Nationals Winterfest 2016: Player Photos, Autographs and Game Shows

The Washington Nationals hosted Winterfest on Saturday and Sunday at The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
The Washington Nationals hosted Winterfest on Saturday and Sunday at The Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Nationals hosted Winterfest at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center over the weekend and it was a great opportunity for Nationals fans to meet and mingle with some of their favorite players. We highlighted some of the most exciting moments from Sunday in this blog post.

Meeting Players

One of the most exciting opportunities that fans have at Winterfest, that they are not usually afforded during the regular season, is the opportunity to take photos with players. There were two player photo stations set up near the main stage where players rotated taking photos with fans for thirty minute intervals. The meetings at the photo stations were not opportunities to get autographs, but they were terrific opportunities to welcome the new players and wish them well as they prepare for spring training.

There were five sessions at each photo station each day and fans interested in taking photos with players could meet up to 20 players each day.

Some of the players who posed at the photo stations on Sunday included: Chris Heisey and Wilmer Difo, Koda Glover and Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Pedro Severino, Dusty Baker and Trevor Gott, Adam Eaton and Derek Norris, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Grace as well as Michael A. Taylor and Matt Grace.

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These players were excited to meet their fans and they deserve major props!

Nationals players who were noticeably absent from Winterfest this season included Bryce Harper (who looked like he was enjoying himself at a Duke basketball game), Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon.

Getting Autographs

The best way to guarantee your autograph at Winterfest this year was to purchase an autograph voucher online as soon as they went on sale. A Nationals Insider email alerting fans that vouchers were going on sale at 10:00 a.m. on December 2 was distributed at 9:06 a.m. the same morning which resulted in many fans missing out an exciting opportunity. The vouchers were all sold out when I checked my email at 11:00 a.m. that morning, but someone, generously, gave me a voucher after they overheard me speaking about the Nationals in a conversation.

I redeemed my autograph voucher for a special bracelet and got in line for my autograph session featuring Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross. It was an amazing experience to meet Strasburg and Ross.

Player Interaction

Winterfest offers plenty of other opportunities to see players around the convention center floor at the different elements.  Eaton, Ross, and Scherzer stood with Santa Claus on Sunday afternoon for family photos.

Sammy Solis and Norris greeted fans at the top of The Slider.

A.J. Cole was also out and around the convention center. He started the clock for children at the steal home challenge.

New For 2016

There were a handful of new elements this year at Winterfest. The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the new spring training complex that the Nationals and Astros will share in 2017, had a presence behind The Slider. This area had a video playing about tourism sites in the area showcasing restaurants, spas and the beaches. Fans who stopped by also walked away with a koozie, spring training schedule, and pamphlets about new ballpark and other activities in the area.

An exhibit showcasing the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches was new for 2016.
An exhibit showcasing the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches was new for 2016.

There were also multiple new main stage events to complement the classic events like the gingerbread house contest. The games allowed fans to get a better feel for the personalities of their favorite Nationals.

Dusty Baker and Chris Speier teamed up against Strasburg and Tanner Roark for Smitten Mittens Duo Battle–a game show modeled after “The Newlywed Game.” The teammates took turns answering questions about their partners while one was behind the stage in a “soundproof room.” Some of the answers made the audience laugh including one where Speier said his favorite postgame meal was ribs when Baker predicted it would be salad. It was also funny to watch when Roark correctly anticipated that Strasburg’s favorite flight activity was to watch movies on his iPad.

X’s and Bows was another new game this year and it was hosted by Charlie Slowes–the veteran play-by-play announcer for the Washington Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg teamed up with members of the audience to answer trivia questions about Nationals players to get three of their ribbons or bows in a row. Some of the highlights of the event included Ryan Zimmerman answering a question about where he went to college (University of Virginia) and Stephen Strasburg answering a question about the year he was drafted (2009). It was also fun to watch the players correctly answer trivia questions about some of their teammates.

Room For Improvement

Winterfest was a terrific experience, but there are definitely areas where there can be room for improvement. Two of the longer lines were for the video pitch exhibit and the batting cages. Adding an additional two batting cages and encouraging some of the younger attendees to use the rookie batting cages  would go a long way at reducing the waiting time for attendees.

