Rachel Levitin: With cultural shift comes opportunity

Cultural change comes with winning in baseball. That’s why this is a good time to embrace the changes. It’s fair to say that the consensus is that this Nationals ballclub is a good ballclub. They’ve garnered respect throughout their division, league and all of baseball. In fact, they’ve got the best record in all the game at the moment and continue to set club milestones as the season progresses.

There’s a Joe DiMaggio quote in the aisle leading from the clubhouse to the dugout. It says, “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best.” While this particular quote clearly speaks to the players, it can also be applied to the changing fan culture in the stands.

The die-hards we’ve known for so many years are going to start noticing these changes if they haven’t already - the casual fan is coming to the ballpark. This is a good thing!

Just a few weeks ago, when Ozzie Guillen and his Marlins were dominated by the Nats in Washington, a Nats fan friend of mine and I took a few stolen moments before the first pitch to catch up and reminisce about seasons past. The conversation started with the shared sentiment that this team is fun to watch because of its passion. And not just passion to do their job, but passion as an entity - this is a team that plays off of each other like a family.

Another topic of conversation was the shifting dynamic in the stands. As we sat and looked around us on a Sunday afternoon just 20 minutes before game time, it dawned on us that what we’d been speaking about for years prior as bits of future folk fore were now very much upon us.

Granted, it’s hard to tell from such a small sample size of games since it’s only August, but more and more casual fans who may not necessarily know the intimate details of the Nats’ past in D.C., their franchise history in Montreal or even much about baseball as a game are coming to the park to see what ESPN and the rest of the country keep talking about. Long story short, the team has been built so the people are coming to the park.

Cultural change comes with winning and with winning comes a new opportunity for those fans who’ve been around since 2005 to educate the newcomers about baseball and this franchise. There will be times when the fans’ patience is tried by folks who’ve showed up just to see the team win and nothing more, but that happens when a team starts doing what they’re supposed to do as a competitor in professional sports. The longtime fans should take advantage of this opportunity to showcase “their Nats” to the newbies, to put their best forward and encourage those new to Nats Park to stick around and see what they’ve been missing out on for the past few years.

What I urge in this case is for all fans to take advantage of this unique opportunity in baseball: Make new friends in the stands and start talking about the game. You never know who you’ll meet or what you might commiserate about, but the good news is you can always talk about those first-place Nationals because, quite frankly, saying that still never seems to get old.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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