Updated: Report from the Hot Stove #Nats #Rizzo

“I am a firm believer in the American people. If given the truth, they can be depended on to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”–Abraham Lincoln.

And yes, there were beer and cider samples at the Hot Stove, but only after the Q & A ended. They’re smart like that!

First, from Valerie Camillo – Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer for the Washington Nationals Baseball Club :

1. Concessions:
Concessions will be expanded in several ways in 2016. Mike Isabella will be bringing Catchfly (Southern) and Kapnos to the Gallery level. They have definitely heard that they need to upgrade the food in the gallery level.

They will have e-cash lines at more locations.

The Shake Shack will be expanded by moving the next stand over to another location, so the lines should be shorter (as well as adding the e-cash line).

Last year, the most popular new food was the biscuits: 18,000 sold.

There were a lot of participants in the Pitch your Product event: and between three and six of those concepts may be at the Park (vegan options and tater tots seem to be on the horizon).

2. Park:
The Nats expect to take over direct management of their team store, which they expect to result in lower prices and more merchandise variety. That’s the reason the store is currently closed.

The Diamond Club has been expanded: no more “tent across the way” if you have the wrong kind of ticket. The Club is now two levels, with an area open to the field (they used one of the Suites). They’ve also expanded the Club over the concourse to have more tables. The “Industrial Chic” looks better in the photos than it sounds, actually.

The area that was the Club “tent” is now available for rent for parties.

Speaking of parties, they old team store area has been converted, and is now available for kid’s birthday parties on the weekends ($30/kid, all in). Apparently you have to be an actual kid: young at heart doesn’t count.

There will be a pin trading area (that is for all fans, not just kids).

New ladies store, with more clothes.

3. The Clock:
Response from Valerie: the engineers say that the hands were too heavy.
Response from the audience: “Carbon Fiber.”
Response from Rizzo: “There is no clock in baseball.”
Response from audience: laughter.

Goose Island will be replacing the Sam Adams area as part of refreshing the Park’s refreshment options. The photo of the Goose Island beer taps with the row of goose heads was great–sorry I couldn’t get a photo of the photo.

Gallery level will have a margarita bar.

4. Promos and events:
Promo calendar out 2/13. There will be Twitter announcements using a baseball shaped grill. There is a possibility of winning the promo item and the grill for participating on Twitter with the announcements.

There will be a kids giveaway: item will be announced as part of the promo campaign.

Golden Oldies tickets (like the Golden Ticket nesting dolls). No more details available yet.

Expect the Clydesdales on Opening Day, in some way. They’re still working on the details of what’s legal. Budweiser is taking over sponsorship of the Red Porch.

There may be an elf, rather than a gnome, because a gnome has to have a beard (so she has been told quite frequently on Twitter and elsewhere).

Bobbleheads: Bryce Bobblehead, a Jayson with his dog, and the two Scherzer interlocking bobbleheads. She handed around the Bryce bobblehead–and she did get it back (good, because “it’s the only one in the US as of now.”)


There will be a fan choice bobblehead. It has to be someone who hasn’t had one (i.e. Murphy, Revere, Papelbon). When she said Papelbon, the audience reaction included laughter, booing, and some suggestions about the pose (use your imagination, I want this to go through the censors without trouble!).

80’s night, Star Wars Night, yoga day will be repeated. There will be a Rat Pack Night: Bryce cornered Mark Lerner on the team plane and said “you need to do a Rat Pack Night.” (and when Bryce talks, everyone else listens).

There will be a “Taste the World” night in conjunction with the Embassies.

They are trying to get an official Nats 5K race, but are having trouble with getting the city to let them close the streets. So if you’re among the 22% DC STH, please complain to the right people.

There will be more college/Nats items with both the college and the Nats logos, there will be New Era items from Bryce’s contract with New Era.

There will be a fashion show, with Bryce and some SI swimsuit models. (What I want to know–will Bryce be wearing clothes, or just dirt and a baseball a la the Body Issue?)

5. Factoids:

51% of the STH are from VA, 25% from MD, 22% from DC (rest “other”: yes, I know those don’t add to 100%).

They’ve figured out from the number of unique visitors to the park that one in four people in the DMV area came to the park. Add that to the TV and radio audience, and they have contact with about 40% of the area population.

Opening Day will have the 25 Millionth Fan, who will get a lot of attention and prizes. Hint: they are 23,000 from the 25 million. Being early that day will not help your chances.

STH usage of the Red Carpet Rewards system increase from 25% in 2014 to 50% in 2015. They are working on improving functionality, and adding items to bid on.

