Results tagged ‘ Racing Presidents ’

Traveling Party

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Pittsburgh is a classic American sports town, full of multi-generational, die-hard fans. While the football and hockey teams have enjoyed more recent success than the Pirates, the bloodlines connecting each sport run deep through the town. With a proud history from Honus Wagner and Ralph Kiner to Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, baseball has had a home in the Steel City since the late 1800s, and now calls beautiful PNC Park – with a picturesque, skyline view of downtown across the river – its home.

Perhaps there is something to the solidarity of the yellow and black jerseys worn by each team – the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins – or the fact that all play their games within close proximity, as the athletic venues each now reside in the same riverfront neighborhood. But even the fact that the Pirates own the longest stretch of consecutive losing seasons in any professional sport (20 and counting, entering the 2013 campaign) isn’t enough to dampen enthusiasm, or keep the fans away.

There are nice touches at the ballpark that are uniquely Pittsburgh as well. Their version of the Racing Presidents (who took part in the festivities this weekend) are the Pierogies, a local food staple of the eastern Europeans who first settled the city. After victories, they “raise the Jolly Roger,” hoisting a Pirate flag above the ballpark. And, up in the press box, you’ll find Rick, who has worked for the club for 10 years. He owns five different classic Pirates jerseys, and sports whichever one matches best with what the team on the field dons that particular game, along with his throwback handlebar moustache.

But for all the tradition, spectators at PNC Park were treated, for lack of a better word, to something they had never heard before this weekend. As Washington plated six runs in the series-winning victory on Sunday, a chant rose up from a select few in the upper bowl.

Those who have attended a Nationals game in D.C. over the past few years have no doubt become accustomed to, or perhaps even joined in on the rallying cry of “N-A-T-S Nats Nats Nats” that accompanies each score by the hometown nine. But hearing it happen on the road, drawing the ire of the hometown fans, was signified something of a first. It only highlighted just how many red jerseys, t-shirts and Curly W’s were on display in western Pennsylvania this weekend.

The Pirates had averaged just 20,616 fans through their first 12 openings of the season, but saw more than 80,000 spectators over the three-game set, despite playing against a Penguins home playoff game Friday night and the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday morning. Saturday’s contest drew 29,975, the largest crowd since Opening Day, but a decent percentage of those in attendance sported red, not the hometown yellow and black.

Two of those who made the trek included Burt and Lynn, who patrolled the grounds outside the park several hours before first pitch on Friday afternoon. Lynn sported her Ross Detwiler jersey T-shirt in support of his start that night, and the two of them took in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. It marked their first trip to Pittsburgh, and they were hardly alone.

The Nationals already set April attendance records at home, drawing over a half-million fans in the season’s opening month for the first time. But that trend has extended beyond the banks of the Anacostia, where the likes of Burt and Lynn have joined a growing group of Nationals fans bringing the comforts of the ever-growing home field advantage on the road.

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A Close Second, With Number Two

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The Racing Presidents are off and running again in the 2013 season, with new addition Bill joining the daily scamper from the center field wall to the home dugout at Nationals Park. However, there was another participant present at one of the first races of the young season, marking the race’s first venture into Vice Presidential territory.

COVER PHOTO_VEEPOver the weekend prior to the Nationals-White Sox series, Teddy announced that the Racing Presidents would run their first relay race of the season since the field expanded to five. When George and Tom partnered up, then Abe and Bill formed their own pact, the lovable Teddy was left to his own devices to find a running mate. Searching online, he asked around for suggestions for #TeddysRunningMate, and offers flowed in from around the interwebs.

As luck would have it, Teddy found someone perfectly suited to run with – Selina Meyer, the fictional Vice President from HBO’s “VEEP.” The two were spotted around Washington in the days leading up to the race, and seemed primed for victory as Teddy stormed out to an early lead in the Tuesday night race.

But given Teddy’s less than illustrious history, combined with Selina’s propensity for finishing second, it should have come as little surprise that the two were unable to collaborate on a victory. They fumbled their baton exchange, leaving Selina with a ton of ground to make up in the race’s second half. And while she made a valiant effort, per the usual, she finished second.

That left Teddy – along with rival Bill – still winless for the 2013 campaign, as both continue to search for new and inventive ways to break the tape first…or at least ensure their counterpart’s defeat.

- SEE THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE -

Weekly Review: National News

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Monday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Racing Presidents arrived at Mt. Rushmore on Presidents Day, concluding “Bill and Teddy’s Executive Adventure.” Washington learned that it will have another member of The District’s Nine represent Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, as Ross Detwiler was invited to join the squad. Meanwhile, back in Viera, we introduced you to a trio of new faces to keep an eye on in camp as Nationals wrapped up the final days of practice before the Grapefruit League schedule began in earnest.

