To me, our annual winter caravan and Natsfest is the official kickoff to the upcoming season. That’s why I can’t be more excited for this season to start. This past week I headed out on our team bus with some of our coaches and players to meet some very special people and loyal Nats fans.
We kicked off our 2010 caravan on Wednesday morning at the SW Health Center just a couple of blocks away from Nationals Park. I was joined by Jim Riggleman, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Speier and Rob Dibble as we checked out the newly renovated building which was restored by our front office staff a couple of weeks before. We all delivered some children’s books, handed out some Nats gear, and spread plenty of smiles and laughs throughout.
Next up we all went to lunch at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon where an autograph signing followed. I did a little guest bartending and made some kind of cranberry and pinapple juice concoction that only the bravest of the brave would ever try. Next up, the bus brought us to Tysons mall where we all made our own Build-A-Bear. Each player made their own plush doll, however Drew Storen’s Batman-clad owl, was my personal favorite!
The next day, the bus, with the same group of guys, headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch and a quick photo op. There wasn’t much elbow room while inside because the place was hoppin’ at lunch time, but we were able to pass out autographs and meet plenty of excited Nats fans. From there, we were off to Fort Belvoir where we joined military personnel in packing care packages for our soldiers over-seas. Over the span of almost two hours, we were able to bundle up over 2,000 care packages to send to our soldiers. It felt great to make a difference to our great men and women overseas. At our final stop of the day, we headed to good ole’ Pfizner Stadium, the home of our single A affiliate, the Potomac Nationals. There, all the players, including myself, signed autographs for all those who attended.
After sleeping like a baby that night, we were at it again on Friday. The Hotstove Lunch was a huge success and I mingled with the attendees seeking autographs. Later, we were all off to the Washington Capitals game. I spent most of my time goofing around with my cousin Slapshot, and I even got to guest referee the first intermission’s mites on ice game. Even though I was skating for the whole game, I surprised myself and didn’t fall on my butt.. not once!
Saturday was our biggest day of the caravan where we were joined by the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan, John Lannan, Tyler Clippard, Brian Bruney, Craig Stammen, Matt Capps, Jason Marquis, and of course the Hammer, Josh Willingham. We started our day at the Children’s Hospital in NW DC. I always love visiting this place because it really brightens up the day of children who really need encouragement in their lives. To put smiles on the faces of each of these children is a special feeling indeed. From here, it was off to PG County Sports Complex where a press conference announcing our $5,000 donation as well as an autograph signing ensued. The last stop of the caravan was at the White Flint Mall, where hundreds of fans braved the snow and cold to come meet their favorite Nats players….. and mascot!
The caravan was a huge success and it led to one of my favorite days of the year, Natsfest. This Sunday was Natsfest and as usual, I had a great time meeting our season ticket holders. There were clubhouse tours, photograph stations, prize drawings, bounce houses, face painting and of course autograph signings! It was fitting for such a special day like Natsfest to end our winter caravan.
Now being that the caravan and Natsfest is over, the next thing we have to look forward to is Spring Training and of course Opening Day!!!! See you all soon Natstown!!!