She encourages tweets and emails on ideas for promotions, STH experiences.

Single Opening Day tix go on sale 2/24 at noon: rest of season single tix go on sale 2/25.

And now on to Mike Rizzo:

Valerie started the Q & A with a couple of softball questions about being more left-handed and improving the bullpen. We heard the same answers at Winterfest. When he got to Papelbon, there was a lot of booing. Rizzo acknowledged that although Pap is “remorseful and regretful” about the incident, Rizzo acknowledges that Pap needs to do some work to be reaccepted by the fan base. Rizzo named a number of Red Sox and Phillies players that would say that Pap is a great teammate. Rizzo says he (Rizzo) gets it, the fans have the right to express themselves, but ultimately it’s about the W’s. There were some suggestions in the Q & A: some a little more fanciful than others (a bobblehead of Pap and Harp hugging?). You can see that Rizzo would love to move on from the Pap incident, but he knows that it’s not over in the eyes of the fans (“just a cherry on the top of the season going sideways . . . and on Fan Appreciation Day.”)

  1. Medical staff: Have been keeping a close eye on the players from the end of the season. Even one or two injuries being prevented going forward would be considered a success. Credited Werth with pushing for the new medical team, including the European folks.
  2. MASN: Said he couldn’t discuss it in any detail because of the ongoing litigation. But he acknowledged that it does have a budget impact.
  3. Deferred contracts and players that didn’t sign: Called BS on the media who were saying that players weren’t signing due to the clubhouse issues. It was all about the money, net present value.
  4. Signing ML players to MiL contracts with ST invites: takes developing a reputation for giving those guys a real chance to make the ML team. The days of inviting 75 people to ST are gone. He referred to Chris Young as an example: he didn’t make the Nats, but they found him a ML place elsewhere and, well, it’s worked out pretty well for him.
  5. WS this year?: not dumb enough to answer that question. “Meaningful games in Sept. and Oct.” is what he wants.
  6. Clubhouse: The days of Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge are past (cheering). Zimmerman is a quiet leader, but a leader nonetheless. Werth has been a leader since he arrived (see medical staff improvements). Scherzer has stepped up and taken control of the pitching staff. Harper is becoming a leader, and even Anthony in his quiet way. There really isn’t a clubhouse problem.
  7. Harper extension: most important player to talk extension, but it takes two to tango. (The only time I saw Rizzo twitch was when the questioner mentioned Scott Boras).
  8. Any idea why Clip and Ian haven’t signed anywhere yet (and assume it’s a zero percent chance they come back): Never say “never,” because he’s always open to improving the team. He assumes there just hasn’t been a meeting of the minds between the player and the right team (back to the “it takes two to tango” analogy).
  9. Tommy John surgery: Nats have the best analysis of post-TJ pitchers: one player at a time, since each player is different.
  10.  DH: I think he was ready to do the Italian spit/curse thing against the DH in the NL. He likes the strategy of when to pull the pitcher. The Players Association is really pulling for it because the DH is about the 3rd highest paid position. As far as he could go politically was to say that he’d expect a “no” vote from the Nats. Expects it to be discussed, but doesn’t think it has legs.
  11. Murphy: Rizzo acknowledges that he’s trading defense for offense, but expect more strikeouts vs. ground balls w/o Fister in the rotation.
  12. Stephen Drew: Lost some mobility after his injury, but still good at 2nd or SS.
  13. His back is feeling better.
  14. When to promote to The Show: when the player has shown that he has the ability, physically, mentally, emotionally, to handle the grind of 162 game season. It’s not just about the batting average. Players who come up quickly due to natural ability (Harper, Trout) sometimes show the effects of having skipped a level, so to speak.
  15. He’s really looking forward to the first Spring Training with Dusty. Truck rolls for Viera on Monday.
  16. NL East: Marlins always scare him. Mets improved, Phillies and Braves improving.
  17. Will Ben Revere be the leadoff hitter (question from a kid): He expects so, but that’s really Dusty’s job. He’s never given orders about the lineup. Dusty knows what he’s doing.

Now, everyone else who was there can weigh in with what I missed.

UPDATED 2/7/2016 1:40PM: A few more (relatively minor, but perhaps of interest) updates from DonH’s notes that were not already covered in this great summary by Laura or in the comments.