On Saturday, Washington opened its slate on the road in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Stephen Strasburg took a Zen approach to his first two innings of work, and Bryce Harper collected the team’s first hit of the spring. On Sunday, the Nationals hosted their home opener against the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium, a contest that featured the strength of their top prospect, along with a rain delay, an extra inning, and a tie.

Weekly Record: 0-1-1

Overall Record: 0-1-1

The Race to Rushmore

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The Presidents pose with Screech at Mt. Rushmore.

The Presidents pose with Screech at Mt. Rushmore.

Presidents Day has passed, the votes are in, and Teddy has scored another commanding victory, taking down his latest competitor – Bill – in the Twitter hashtag battle during Bill and Teddy’s Executive Adventure. However, despite commanding a better than two-to-one margin in the voting, Teddy could not overcome Bill at the actual finish line, as the two broke the tape simultaneously, resulting in a tie. Make sure to follow them both on Twitter @NatsBigChief27 and @Teddy26Nats as the rivalry heats up heading into the season.

After trading leads throughout, Bill and Teddy tied at the tape.

After trading leads throughout, Bill and Teddy tied at the tape.

After posing with the rest of the Racing Presidents in front of the famous monument, the entire group took in all that the Black Hills had to offer while they were in town. That included a stop in historic Deadwood, snowmobiling in the North Hills, meeting their newest fans in Rapid City Square, and a bison safari in Custer State Park. They will be paying visits to famous sites like Wall Drug and the Corn Palace as they begin their journey back to Nationals Park today.

Don’t forget, once the Racing Presidents return to Washington, tryouts for the 2013 season will take place on Saturday, March 2. And congratulations to @muffinkakes and @danieldupuis1, who scored personal visits this season from Bill and Teddy, respectively, for casting their votes.

Taft Makes Five

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As first reported by The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, the Nationals will announce William Howard Taft – aka “Bill” – as the fifth Racing President Saturday afternoon at NatsFest.

The 2012 season was one of many breakthroughs for the Nationals, including for the most beloved of the Racing Presidents, Teddy. On the heels of the team’s first playoff berth, Teddy finally won a race (legally) after more than 500 defeats. And while the payoff was glorious, it was time to add a major wrinkle to the Presidents Race this year.

TaftGraphicEnter “The Big Chief.”

Taft, our country’s 27th President, was always the opportunist, rising to the highest post in the land by always having his “plate the right side up when offices were falling,” as he once jokingly put it. He was also the first U.S. President to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, which he did on Opening Day, 1910, right here in The District. Legend also has it that Taft “invented” the seventh-inning stretch, when he stood up to stretch at a game and the crowd around him followed suit.

Once great allies, he and Roosevelt tussled over policy matters following Taft’s ascension to the Presidency in 1912. That led Roosevelt to run as a third-party candidate against the man that had succeeded him as Commander in Chief, ultimately costing both men the chance to return to the Oval Office. Later in life, the two reconciled, leaving the question open as to whether they will work in concert to try to win in 2013, or if their feuding will cost each a chance at victory.

The only American ever to serve as both President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Bill (@NatsBigChief27) joins Teddy (@Teddy26Nats) as the only other Racing President to speak his mind on Twitter.

Come see the newest Racing President as he makes his first public appearance at NatsFest on Saturday, January 26 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Visit nationals.com/natsfest for tickets and more information about the event.

Racing To The Top

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With all the awards flying in for the Nationals from different corners of the baseball world, one recent accolade may have gone overlooked. Unlike all the other awards, this one is not restricted simply to the world of Major League Baseball. The award in question is the Best On-Field Promotion, with the winner picked from all of professional sports by the independent operation GameOps.com. In 2012, the Racing Presidents rated by far and away the best in sports.

The website has been doling out its coveted Golden Steagle Eagle Bobbleheads to the best acts and promotions in sports for 11 years now. The Presidents Race went home a winner in its second year in 2007, then split the honors in 2009 with Milwaukee’s Racing Sausages. In 2012, a breakthrough year for not just the team on the field, but also Teddy – who won his first (then second, third and fourth) race upon the Nationals clinching their first-ever NL East title – the Racing Presidents have ascended to the top once again.

The Golden Bobblehead (from 2010), in all its glory.

The Golden Steagle Eagle Bobblehead (from 2010), in all its glory.

Why the return to glory this year? We went straight to the source for a more detailed explanation.

“The Presidents Race stands out not only for being a thoughtful connection to the market, but for being an entertainment element that is always well produced,” said Vice President of GameOps.com Jon Cudo.  “Live races, especially during a long baseball season, can become overlooked and the creativity can wane…but I never hear that about the Presidents.”

