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: Postseason 2016

The latest edition of Nationals Magazine is on sale at Nationals Park
The latest edition of Nationals Magazine is on sale at Nationals Park.

The final issue of Nationals Magazine for 2016 featuring the Washington Nationals celebrating a walk-off victory is now on sale at Nationals Park. The latest magazine includes a vibrant series of photographs featuring “Signature Moments” from the 2016 regular season and two short articles written by the radio broadcasters.

Nine “Signature Moments” are featured in the magazine. Fans should definitely pick up a copy of the magazine to relive the moments by checking out the photos and reading the recaps. Video clips celebrating the “Signature Moments” were featured on NatsHD before the previous postseason games.

  1. April 4 – The Pursuit Begins – The section celebrates the success of Harper on Opening Day and the arrival of Daniel Murphy.
  2. April 14 – One Hundred Grand – Bryce Harper hit his 100th career home run in style.
  3. April 24 – The Roller Coaster – I never leave games early because of games like these. Bryce Harper delivered a game saving pinch-hit home run and Chris Heisey delivered a game winning home run in the 16th inning agains the Minnesota Twins.
  4. May 9 – The Accidental Walk-Off – In a game most notable for Harper’s ejection and subsequent outburst against home plate umpire, Brian Knight, Clint Robinson hit a walk-off home run without knowing the inning of his pinch hit appearance.
  5. May 11 – 20th & K – Max Scherzer had, arguably, the most dominant games of his career when he struck out 20 players in a nine inning game. Strikeouts are sexy.
  6. June 15 – 2 Legit 2 Quit – Jayson Werth told his critics that they could kiss his ass after he delivered a walk-off against the Chicago Cubs.
  7. June 30 and July 3 – See You L-8-R – Danny Espinosa won NL Player of the Week honors after an offensive outburst against the CIncinnati Reds. His most notable achievement was hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in both games including two grand slams.
  8. July 29 – Rule of Three – This one took place late at night on the road in San Francisco. Dusty Baker made a triple switch and substituted in Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman and Sammy Solis. The result was the first 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history.
  9. September 9 – The Perfect Ending – Trea Turner could probably be elected Mayor if he wanted to put his baseball career on hold. The two time NL Rookie of the Month belted two home runs including a walk-off home run to center field to top the Philadelphia Phillies.

In “You Never Know,” Dave Jagler writes about how the Nationals can very feasibly have a successful postseason run. Jagler describes how anything can happen in October and that teams with the most elite hitters, starters and bullpens are not guaranteed the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Charlie Slowes echoes a similar sentiment in “Hero Time.” Slowes describes how players like Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner can each play a role in a successful postseason run.
The magazine also contains a large (two-page) scorecard which you can use Thursday to score the game.

Giveaway Review: Max Scherzer No-Hitter Bobblehead #2 (Grade: A-)

Scherzer No-Hitter Bobblehead 2
This Max Scherzer bobblehead features that Nationals’ ace in the set position on the night of his second no-hitter.

The second of two Max Scherzer no-hitter bobbleheads was distributed on Friday at Nationals Park before the series opener between the Washington Nationals and the Colorado Rockies.

As I mentioned in last season’s post about grandstand seating (the limited supply of $5 tickets in sections 401 and 402), arriving early is essential on bobblehead giveaway days. The line already snaked from the box office to 1st St. and wound halfway back to the box office when I arrived 2.5 hours before the game. It moved quickly and I had a $5 ticket and a Scherzer bobblehead in less than 15 minutes.

PNC Bank, which sponsored the giveaway, administered a sponsorship activation in front of the escalator leading up to the scoreboard walk before the game. The activation, which was located in a heavily trafficked area of the ballpark, had three activities to promote the company and the promotion.

Fans had the opportunity to win prizes at the PNC tent by correctly answering three multiple choice trivia questions about the Nationals’ ace. Questions varied in difficulty and substance. One question was about the fastest pitch Scherzer has ever thrown (99 mph) and another was about the name of his dog (Rocco).

The activation also provided fans with an opportunity to enter a free raffle to win Scherzer memorabilia including an autographed jersey and autographed bobblehead.

Instagram Scherzer
This Nationals fan posted a photo of the autographed bobblehead he won from the PNC Bank sponsorship activation.

The final part of the sponsorship activation was the giant Max Scherzer bobblehead photo station from the #MaxAboutTown promotion. All three of these activities helped make the giveaway a successful promotion.

The bobblehead features Scherzer in the gray road uniform and blue cap he wore during his October 3 start against the New York Mets at Citi Field when he tossed his second career no-hitter. He is featured in the set position and smiling with his mouth closed. The backdrop of the bobblehead features Scherzer’s statistics from his historic night and a disproportionately sized rosin bag.