The items Camillo mentioned:

  1. The on-field list of 10 year ST ticket holders has been framed and will be (or already is) seen at the bottom of the escalator that goes to the Scoreboard walk area. There are also several gifts planned for ST holders (it was not clear if this was all ST holders, or just some subset):
    1. A nice looking lanyard
    2. A surprise Valentine’s Day gift. No details. Just a teaser to check your mailbox.
  2. There are plans for two more Golden Ticket promotions. Was not sure if these were planned for before or during the season.
  3. They are expanding their efforts (into several NoVa regions) to provide Nats jerseys to every little league. Eventually they plan to do the entire area. And later in the Q&A where a fan asked about no more Orange and Black, Camillo commented that getting things like this done should help in that regard.
  4. The marketing theme for this year will be Countdown to One and they plan on taglines that emphasize the DC area. On example was Liberty and Justice Play Ball.
  5. On the retail store, they had the Nats Pack folks model a few samples and had the attendees vote for which ones they wanted to see in the store. Three men’s and three women’s items. A very nice looking jacket was the runaway winner in the men’s category. And even after a run-off for the women’s item, there was a tie: an athletic pull-over; a bright lights tee. They are also expanding the College Line of apparel – more schools.
  6. Voting for the Fans Choice bobblehead will be in March and the giveaway will be in Sept.
  7. On Red Carpet rewards and online access:
    1. You will be able to earn points with your social media activity related to Nats posts (e.g., retweets)
    2. More auctions
    3. More in-game
    4. Items from special ticket promotions will be available for purchase using points.
    5. More functions will be available on line
  8. There are only about 2000 Billy Joel tickets left. They are negotiating for two more shows.
  9. They are planning for more Center Field and Homeplate Tailgate functions. Will start taking reservations for this in about 2 weeks. We (i.e., one of our writers – not me) are looking into whether we could do one of these for TalkNats readers.

Now from the Rizzo Q&A. Mostly just minor updates to what Laura had. There were about 40 questions in total asked – and many were on the same/related topics.

  1. On the plan to get more LHed, Rizzo started out by saying something along the line of hitters can hit regardless of lefty/righty. Adding that it was still more important to get more LH hitters. He also mentioned getting more contact guys and that manufacturing runs is the only way to get to pitchers.
  2. On the subject of the BP, he started out by saying he was very happy about his bridge guys saying that they were very good in high leverage situations, and specifically mentioned Gott and Kelley. And when he mentioned Pap was the closer . . . well . . . Laura summarized that quite well.
  3. When asked about his favorite baseball movie – The Natural. He added that Kevin Costner was clearly the best baseball player actor.
  4. On the Bullpen Roles and who would do what. He said that was something for Dusty to figure out. And yes, more Pap comments and reaction.
  5. Asked about what his Walk-Up song would be, he said that walk-up songs did not exist in the minors when he played. Then commented that maybe he would pick something from Rocky. Camillo then teased him about that since he is from Chicago.
  6. On the question about minor league deals, he referenced the Dusty-Arroyo relationships as a key to the deal. He then said the best 5 starters and the 12 best pitchers will make the 25 man roster.
  7. He was asked to comment on Thornton, Lohse, Lee and Buerhle. Other than Buerhle (who he said he likes) who he described as semi-retires, he said he does not comment on specific players.
  8. On the issue of getting promoted thru the minors, he said that the jump to MLB was by far the biggest and hardest jump.
  9. And on what unexpected player is a good fit with Dusty, he simply said that Dusty is very good about getting the best out of everyone.
  10. Both Rizzo and Camillo responded to a question about more replays on NatsHD. The questioner said that he had been to other stadiums and they had a lot more replays. Rizzo commented that what replays to show (subject to league rules) was a team decision and both he and Camillo said they would look into more replays.
  11. When asked to handicap the NL East, in addition to what Laura noted, Rizzo made a big point that he does not want to sacrifice the future for the present (i.e., trading his best prospects). And he also somewhat emphatically said:

“I never want to have the first pick again.”

UPDATED 2/7/2016 11:45PM:  Oh, and Rizzo was asked a question about the MASN effect on spending on Free Agents and laughter and applause ensued as he said to Rizzo:  “Like we need another reason to hate Peter Angelos.” 

UPDATED 2/8/2016 11:30AM: The debate goes on with regards to who said   “Like we need another reason to hate Peter Angelos.” as SusanV felt certain it was Rizzo who made the comments and in agreement with LauraP.  SusanV reached out to a group of Season Ticket Holders she is part of for a consensus on this and got a response that “Rizzo said it under his breath and obviously the mic picked it up since everyone heard it”  and there you go except it is safer to say since we don’t have near 100% confirmation we will leave it that a fan said it.

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