When I found out I was going to have the opportunity to go to NatsFest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I had never attended an event like it before. But as an extremely enthusiastic Washington Nationals fan, something that seemed like a big party celebrating the Nats obviously had me interested.
From a fan’s perspective, it was a really cool experience, because besides the throngs of people gathered around pointing pens and bright white baseballs in the players’ faces, the Nationals walking around the Washington Convention Center could have been regular people. I watched Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Moore giving people high-fives and saying, “Hey man,” as if their fans were their college buddies, not adoring strangers.
The proximity to the players, who I normally only see from way up in the stands at Nationals Park, was my favorite aspect of NatsFest. In what other setting do average fans have the opportunity to interact with the people they spend eight-plus months of the year idolizing?
It allowed me to make my aunt’s day (or her whole winter, as she put it) when I got Gio Gonzalez to autograph the NatsFest poster for her. She actually shrieked with joy when I gave it to her that evening, and she saw the signature from “her boy.” I got to say, “What’s up?” to F.P. Santangelo like we were old friends, and I introduced my disbelieving dad to Charlie Slowes – he didn’t recognize the face of the voice of the Washington Nationals, but once he heard him speak he was convinced.
We had a solid ten-minute conversation with Charlie after the event was over, and something he said really characterized the day for me: he explained how NatsFest’s purpose was to get the fans excited about their team again going into Spring Training – to re-ignite their Natitude, if you will. He said it gave people an occasion to unpack their Nats gear and to let the excitement of the promising season ahead allow them to fully heal from heartbreak of Game Five. For Charlie, the event made it feel like summer wasn’t so far away, even though it was about 20 degrees outside on the windy streets of D.C.
The effect Charlie described was absolutely true for me. Listening to the voice that brings to mind so many great memories of home run calls and thrilling games, made me feel a connection with my favorite sport that has been missing since October. Realizing that it wouldn’t be long until I could listen to Charlie on the radio again was a truly exciting prospect.
My dad and I were among the last to leave, and as we were walking out, a gray-haired Nationals employee smiled at us and said, “See you in November.” I smiled back and said goodbye, knowing exactly what he was inferring.
This year, Nats fans can believe in the real possibility of their home team playing in November, though that’s still not a concept that’s easy for me to wrap my head around. My dad and I walked out the lobby doors, and promise of spring made the bite of the cold a little less harsh. My Natitude had officially been reignited.