Charlie Slowes, the radio play-by-play announcer for NationaIs, often prompts fans to, “Remember where you are so you’ll remember where you were.” It brings back memories to sitting down on a Saturday night and trying to salvage the last bit of Nationals baseball until spring training. It was incredible to watch Scherzer dominate and strikeout every batter swinging his third time through the lineup.

The first Max Scherzer bobblehead does a better job capturing the excitement of his no-hitter.
The first Max Scherzer bobblehead does a better job capturing the excitement of his no-hitter.

The bobblehead could have been A+ material if it captured more of the enthusiasm from the historic night. It, for example, could have featured him pumping his fist after a strikeout or celebrating with his jersey untucked. This bobblehead is a great addition to any fan’s collection.

Grade: A-

Extra:

The new Nationals team store Twitter account also tweeted about a promotion where fans could receive a Max Scherzer bobblehead by spending $100 in the Nationals team store. This was notably a bigger ask than the promotion at the team store in May where the purchase of two apparel items got you a Scherzer bobblehead.

Nationals Red Carpet Rewards members were also able to redeem a limited supply of  bobbleheads with 500 points. They were all redeemed by the time of publication.

TOPPS NOW: Max Scherzer’s 5th Straight 200K Season, Joins Elite Company

A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating  Max Scherzer's fifth consecutive season of 200+ strikeouts is available until Thursday afternoon.
A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating Max Scherzer’s fifth consecutive season of 200+ strikeouts is available until Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday night at Nationals Park was “Scherzday” and fans can always expect that the Nationals’ ace will put them in a position to win every fifth day. Max Scherzer did just that and he had me on my feet cheering all the way upstairs in section 408.

Scherzer entered the game tied for the league lead with 198 strikeouts and made some history in the third inning when he caught the Cleveland Indians’ catcher, Roberto Perez, looking on a slider at the knees. It was just Scherzer’s second strikeout of the night, but it also marked his fifth consecutive season with 200+ strikeouts.

Scherzer pitched seven innings, while allowing just three hits two runs (one earned) and racking up 10 strikeouts. It was his tenth game of the year with 10 or more strikeouts.

He arrived at that line in impressive fashion allowing no hits through six and a third innings as he made an athletic defensive play in the fifth inning to throw out third baseman Jose Ramirez. The defensive play of the day, however, went to Ben Revere who, according to Statcast, ran 109.8 feet to rob Perez of extra base-hits with a leaping grab at the wall in center field.

Scherzer lost his bid for a third career no-hitter in the seventh inning after Francisco Lindor singled up the middle and he took a hard fought 3-1 loss as the Nationals mustered just one run on a Jayson Werth home run.

Topps Now released a limited edition baseball card on Wednesday afternoon commemorating Scherzer’s fifth consecutive season with 200 strikeouts. The card is only available until 1 p.m. on Thursday before it is sold out.

The Moment:
Max Scherzer turned in another high-quality outing, striking out 10 batters over seven frames, while yielding one earned run. Despite that effort, Scherzer took the hard-luck loss to the Cleveland Indians, but in doing so, he became the first pitcher of the 2016 season to eclipse 200 strikeouts. Additionally, Scherzer joins Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander as the only active pitchers to crack 200 Ks in five straight seasons.

Giveaway Review: Max Scherzer No-Hitter Bobblehead #1 (Grade: A)

I met with Teddy and celebrated like Max Scherzer after his first no-hitter as part of the #MaxAboutTown promotion.
I met with Teddy and celebrated like Max Scherzer after his first no-hitter as part of the #MaxAboutTown promotion.

The first of two Max Scherzer no-hitter bobbleheads was distributed to the first 25,000 fans at Nationals Park on Monday, May 23 before the Nationals took on the Mets in a game that was delayed an hour because of inclement weather.

The hype surrounding the bobblehead giveaway began one week before the game when the team announced a #MaxAboutTown promotion, via the @Teddy26Nats Twitter account, giving fans the opportunity to win tickets to the game.

Teddy hit the road in the NatMobile and made eight stops around Washington, DC and northern Virginia between May 18 and May 22 with a life-sized Max Scherzer no-hitter bobblehead. Fans who took a photo with the bobblehead and uploaded it to Twitter using the hashtag #MaxAboutTown received free tickets to the giveaway game.

A life-sized Max Scherzer bobblehead made appearances with Teddy at eight locations in Washington, DC and northern Virginia.
A life-sized Max Scherzer bobblehead made appearances with Teddy at eight locations in Washington, DC and northern Virginia.

I arrived at the first #MaxAboutTown event near the PNC Bank on 17th Street hoping to score a pair of free tickets. Despite arriving just 15 minutes into the event, all of the tickets had already been distributed. I still received a racing president Cal bobblehead and returned to work excited for the game. Some lucky fans who mugged with Max on May 20 and May 22 actually took home Scherzer bobbleheads.

The #MaxAboutTown promotion and the corresponding calendar was reminiscent of 12 Days of Winterfest promotion leading up to Winterfest in December. Both of these promotions were effectively generated lots of enthusiasm on social media.

