NatsFest 2014 was a total blur. The entire event flew by so fast I barely had time to recognize that Jayson Werth officially now looks like a homeless guy (I handed him dollar outside the Gaylord National before I realized who it was).
The biggest problem with NatsFest is you cannot be more than one place at one time. There is so much going on, it’s inevitable to miss something. Here are the highlights–and lowlights–of my NatsFest 2014.
My first event was a panel discussion on the main stage with Anthony Rendon, Scott Hairston, Gio Gonzalez, and Ross Detwiler.
– Ross Detwiler is hilarious. Just outstanding comedic timing. We need more Detwiler in 2014.
– Gio really embracing his role as the Go Through the Crowd with the Microphone Guy. Guys like Gio are born for events like NatsFest.
– Rendon calling Texas the “best state” in the US before Detwiler quickly reminded him to know his audience. Then Rendon followed a joke about Texan secession by saying “We’d be fine on our own.”
Texas Pride. Or something.
– The first question from the audience was a Nats fan holding up a rubber chicken asking that Gio sacrifice it on the stage to guarantee good luck this season. Not kidding.
***Update: Gio Gonzalez and the Rubber Chicken Man actually have a history together, with Gio even helping him “sacrifice” a rubber chicken last August (which was the basis of the rubber chicken question). The rubber chicken idea originated back in 2012 due to a joke by Davey Johnson during a losing streak.
My second event was a Q&A with three members of the Nationals analytics staff, easily the best event of the day.
– The organized Q&A was underwhelming, largely because of the poor quality of questions from the audience. There were a few decent questions, however, leading to interesting answers from the trio. Also, the staff was relatively forthcoming and educational in a private discussion we had with them after the official discussion.
– A…um…spirited woman who lectured the staff that signing Rafael Soriano last season “ruined” Drew Storens confidence after his 2012 collapse.
– The Drew Storen question being immediately followed by a question about Steve Lombardozzi. It was almost scripted.
The staff handled the questions well and moved on.
The next event was a Q&A with new manager Matt Williams. Williams has already conquered the political side of being a MLB manager. He is at ease in front of a crowd and microphone. No doubt being a star player has helped prepare him for this role.
– Williams’ confidence.
– The zinger from Williams that he wants his players to respect him enough to “run through a wall for him…except Harper”
– Using the words “bunt” and “Bryce Harper” in the same sentence. Williams responded to a question about small ball by saying he’s committed to it and gave a hypothetical scenario where Harper might bunt.
– Williams dodging a question about the Braves “shenanigans” last season (i.e. Beanballs) by saying the best response is to play well and win.
Perhaps Williams is just playing it cool. It’s dangerous for a manager to say in a public setting that his team will retaliate after a beaning.
Either way, I do not want to see a repeat of last season, where Braves pitchers declare open season on Bryce Harper while the Nats do nothing.
– The one woman in the audience who let out an awkward scream of approval when Williams said he asked Ryan Zimmerman to get a first baseman’s glove.
Not a fan of LaRoche, lady?
Other highlights from the day:
– The venue. I am hoping the Nationals return to National Harbor next year.
– The “Nothing but Natitude” slogan. It’s cheesy. But you know what? It works. And it drives other fanbases crazy. Why not double down?
– No Ryan Zimmerman. No Desmond.
– The fact that day of event tickets are $25 and presale tickets are $20….with $6 in “fees” for a total cost of $26.
You can’t make this stuff up.