Fans get up close and personal at NatsFest
Ari Ashe, WTOP
WASHINGTON - The Washington Nationals' newest racing president may have to drop a few pounds to be competitive.
The team said Saturday that William Howard Taft will join George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt this season for the fourth-inning race by 12-foot mascots at Nationals Park.
Taft became the first president to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, at Washington's Griffith Stadium on April 14, 1910.
He was also the portliest president at more than 300 pounds and his weight was the subject of much speculation from fans Saturday.
"Known as the 'Big Chief,' Bill will no doubt use his mighty stature to strike fear in his racing opponents," the Nationals said in a team statement.
The real Roosevelt chose Taft to replace him in the Oval Office but the two had a falling out when Taft alienated more liberal members of the Republican Party. Roosevelt ran against Taft in the next election as a third-party candidate, but voters elected Woodrow Wilson instead, according to presidential biographies posted on whitehouse.gov.
This 20th Century giant, he also served as chief justice of the Supreme Court - the only president to serve in both roles, however is ready to take his place in the digital age. Fans will be able to follow him on Twitter at @NatsBigChief27.
After losing more than 500 times since the team began the races in 2006, Teddy won for the first time on the final day of last year's regular season and then won again during the NL division series against St. Louis.
The new racer was announced during NatsFest at the Washington Convention Center Saturday.
Fan reaction was mixed at the event, but Teddy doesn't need to worry.
"We'll still root for Teddy. But we'll also root for the new guy. I hope they can split some of the wins," said Chris Van Parris.
Patrick Manley Sr. expected the heavyset president was intended to be a ringer and guarantee that Teddy wouldn't always lose.
"I thought they were going to present a heavy mascot who would lose every race because of his weight. But that was the skinniest Taft I've ever seen. That wasn't the Taft I was expecting. It looked like Taft on Slim-Fast. Knowing the history, I'm sure there will be quite a rivalry going between Taft and Teddy," Manley said.
But some suggest that weight will give the 27th president a boost.
"They can put him on a Segway and race him around," said Tim McAndrew.
Rivalries and weightloss plans aside, the announcement also gave fans the opportunity to test their knowledge of presidential history, or lack there of.
"I was a little surprised that the choice was William Howard Taft. The only thing I knew about him was that he was very fat, and in fact, he once got stuck in the White House bathtub," said Jason Helmer.
Allison Butler agreed she needs to know more about the newcomer.
"I think we're all going to need a history lesson about the guy to get the drama going with Teddy. But I have the Teddy Season Ticket Plan, so I'll root for Teddy," she said.
WTOP's Ari Ashe and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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