You have probably seen the man in captain’s attire and a sash with the word “OBVIOUS” on it around the ballpark and on TV. Now it’s time to get to know him. Meet Captain Obvious, one of the Washington Nationals’ most recognizable and popular fans.
Ted Peters, as he is known when not in uniform, is a DC area native. He grew up a sports fan and in particular the Washington Senators while they existed before their relocation to become the Texas Rangers.
“I’m a local,” Peters said, “born and raised in P.G. County. My father used to take me to Senators games when I was a kid before the team left for Texas. I was always happy to go to a game, although I was always ‘where’s my cotton candy and soda.’ When the Senators left, the natural progression was up to Baltimore. They were an easy team to hook on to. It was an easy team that Washington could like because we had been through the downfalls of a horrible team for so many years. When [the Senators] left, we suddenly attached ourselves to a World Series caliber team, so it was an easy transition.”
When the Senators left the area in 1971, the Captain did not abandon his baseball fandom. He followed the O’s, who won East Division titles 7 times between 1969-1983, AL Pennants 5 times over that span, and were World Series champions in 1970 and 1983. The Birds success was in strong contrast to the second edition of the Senators, who posted only one winning season during their 10 years in the District.
While curating his sports fandom, the Captain also honed his own athletic skills when he was younger in the Maryland suburbs and at college at Salisbury University on the eastern shore of Maryland.
“I played football, basketball, and baseball,” he said, “and I found out I had a pretty good arm and played baseball all the way through college.”
He pitched at Salisbury University in the early 1980’s, and was talented enough to showcase his stuff for a Major League club.
“I tried out for the Reds and they liked me and invited me back,” he told me. In a cruel twist of fate, however, he never got that invitation. “I moved as college kids do, and I never got the letter, so I missed my spot. I was going to try again the next year, but I hurt my arm,” explaining that he tore a muscle in his shoulder. He said a cortisone shot helped, but not enough. “It never went away and I couldn’t get loose.”
The end of his baseball career led him to discover rugby, which he played deep into adulthood.
“I started dabbling in it at college,” he said. “The guys I lived with were all rugby players, so I went to a couple of games and saw what it was like. My last game was in 2000,” saying he eventually hung up his cleats because “my body said ‘you’re too old for this sport.’ It took longer and longer to heal from the games, and I thought maybe it was time.”
When MLB announced that DC was once again going to have baseball for the 2005 season with the Washington Nationals, Peters said goodbye to the team in Baltimore that had carried his baseball love since the old Senators left.
“I’ve always been a Washington fan,” he explained. “Once we got a team back, I was all in. There was no keeping me from that. A kid shouldn’t grow up without a hometown baseball team. I vowed once we got the team, I wouldn’t miss any pitches. The [Nationals] had me at hello.”
He took this vow seriously, travelling to Philadelphia for the new team’s first ever series against their division rival Phillies in 2005.
“I was there for the very first pitch up in Philadelphia that Livan Hernandez threw,” he said, which he lists as one of his favorite Nationals moments. “I saw the first pitch ever. That’s a feather in my cap.”
His other favorite moments are Jayson Werth’s epic walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals and Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter against the Miami Marlins on the last day of the regular season in 2014.
“I think my overall favorite that got me the most fired up is Jayson’s homerun because it was so sudden,“ Peters said. “I swear to God I woke up the neighborhood. I was at Zimmermann’s [no-hitter]. A no-hitter kind of swells up. It’s a gradual thing. But as far as a sudden ‘oh my god’ moment, that was Jayson’s.”
He also counts Werth as one of his favorite all-time players on the team.
“It’s really really hard not to like Jayson Werth,” he told me. “He had such a rapport with the fans when he was on the field. He would make eye contact and gestures and all kinds of stuff,” he explained of how Werth would interact with fans sitting around him in the outfield during games. “He was really important to the Nationals when he was here, which endeared him even more to the fans. I’ve met him a couple times. He’s a fantastic person.”
So, how was the Captain Obvious persona born? It wasn’t enough for him to have a baseball team to root for and dress up for in a jersey or a hat. He wanted to take it to a grander level. He wanted to get up on the jumbotron every once in a while he told me. He asked himself how he could pull that off.
It started innocently enough. When Roger Bernadina was on the team, he earned the nickname of Shark. The Captain is also a hockey fan, and had seen numerous San Jose Sharks games late at night.
“They had a promotion they were doing where they handed out paper shark teeth to all the fans,” Peters said. “They would play the Jaws theme and the crowd would hold up these teeth and chomp them together.”
He thought the effect of this was pretty awesome, so he decided to try it out for himself in support of the Nats own Shark.
“We had a shark [in Bernadina], so I borrowed the shark teeth from San Jose and showed up at a game,” Peters said. “It worked. Not only did I get up on the jumbotron, but I got on TV, and the fuse was lit. People started texting me, which was exactly what I wanted. That just fueled the fire for what we have today.”
Captain Obvious was not his first attempt at dressing up as a character for a game. One Opening Day, he showed up as Enrico Pallazzo from Naked Gun. There’s a scene in that movie where the cop is trying to prevent the assassination of Queen Elizabeth. It made him laugh every time, so he thought he would try to be that character at Nats Park. It was a complete failure and no one got it. He laughed about that failure and had to get more creative to connect with fans of all ages.
He consulted with family and friends on what he could try next, which led to the birth of Captain Obvious.
