NATS Plus – Player For a Day

Sunday, April 7th

(Yes, I’m behind, behind.)

One of the benefits of being a Nationals NATS Plus Member are the events the Nationals hold for members throughout the season. Player For a Day (PFD) didn’t happen last year but when I found out that it was a go this year, I new I didn’t want to miss out.

PFD is exactly as it sounds…for a few hours, fans get to roam about the park (in an organized fashion of course) as if we were a Washington Nationals baseball player.

Two years ago, my first time attending, I brought along my little cousin Korey. This time however, I brought an adult…Kyle. Kyle and I have a banter laden in sarcasm, especially around invites to the ballpark, so I know he would enjoy this experience. He happens to be a Chicago White Sox fan but trolled me prior to that Sunday, “Question, can I wear my Phillies Hat?”

We arrived at the ballpark with time to kill so we stood around chatting about sports in general, dating, places to eat, and his graphic design stuff.

Upon entering, I expected to see the warm up area where we get to do a few work outs in the outfield but that wasn’t there, folks were playing catch in the outfield but we decided to make our first stop at the Bullpen Car.

Bullpen Car


More popular in the 50s and 60s, the bullpen car brought relief pitchers into the game from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound. In an attempt to help speed up the game, this cute little baseball-themed Herbie made its debut at Nationals Park on August 17, 2018. However, only a few pitchers have ever rode in it.

Speed Pitch
Oh yeah! So during the Speed Pitch activity, we got to throw 3 pitches in the bullpen. This was my chance to let my inner Max Scherzer out!


I totally forgot that in addition to professional football, that Kyle had played baseball before and he did pretty well. He would’ve nailed it had his ball stayed straight. Apparently, it’s all in the release.

As for me, I kept my expectations low.

Sometimes you have to be your own hype man!

Dugout
It was pretty cool sitting in the place where my guys hang out during the game.

In addition to this photoshoot we were apparently having, I spotted the cubbies of a few of my favorite players and made a call to the bullpen. Though when I made my call, I envisioned solid options on the other side. *sigh*

On Deck Circle
We made quick detour to the On Deck photo op before heading to the down to the batting cages. Even though this circle is way fancier than the rubber one the guys usually stand on before stepping into the batters box, it was still pretty cool to stand there.

Batting Cages

We then backtracked a little down towards the Nationals’ clubhouse and to the batting cages. I just knew the struggle was going to be real for me and initially opted out of participating. But hey, how many opportunities does one get to be in the batting cages of their favorite baseball team?!? It was a no brainer but the struggle was real:

I told you. I could use some work. It felt good though so you might see me in batting cages again soon!

But of course I’d look bad stepping into the cages after this show off (advance apologies for the video snafu):

Show off. Did you hear the guy ask if Kyle played before and that he should at least be on a softball team?! *eye roll*

After, we stopped by the Delta Sky360 Lounge for a quick rest and some refreshments. The set up was cute but if I could change one thing, we’d have less brick-like pretzels! We stayed for a few minutes, catching about an inning of the Nationals dealing it to the NY Mets at CitiField, then beelined for some real food.

Only while writing did I realize that we totally missed the Dress Like A Player stop in the visitors’ clubhouse.

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Parting Gifts
On our way out, I stopped to pick up my NATS Plus 2-Year Commitment gift: A replica All-Star Game ring. This baby had been available during the regular season but I kept forgetting to pick it up.

We topped the day off with ramen and drunkin’ dumplings at one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in DC.

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West Palm Beach – Day 3

Tuesday.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning or like adult me on Opening Day. It was too soon for either of those days. Instead, I was beyond hype because it was finally my day to take in a Nats spring training game and my sister Cassie was coming to join me!

img_2024She would be driving almost 3 hours from Longwood, Fl to my AirBnB in Boynton Beach, just to spend the day with me. Although we keep in touch via phone and of course Instagram, it had been far too long (October) since I actually saw her.

Needing to get in a workout before we started our day, I decided to take that energy to YouFit Health Club in located at Boynton Beach Mall. There I worked biceps/triceps/legs and spent a little time on the treadmill. 


Cassie arrived a little before 1p. After many hugs and a few approving looks, we hopped in the Jeep and decided on lunch. I had wanted to take her to a vegan spot in Delray Beach but when we realized they were closed on Tuesdays, we settled on pizza for lunch at Pizza Rox in Boynton. Another spot I had on my list of places to eat while here. Their website said that they had both vegan and gluten-free options but we remained skeptical…at first.

We both went for identical 12-inch pies with gluten-free crust. A crust which surprisingly didn’t taste as distinguishable from regular crust like most gluten-free crusts/breads or that imploded as soon as you touched it. I nixed the cheese (although they had various cheese options including vegan cheese) and loaded up my pie with BBQ sauce, vegan chicken breast, red onions, spinach, green peppers, and pineapple. Washing it down with a bottle of Acqua Panna spring water.

For a minute, and only half way through the pie, I thought about picking up another before my return flight home the next day.

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However, I erred on the other side of gluttony and instead saved the other half for later.


After lunch, we made our way up 95 North to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to watch batting practice before the 6:35p game against the Astros. It was the first time I would be attempting to catch spring training BP and boy did I get it wrong. I assumed BP would actually be in the ballpark. Instead, it appeared to happen in one of the practice fields to which we really didn’t have access to or visibility of. We arrived around 3 and found the gates wouldn’t open until 4:30p. So we chatted about everything under the sun, took some pics, and did a lap or two along the walking trail.