I was unable to make it to the ballpark in time to receive a bobblehead, but was fortunate to procure one a week later from a Nationals fan who secured one less than an hour before the scheduled 7:05pm first pitch (thanks Ezra). I did, however, make it to over to Nationals Park from DCA in time to watch Gio Gonzalez surrender seven earned runs in just five innings of work.

The bobblehead box features two photos of Scherzer from the June 20th game where he nearly missed throwing the league’s 24th perfect game and settled for a no-hitter. The front features Scherzer with his arms raised above his head. The image portrays Scherzer moments after recording the final out of the no-hitter wearing a red jersey, red and blue cap, with white pants. It also previews the second bobblehead giveaway which will be distributed on Friday, August 26.

The back of the box features Scherzer doffing his cap and it features his stats from “no-hitter #1.”

Several aspects of the bobblehead are very impressive. The attention paid to detail on his uniform is especially noteworthy. The jersey includes both patches featured on the jerseys in 2015 and his right pant leg even has dirt on it from when he ran the bases.

The bobblehead also captures the condition that causes Scherzer to have one blue eye and one brown eye (heterochromia), but falls short in other defining facial features most notably his missing facial hair which makes his face seem generic.

The bobbleheads were worth the price of admission for many fans, including Dan Steinberg, and they were  enough to bring joy to fans on a soggy night when the Nationals lost.


Grade: A

Giveaway Review: Bryce Harper MVP Bobblehead (Grade A-)

Fans at Wednesday night's game received a Bryce Harper MVP Bobblehead and also witnessed a spectacular pitching performance by Max Scherzer.
Fans at Wednesday night’s game received a Bryce Harper MVP Bobblehead and also witnessed a spectacular pitching performance by Max Scherzer.

The first 25,000 fans to arrive at Nationals Park on Wednesday received the most coveted giveaway item of the season–a Bryce Harper MVP bobblehead presented by SAIC.

Concern about whether fans would get to see the 2015 National League MVP play was shared on social media after MLB announced that Harper was issued a one game suspension for confronting Brian Knight, the home plate umpire, following Monday night’s walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers.

That concern was mitigated when it was announced Harper would appeal of the suspension. Harper went on to have a great night at the plate. He went 2-for-3 with a walk, but the spotlight was focused on Max Scherzer who became just the fourth pitcher in history to record 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.

Hundreds of fans cued up on N Street and Half Street before the Center Field Gates opened to ensure they would get the bobblehead. The box office line to purchase $5 grandstand tickets wrapped around the parking garage on First Street more than 2.5 hours before the game.

Although I was unable to attend Wednesday’s game, my roommate brought me back an extra bobblehead courtesy of his colleague’s girlfriend (thanks Lily).

Everything about this giveaway seemingly screams MVP (or MVPDMV). The box that holds the bobblehead has three photos of Harper that showcase his talent and persona.

The front of the box has a photo of Harper flashing the American Sign Language sign for “I love you” as he crosses home plate. The front also says #MVPDMV in small print along the bottom of the box. The hashtag received minimal engagement which may have been attributable to the excitement of Scherzer’s performance.

There is also a photo of him looking up at the ball after taking a home run swing.

The third side has a close up photo of Harper smiling in the dugout.

The fourth panel lists his 2015 MVP stats including his NL leading home runs (42), slugging percentage (.649) and runs scored (118).

The bobblehead depicts Harper in the same pose shown on the front of the box. Harper is wearing a red jersey and batting helmet with white pants lined with red and blue piping. Harper struck that pose 42 times last season when he crossed the plate after hitting home runs. The base of the bobblehead also has the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award which leans up against Harper’s legs.

The MVP bobblehead giveaway is just the first of a handful of Harper-themed giveaways to be distributed during the 2016 season. Future items include a Ratpack Poster (July 2), Harper Chia Pet (July 5) and a Harper Kids Jersey (July 24).

We give the marketing team lots of credit for having more Harper promotions this season. He is, after all, the most popular player on the team. The last Harper bobblehead giveaway was in 2014. 

It is also nice that the bobblehead carries an historical theme and is not another generic batting stance collectible. The historical nature of last season’s bobbleheads were a defining differentiating factor that made the series unique.

One negative aspect of having a giveaway item in such high demand is that some fans (or entrepreneurs) buy up large quantities of tickets so they can resell the bobbleheads they collect each time they enter the ballpark. Reported sights of fans walking around Nationals Park with towering stacks of bobbleheads, while other fans missed out may make the marketing team reconsider its claim that the first 25,000 fans receive giveaway items.

If you missed out on the Harper bobblehead at Nationals Park, consider buying a ticket to the Potomac Nationals game on Saturday, May 28. The first 1,500 fans at Pfitzner Stadium will take home a Bryce Harper NL MVP bobblehead.

Grade: A-