“It was 2013 on a Sunday night game on ESPN, if I’m not mistaken,” he said. “I busted him out after a lot of deliberation. [MASN color announcer] FP [Santangelo] would always make jokes in the booth about being Captain Obvious. Then that Hotel.com guy showed up, so I thought I could bring Captain Obvious to Nats Park on the coattails of FP and those Hotel.com commercials,” he continued. “I knew it was a risk. It’s like face painting,” in that it either really works, or it really doesn’t. “My friends were about 60/40 on if I should do it. I came up with an outfit, and it worked. I got on TV. My first sign that I got on with was ‘Bryce Harper’s number is 34.’” After his TV success, he thought “I’ve completed my journey, I’m done.” However, he told me “I went to the next game in regular Nats attire, and people were looking at me like ‘what are you doing? Where’s Captain Obvious?’ The energy that the costume brings to that section is remarkable. I still haven’t been able to wrap my brain around it. Everyone that sees the get-up smiles. How could I not bring a smile to someone’s face at a baseball game? So I kept doing it. Now six years later, I’m still doing it.”
There have been about three versions of Captain Obvious. He told me he struggled to find an outfit at first, and eventually landed on a Michael Jackson costume.
“I got a captain’s hat and was looking for a shirt. I was having the darndest time finding something with the shoulder epaulettes to hold my sash in place. It took weeks to figure this out. I had been online and was in about my 5th store, and I walked past a Michael Jackson display.”
Peters knew he had found his outfit. The only problem was it was black and had long sleeves, which he described as torture during the July and August DC heat.
“I thought I just had to take it for the joke,” Peters continued. “I signed up for it, so you have to suffer. I drank a lot of water and a lot of beer in those days,” he laughed.
Not wanting to melt during the dog days of summer, the Captain spent an offseason retooling his look. He came across the character of Captain Stubing from The Love Boat, who dressed all in white, and he decided to model his look after him. Friend and fellow Nats fan BJ Treuting, who you may be familiar with as the fan who refuses to trim his beard until the Nats win the World Series, turned him on to Chubbies as a place to get some much cooler white shorts. To complete his look, the Captain decided to grow out his beard after seeing a photo of the captain of the Titanic who had a white beard, and as Peters’ beard grows in grey and white, he thought that was the look. After six years of being Captain Obvious, he has amassed approximately 60 signs.
“I have to be ready for almost anything that happens at a game, because the second it happens I have to be Captain Obvious,” he said.
His favorite moments involve his “I didn’t catch that ball” sign.
“There was a foul ball hit down to our section, and my son almost caught it,” he laughed. “I just happened to have my ‘I didn’t catch that ball’ sign ready to go. Both FP and [MASN play by play announcer] Bob [Carpenter] made jokes about it. There was also one where there was a line drive foul ball at a Mets game. It took a bad hop and ricocheted into our section. I was looking for the cameraman to get on TV with my ‘I didn’t catch that ball’ sign, and the next thing I knew, the ball hit my collar bone. The New York guys picked up on it, and it went absolutely bananas. That play went nationwide. I think taking a foul ball off the chest brought me more attention than my humor.”
His Captain Obvious persona has caught the attention of more than just fans and broadcasters. The character has also become a fixture at Washington Capitals games.
“I ran into Harper, Scherzer, and Trea Turner at a hockey game one night,” the Captain told me. “They were up in their suite, but I went over and talked to them. They were really gracious. I was talking to Erica [Scherzer], and someone came from around her and wanted to shake my hand. He told me ‘I really respect what you do,’ and it was Max Scherzer. All those guys really embrace the concept of being a Nat. I think it’s a good culture that [GM Mike] Rizzo’s developed over there.”
Despite being widely embraced by his fellow fans and players, the Captain’s family has mixed feelings.
“My father loves it,” he told me. “I go to all the games with him, and he likes watching the attention that the Captain gets. My 21-year-old son enjoys it to a certain extent. I’m his father, and when the attention is brought to the Captain, he kind of gets embarrassed, but it’s my job in life to embarrass my kids. My mother doesn’t understand it. She tolerates it because she’s my mother. My daughter will not embrace the Captain, and she won’t go to games with me. She’s 24. So I make sure I show up at her house every chance I get in costume,” he laughed. “Everyone outside the family nucleus seems to really like what the Captain is doing. If that wasn’t the case, I’d stop doing it today. It brings a smile to faces. If I can put the sprinkles on the banana split and enhance people’s baseball experience with the Nats, I’m in. I’ll do it all day.”
The Captain is taking his persona out to more and more places in the DMV and at various events that he is invited to.
“I had only taken Captain Obvious out to Nats games, and I didn’t know how it was going to translate into hockey. There’s not as much crossover as you would expect as far as the fanbase is concerned,” he explained. “Their eyes lit up, though, and it took off and held ground over at Capital One arena. Once that happened, I started taking him out to Redskins games and Valor games and the bar.”
“I’ve pressed the envelope to see how far it can go. I actually went to an Iron Maiden concert as Captain Obvious. He was well received there, too. I haven’t found a venue where he’s been frowned upon yet. I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can. It really is fun. It’s a great icebreaker. It tears down any walls that people have, even with people from other teams. It breaks down barriers and brings people together. Even the Mets and Phillies fans appreciate it.”
Captain Obvious loves the Nationals, and is happy to be part of the fabric of the atmosphere at Nationals Park.
“Nothing can keep me away from my baseball team,” he said of his Nationals. “You can watch all the games you want on TV, but when you get there and feel the passion that the fans have for this team, it really takes it to a different level. It really is on some occasions the happiest place on earth. When everyone is there and everyone has a common goal, it’s like a huge family. It’s like a family reunion every day. I don’t know if there’s a fanbase that’s more in love with their team than the Nats. I think we have a more passionate love affair with the team than anyone else in the league.”
Many fanbases have special fans who have become part of the experience, love them or not. The evolution of Captain Obvious has grown in popularity as you can witness at games as he poses for photos and entertains the crowd. Simply put, he is a superfan who gives back to his team. He is not paid monetarily, but paid in the appreciation by his fellow fans.