June 17, 2001
May 20, 2005
June 6, 2005
December 26, 2005
June 6, 2008
May 10, 2010
June 8, 2010
August 26, 2010
June 14, 2011
May 25, 2014
July 1, 2014
And now you can add September 8-9, 2014 as one of the happiest moments in my brief lifetime. Here’s the weird thing: those two days were not in my original plans.
It all started on Tuesday, September 2nd, when the Nationals were holding a #LateNightNats contest vs. the Dodgers. This was my submission:
As you see, the picture got cut off (I still have an old phone and iPad, by today’s standards) and the Post-It Note says, “You Go Dan Kolko!” as in reference to this:
That post gave me two tickets and be part of the Starting Nine on Monday vs. the Braves. In the same week, I got an email from MASN that the Lunch with Mike Rizzo is now Dinner with Mike Rizzo on the following day. It was supposed to be in early August, but when Orioles-Nationals was rained out and rescheduled to August 4, MASN was aiming for that date, but when that happened, they needed a time and place for Rizzo to have free time, so September 9 was chosen. MASN did not clarify if we needed tickets or not, so I had to exchange two games to September 9 just to make sure. As for giving them out…
The first objective was to get tickets for my friend, Elissa, who helped me filling in doing NatsJobs earlier in April while I was in mass for Holy Thursday. This was the game the Cardinals crushed the Nats, 8-0, and I felt sorry she had to witness that so I definitely owe her big time. I gave her three options: Monday’s game where I was in the Starting Nine; Tuesday with Dinner with Mike Rizzo, or Saturday, September 27 on Tyler Clippard Bobblehead Day. She chose the dinner and I got one thing out of way. Now I have to give away Saturday’s ticket, Tuesday’s two tickets after learning MASN did have the tickets for the contest winners, and two tickets for Tyler Clippard Bobblehead day.
I tried to combine the deal that if you wanted all five tickets, just pay the hotel room near Nationals Park or in Arlington. That didn’t worked out and Saturday’s game was inching closer, so I gave away the ticket to a random fan and now my concern was Monday. I asked my friends, networks, Twitter. Got no responses. Then, I did the boldest move I made so far in my life: I asked 5 separate women on OkCupid and Match.com that I really like, from the pictures and profiles, and asked if they’re interested to be my date on Monday night and I did mention it’s first come, first serve. No responses, although I knew one was a teacher and she couldn’t go so I asked her if she’s interested on September 27. So there were no takers.
It was a cloudy and cool day, so I decided to take a walk from Ballston to Nationals Park, with a few stops. I had to buy lottery tickets for my mother’s birthday and got a library card at the Arlington Public Library because I needed to print tickets because my own printer has been haywire. Around lunch time, I dressed up as the gnome because I heard of the “Buffalo Ramos” Burger at Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom from the D.C. Sports Bog. I wanted to try it before it’s gone. Sadly, I only had $5 (the burger was $7.70, including tax), so I did a quick impromptu contest that if you spotted the gnome and buy me the “Buffalo Ramos” Burger, the ticket was yours. After close to two hours, not a peep or touch from anyone. So, I change back to my normal clothes and decided to go to Starbucks and use some of my $25 gift card, I got in the summer, on lunch.
I walked down to the Navy Yard and went to the Marriott Courtyard to do some additional work, but their WiFi was out of service for some reason, then I went to Starbucks and they didn’t have WiFi and then realized it’s a federal building, so I went to Gordon Biersch and they got WiFi and sports so I can catch the new Highly Questionable studios (which I did. I miss the kitchen set), but the coverage was dominated by Ray Rice and Roger Goodell. After I finished my work for the day, I change my attire again to the gnome and headed to the Park.
Before entering the gates, I see a small line of people trying to buy $5 tickets. I asked them if anyone was interested in a free ticket (I could not sell it because the Nationals bought it for me) and the guy with the old DC baseball shirt got the free ticket. I went into Nationals Park and seeing a lot of my friends running around for some reason. then someone forward me a flyer that the Nats were doing a scavenger hunt at the Park. Luckily, I was more worried about not getting trip on the field. I talk with my friends about what should I expect in the Starting Nine and other stuff. Then, it’s time.
