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Cheers to You: Nat Packer

By Danny Freedman
Express
Monday, June 20, 2005 4:46 PM

TOM DAVIS, 24 

JOB: Member of the Nationals' Nat Pack pep squad

SALARY: Product promoters and demonstrators earned $9.80 per hour in 2002, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in journalism and mass communications from Iowa State University.

WHAT HE DOES: Davis wields control over thousands at RFK Stadium as keeper of the heart of the ballpark experience -- free stuff. Particularly, T-shirts fired from an air cannon. He and his fellow Nat Pack members spend most of their time during the team's 81 home games roaming the stands, coaxing fans to clap and cheer ("a couple times we've gotten the wave going") and doling out giveaways (they're given a schedule that dictates how much to give and at what point in the game to give it). For big freebies like seat upgrades or coupons for free pizza, Davis often will seek out families and orchestrate a micro-event, complete with a cameraman to beam the production to the stadium's big-screen TV. Three cannons (aka "master blasters"), including one mounted on a golf cart, are used to fire 20 to 40 shirts into the stands as sections of fans are urged to out-scream one another. That's when "you really get a feeling" of being surrounded by up to 56,000 people. "Everybody wants a T-shirt. Everybody loves free stuff. The entire crowd is just yelling and screaming and just going nuts," he said. A couple hours before game-time, the Pack helps situate guests, such as the singer of the national anthem. Other days, the Nat Pack may also rally pep along with the Nationals' mascot, Screech, at parades and other community events.

WOULD YOU WANT HIS JOB? When you live by the T-shirt cannon, you also die (not literally) by the T-shirt cannon. Gun malfunctions that cause the shirts to fall flat have sparked stadium-wide heckling. "That's a little intense, I guess, to hear that many people booing," said Davis. "We try to counter that by just grabbing the T-shirts and throwing them out there." Work schedules are feast or famine, depending on whether the team's in town, and rain delays can extend the roughly seven hours that Davis spends at the park for each game.

HOW YOU CAN GET HIS JOB: Open auditions will be coming up, though a date hasn't been set, said Josh Golden, the team's entertainment and events manager. He's looking for gung-ho individuals who are available to work most of the team's home games. A posting on the Nationals Web site directs hopefuls to send a resume and cover letter to entertainment@nationals .com

This article first appeared in the Express on May 23, 2005.

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