This morning, a lot of fans and writers were bristling at Nationals’ COO Andy Feffer’s comments about the opening of the new Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk in center field at Nationals Park, wherein Feffer said that the fans would remember the new concessions and social area out there more than anything else. A lot of people were upset by the idea that the fans wouldn’t take home their memories of a Nats win, or of the game as the prime attraction. Feffer is the head of the Nationals’ non-baseball operations, so it’s natural that his focus is going to be on the stadium product, not necessarily the on-the-field product.
Bridge: A lot of people are bristling a bit over your comments lastnight. Can you clarify a bit about what you meant?
Feffer: The franchise, the fan experience, and what happens with the fans is all one thing. We’ve got Ryan Zimmerman back on the field tonight, we just swept the Padres (sic). There’s no reason why fans shouldn’t have a great experience in the ballpark, too. What they eat, how they come together, we felt like we’d built a communal space, to eat, drink and socialize, and oh by the way, one of the greatest views in the ballpark.
Bridge: it’s just one of those places where people are saying, “Well,we’ve got a losing record right now, why is this what we should b eworking on while we’ve got a problem on the field?”
Feffer: I would say that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. The two feelings are mutually exclusive, but they’re also together. We have focused on the field. We have Adam LaRoche, although he’s hurt; we signed Jayson Werth; we traded for one of the best catchers, you don’t think the Twins would like to have Wilson Ramos back?
The story on the field is the development of young talent: Danny Espinosa at second at [Ian] Desmond; Strasburg will be coming back; a kid named Harper down in Hagerstown right now. There’s a compelling story here that not only are you seeing great young talent come up on the field, but the experience you have when you come to watch should also enhance that. This franchise is only 7 years old, and its ability to deliver both on the field and with the fan experience should both be important. I think once fans come up to experience the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk, and say “why did we do this?” We did it for the fan experience. We did it so that people would enjoy themselves. We’re seeing more of that in sports today, that’s becoming a compelling thing, not only what’s happening on the field, which is obviously the most important, but how you’re treated at the park.