Before going to the field, I had to go to section 103 to check-in. Before checking in, one of the Nats HD crew wanted me for Fan of the Game. I wanted it to do it on August 5 when I had the gnome. I didn’t bring the gnome with me, but if I did, I had something great planned. Instead, I did this for 28 seconds to copy another gnome (the other 2 seconds was just random dancing):
Another Starting Nine participant, Justin, saw my performance and told me that I should win Fan of the Game hands down. I said that I hope there are no kids participating in Fan of the Game. When I turned to my right, I saw a kid, who was also participating in The Starting Nine, doing something for Fan of the Game. I turned to Justin and said, “I’m screwed.” After everyone was checked-in, it’s time to head to the field.
This was my sixth time on the field: three times for season ticket holder events, the one where I was a last-minute replacement (Tolu has a great story about that time. If you want to know more about Tolu’s catfish story, go here), and the one where I was the first ten for the Ignite Your Natitude! Tweetup to have a meet and greet with players on July 3, 2012. This on-field experience was different because I’m in public and with the media, TVs surrounding the park, I don’t want to be embarrassed by tripping over or screwing up the field that alters play. The Secret Service team at Nationals Park gave us a rundown on what and what not to do and ask us what position we want. Since there was a kid there, he gets first shot and he had a Bryce Harper jersey, so he wanted left field. The people and the security team knew I wanted right field and got it. In addition, The Starting Nine took some pics and selfies. Here are a few of mine:
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 8, 2014
The pre-game ceremonies are starting with the first pitch and I had to take off the hat and wig for the National Anthem because out of respect for the people who serve and protect to give me the right to act weird (and hipster if you look at the photo carefully). After the lineup exchange, everyone lineup around the backstop warning track to run to the field.
As I run onto the field, I was worried to not touch the foul line and forgot to go crazy while I was running. I did jump over the foul line and wave at the crowd waiting for the team to get onto the field. When Fister lead his team onto the field, I saw Span coming out and briefly saw his look that has a “WTF?” face. A few seconds later, Jayson Werth came out and told me, “This is good look, I love it” while tugging the beard.
And Werth had the biggest smile I have seen him in public.
Afterwards, I introduced myself and wished him good luck and that was it.
Heading to the field exit, the Secret Service team and the rest of the Starting Nine asked me about that experience and I was overwhelmed to answer. Heading to the elevators to get into our seats, Carol and I talk about what happened on the field. It took us awhile, but we got to our seats at section 240.
At section 240, I met the guy who I gave away the free ticket and brought a whole pizza from 7-Eleven which the money was suppose to be used to buy a ticket initially. We introduced ourselves and settled in and the guy offered me half a whole cheese pizza to say thanks and at the same time, my iPad and phone were pinging about my Jayson Werth experience…and I was posting jobs at NatsJobs. At the same time, Ian Desmond drove in a run to make it 1-0 Nationals. It stayed there for several more innings. Then, the first true tweet to come out about my experience was this:
— Kevin Keane (@K_Bev) September 8, 2014
Chris Ford added my Twitter handle and my stream went bonkers afterwards:
The action really picked up (for me) at the end of the 5th inning when the Nats were doing the Fan of the Game. I didn’t had a good look because the the HD scoreboard was directly behind me. What I can tell was the bottom half and I was facing two kids and I was Fan #2, so I thought I was screwed. When I came up, there was a loud ovation from my section and it trickled like the wave (properly) and when Jerome announce, “And The Winner is Fan #2” I was really in shock because I was facing the kids and no adult should beat the kid. The entire 240 section gave me high-fives and fist bumps and salutes, as well as the sections next to us.
Jayson Werth saw it on the screen that I won Fan of the Game and we both saluted each other and Werth tried to throw the baseball to me. He overthrew it by a few rows and it was caught by an older guy, who gave the ball to the kid in front.
Of Note #1: Terrance came by on the 8th to give me the business card of the Senior Manager of Entertainment, Tom Davis. They ran out of Harris Teeter Gift Cards at that time and had to contact him the following day.
