“So I once sent in a Spring Training list.”
“What is a Spring Training list?”
“Oh, you know, a list of demands. A list of things to try and make the [Spring Training] experience better for the fans, for Viera, you know.”
“And how did that list thing work out for you?”
“They never wrote me back.”
This was part of a conversation I had with Space Coast Legend, Rich the Mets Fan last March at Space Coast Stadium. The previous season he had mailed a list of items to the Nationals Front Office, suggestions, on how they might be able to build up the Nationals Spring Training experience and help a struggling community that was, at the time fearing a major shutdown of nearby NASA in a dark recession that was choking the country and hearing whispers that the Nationals themselves were seeking to deliver another mortal blow to the community by uprooting and moving their Spring Training operations elsewhere, thereby killing Grapefruit League baseball on the Space Coast.
At the time, I took a sip a beer to hide laughing at such an innocent, yet simple and naive action such as writing a letter of opinion to a Major League baseball team. We all know the Nationals probably got the letter, but some low-level front office rep probably used a Dollar Store letter opener to open it up, skim the first few lines then toss it in the recycling bin after getting Rich the Mets Fan’s address to add him to the mailing list for Nats deals and tickets. It is the fate of many trees around the country, to come and die in MLB Front Offices. The words, the passion, the admiration, desperation and vulgarities printed on those pages all lost and forgotten, never to be fully read or understood. It would be a helluva project and book for the guy who somehow gets his hands on these letters and puts them together. But that is an idea for another day.
But later I was interested in knowing what was on that list. The Nationals Spring Training experience is one of the unsung jewels of the Grapefruit League. The access and closeness you get to the team is unmatched in Viera, but even still it is far from the perfect fan experience. In fact, sometimes it seems down right primitive or childish. The Nationals could vastly improve the experience for the fans and attract newcomers to not only their Spring Training games but to the surrounding area and its businesses.
I thought it would be appropriate to hear from a fan of another team who lives year round close to Space Coast Stadium and the area. I thought they might have a finger on the pulse of what a Spring Training fan in the area wants rather than some Washington beat writer who only spends a month in the area and bitches endlessly about there being “nothing in Viera.”
Rich the Mets Fan is a huge baseball fan on all fronts even though he chooses to cheer on a beer league team (we are working on his conversion) and you can find him more times than not at Space Coast Stadium just enjoying the sport. What was once lost is now found: below is Rich The Mets Fan’s “10 Things The Washington Nationals Can Do To Make Spring Training Better For the Fan.” Some of these are actually great ideas. The italics are our own comments:
- Have Screech and/or The Racing Presidents welcome children and fans to the stadium before the games and have them participate in on-field entertainment. [This didn't happen once last Spring Training, not even when MLB Network was there doing their 30-in-30 tour. Have them come out for at least some of the games, maybe not the full month. Come on, how hard is it to throw those heads in the back of the truck?]
- Stock the newspapers boxes outside the stadium with local Washington newspapers like the Washington Post to give a taste of home and to see what the writers are writing about previous games. [Or any newspaper for that matter, we've never seen them have a newspaper in those boxes.]
- Open the berm to the public for a few games or when it is not reserved for private parties.
- Switch the bullpens so the fans on the berm can see the hometown team. [This would be awesome, but we understand the berm bullpen is not attached to the home locker room and is constantly in the sun. Man up and put a palm tree in the bullpen or some other source of shade, then we might be in business.]
- Bring in food items that are popular at Nationals Park.
- Have a “Washington Nationals Signature Drink” out at the Tiki Bar. [Washington Red, FTW!]
- Carve, post, or stamp a Curly W on the berm or put one in the grass in center field for the ST season.
- Have Washington D.C. weather/news posted next to line-ups.
- Hold a raffle or giveaway for a trip for two to Washington D.C. to see a Nationals game at Nationals Park.
- Hold a “Meet The Nationals’ or Fanfest Day sometime before the start of Spring Training for the local community. [This would be awesome too, but the Nationals don't even hold a true Fanfest for Washington residents which is ka-ka.]
By no means do I think the team will read this post and suddenly make changes. I in fact, don’t expect any changes to happen period, but at least these suggestions are out there and known now. So when the Nationals ask why fans never told them what they could have done to improve the Spring experience you can put them to this post right here and say, “You obviously don’t read the Nationals Inquisition–”
“And that is stupid.”
[Editor's Note: If you have any Spring Training suggestions for the Nats yourself, either post them in the comments, hit us up on Twitter or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We fear not posting what you might send us.]