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DB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Ben. Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Nationals Fan?”
BF: “I am a New Jersey native and lifelong Yankees fan who moved to the Nation’s Capital back in 1995. I came to Washington to work in politics, working both on Capitol Hill and in the Bush Administration before taking my current job with the Defense Department.
I have been a Nationals Partial Season Ticketholder for every season but one since baseball returned to DC in 2005, attending 30-40 games per season. ”
DB: “Describe your favorite part about being a baseball fan?”
BF: “I just love the game. I love the history. I love the strategy. I love being at the games in person and picking up on the signs, the body language and the small parts of the game you miss watching on TV. I enjoy going to games with family and friends, its 3 hours of entertainment, stress relief, good times and famiily bonding all in one.”
DB: “You have worked for the government Ben. How does the rotating population in the city of Washington affect the attendance?”
BF: “Washington is a different kind of sports town. The Redskins own DC, win or lose the Redskins are always the top dog on sports radio, in the papers and the years of sell outs at FedEx Field make the Redskins the toughest ticket in town. Beyond that, the other teams in town are constantly vying for media attention and fans. The transient nature of DC with a new Congress every 2 years and a new President every 4-8 years means that beyond the Redskins loyal fan following, the Capitals, Wizards and Nationals tend to have more mixed fan bases.
You always have a good number of fans attending games in DC that are rooting for their hometown teams. At Nationals Park you always have a good size crowd of Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals and Giants fans when those teams are in town. You also still have a number of Baltimore Orioles holdover fans in the area too, as the O’s were the closest thing to a home team DC had since the Senators left town.
That said, DC fans will come out and support a winner, we have seen that with the Capitals the last few years and we are starting to see that with the Nats. After years of losing there is a lot of excitement about this team in 2012 and I think we are going to see some big crowds at NatsTown this year. 2012 will be a big year for building the Nats fan base.”
DB: “Do you think that Stephen Strasburg can ignite the city again like he did in his rookie campaign?”
BF: “There is no doubt that Stephen Strasburg is a fan favorite. Every one of his starts is a big event at Nationals Park. Of course, he only pitches once every five days, so it is hard to keep up that energy each and every night. I think Nationals fans are really going to get excited about the pitchers the Nats are able to put on the mound each and every night. I think Nats fans are going to really appreciate Gio Gonzales, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann and a healthy Chien Ming Wang. On paper that’s a rotation that matches up well with our NL East rivals. The Nats have a very exciting young team. Michael Morse is becoming a legitimate top-tier slugger, Ryan Zimmerman is signed long-term with a strong glove and steady bat, Danny Espinosa showed great promise in 2011 and Wilson Ramos is on track to be an all-star caliber catcher. And if that’s not enough, there’s a good change that we will see Bryce Harper at some point during the 2012 season.”
DB: “I did a survey about 3 years ago when Nationals Park had one of the best voted singular food item with chili at Ben’s Chili Bowl, what are your thoughts on this?”
BF: “Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC landmark. We have lots of political fights in DC, but, both Democrats and Republicans can agree that Ben’s has some of the best chili dogs, half-smokes, and milkshakes you can find on the East Coast. The lines at the Ben’s Chili Bowl Concessions at Nationals Park are always long, so if people are willing to wait you know it must be good.”
DB: “What is your favorite method of transportation to and from Nationals Park?”
BF: The Washington DC Metro Subway System is one of the best in the country and the Navy Yard/Ballpark stadium is just half a block from the Centerfield Plaza. You can’t go wrong with Metro. That said, I live in Northern Virginia and work in DC, so I generally drive to about 90 % of the games I attend. Since most folks arrive by Metro, traffic and parking are generally not a problem around the ballpark. You can park on site in one of the ballpark garages for $40 or you can park just across the street for $15. If you are willing to walk a few blocks the Nats have an economy lot for $5.
Nationals Park is also on one of DC bike lane trails that wrap around the city and bike share racks are just outside the Right Field Gate. Lastly, a ferry service also runs from Alexandria, VA to the park and lets off on the Anacostia River pier just outside the First Base Gate.”
DB: “What advice would you give for somebody experiencing Nationals Park for the very first time?”
BF: “Be in your seats during the middle of the 4th inning, you can’t miss the President’s Race. The race features George Washington, Tom Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and our loveable loser Teddy Roosevelt who has never won. Kids love it! If you are coming for a Sunday game show up by 12 noon and take part in Signature Sunday. Every Sunday home game at 12 Noon the Nats make between 4-6 players available to sign autographs and take photos.
Best value seats in the house – Upper Right Field Terrance for $10 and Lower LF Corner $34. $5 Upper Grandstand tickets are available the day of the game.”
DB: “Other than Ben’s Chili Bowl, how is the food at Nationals Park? What is your
favorite ballpark food there?”
BF: “Lots of good food options at Nats Park from traditional ballpark fare to sit down dinners. The Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk was completely transformed in 2011 into one of the hottest destinations in DC sports featuring new upscale eateries such as Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, El Verano Taqueria and Box Frites. My favorite place to eat at NatsTown is the sit down restaurant in Centerfield, Red Porch. No special tickets are required to eat at Red Porch. Reservations for outdoor seating are accepted. Great sight lines, great food and the prices at Red Porch are competitive with other choices in the park.”
DB: What is your favorite all time game that you have been in attendance for at Nationals Park?”
BF: “Hands down, Stephen Strasburg’s major league debut against the Pirates in 2010. Full house. Lots of buzz in the city. 14 Strikeouts, 100 MPH on the radar gun. One of the first sellouts I can remember since Nats Park opened that the fans were there rooting for the Nats and completely into each and every pitch. Made me believe that DC could become a baseball town, I think we will see more of that this year as the club becomes a contender.”
*** A big thank you goes out to our Nationals Park Expert Ben Fallon for participating in the expert article Series.***
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