The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
1. Playoffs? Baseball pundits nationwide have been murmuring this spring that the Nats may have a chance to make a run at the playoffs, marking the first time positive buzz has surrounded the team outside its local market since the inaugural dream season of 2005. Nats fans' heady sense of optimism each previous spring has been rapidly dashed shortly into the regular season, so most are holding their breath and attempting to keep from popping the champagne prematurely, but it's hard not to get excited. With somewhat weakened division rivals (except those darn Marlins who snapped everyone up during the off-season) and a highly-promising pitching staff, who knows? Maybe next year is here, after all.
2. Wang! The ongoing re-emergence of Chien-Ming Wang on the mound in a Nats uniform brings out the 12-year-old boy in everyone. The Wang puns on blogs, Twitter and Facebook are never in short supply. (Short Wang puns. Get it?) The injured Wang should return to the starting rotation early in the season, so protect yourself. But seriously, he adds to an impressive starting rotation that also brings back …
3. Strasmania! He's baaack and fans are ready to relive the wave of hype! 2012 marks Strasburg's first full (albeit innings limited) season back from Tommy John surgery and nobody expects anything but the dominant pitching performances exhibited prior. Take your inverted W and shove it (j/k). With the rest of the rotation behind him including young focused Jordan Zimmermann (who I'd argue is on par with Strasburg), and the additions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, this is shaping up to be an exciting season for everyone not named John Lannan.
4. Bryce Harper: Need I say more? Eyes are waiting to feast upon the young phenom in the big leagues and there are probably Vegas odds on his call-up date, very likely sometime this summer. Will Harper be able to hit major league pitching from the start? Is he a nice young man or a punk? Sadly, the latter question weighs almost as heavily on minds as the first. Either way, fans are definitely salivating to witness some oppo-boppo displays in Nats Park this season.
5. Charlie and Dave: The radio duo has dominated the gameday airwaves for years and luckily, the streak will continue. There's something comforting about knowing the script to IHOP ad copy. Add in the Bang! Zoom!s and hilarious commentary, and this pair beats out any other in MLB broadcasting, hands down.
6. "Take Back The Park": The amount of anger that Phillies fans (and Pennsylvania politicians) showed over the Nationals' "Take Back the Park" initiative has been nothing short of pure comedic entertainment. A marketing ploy to sell tickets to locals prior to general ticket/group sales for the series against the Phillies in order to halt "Citizens Park South" phenomenon really angered the northern neighbors beyond expectation. Hey guys, there's a thing called StubHub. Pony up if you really want to see the Phillies here.
7. Local Food Options: Having a Ben's Chili Bowl concession in Nats Park is brilliant for grabbing a famous half smoke while DC food trucks have swarmed the K Street business area. The rumor is that they'll descend on Nationals Park, where tailgating options are slim to none, further improving the pre-game experience.
8. D.C.: The patriotic thing to do being in the nation's capital is root for the all American sport, baseball, while eating a half-smoke. Plus, where else can fans brush elbows with political celebrities in the stands? They even get the president throwing out the first pitch sometimes or taking in a game from a suite.The Federal Reserve chairman is a huge fan. Not all team fans can claim that. Plus, if you sit in the cheap seats, you can even see the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument. What a view.
9. Ownership: If I owned a team, I'd be like a kid in a candy store. Lemme take BP! Lemme toss from the mound! So who can blame owner Mark Lerner for sometimes sprinting across the outfield to shag fly balls in full uniform during occasional batting practices? Sure it's funny and sometimes embarrassing, but also very very cool.
10. We really haven't been waiting that long: Hey, at least our World Series drought is shorter than the Cubs. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
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What are your favorite things about being a Nationals fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox