The Washington Times - April 7, 2009, 11:26AM

(Editor’s note: we wanted to get this up yesterday but we were — and still are — having some blogging difficulties)

Ah, baseball season has started. And if you’re a Nationals fan, there’s a lot of new things to talk about this season, and not just on the field.


Since the Nationals begin their season on the road today, let’s go over the changes that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has rolled out.

First, there’s the arrival of Rob Dibble as the color man alongside Bob Carpenter. You can read about the new booth team in my article today. Also, as has been reported previously, the Nationals will have 105 games in high-definition thanks to a new HD channel that it will share with Orioles broadcasts. (The O’s get first dibs today, but each team will get an equal number of HD games during the year.)

MASN also spent about $200,000 to install a permanent set on the concourse at Nationals Park to broadcast the Nats Xtra pre-game and post-game shows. So Johnny Holliday, Ray Knight and company will be at the ballpark and fans can presumably say hello to them during the game.

The network also made a couple of camera upgrades, moving the “high-home” camera position to a lower spot that should make for a better view of the game, and introducing a special “X-MO” HD camera that captures images at 300 frames per second. MASN also has introduced a new graphics packages and has a new arrangement with STATS Inc. to provide more statistical information.

Once the Nationals start at home, fans should see a few changes at the ballpark. The team this week plans to unveil new statues of Josh Gibson, Walter Johnson and Frank Howard, and there is some new signage and artwork throughout the stadium.

Just as importantly, the team has brought in a new concessionaire, Levy Restaurants, with promises to upgrade service and food choice. Levy will introduce a new foot-long “Crab Louie” sandwich and a few healthy options like parfaits, hummus and salads. Levy and the Nationals have focused heavily on training staff to improve customer service throughout the ballpark, using a system known as “thousand-detail training.”

“It’s built around the philosophy of how you would treat a guest in your own home,” Levy Restaurants regional vice president Cindy Van Rensburg said. “Our saying is ‘yes, absolutely. What is the question?’ Anytime a fan needs something, the answer should be ‘yes, absolutely. What is the question?’ And we make it happen.”

Van Rensburg said Levy’s director of development came to Nationals Park and put 1,000 workers through 12 hours of training, plus a two-day session of mock service involving people from the surrounding neighborhood and the Navy Yard.