivia. (Nationals)
  • What number does Tom wear?
  • Where was Thomas Jefferson born?
  • When was Thomas Jefferson born?
  • True or False: Tom didn’t win his first President’s Race this season until June 24.

The Nationals prize pack that I won was very nice.  It came with two T-shirts, a rally towel, a Baseball Returns DVD, a 2012 postseason program and a reusable bag.

If you want the opportunity to participate I would also advise you to get to Nationals Park about an hour before the game starts.  More importantly, my advice is to look enthusiastic because the NatPack is looking for enthusiastic participants to entertain fans.

Good luck!

The Three Keys to Signature Sunday

Aaron Barrett signed autographs for fans before the game on Saturday (Nationals Facebook)
Aaron Barrett signed autographs for fans before the game on Saturday. (Nationals Facebook)

UPDATE September 8, 2015: Autograph vouchers are now distributed in front of Section 103.

The Washington Nationals have so many gracious players who sign autographs for fans before games.  This year we have seen Bryce Harper, Michael Taylor, Blake Treinen and Tyler Moore sign routinely before the start of most games.

One way to improve your odds of going home with an autograph is to head to Nationals Park for Signature Sunday.  The concept of Signature Sunday has not changed much since I first started going to games in 2010.  Two players will sign autographs above the Nationals dugout one hour and ten minutes before the start of the game.

Only a limited number of autograph vouchers are distributed each game in front of Section 103.  If you follow these three guidelines, I can almost guarantee you will have a successful Signature Sunday.

1. Arrive Early

Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the gates open for Signature Sunday.
Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the gates open for Signature Sunday.

Get to Nationals Park early.  The center field gate opens two and a two and a half hours before the first pitch.  Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the gate opens to secure one of the first spots in the security line.  We arrived at 1:15 p.m. for the 4:05 p.m. game on June 7 and were among the first 20 season plan holders to enter the stadium.

2. Head Straight to Section 103

Head straight to section 109 or 140 to pick up the autograph voucher(s).
Head straight to section 109 or 140 to pick up the autograph voucher(s).

Before you get lunch at Hard Times Cafe or Shawafel, head directly to Section 103 to get an autograph voucher.  If you are one of the first fans in the ballpark, you can get an autograph voucher for both players.

3. Get comfortable

There is no need to immediately get in the Signature Sunday autograph lines . Enjoy the ballpark.
There is no need to immediately get in the Signature Sunday autograph lines.  Enjoy the ballpark.

There is no need to immediately head over to the lines in front of the Nationals dugout. Find a nice place to watch players warm up while you are waiting for the autograph session to start.  You will have plenty of time to take pictures and get autographs from other players.  From our experience, the best places to get autographs are in sections 114/115 and sections 131/132.

Three players for the Chicago Cubs, including Joe Ross, signed autographs on Sunday afternoon.
Three players for the Chicago Cubs, including Joe Ross, signed autographs on Sunday afternoon.

Relief pitchers, bench players and players who have the day off are the players who generally sign on Signature Sunday.  Here is a list of the players who I know have signed on Signature Sunday:

  • Joe Ross (2015)
  • Taylor Hill (2015)
  • Sammy Solis (2015)
  • Matt Grace (2015)
  • Matt Thornton (2014)
  • Michael Taylor (2014)
  • Denard Span (2013)
  • Kurt Suzuki (2013)
  • Taylor Jordan (2013)

Good Luck! Tweet us your Signature Sunday photos! Follow us: @NatsGalleryBlog