It was sunny and gorgeous outside when I called Todd Haviland on Saturday afternoon.
“Hey,” he said, answering his home phone. “Just here doing all-star ballots with my kids.”
Okay, that wasn’t exactly true. His 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son (pictured with Bryce Harper above) had recently taken off for the swimming pool, “letting me get down to business,” he explained.
Todd, you see, is one of the special breed of Nats fans for whom “doing all-star ballots” does not mean a few random pricks from a pen between bites of Cracker Jack. For Todd, “doing all-star ballots” means collecting four boxes full of 1,500 ballots each at Nats Park, and then pounding out 300 an hour with his precision Phillips-head screwdriver, spraying thousands of paper chads over his Fredricksburg home.
“They end up all over my body,” the 40-year old confirmed.
He isn’t the only one in this predicament, either.
“Chads all over the floor,” said Robert Dulaney, 49, of Sterling, who has already polished off 5,000 ballots.
“That’s the worst part,” said David Roberts, 22, of Arlington. “I tried to keep them contained and punch them over a trash can, but they still get everywhere. Now I just kind of let it be a mess and clean it up in stages.”
Why do this? Well, there are rewards, as I mentioned last week. All three of the fans I spoke with had set their sights on the 5,000-ballot batting-practice prize. Dulaney, who already finished, used a luggage carrier to bring two boxes full of 5,000 ballots to Nats Park last week. And all have devoted a considerable amount of time to getting a reward that money couldn’t buy.
“I try not to time it, because if I added it up and knew how much time I was spending, it’d be kind of scary,” said Roberts, who even writes in Bryce Harper’s name on some of his ballots.
“I can do 100 in about 10 minutes,” said Dulaney, a season ticket holder who fills backpacks with ballots during his trips to the park. “You unfold ’em quick, get ’em all spread out and then start doing six at a time with a roof nail.”
(He also does hundreds during games at the park; “They have crochet night; it’s almost the same thing,” he said.)
“It doesn’t seem very normal,” admitted Haviland, a single father who takes his kids to about 30 games a year. “Once I set to mind to do something, I’ve just got to do it. We wouldn’t want to let the Nats down.”
Which is the other part of this ballot obsession. All three fans I spoke with are rabid Nats fans who are voting a D.C. ticket, even if that means supporting players who have hardly played, like Michael Morse and Jayson Werth. Washington has a first-place baseball team, and a fan base that wants to prove that it’s worthy of such a team.
That includes Haviland and his kids, who consider Nats Park “our second home,” and who tell players they’ve voted for them thousands of times. Haviland has even recruited his 78-year-old aunt and 72-year-old mom — who are visiting from Iowa — to help the cause. Rest assured, they’ll make it to 5,000 by the deadline.
“If I have to, I’ll take a couple days off work,” he said. “We definitely have a house full of Natitude.”
Roberts, by the way, was thinking about going all the way to 10,000, but he reconsidered.
“It was just way too unreasonable to do that and still go to ballgames, play softball, hang out with friends,” he said. “I haven’t canceled any plans because of this it.”