Yesterday’s main event at Nationals Park, besides the game, was being a kid again. Everyone was in on it – the Nationals in-house staff, press, the NatPack, all adults, and children themselves – everyone. Let us not forget the teaching’s of one, Mr. Billy Heywood: “Hall of Famer Bob Lemon once said, ‘Baseball was made for kids. Grown ups only screw it up.’” On Sunday, baseball was all for the kids and no one, not even a grown up, could have screwed it up this time.
Sunday was more than a ball game (that the Nationals won, by the way, making the team 10-9/1.5 games behind the Phillies). The beloved feathered mascot, Screech, turned five years old. Nationals Entertainment Coordinator Tom Davis took a moment to share his favorite eagle’s life story with We Love DC.
According to Davis, Screech hatched back in 2005 and was found in the rafters of RFK Stadium. Little baby Screech was so excited by the team hosting its inaugural season of the National Past-Time in the Nation’s Capital that the darn bird wouldn’t stop screeching – and hence, he was given a name and home with his new family – the Washington Nationals.
Screech continues to grow not only in age but rather his overall familial role from within the Nationals organization. He’s become more athletic as the years continue, leading him to become quite the rabble-rouser at games, causing commotion, trouble, and the like. Fans inside Nationals Park during yesterday’s game and celebration had a rare glimpse into the kind of trouble this young eagle has the ability to get into.
Some of Screech’s closest mascot buddies from the DC/Maryland/Virginia area showed up to party it up big with their buddy on his birthday: Clawed Z. Eagle (American University, Slapshot, (Washington Capitals), Doc (Towson University) Big George (George Washington University), Glory (Washington Freedom), Testudo (University of Maryland), The Cardinal (Catholic University of America), Poe (Baltimore Ravens), and Talon (DC United) are just a few of the trouble-makers enabling the commotion seen live throughout every nook and cranny of the park.
Screech and his mascot buddies traveled from the field to the dual-level press box for a surprise live spot quickie on MASN, back down to the field atop the Nats dugout for birthday cake, a piñata smashing session behind the first base concourse, and various games throughout the day with some of Screech’s favorite fans – the kids. Davis says Screech loves the kids. Absolutely, without a doubt, loves them.
Screech’s favorite experience with the kids so far, besides games, has been making a few pit stops around some of Washington’s staple events. These include White House events like the Easter Egg Roll and the 4th of July. Screech has also taken part in the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. But of all of those events, Screech continues to look to the future, Davis said. The Nationals, in conjunction with Screech, plan to kick off a new reading program with DC area schools in the coming year.
Why make such a big deal out of an eagle mascot for a baseball team? Easy – the kids. Why’s that? Let’s go back to the Billy Heywood logic a la Hall of Famer Bob Lemon: “Baseball was made for kids. Grown ups only screw it up.”
Think about it – the Nationals organization is cultivating a new fan base. The team is young and time will yield the eventual results that will make or break the name of Washington baseball in the Major Leagues. But here’s the thing: the fans that we’re going to see 10 years down the line here in Washington are but youngin’s right now. The tiny faces staring upon baseball’s modern greats hold the future of Nationals baseball in the palm of their hands. If they fall in love now, there’s no telling what they’ll train their children to do … and their children’s children … and so on.
Love for baseball starts when you’re young. If you learn to love it as a wide-eyed kid who doesn’t know anything else, then you’re more than likely to continue to harbor unconditional love for the team you were brought up loving — in this case, the Nationals. This is what the Lerner’s are doing right.
Sure, there have been a few “grown up” mishaps so far this season (for example: Phillies fans outnumbering Nationals fans on Opening Day due to a massive amount of group ticket sales to Philadelphia travelers), but the Lerner’s are great at reaching out to children. In fact, according to Marla Lerner, that’s one of their top priorities. The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation sponsors many community driven events throughout the year to benefit the community at-large and the children who live in it.
Screech’s birthday was a perfect excuse to double-up and commemorate the National’s 3rd Annual Children’s Day. The day included activities for fans hailing from the Children’s National Medical Center, including the chance to participate in the ceremonial first pitch, line-up card delivery, as well as the “Starting 9” and “Play Ball!” announcement.
A day at the ball park plus Screech’s hilarious birthday celebration is enough to put a smile on any kid’s face. Even that of a grown up kid. Because, when you think about it, aren’t we really all just kids at heart?
Want to get involved and help support DC area youth? Visit the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation website for more details.