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There are a zillion blogs out there. Many of them are very
well designed and feature great content. Many others are designed and feature
content. And there are a select few that not
only are well designed and feature great content, but also revolve around a clever
and unusual theme.
“Let Teddy Win”
is one such blog. The author of “Let Teddy Win”, Scott Ableman, chronicles almost
daily the fortunes of U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidents’ Race
that takes place at every Washington Nationals home game. I came across it looking
for information about Nationals Park–which it wasn’t short on, I should mention.
Ableman is the CMO of Simplexity, an
e-commerce company based in Reston, VA, and a Nationals season-ticket holder. In
response to my e-mail asking him about it, he shared with me that he started
the blog when his young son pointed out that Teddy Roosevelt never wins the
Presidents’ Race, and he inexplicably found no information about this on the
Nats’ website. This is surprising; reading the blog, you would almost think he
was employed by the Nationals. (And I mean that in a good way.)
The Presidents’ Race–featuring all of the Mount Rushmore
presidents–is Washington’s answer to the Sausage Race at Miller Park, and with
all due respect to the racing sausages, I’d say the Presidents’ Race is more
entertaining. And it is so largely because of the inept foibles of America’s 26th
President, who never emerges victorious. The reasons for his losses, as
reported on in Let Teddy Win, are often amusing: getting
tackled by someone wearing a Grinch costume, passing
out Hispanic Heritage T-shirts during the race, or losing his
glasses. Teddy is the Wile E. Coyote of his day.
The blog is, ultimately, a Washington Nationals blog, and
comments on Nationals issues of the day–but the news is usually tied in with
Ableman’s unwavering support of the still winless President. When Stan Kasten recently
departed as president of the Nationals, Let Teddy Win openly pondered whether
the team would now take a tougher stance on Abe Lincoln’s cheating.
It can’t be easy to write a blog based entirely on a 30-second
between innings event and manage to make it an enjoyable read, but Ableman
pulls it off, and consistently so. He stays on top of the Presidents’ Race standings, posts
videos of other appearances of the Presidents, and occasionally pays some lip
service to what happened in the game as well. On top of that, for anyone
interested in seeing this Presidents Race that all of the fuss is about, Ableman
informs readers of Teddy-related promotions that the Nats occasionally offer to
Nationals Park is beautiful, and this is a team that appears
to be on the rise. But while they are yet a subpar team, there is an
entertaining between-innings skit that, while maybe not worth the price of
admission, provides chat fodder and amusement for the team’s fans. All made
possible by a very well-done and highly original blog.
Let Teddy Win: http://blog.letteddywin.com/
The beautiful new Nationals Park does something that is becoming more common in ballparks these days: they’re adding some amenities to what would otherwise be the park’s worst seats.
Recently I wrote about the all-you-can-eat seats, pointing out that the reason for the low-quality buffet offerings is to sell seats that people wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Nationals Park takes a different approach to selling lower quality seats.
If you’re wondering what the deal is with the red seats in the outfield at Nationals Park, they’re the Red Porch seats. The Red Porch seats are priced at what would be a head-scratching level at first glance. They cost nearly as much as infield box seats, with nowhere near the view. But don’t be so quick to balk; not only do they include a $20 concessions credit, these seats are wide, padded, have a lot of leg room to stretch out in and tables on the side. They even have nets underneath the seats to hold your souvenirs, goodies bags or purse.
Plus you’re very close to the Red Porch, the Nationals Park restaurant, making it easy to spend your $20 credit on a big plate of gourmet nachos and other things. The Red Porch has a full bar and is a neat hangout spot, as is the Red Loft above it.
Granted, these seats don’t provide the best view of Ryan Zimmerman’s facial expression. They’re probably the furthest from home plate of all of the seats here.
But if you like sitting in the outfield, or if you’re more of a foodie than a baseball fan who likes to be near the center field concourse and much more interesting food options, The Red Porch seats are a good deal. If you’re going to Nats Park for the good times more than anything else, try a padded Red Porch seat. It certainly beats the hard, small seats in the rest of the outfield, and it doesn’t cost much more all told, especially if you were going to spend $20 or more on food anyway.
