The annual Hot Stove event took place at Nats Park today, and season ticket holders were able to come together to celebrate the World Series title and listen to a discussion about the Washington Nationals past, present, and future of the team as manager Dave Martinez, assistant General Manager Mark Scialabba, and VP of Business Operation Jake Burns spoke about everything from World Series rings to who might be playing third base this season.
MASN color announcer FP Santangelo kicked off the event. He said he was struggling to move on from the 2019 season, which I’m sure many of us can identify with as you want to savor every special moment of that magical season. It’s definitely hard to focus on the upcoming season when you’re still riding the high of a World Series win. He mentioned how the Nats got to enjoy the most champagne celebrations possible (five), thanks to having to start with the Wild Card game. Definitely focuses on the positive of not winning the division, given the extra postseason win gave us one more Calma singing, shirtless champagne-soaked clubhouse party. (And, for anyone who had concerns, he also pointed out that his recent physical indicated that his liver was fine after all that partying.) FP sounded a little emotional when speaking, and stated that he, like the fans, lives and dies with each game, so this win was just as big to him as it was to us. FP made a point to ask fans to remember how hard it was to earn that championship last season. The years of early postseason exits, the tougher seasons where we didn’t make October, and the rough 19-31 start from last year were all part of this experience. He asked that fans enjoy the win, but to also not become entitled and feel more titles are a given in the future. Enjoy the ride, savor the highs, and remember that the lows are leading to something great.
VP of Business, Jake Burns, followed FP on the stage, and he discussed several things for the upcoming season.
- The Nats are going to celebrate the World Series win over the first week of home games. The banner will be revealed at Opening Day on April 2nd. The World Series rings will be unveiled for the first time to players and the fans at the second game on April 4th. The company that makes the rings (we are guessing it is Jostens) will have numerous items available for fans to purchase that are related to the player rings, including fan replicas and various pieces of jewelry. For the supremely wealthy among us, approximately 250 rings (the Cubs sold 108 rings for $10,800) that are as close to the players’ as possible will be available for purchase (to this select group of Nats fans, I say hello. I’m single, am a huge baseball fan, and I enjoy meeting new people). There will also be a ring that is different from the players that will be exclusively available for season planholders to purchase. The Nats are going to invite fans to nominate “Community Champions,” who will be honored on the field before the game on April 5th. To round out the week, there will be giveaways April 6th and 7th that celebrate the title. The team is also designing a special celebratory jersey that they could not share with the fans — yet.
- The Nats are working with Devil’s Backbone to create another beer to join the Earned Run Ale to be sold at the ballpark.
- Theme nights for 2019 include Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, WWE, and Sesame Street and Wonder Woman will be honored
- Items given away for special ticket events (such as the items for the college nights) will be available through the Red Carpet Rewards marketplace this season.
- The Nats will be making the navy postseason jerseys available for fans to purchase. They had not anticipated last season how heroic those jerseys would be, and were therefore understocked. The change from Majestic to Nike added to the delay, but they will be available soon.
- There have been improvements to the SPH experience as well, including a better payment plan for postseason tickets and a reduction in blackout dates for ticket exchanges.
- The Homecoming Gala for the Dream Foundation will again be held at The Anthem, and will be on March 23 which is the day before the March 24th exhibition game at Nats Park
Nats Extra host Dan Kolko took the stage as the “special guest” during the star portion of the event, with Manager Davey Martinez and assistant GM Mark Scialabba, who sat in for absent GM Mike Rizzo. Most importantly, these guys were joined on stage by the Commissioner’s World Series Trophy.
- Davey said he got emotional during the parade when his bus turned onto the parade route and he saw all the fans that had come out. He said he felt he had to share the experience with the crowd, and wanted off the bus so he could walk part of the way and interact with the fans. Apparently, the bus driver wasn’t thrilled with this plan, and Davey had to threaten to fight him in order to be allowed off the bus. He was with Rizzo, Ryan Zimmerman, and the World Series Trophy. Zimmy apparently brought a large bottle of champagne that did not last through the entire parade.
- Davey also said he and the players get really fired up when the fans show up and bring the enthusiasm at games, and he encouraged everyone to keep it up.
- Davey said he really likes the current team, and feels there is good diversity with guys that can play multiple positions. He said he believes everyone he can put 1-8 in the lineup has the ability to put the ball in play. He had very positive things to say about newcomers Starlin Castro and Eric Thames, and he was excited to have guys like reliever Daniel Hudson, infielders Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera, and “The Captain” Ryan Zimmerman back with the team. Both Davey and MASN Dan were shocked Zim didn’t wait until Spring Training started to sign back with the team so he could get out of some of it.
- Davey said he feels Carter Kieboom has earned a chance to play at the major league level, and he is going to get a good look during Spring Training. They’re going to play him at third and see what he can do there. Nineteen-year-old infielder Luis Garcia, who spent last season at Double-A Harrisburg, will again get an invite to big league camp this spring.
- Davey stressed that he and Rizzo have worked to find guys that are great players on the field, and also fit in well within the clubhouse. He said that character and personality were just as important as baseball skill, which we’ve heard Rizzo mention in the past.
- Davey said he won’t be talking about repeating as World Series champions throughout this next season. While that is the goal, he says he instead is going to focus on competing every day and going 1-0. He wants to repeat the process that got them through last season, and hopefully it will lead to a repeated result.
- World Series hangover is real, but Davey said the team is excited to jump into this next season. They’ve been working hard in the offseason to prepare, and several of the guys are already down in West Palm. Max Scherzer left around the first of the year, and has been talking about throwing a no hitter in Spring Training. Adam Eaton has also been down there for a while, and has been asking for pitchers to come down to throw live BP. Davey said he’s had to try to rein these guys in to make sure they’re ready for the season.
- Scialabba spoke about the training academy they have in the Dominican Republic. The Nats are proud of the scouting work they do throughout Latin America, and they work to bring the best talent into the farm system. He said that while at the academy, the organization works to develop the baseball skills of the players, as well as assist them with life skills. They employ sports psychologists and work with an education company, as well as provide mentorship to the young athletes in order to provide them with support and to help them grow as players and as young men. Dominican born Juan Soto and Victor Robles were both at the academy last week using their facilities alongside of the prospects in order to prepare for spring training.
The Nats appear to be in good shape as they head into the new year to kick off the defense of their World Series title. Davey and Rizzo seem fairly happy with the team they’ve assembled, and there will be some exciting storylines to watch as Spring Training progresses. There are also some fun things in store for the fans to celebrate the championship and to enjoy games at the ballpark throughout the 2020 season.