The “Nationals Park” signage that usually resides atop the Nationals’ main center field video board was covered up on Friday. In its place was a banner announcing the park as “Natitude Park,” the team’s slogan for the Nationals’ series against the Phillies as “Our Park” weekend, a call to Nationals fans to “Take Back the Park” from Phillies fans who invade what they call “Citizen’s Bank Park South” each summer.
There was a second sign behind home plate, also covering up the usual Nationals Park lettering on the stone backstop that manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty had removed because it was in the pitchers’ sightline from the mound.
In the home clubhouse (which, by the way, is the one that holds the first place team in the National League East) the banners and slogans were met with little more than a roll of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders. Winning — and winning for a prolonged period — the Nationals know, will be the biggest motivator for fans to fill the park each night.
“Marketing’s marketing,” Johnson said. “I don’t get caught up in that. What’s going to sell tickets is if we win ballgames. That’s the way we’re going to take this stadium back.”
Johnson was then asked his take on the whole “Natitude” campaign.
“I can’t hardly pronounce the dang word,” he said. “I was supposed to read that in the All-Star balloting: ‘Join in the Natitude.’ I said, ‘I might have four or five takes on that.’ I just said: ‘You know, we’ve got a damn good team here. Vote for the Nats.’”
“We’ve got attitude,” he added. “I don’t know about Natitude. I don’t mind the attitude.
“It’s always personal. Shoot when I started out in New York, we were hated. We were called everything from pond scum to, you name it. But, I mean, to get up for a ballgame, it’s personal. This guy that I’m facing, I’m trying to earn my living and that just goes with the territory. You’re a competitor, and the better the team the more you better have that attitude.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had his own thoughts on it as well:
“I can’t do nothing about that,” Manuel said. “They can do whatever they want to. If I was head of the baseball program, I’d want all the fans I could possibly get at the ballpark in a year. I don’t care if they come from Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, or wherever.”
Let the weekend begin.