MissChatter: Caravanless Winter and Spring NatsFest

MissChatter: Caravanless Winter and Spring NatsFest
January 20, 2011, 2:42 pm
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Thursday, January 20, 2011 9:22 am

By Miss Chatter

Happy New Year! Yes, I realize we're more than halfway through January. You may be wondering, "where have you been?!" I've been on a cold and windy family cruise for the holidays and then bided my time waiting for the Winter Caravan and NatsFest info so I'd have some goodies and photos to share. However, NatsFest was postponed until March 30th this year, the day before opening day. So instead I waited for the 1 starting pitcher the Nats were going to sign and watched helplessly while the available options signed elsewhere. Now I need something to keep the baseball fire glowing while I plan a trip to spring training, which appears to be the only live baseball fix on the horizon.

The Winter Caravan has always been the one event I've followed and covered without fail. The event bridged the gap from the peak of hot stove action around the Winter Meetings to pitchers and catchers reporting in Viera, Florida, as well as served as a great way for fans to get to know newly signed players before the routine chaos of the regular season. Many of the caravan stops along the way give the players community outreach opportunities and bring joy those they touch. Looking back through my photos from previous years, it always fell at the end of January. Not so this year. Instead, I've been living vicariously through the Astros caravan via Alyson Footer's blog. They even chartered a swanky party bus!

However, it appears this winter will be caravanless. I'm all for breaking the mold with bold new things for fans, so if the Nats and new COO Andy Feffer truly have something amazing in store for March 30th, okay then. The wait may be worth it. Until then, I decided to look back on caravans past. So without further ado, I present you a look back at previous Nationals winter caravan stops and NatsFests in order to bridge the bone-chilling baseball-less winter gap by proxy. Hopefully it helps!

2006 Photoset:

I found it somewhat endearing and amusing to look back on players who are long gone from the organization that attended these events (such as catcher Brian Schneider), a player who was practically a baby and is now a staple of the franchise (Ryan Zimmerman, of course) and a coach who departed and has returned to the Nats' minor league system (Tony Beasley). Who can forget 00 Brandon Watson? I only attended the autograph signing at a restaurant in Pentagon City that early year and don't recall if there were other events or stops.

2007 Photoset:

New television announcer Don Sutton joined the caravan at a Red Cross blood donor event as a way to introduce him to fans.

2008 Photoset 1; Set 2; Set 3:

The Nationals occupied a booth at the Health & Fitness Expo in the Convention Center where Aaron Boone and Jason Bergmann put on a skills clinic for kids.

The caravan then went on to Children's National Medical Center where players such as John Lannan colored and laughed with children in the atrium.

Tim Redding and Mike Bacsik dished out ice cream at a Giffords ice cream shop in DC.

2009 Photoset 1; Set 2; Set 3; Set 4:

The caravan traveled all the way to a mall in Martinsburg, WV to sign autographs and chat with fans (closer to minor league team). The Footnotes blog talks about how much food and restaurants play a role in caravans. After the WV mall, I witnessed the bus stop at a restaurant before finishing the trek back to the metro area where they signed autographs at a Harris Teeter in Rockville, MD. Teddy even did a little grocery shopping.

Day 2 of the 2009 caravan included a celebrity player cookoff at the now defunct ESPN Zone in DC where yours truly had the pleasure of playing one of the judges.

On day 3, fans stood in the chilly outdoors to await player autographs inside the clubhouse of the Potomac Nationals at Pfitzner Stadium. Many players participated, including Ryan Zimmerman who stood and posed for pictures with fans.

Fans crowded the Stars & Stripes club for the first NatsFest held in Nationals Park

2010 Photoset 1; Set 2; Set 3:

And finally, we're up to last year's cold and incredibly snowy winter. Again, a major caravan stop was at Children's National Medical Center where the Nationals Dream Foundation is working to build a diabetes care center. Following that, the Nats went to the Prince George's County Sports & Learning Complex where fans got their first glimpses of some new additions to the roster (some of whom are already gone such as Bruney and Capps).

And then fans flocked to the 2nd annual NatsFest held in Nationals Park, complete with a kids zone and caricature sketching.

The Nationals promise a bigger and better NatsFest this year, and considering the event occurs the day before opening day, I would guess most of the players will be in attendance. We still don't know the exact times, although considering it is not a school holiday and a regular work day for most folks, I would assume the event will be in the evening. From the press release:

"For the first time ever, the Washington Nationals will host the annual NatsFest at the start of the 2011 season on Wednesday, March 30 so that more fans than ever before can celebrate the beginning of baseball alongside Nationals players, coaches and team personnel at Nationals Park. This unprecedented move will offer fans access to a fun-filled festival featuring a variety of activities that include the teams 2011 roster."

Season ticket holders will receive complimentary tickets. Fans not season ticket holders will pay 10 for an adult and 5 for children 12 and under (which guarantees my 13 year old will now insist he's an adult if he finds out!).

Too bad we can't spring forward to the new event and opening day to see what's in store. Fans will just have to be patient - a familiar concept, right?