When I decided I wanted to write this post on The Nationals Archive, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to say about them or how I was going to say it, but I knew I wanted to learn more about the site that everyone in NatsTown, from fans to players to media, has started to notice. Earlier this week, I asked questions of The Archive’s eight members, and while I didn’t directly ask this question, it quickly became clear what the most important question was to the Archivists themselves: How can we make baseball fun for both fans and players?
It all started last year with a bunch of talented and creative people creating photoshops and trying to generate Nats interest on Twitter. Jack O’Beam (@JackoBeam), Jayson Werth’s Beard (@JWerthsBeard), and Allan Petersen (@ambp77) connected and started casually putting together some fun memes and photoshops, including “The Other Guys” photoshop featuring Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson.
Meanwhile, before Nats Archive was officially created, other creative Nats minds were doing similar work. Kurt (@FakeFP) worked on images of his own while maintaining a satire blog. Brendan (@DCSportShopped) had created photoshops for the Nats and Capitals. Johann (@NLBeastNats) was creating popular Nats memes on Twitter. Max (@maxduchaine) had his own t-shirt site, and Laura (@LauraRoose) was doing some photoshops on her own. Eventually, they decided that maybe putting all of their work on one site was the best way to keep track of and share their creations, and The Nationals Archive was born.
Now, the Archivists don’t consider themselves just photoshoppers, nor are they just “the t-shirt guys.” Through their creations and their social media presence, they want to change how Washington Nationals fans interact with each other and the team, both online and in person. So far, they’ve done so with creative edited photos, some brilliant t-shirts, and some key relationships.
The first of those relationships was cultivated between Allan and Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. After being connected to Desmond through a veteran’s charity named Quilts of Honor, Allan sent Desmond some photoshops for his Twitter account. Then, he sent some t-shirts. The back-and-forth relationship between The Archive and Desmond ultimately earned him the title of “Honorary Archivist,” which he recently touted proudly in a MASN post-game interview.
The photoshops and t-shirts that Allan sent Desmond were just the beginning of what became a larger interest than any of the Nats Archive members expected. Before they knew it, Bryce Harper was requesting a “Run Until They Tag You” t-shirt that he helped inspire. Ryan Zimmerman and Kurt Suzuki were also spotted wearing Nats Archive t-shirts during pre-game workouts and post-game interviews after The Archivists sent some to the Nationals clubhouse.
Originally, The Archive planned on making t-shirts just for themselves. When they saw that both fans and players actually wanted their t-shirt creations, it was important to them that something good came from the sales. They decided to donate all profits from the t-shirts to three charities: the ZiMS Foundation, which earned them great respect from Zimmerman and his wife, Heather, the Nationals Dream Foundation, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Archivists were all pretty much in agreement about their favorite aspect of being part of the site, too. They love interacting with each other, they love being creative with Nats storylines, and they love seeing their ideas grow organically. As a result, they’ve been able to create things for fun that people like, start to bridge the divide between fans and players, and make a difference for three worthy charities. I’d say those are fine results for less than one year’s work.
In my interview questions, I asked the Archivists what was next for Nats Archive, and Allan was able to really get to the core of the question I was trying to ask: “What is the goal of the Nats Archive?” He said he wants to “expand on what we're doing until the Nationals have the best online fanbase in Major League Baseball.” I’d say that’s a great goal for any fan site, especially one that’s shown the ability to reach out and collaborate with the right people.
Nats Archive’s stuff is witty, funny, and sometimes even a little crazy, and that’s exactly what brings out the best in the fans and players and gets the most out of the fan experience. Combine that with their charitable outreach efforts, and you’ll see why everyone’s getting on board what The Archive is trying to do: create a fun, social experience for the game we all love. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they do next.
Note: Some of the names in this post are real, others are pseudonyms. I’ll let you decide which is which. I’m personally convinced “Beard” is a real first name.