Of Note #2: Remember I mention I asked four women on OkCupid and Match.com (technically five, but one was a teacher. She gets a pass.) who did not respond? If either responded, I would of split the $50 Harris Teeter gift card since they only had $25 gift cards. Your lost, ladies.
Oh by the way, the game picked up when Fister was on the 7th and when Matt Williams came out to get him out, Fister convinced Matty he will get Andrelton Simmons out. Williams said ok and came back to the dugout. Fister got the third out and yelled “Yeah Baby.” Later on, Nats score on a fielder’s choice, the Braves score on a Freddie Freeman single, and Drew Storen went 1-2-3 to get the save and Nats won 2-1 to capped off probably the most thrilling night I ever had. Laura Roose probably sums up the best about my night:
— LauraRoose (@LauraRoose) September 9, 2014
Photos from others:
— Morskie (@morskie29) September 9, 2014
— Chris Ford (@DCSportsNexus) September 9, 2014
For your information: I’m 3-0 when I win Fan of the Game; 0-1 when I lose. Ponder that, Nationals.
Tuesday, September 9:
Waking up on a cloudy day, I was checking my emails for work-related stuff, then I saw Dan Steinberg wrote a piece about me that night. I got a lot of tweets and replies from my friends and followers about this. Here are some of the best/interesting responses I saw:
— Philips Norelco (@PhilipsNorelco) September 9, 2014
@dcsportsbog The newest Pulitzer photog category
— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) September 9, 2014
In addition of the great response I got from the previous night, my hamstrings tightened up after I forgot to stretch yesterday as I did some running. So, I took the Metro to Foggy Bottom (and got enough money to pay for the burger) and return to Whole Foods to get the “Buffalo Ramos” Burger. The verdict: it was delicious.
After getting some work done at lunch, it was time to head to the Navy Yard again. I check with the Marriott Courtyard if they had the WiFi fixed. They did not and I was back at Gordon Biersch again. I did the same routine as the previous day and headed to Nationals Park. This time, I had two additional tickets as the fallback plan previously. I gave it to the mother-son combo and for the next 45 minutes, I stood outside the Center Field Gate for people who want to take pictures of me as the gnome and free McDonald’s smoothie samples. At 5:15PM, I headed to the media entrance. While going around Nationals Park, I saw the Virginia Cavaliers baseball team arriving and most looked at me and some say “Hey, it’s the Jayson Werth Gnome” I waved at them and head to the media entrance to meet up with Elissa and the other winners.
Dinner was at the Red Porch and Rizzo was coming down and I was a bit surprise that there was no crowd following him because he is the architect of this team and most fans would know his face. I won’t say much about what Rizzo said in the dinner because it was among the MASN winners and guests, but I will say is Rizzo was friendly, courteous, and did not pull any punches of the questions we asked, specifically the Doug Fister trade.
Photos from the dinner are here. (For the record, I had to take off my costume because I had a fake beard and wig on and don’t want any food to get caught.)
MASN provided seats at section 100 and it is unique point of view that is is far away, but you can see everything. Although section 100 was not rowdy as as 240, it has his own set of great Nats fans, which was led by Bob, who high-fives, fist bumps, and punching the shield with the Red Porch crowd when the Nats do something good. In the middle of the game, Bob order me a pretzel for just being a Nats fanatic. Nats won the game 6-4 and the magic number was reduce to 10 at that time. It capped off probably the most thrilling and magical two days I ever had.
To end the series, Atlanta beat the Nats, 6-2 on Wednesday and I wasn’t there. Coincidence?
In hindsight, what would made the two days complete is if I have more job opportunities to post or I handle the job opportunities for companies and organizations and if any recruiters are seeing this :), but those two days were surreal. I’m one of the rare few who got on the field to greet the players and very rare you get attention beyond your networks. So try to enter a contest or join a community for this very unique experience and I’m thankful for the support for not only my friends and followers, but to the people who I never met before for their generosity. I have worn wigs from Silver Elvis, the Rainbow Mullet, and a traffic cone hat (put that in the lost archives), but after a month, I would never expected a huge response of me dressing up as a gnome as a big deal.
I don’t know why and how I deserve it, but I guess that’s the power of the gnome.