Winterfest planners can also consider rotating out some of the exhibits such as the New Era cap exhibit and the snow globe photo station to make room for more popular or new exhibits for 2017.

Nationals Magazine Digest: June 2016

The latest issue of Nationals Magazine features a cover story about Stephen Strasburg's decision to stay in Washington.
The latest issue of Nationals Magazine features a cover story about Stephen Strasburg’s decision to stay in Washington.

The June/July issue of Nationals Magazine is now on sale at Nationals Park and the latest edition features a cover story about Stephen Strasburg and his decision to sign a 7-year, $175 million contract extension.

Charlie Slowes, the veteran play-by-play announcer for the Washington Nationals, writes about how Strasburg evaluated his family’s “life goals” when considering the contract extension. Strasburg and his wife, Rachel, Slowes writes, agreed that staying in Washington would help them achieve those goals. The story also highlights how Strasburg has developed over the course of his career and what he has learned from his relationships with his teammates.

Dave Jagler, Slowes’ partner in the radio booth, contributed the most interesting article to the magazine, but it is about Davey Lopes–who probably wouldn’t sell many magazines if he was featured on the cover. Lopes, the first base coach for the Nationals, was an accomplished base stealer during his playing career and the article explains how Lopes is using his experience to help the team’s baserunning. Jagler writes about the work Lopes does to discover visual keys which improve the chances of success for baserunner and his success stories. Give this article a read!

The magazine also provides readers with an update on one of the team’s most prized prospects–Victor Robles. In an interview with Nationals Magazine, Mark Scialabba, the Nationals director of player development, he highlights the talent and trajectory of Robles. Among the newsworthy comments, Scialabba explains that the 19-year-old prospect from the Dominican Republic will likely to remain an outfielder and that he will be promoted as he meets goals that were set for him during spring training.

The article about Joe Ross which is accompanied with sharp photography is also worth a read. It provides readers with his reaction after getting traded from by the San Diego Padres and how mastering a change-up has made him an effective pitcher.

 As a reminder, the latest issue of Nationals Magazine can only be purchased at Nationals Park. The April/May issue can be purchased online.

In the Chatting Cage with Joe Ross

Joe Ross was a guest on the Chatting Cage on Wednesday evening.
Joe Ross was a guest on the Chatting Cage on Wednesday evening and he answered questions from fans.

Joe Ross, the Washington Nationals rookie pitcher, appeared on MLB Advanced Media’s Edward Jones Chatting Cage and he answered questions from fans for about 15 minutes on Wednesday evening.

The Chatting Cage is a web series moderated by Jeremy Brisiel and the show is influenced almost entirely by fans who Tweet or video chat questions to premier athletes and coaches.  Previous guests have included Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.

We sent our question to Ross on Twitter using the hastag #ChattingCage and were excited to hear his response. These were the top three questions that Ross answered on the show.

What is your favorite thing about Washington?

Probably the stadium and the fans.  I love pitching in front of the big crowds that we get, hearing them cheer as we score runs and getting some quality wins.  It’s really what I like.

The Chatting Cage is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel who has been joined by Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.
The Chatting Cage is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel who has been joined by Alex Cobb, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton and Bud Black.

Who has the better stuff on the mound you or Tyson [Ross]?

I’m gonna have to say Tyson.  Until, I can prove myself, by default, I would have to say him.  He’s doing really well. I get lucky enough, since I’m on the East coast, by the time our game is done, I can catch some late innings of his….He’s actually not a bad hitter as well. It’s always fun to watch him dig into the box.

What’s the biggest adjustment about having an everyday spot in the rotation?

Just going out and taking care of business. Once every five days starting, but four days between, is really when you get your work done. I think those four days are just as important, if not more, than your start days because those are what prepare you for your upcoming game. As long as you take care of business those days, I think you’ll be alright. That’s my main thing—trying to stick around the guys and trying to do some things that they do and kind of add on to my game.

See the whole interview here.