The prevailing response to the announcement that “Inside Pitch” — the complimentary playbill-style program with a scorecard insert, which has been available to fans at Nationals Park for the previous 10 seasons — is going all digital? Boooooooooooooooo. (They’re not Dooing, they’re actually booing.)
According to the Nationals, the change was motivated by a desire to be more environmentally friendly. The team has long led by example on that front; when Nationals Park opened in 2008, it was the first professional sports stadium to receive LEED Silver certification.
“We started to look into how much paper we were printing, and asked, is there a way to deliver the same experience without having that environmental impact?” Nationals chief revenue and marketing officer Valerie Camillo said Monday. “Since the franchise returned to D.C., we’ve printed over 100 million pages of ‘Inside Pitch.’ We decided if we can take this experience into the digital realm, let’s try to do it.”
During the offseason, the Nationals partnered with Major League Baseball to create a digital version of “Inside Pitch” hosted within MLB’s Ballpark app.
“We think we’ve brought an experience to life that the fans are going to like,” Camillo said.
The new “Inside Pitch” will feature much of the same information and content that fans came to expect in hard copy form, including stadium maps, lists of concessions, schedules, promotional calendars and opponents’ rosters, but the digital version will not feature the scorecard that, for some fans, was the most essential part of the printed product. (Even if it did, there can be no joy in keeping score on your phone.)
The Nationals are offering something of a solution for scorecard-less fans this season. Scorecards with Nationals-branded pencils will be available for $1 at the team store and various stands throughout the ballpark this season. Camillo said these scorecards will be bigger and printed on thicker paper than the ones inserted in “Inside Pitch.”
“We recognize that it’s a key component because some fans like to keep score,” Camillo said. “It’ll be a better product than what we had in ‘Inside Pitch.’”
To be clear, most major league teams don’t offer complimentary programs and scorecards to their fans, and there’s nothing to prevent you from printing your own scorecard at home, or bringing MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter’s Baseball Scorebook to the park. Still, “Inside Pitch” was a nice perk and a welcome part of the Nationals Park experience, and it’s a shame it’s gone as we knew it.
Like ticket stubs, which have been replaced by season plan-holder membership cards and print-at-home tickets, hard copies of “Inside Pitch” made for great keepsakes, each issue a snapshot of a particular period, or game, in Nationals history. Take, for example, the following excerpt from the cover story in the second issue, which detailed Jim Bowden’s transactions ahead of the 2008 season:
“Of all the Nationals’ moves this offseason — and there were certainly a flurry as Bowden sought to address several weaknesses, from the signings of Paul Lo Duca, veteran infielder Aaron Boone, left-hander Odalis Perez and catcher Johnny Estrada, to the trade for Elijah Dukes — Lastings Milledge’s acquisition might have meant the most, not only because of what it meant for the outfielder, but what it meant to the franchise.”
Now there’s a passage, if only consumed in digital form, with the power to melt your phone.
In hindsight, we should’ve seen this day coming. It was foretold back in April 2013, when the cover of Vol. 6, Issue 3 featured the following words beneath an image of Jayson Werth at the plate: “Welcome to the New Age: Inside Pitch Goes Digital.” When I walk through the Nationals Park gates for the first time this season, I’ll probably look for the cardboard boxes full of programs by the turnstiles out of habit. Then maybe I’ll find the alcoholic juice pouch stand and pour some out for the latest casualty of the New Age.
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