Nationals Pitch Diversity

Team Aims to Attract Different Demographics

Posted June 24, 2008 at 4:27pm

As the Nationals celebrate their ballpark’s inaugural season, the organization is establishing several theme nights to draw new fans to the sport.

“We are aware that we lost baseball here for three decades,” said Chartese Burnett, vice president for communications for the team, referencing the stretch between the Washington Senators’ departure in 1971 and the Nationals’ arrival in 2005. “It’s smart for us to reach out and engage all communities and all groups.”

One such group is women. Over the past year there seems to have been an increased effort to recruit women as sports fans. Last year, Reebok began heavily marketing a line of women’s sports apparel. More recently, the Savvy Girls of Summer, Deidre Silva and Jackie Koney, penned a book “It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls’ Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball.”

In keeping with this theme, the Nationals have organized Ladies Night and Home Run Happy Hour. For $30, women can get tickets to the game and access to a pre-party featuring a DJ, manicures, massages, wine tastings, free food, several prize giveaways and an opportunity to meet the Savvy Girls of Summer.

The inaugural ladies’ night took place earlier this month and was very successful, with hundreds of women coming out to enjoy the game. “Desperate Housewives” star Ricardo Chavira, who was in town for the Race for the Cure, stopped by to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. Several members of the Nationals pitching staff also stopped by.

“The response was phenomenal,” Burnett said. “Not to be stereotypical and say if you’re a woman you’re not going to enjoy sports, but we recognize what the majority of our fan base is and we know we need to reach out. I think we do a great job of accomplishing that.”

The second ladies’ night is Aug. 14, when the Nationals face off against the New York Mets. In July, the sports club is also hosting a “Baseball 101” clinic on the field, where speakers will educate women on the sport. According to Burnett, the clinic will teach the rules of the game while also showing women what it’s like to work in the industry.

“There will be pointers from coaches on playing the game of baseball followed by a luncheon, where we will have different speakers talk about the game of baseball and working in the sport,” Burnett said.

Women are not the only fans the Nationals are hoping to draw to games. On Monday the team honored the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by hosting the fourth annual Night Out. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang the national anthem at the event, which typically draws more than 2,000 fans.

In July, the team will honor the contributions of Hispanic baseball players on Hispanic Heritage Night.

With a wide array of food from local hot spots such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Cantina Marina and Red, Hot & Blue, as well as the newly opened Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk bar, the team is hoping Washingtonians will view the new park as more than a baseball stadium.

“There’s just so much to do here,” Burnett said. “We are Nationals Park. We have baseball games, but we’re also an entertainment destination.”