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We also managed to spot Justin Verlander (‘Stros starting pitcher that night) arriving on campus in a sort of grey muscle car with Virginia license plates. Full disclosure, it was only after Googling rosters did I realize that’s exactly who that was. You know what they say about hindsight.

They opened the gates promptly at 4:30p and we went straight for the giveaway table to collect our Nationals hoodie, a freebie we weren’t even aware we were getting until we were standing in line. Interesting how the Universe works in your favor.

To my surprise, a familiar face was at the table: It’s Mike! Mike was at the table doing Mike things…handing out hoodies and later tossing t-shirts into the stands. Quick intro: Mike (Ploger) is the in-game host of Inside Pitch Live and in-game promotions at Nationals Park. I asked him if he’d take a selfie with me and he jumped right in!

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I later posted this pic to Instagram to which he commented, “Your energy is contagious!” Oh Mike.

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I hit the team store next, determined to stick to my budget by sticking to the plan of picking up my must-haves: a Sprint Training-themed magnet for my fridge (I guess that’s becoming a thing) and this year’s Spring Training hat. Have you seen it?!

You’re welcome.

After making our way around the concourse a couple of times to kill time, grab some water, and snacks…we made our way to our seats. Well the section our seats were in. We chose to sit 10 or so rows back (out of the sun) from where we were supposed to sit and remained there until we left.

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I ended up walking over by the bullpen to take a couple of pics and vids of Strasburg and Gomes warming up before first pitch. This would be my first time watching Gomes catch since the Nats acquired him back in November. I was excited about that but mostly just excited to finally see some baseball!

Astros were the first to go out in front. Until 21-year-old Carter Kieboom launched a 2-run home run in the 2nd putting us in the lead. Carter is our No. 2 prospect and while he struggled a bit at second base, he killed his at-bats. Going 2-for-2 and hitting another home run in the 4th…scoring both those home runs off the Astros’ ace pitcher, Mr. Muscle Car himself, Justin Verlander. 

We would eventually remain in the lead, beating the ‘Stros 5-3 in 9 innings.

Stephen Strasburg pitched 4.67 innings, striking out six and allowing two runs, five hits and four walks.

Our No. 1 prospect, center fielder Victor Robles went 1-for-2 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases,  and a run scored.

 

 

#TBT: Baseball and Framily

Hey ya’ll! So I’m back for another throwback!

When I started this blog last year, the purpose was clear: share my experiences as a Washington Nationals fan with the hope of encouraging the “baseball averse” to join in on the fun. I’ve been doing just that but as I recently scrolled through my camera roll, I realized I haven’t shared those outings. Be it some work colleagues, family, or friends, I’ve been lucky to have several people join me at one of my happy places.

Of course I tend to be super hype when I’m not alone. Governing myself as THE (unofficial) expert on Nationals Park amenities and happenings, as if I’m the Official Fan Experience Advisor. If that’s not a thing, it absolutely should be. No arrogance of course but I’m definitely proud of our ballpark. The way I carry on, you’d think I was hosting an episode of MTV Cribs or showing a home for sale. But that’s what it is, the ballpark, my second home during baseball season and I’ve spent enough time there to know it quite well.

So this Throwback Thursday I’m sharing some of my favorite ballpark adventures with some of my favorite people.

The Kids

No not my kids (at least not yet). But I believe that kids should be given opportunities to experience new/different things, when possible. During the year, the Nationals host special events for season plan holders. I not only make it a point to take advantage of that perk but I also make an attempt to bring along someone’s child(ren) along for the experience.

Player for a Day was a real treat for my little cousin and me! We threw pitches in the bullpen, swung in the batting cages, hung out in the dugout, and pretended to be up next to bat on the on deck circle. And of course Star Wars Day at the park was a hit!

This past summer, baseball fans celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the baseball classic The Sandlot. The Nationals hosted Movie Night at Nationals Park for an on-field experience to watch the movie and my heart was overjoyed when my girlfriend Stephanie and her two girls (I call them The Littles) joined me. We smiled and giggled while eating our picnic dinner and then laid back and munched on snacks when it was movie time. I remember looking over and being so happy to see the girls watching the movie so attentively. I mean it came out when I was 12 years old! To be honest though, I don’t know who had more fun: the The Littles or Stephanie and I. This was such a great experience and I certainly hope they remember it for years to come.

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Framily

You know there are friends and then there’s family…and then there are your friends that you consider family. Some have joined me for the occasional game, some come out annually for the Nationals Crab Feast, or for games like the Battle of the Beltways between the Nats and Orioles and even when the Phillies are in town. Then there’s the framily that say they’re coming out and haven’t. Not pictured. Obviously. But I’m not giving up!

Work Colleagues

Then there’s the couple of times I’ve brought or met up with my scientific work peeps.  We’re all biologist, toxicologist, chemist, microbiologist, and biotechnologist. Just out at the game for some relaxation, a little fellowship, and beer (of course).

Whether I’ve been able to fully convert them into fans or not, I’m truly grateful for the people in my circle that accept me and my baseball antics.

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” – Jim Morrison

– Nika