Today was another step toward Opening Day with the annual What’s New at Nationals Park media tour. Members of the local media gathered on yet another rainy day on South Capitol Street to see all the new features around the stadium and taste the new food and beverages available for the coming 2023 season.
Before we got to the fun stuff around the facility, the tour was kicked off with the news that the Nationals will induct founding managing principal owner Theodore N. Lerner into their Ring of Honor in a special Opening Day pregame ceremony.
Lerner, who passed away last month at the age of 97, was named managing principal owner when his family purchased the Nationals from Major League Baseball in 2006 and led the franchise to four National League East division titles and the 2019 World Series championship. He will be the 24th individual inducted into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park and his name will be displayed on the stadium facade behind home plate, below the owner’s suite.
Created in 2010, the Ring of Honor pays tribute to some of the most elite and influential members of the Washington Nationals, Washington Senators, Homestead Grays and Montreal Expos organizations.
To also honor Lerner throughout the season, the Nationals will wear a dedicated patch on the left sleeve of all jerseys in his memory. The oval patch bears his initials below three stars, which represent D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The Nationals have a full slate of pageantry scheduled for Opening Day against the Braves on Thursday. With first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m., a flurry of activities will be taking place beforehand. Highlights include The World Famous Budweiser Clydesdales taking a tour around the Navy Yard neighborhood before finishing at Nats Park for fan photos after gates open at 11:30 a.m., live music and entertainment around the stadium, and caricature artists, face painters and balloon twisters in the family picnic area.
On-field pregame ceremonies will begin at 12:20 p.m. and, along with honoring Lerner, will include a Nationals Park 15th anniversary video, the national anthem performed by D.C. Washington (a tradition unlike any other) and a flyover by the Capital Guardians of the D.C. Air National Guard.
The Nationals are not yet announcing who will throw the ceremonial first pitch, so keep an eye out for that in the days leading up to Opening Day next week.
This year’s promotional schedule kicks off on Opening Day as well, with the first 20,000 fans receiving a City Connect T-shirt in the style of the club’s popular cherry blossom-themed uniforms that debuted last season. Other apparel giveaways this season include a City Connect fedora on April 28 and a ball cap on Aug. 18. Collectible giveaways include a City Connect commemorative mug on Sept. 1 and a pet calendar on Sept. 23.
The Nationals are scheduled to wear their City Connect uniforms for every Friday and Saturday home game, with some exceptions, including April 15 for Jackie Robinson Day.
As for bobbleheads, the Nationals will have six different giveaways throughout the season, including Josiah Gray City Connect on April 15, CJ Abrams on July 22 and Keibert Ruiz on Sept. 22, and two different sets of Racing Presidents on June 17 (Teddy and Abe) and Aug. 12 (George and Tom).
The fan-favorite (and this reporter’s favorite) Star Wars Day is returning May 20, featuring a giveaway of "light side vs. dark side" dueling Hawaiian shirts. And the longest running Pride event in the major leagues returns for Night OUT on June 6 with a Screech Night OUT bobblehead giveaway. Night OUT is a full ballpark theme day and a special ticket event.
The Nationals are also debuting their first Harry Potter Day on July 8, featuring scarves of one of the four houses from the series as a giveaway.
Other Nationals Park staples are returning throughout the year, such as fireworks nights, Pups in the Park, Ladies Night, College Day Series and Kids Run the Bases.
Special kids giveaways include a rally cap on April 30, a Teddy vinyl figure on May 21, a Nats arm hug doll on June 4, a water bottle on July 23 and a book bag tag on Aug. 13. Kids Opening Day will be on April 30 to celebrate Screech’s birthday.
Nationals Park will also feature new, renovated and expanded concession, retail and ticketing options.
Grab-and-go marketplaces are designed to help fans spend less time in line and more time in their seats watching the game. Old favorite and new food options include Chesapeake Crab Cake Co., Capo Italian Deli and Jammin’ Island BBQ. Also, more than 20 local businesses can be found throughout the ballpark, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, Capital City Mambo Sauce and Roaming Rooster. District Drafts returns for its 12th year at Nats Park to feature select craft beer options from the DMV.
Due to popular demand, the Nats team store will have an expanded assortment of City Connect merchandise in stock this season. New vendors offering the cherry blossom-themed products include Antigua, Johnnie-O, Vineyard Vines and Columbia. New Era and 47 Brand are offering new and expended options as well, including a custom headwear line later this summer.
The team store will also feature new vendors this season, including Peter Millar, WEAR by Erin Andrews, Darius Rucker and more. The customization station is a new destination outside the team store in the center field plaza offering jersey customization, laser-engraved bats and headwear patches.
As for ticketing, the Nationals are offering value days, season plan-holder benefits, red carpet rewards and group tickets eligible for discounted pricing.
Outside of baseball games, Nationals Park will also host the D.C. Beer Festival on April 8, the P!NK Summer Carnival Tour on Aug. 7 and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Aug. 28.
Your first opportunity to see all that is new at Nationals Park actually isn’t Opening Day and will instead be Tuesday, when the Nats host the Yankees in an exhibition game at 12:05 p.m.
For more information on tickets, bag policies, promotions and special events, visit Nationals.com.
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