Clever thing, adding some value to otherwise lousy seats.
Rarely do I include food choices in my evaluation of a ballpark, because in the past I usually just bought a hot dog, which is pretty hard to screw up (although Miller Park, in Milwaukee of all places, managed it). Nowadays you have a full menu at nearly every park, which means you should be able to find something good anywhere.
But after grubbing tough on a Ben’s Chili Bowl Half-Smoke at Nationals Park in Washington, I may have to revise that particular long-held worldview. After tasting one of these, a hot dog seems sadly inadequate. (Although I’ll get over that when it’s time to try a Fenway Frank.)
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. institution that has survived some hard times in the area. Its founder, Ben Ali, started his own businesses following his inability to finish dental school after falling down a broken elevator shaft. Eventually he turned a pool hall into Ben’s Chili, developed his outstanding spicy chili recipe, and the rest is history.
Ali passed away in October of 2009, but of course his recipe for hole in the wall greatness lives on. The Chili Half-Smoke “All The Way” is a sausage that is like a kielbasa (but beefier and spicier), topped with Ben’s famous spicy chili, cheese, onions and mustard. At Nats Park, at least, they are very generous with the chili, and you need a lot of napkins and a spoon, which they did not provide. Fortunately Gifford’s ice cream stand let me steal one.
I’m not exactly a connoisseur of ballpark cuisine, although I’m working on it. But I can say that to this point, the Ben’s half-smoke is the tastiest thing I have ever eaten at a ballpark.
The Ben’s stands get crowded, but they do have four locations in the park now (behind Sections 109 and 140 on the lower level and 301 and 315 on the upper level), so you shouldn’t have to wait too long to get one these days. The Nationals claim they are sold at the Taste of the Majors stands, but I didn’t see them.
I’d even say the All The Way pushes Nationals Park up a notch or two on my favorite ballparks list. I already think it’s a great venue, almost as nice as the new Yankee Stadium and certainly cheaper. I don’t know where I’d rank it overall on my favorites list, but a half-smoke from Ben’s will put me in a good enough mood to maybe rank it higher than I might have, before my ballpark-judgment foundations were shaken by a world-class chili dog. Ben’s is uniquely D.C., and uniquely Nationals Park.
They even sell the half-smokes and chili online. It’s a good thing Nats Park has some other cool things going for it.
Ben’s Chili Bowl Website: www.benschilibowl.com
I recently read on the Washington Nationals website that the Nats Express is being discontinued for 2010. While I understand it, it’s too bad. I was looking forward to my first ever trip to Nationals Park, parking for free at RFK and taking the shuttle to the beautiful new ballpark in D.C.
The Nats Express was a free service that the Nationals offered in an effort to get fans into Nationals Park and spend money on hot dogs. Folks parked their cars at RFK Stadium (the Nats former home), and hopped on a free shuttle that dropped riders off a couple of blocks away from the center field entrance. All free. Air conditioned and everything. This is something I’d have paid a couple dollars for too, but it’s apparently not worth it to the Nats. Nuts.
I suppose we have “superagent” Scott Boras to thank for this, like we have him to thank for a good part of the skyrocketing prices of just about anything baseball. The Nationals made a big deal out of signing Boras-represented pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, at the staggering price of $15.1 million over four years. This for a pitcher who has not yet thrown a pitch to a major league hitter. Anyone remember the J.D. Drew fiasco in Philly? I sure do. Turns out that guy wasn’t worth $11 million just to sign a contract after all.
To soften the blow, the Nationals have made $5 parking available in Lot HH, and $10 parking is available in Lot W. Both of these lots are the farthest ones from the park that are run by the team. Lot HH is a good 5-6 blocks north. Fine with me, let the people paying $30 to park not get any exercise and miss out on the Five Guys outside.
Anyway, the Nats are spending some money trying to put a competitive team on the field after two straight 100-loss seasons in their brand new digs. So I suppose it’s understandable that there won’t be any free rides to Nats Park anymore.
But can’t we at least use the Express on days that Strasburg isn’t pitching?