In fact, fans seemed to grow more impassioned as the season went on and the Nationals continued winning, that perhaps Teddy – by far the most popular and only winless Racing President – was ready to finally break through for his first victory. His fortunes had seemed to mirror those of the team on the field, and with the first contender brewing in the Nation’s Capitol since the 1930s, a Teddy win no longer seemed impossible.

“My favorite aspect is the four presidents each have their own story and personality, then those personalities are used to tell the race story,” said Kudo. “I appreciate what has gone into cultivating these costumes in characters, and how those characters add so much value to the Nationals well beyond the fourth inning race.”

Teddy wins, and the crowd goes wild.

Teddy wins, and the crowd goes wild.

When the Nationals clinched the division in the season’s final week, all that was left was for Teddy to hold up his end of the bargain and win his own race. With the final series dubbed “The Teddy Series,” replete with Teddy-themed giveaways each day, the win was there for the taking. But would it actually happen? The Twitter world was abuzz with speculation leading into the event, and exploded into a tizzy when – on the season’s final day – the Rough Rider finally broke the tape (legally) for the first time.

“Having Teddy lose year after year has been an amazing journey and, like many fans, I eagerly awaited the payoff victory,” Cudo continued. “The storybook finish for the Nationals, the birth of NATITUDE and the first-ever playoff berth made the perfect storm for Teddy’s eventual victory.”

What’s next for Teddy and the rest of the Racing Presidents? Time will tell. One thing’s for sure – these local celebrities are keeping themselves busy in the offseason, partaking in events like the The Washington Ballet’s rendition of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker.”

But regardless of what happens in the future, for the 2012 season, they reign as kings of the on-field promotion world.

“Anytime excited fans are chanting the name of a character you use in a sponsored live entertainment race, you’ve won,” said Cudo in conclusion, referencing the crowd following Teddy’s victory. “In the world of game operations and entertainment, the Presidents Race, particularly in 2012, was an unqualified success and a landslide winner for Best On-Field Promotion.”

The Other Hero of the Night

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At the end of the third inning of every home game at Nationals Park, the fans set aside the excitement of the game on the field and turn their attention behind home plate, where the Nationals honor men and women of our nation’s military for their service. Washington is the only club in any professional sport to have such a ceremony at every home game, and the response from the fans – a standing ovation each and every time – underscores the ceremony’s importance in our Nation’s Capital. But at Thursday night’s game, a couple hours before the crowd was sent into a frenzy by Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run, the recognition took on a special meaning.

Sgt. Banda and his children Thursday night.

Melissa Banda – wife of Sgt. Hector Banda of the U.S. Army – and her children, Ethan and Penny, were brought out to the landing of the Lexus Presidents Club. They were shown a video of Sgt. Banda on NatsHD, welcoming them to the game from his post in Afghanistan, where he has been for the past five months. However, the family got a much larger gift when Sgt. Banda himself emerged from behind the Racing Presidents to surprise his family right then and there. It was a truly touching moment, one that neither the Banda family, nor the fans in attendance, will forget any time soon.

Our words can’t do it justice, so watch the video for yourself.

Age Is Just A Number

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The Nationals helped the US Army celebrate its 237th birthday at the ballpark on Friday night. The Racing Presidents were on hand for the Army’s actual birthday on Thursday the 14th, and the Nationals were proud to host the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey at the park Friday night.

The celebration continued into the game, as General Dempsey was joined by US Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotamayor for the Military Salute.

Then in the fourth inning, the Racing Presidents – decked out in full military garb – were dropped off on the warning track by an Army Humvee.

Did Teddy pull off the victory? See for yourself…

A National Honor

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Few professional sports teams are as involved with their communities as the Washington Nationals are with the U.S. Military. That commitment to our nation’s armed forces extends beyond the In-Game Military salute at each home game, also including the Me and a Friend Program, the Washington Nationals Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and team visits to military hospitals.

On Thursday night, the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) recognized the club for its efforts with a very special award at its 30th Annual Awards Dinner. The event – which featured a black tie dress code for civilians and full formal dress for all military members – was held at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City in Arlington, and featured high-ranking officials from both the military and the private sector. More than 500 guests in all packed the sold-out gala, which helped raise more than $630,000 for USO-Metro.

Mark D. Lerner accepts the Legacy of Hope Award from Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Jay R. Vargas, U.S. Marine Corps.

The Nationals were well represented at this special event, which also marked the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor. Screech and the Racing Presidents were present, and each place setting featured a baseball with the date of the gala as well as both the USO logo and the familiar Curly W. The Lerner family was in attendance, not only to commemorate the occasion but also to accept the Bob Hope Legacy Award, named after the legendary entertainer for all he did for America’s military.

