MIAMI — As of 11:38 p.m. on Tuesday night, when the final out of the 2017 All-Star Game was recorded, Miami’s run as host of baseball’s sprawling, midseason extravaganza was officially over, and Washington’s had begun. With the 2018 All-Star Game slated for Nationals Park next July 10, just 364 days later, the Washington Nationals and the District of Columbia were officially on the clock.
It was a point that was not lost on any of the dozen or so Nationals employees scattered around Marlins Park for Tuesday night’s game, or the nearly 30 who had cycled in and out of Miami over the course of the past week to observe, take notes and otherwise learn the ins and outs of running one of baseball’s jewel events — which, more than a single baseball game, is a massive, week-long festival that stretches the resources of both the host ballpark and its city. The 2018 All-Star Game will be the fifth held in Washington but the first since 1969.
“This is what we asked for,” said Gregory McCarthy, the Nationals’ vice president of community engagement. “This is what the team and [D.C. mayor Muriel E. Bowser] said to Major League Baseball: ‘We can do this.’ It’s a lot of work. But Washington does these events well. We do big events on this scale probably more than any other city.”
The Nationals’ contingent in Miami — beyond the five players selected to the National League team — included representatives from ownership (Principal Owner Marla Lerner Tannenbaum, who also heads the team’s charitable arm, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation) and nearly every department in the organization, from marketing to media relations, from ballpark operations to concessions to security. Head groundskeeper John Turnour was even present to observe, among other things, how a baseball field can be kept playable amid all the grass-trampling pregame pomp and circumstance it must endure.
“For people who were involved in bringing baseball to D.C. 13 years ago, it’s another milestone for Washington being validated as a great sports town,” McCarthy said. “What’s neat about it all is, if you’re a die-hard baseball fan, you’ll find [the All-Star Game] to be a validating, enjoyable experience — for the experience and grandeur of the event, it’s the tops in the sport. But then, there are other events that appeal to the less-intense fans and people who aren’t baseball fans necessarily. That’s the great opportunity we see, the ability to get people from D.C. and the region from all persuasions engaged in all-star week.”
Frank Gambino, the Nationals’ senior vice president of ballpark operations, began flying to Miami for a series of two-day meetings beginning in May, the first of which involved simply walking the entire Marlins Park facility to see how various rooms and areas would be used for the All-Star Game. Later trips focused on security and credentialing. One of the challenges, Gambino said, is that Marlins Park and Nationals Park have very different footprints; he is still trying to figure out, for example, how to squeeze a massive broadcast compound — which, in Miami, covered three parking lots with satellite trucks, support vehicles, mobile generators and catering tents — into Nationals Park’s smaller footprint.
“Obviously, every ballpark is different. We’re like snowflakes. Ours is a unique park. We’re in an urban setting, and I’m trying to figure out in my mind how we can utilize each space. Literally every nook and cranny will be utilized. We don’t have the luxury of unlimited space. … But MLB has run these events at so many ballparks, under so many conditions. They’ve done them in ballparks that are 100 years old.”
While the stadium is the nexus of an All-Star Game, the entire city is part of its landscape — with a typical all-star schedule encompassing galas, concerts, parades, runs and charitable events at various locations — which partly explains why the Nationals were joined in Miami by representatives of various agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department, the District Department of Transportation, the FBI and Homeland Security.
“There are a lot of different agencies in D.C.,” Gambino said. “You can go from the sidewalk to the street and cross four different jurisdictions in some places. But the good news is, we partner with those agencies anyway, every day, every game. So we have the relationships and have had them for many years, and lots of people are down here from those agencies. We’re all in this together.”
Valerie Camillo, the Nationals’ chief revenue and marketing officer, spent much of the week thinking about themes and how an All-Star Game in Washington might be unique in ways both obvious and subtle.
“We’ve just been keeping an eye, from fan perspective, on what is the experience like and how to translate that to Washington,” Camillo said. “You’re seeing the overall energy of the week, and how connected the fans are to these superstars, and you’re asking, ‘How do we maximize that energy?’ There is a theme to the game. In Miami, it’s emphasizing the Latino connection and contribution. There is a distinctly local flavor of the food, the cuisine. We have to keep that in mind. What will our theme be? We don’t have a singular focus to the cuisine as they do here. But we are the nation’s capital, and we have this platform to celebrate the national pastime and highlight baseball’s importance to the nation. I think you’ll see this coming through.”
While the Nationals are keeping details quiet for now, the plans for the 2018 All-Star Game will be rolled out over the coming months, beginning with the logo reveal the week of July 24, after the team returns from its road trip that opens the season’s second half. The Nationals have made clear their All-Star Game will make full use of Washington’s iconic sites, monuments and symbolism. A red-carpet parade down Pennsylvania Avenue? An all-star gala at one of the Smithsonian museums? For now, those are maybes.
“It will be something that will read: ‘Washington,’ ” McCarthy said. “The city is going to shine.”