Every year we go on the Nationals Park season preview tour. Every year there’s a big story that has little to do with the stadium and even less to do with the team. In 2017 it was whether or not President Trump would throw out the season’s first pitch. (He did not.) In 2018 it was whether or not there would still be a Mike Isabella food presence. (There was not.) In 2019 the big story isn’t about the stadium but it’s definitely about the team. The biggest name in Nationals history, Bryce Harper, is now the second highest paid player in baseball and a member of the division rivals Philadelphia Phillies for the next 13 years. This is good news for everyone. Really.
Here are our 9 reasons to get excited about the 2019 Washington Nationals. Most are baseball related. Some are just about the food, drinks and bobbleheads. We know some people just like to sit in a park and drink beer and baseball happens to be on the field.
1. The Washington Nationals are the favorite to win their division
Their Opening Day lineup is better than it was in 2018. And there’s room to grow because…
2. No more Bryce Harper!
Who needs Harper when you have Juan Soto? And in case the team needs to spend more mid season to solidify a playoff lineup, there are $300 million reasons they’ll have some room to negotiate.
Oh yeah, this isn’t a site about sports. You may not be as interested in second year deals and phenomenal pitching as I am but we can all agree that CHIKO is great. And now it’s available in Nats Park. The best stadium food in D.C. continues to be Nats Park. Yes, Audi Field is all Think Food Group, and that’s great, but there are more options at the baseball stadium in the same neighborhood.
In addition to CHIKO, Caviar (the app, not the food) will be offering a rotation of local restaurants, ensuring new options on a regular basis. There’s also DC Empanadas, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Harris Creek Oyster Co., Medium Rare and Dog Tag Bakery offering new options for 2019.
4. No more Bryce Harper?
If you’re not convinced Soto can take the mantle of most exciting young Washington baseball player, there’s also Trea Turner. He has a fun jump throw that will be memorialized in the May 15 giveaway against the Mets.
5. The best drinks in D.C. sports
Back to the food and drink. The beer selections at the park have always been good and they got a lot better three years ago with Devil’s Backbone Earned Run Ale. It’s back for another year.
If you care more about spirits than beer, Republic Restoratives, D.C.’s first women-owned distillery, will have their spirits near section 111. The trend of local breweries and distilleries in baseball stadiums is a great trend.
6. No! More Bryce Harper!
Oh yeah, Bryce went to the Phillies, the Nats division rivals, which means we’ll see Mr. Harper in Nationals Park 10 times (assuming he’s in the lineup), as early as April 2. This is great news for Nats fans, Phillies fans and all baseball fans. Newer teams like the Nats (Sure, they have ties to both the Expos and the Rangers but it’s a messy past, so for us, they’ve only been Washington’s team since 2005) have a difficult time establishing long term rivals. Sure, if they’re playing another club in their division it’s a rivalry, but without story lines like this, it’s just about stats. The story is what makes this rivalry real.
7. Ryan Zimmerman Bobblehead
Bobbleheads are great, even if you’re not a sports fan. I have two bobbleheads of an NPR personality from Portland, Maine in my back yard because they were a giveaway at a Portland Sea Dogs (the double AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox based out of Portland, Maine). Anyway, Ryan Zimmerman is the Nat and since Captain America is the Avenger, it makes sense that Zimmerman is portrayed as Captain Zimmerman in the May 25 giveaway against the Marlins.
Here’s the player everyone should be talking about: Max Scherzer. The 6x All-Star, 3x Cy Young Winner and 4x wins leader is the best National and has been since he joined the team in 2015. He should have won his fourth Cy Young Award last year. He threw 300 strikeouts but only won 18 games since the offense last year was lacking to say the least.
If you’re still reading this and don’t care about baseball, you’ll like Scherzer’s involvement with the Humane Rescue Alliance. His HRA shirt is pretty great too.
9. The bag policy is not good
On February 1, the team announced their new bag policy. From the press release:
Today, the Washington Nationals announced that beginning with the 2019 season backpacks may not be brought into Nationals Park, except as otherwise provided in the Nationals Bag Policy. The policy was revised in order to enhance ballpark safety. Exceptions may be made for backpack diaper bags or backpacks used for ADA/medical reasons. All purses, briefcases, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers that do not exceed 16”x16”x8” will still be permitted. On the day of purchase, backpacks bought during games or events at Nationals Park will be tagged and permitted for that day only.
Got it? No backpacks.
Still don’t understand? Here’s the image they sent with the press release:
Every Nationals ticket holder understands the annoyance that comes along with entering every stadium. It’s unfortunately part of professional sports. This is supposed to help because, according to the team, they want to provide, “the safest environment possible for everyone in attendance.” I do not agree. I do not believe the majority of ticket holders will agree. The metal detectors aren’t going anywhere. Now there’s just another barrier, another way to make the game experience more like an airport experience.
This is not a Major League Baseball policy, just a Washington Nationals policy. Hopefully it’ll go away when more than 1,000 people with backpacks try to enter the park and all of the rentable lockers for backpacks ($2 an hour) are full.
When the biggest complaint about the upcoming season is about entering the park, the season looks bright.
10. No more Daniel Murphy
That’s good. It’ll make the Night OUT against the White Sox less awkward.