Nationals Principal Owner and Vice Chairman Mark D. Lerner accepted the award on behalf of both the Lerner family and the entire Nationals organization. He shared the following words of gratitude with those in attendance upon receiving the honor:

Thank you everyone. On behalf of the Washington Nationals organization and the entire Lerner family, I’d like to thank the USO of Metropolitan Washington for recognizing our team with this year’s Legacy of Hope Award. 

My parents Annette and Ted Lerner grew up in the D.C. area, and my sisters Marla Tanenbaum and Debra Cohen and I were raised here. It’s impossible to live here and not be aware of the sizeable contributions made by our military members and their families. Few of us can ever comprehend how much each service-member – as well as their wives, husbands, children and parents – sacrifice in order to serve our country.

As the stewards of the national pastime in the Nation’s Capital, we believe that making a difference in the lives of the men and women who fight for our country is one of the most fulfilling things we can do, and we are always looking for new ways to pay tribute and support them and their families. 

Bob Hope’s generosity and dedication was legendary. I’m pleased that the Nationals can – in whatever small way – continue his tradition and hopefully inspire future generations to support our service men and women.

I am humbled to be among so many Medal of Honor recipients and their families here tonight – and, on behalf of my family and the Washington Nationals, I want to thank you once again for your service.

Life on the Berm

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As the Nationals face Atlanta on a warm spring evening in Lake Buena Vista, we’re in Braves country, but there is a smattering of Nationals red throughout the seats. With Stephen Strasburg starting and Bryce Harper playing in center field, there are number 37 and 34 jerseys visible dotting the crowd.

We make our way down the left field line and atop the berm, which wraps around from halfway down the line to left-center field, passing the “All-You-Care-To-Eat” tent (just $25!) on the trip. Among the ushers standing along the top ridge is Debbie H., a self-described snowbird from Highland, Md., who spends roughly half the year in the Orlando area. Although she’s not even a huge baseball fan, she applied for a job working at Champion Stadium last season, and has loved her time here. This is her sixth game of the spring, all of which have been spent on the berm.

“I love it,” she says of her job. “I’m glad I took it.”

She highlights the freedom that the open, grassy space offers to fans, including the ability to shed their shoes and socks, almost like an outdoor concert.

“A lot of people like to be able to lay down, spread out, get some sun,” she says, which is certainly the case this evening, as we are squarely in the sun field for this 6:05 start.

There's plenty of room to spread out on the berm in Lake Buena Vista.

Debbie has also noticed the influx of Washington fans at this particular game. One of her favorite parts of the job is to be able to chat with fans of the different teams that visit Lake Buena Vista each March.

“Some people take their vacation because the Nationals are here,” she explains. “I think it’s really neat that people are willing to follow their teams during Spring Training.”

We make our way to the far outfield end of the berm and shuffle down towards a quartet of fans. The first one we meet is Pat S., who is wearing a Racing Presidents shirt and who is out here celebrating his birthday. Born in St. Mary’s County, Md., he and his wife now live in the Orlando area. While he used to attend 12-14 games each spring, this is his first of 2012. He wasn’t going to miss Strasburg pitch. But does he always sit on the berm?

“Absolutely,” says Pat.

“Everywhere we go,” chips in friend David T., who also lives in Orlando but originally hails from northeastern Pennsylvania. “I like it because I can lounge out and hang out.”

Pat sheds a different perspective on why he likes the view from the grass.

Playing catch in the twilight on the berm.

“I’m an outfielder when I play softball, so this is where I view the game from,” he explains. “Anywhere else to me just looks so abnormal that I can’t judge the game or watch the game.”

As we sit there, Chad Tracy pops a two-run shot over the right-field wall, opposite of where we are sitting. Two batters later, Jesus Flores powers one out to nearly the same spot, leveling the score at 3-3. While a two-home run inning that ties the game would normally be cause for a raucous celebration, the combination of the road environment, the relative insignificance of a Spring Training result, and the relaxed nature of life on the berm make this just another moment in the game to enjoy.

We chat baseball with Pat and David for a while longer and the sun finally dips below the top of the seats on the first base side. In that ideal moment, the sting of the glare is suddenly gone, and the temperature eases a few degrees cooler to perfection, the twilight settling in above us. As we soak in the splendor of the display, Pat draws our attention to the scene unfolding in front of us.

“Does it get any better than this?” he ponders.

In the space between us and the wall, a group of about six kids, boys and girls, ranging several years in age, have gathered and paired off to play catch in the grass. With the contest itself in the background almost an afterthought, the pure joy of the game takes precedence over anything that might be happening on the field. As we thought about Pat’s question, we found it impossible to disagree.

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