- Associated Press - Monday, February 18, 2013

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Some of the biggest names in American political history visited the Black Hills over the long President’s Day weekend, even stopping at their likenesses at Mount Rushmore.

The Washington Nationals’ presidential mascots, famous for their footraces during the 7th-inning stretch, traveled to western South Dakota as guests of The Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes Association. Video footage from their tour, which also included stops at Custer State Park, Wall Drug Store and Deadwood, will be played during future home games.

It was the first time the five mascots came out west. The faces of the original four mascots — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — are on Mount Rushmore. The fifth, William H. Taft, just joined the team. Taft was the first president to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a season opener.

Tom Davis, entertainment manager for the National League team, said the group had a fun time in the Black Hills and were thrilled they were finally able to make the trip.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a while, toying with the idea,” Davis said. “With last year being as exciting as it was both on and off the field, we decided to keep it fresh and do something different.”

Last season, the Nationals won 98 regular-season games and the NL East crown, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

“This is such a great opportunity to showcase everything we have to offer in the Black Hills,” said Nort Johnson, president of the Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Association, who donned a Nationals baseball cap for the occasion.

Decked out in a Washington Nationals jersey and hat in Rapid City’s Main Street Square, Edward Miller was excited to see the mascots in person.

“It’s so great to see them,” said Miller, who moved to Sturgis two years ago from Washington, D.C. “I’ve never seen them this close up before.”


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