News & Politics

What It’s Like to Try Out for the Racing Presidents

On a chilly Sunday morning, 12 hours before the Democratic debate, some 50 people gathered at the Washington Nationals’ Youth Baseball Academy to vie for a different presidential race.

During the Nats’ 10th-annual racing presidents auditions, applicants strapped on 45-pound outfits of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln in hopes of becoming part of the baseball team’s fourth-inning tradition in 2016.

Abe and George striking a pose
Abe and George striking a pose

Candidates ran a 40-yard dash, raced to and from right field, struck poses, freestyle-danced, and capped off their try-out by answering interview questions from Nationals Entertainment staffers.

President-hopefuls raced three at a time. While anxiously waiting their turn, they cheered one another on, ran practice sprints, and swapped tips about how not to fall down during the race.

Mid-race

“If I do face-plant, I’ll try to make it as graceful or funny as possible,” said a man named Robert trying out for the first time (the Nationals’ rules disallow identifying Racing President hopefuls by their full names).

People at the auditions were picked from a pool of around 100 applicants who submitted a cover letter and résumé. Apart from racing for every Nationals home game, the presidents make more than 200 outside appearances for team events every season.

Some of the presidential candidates
Some of the presidential candidates

In one of the heats, a guy named Justin who auditioned once three years ago blew past George and Abe in his oversized Thomas Jefferson costume. The key is, “short, choppy steps,” he says. “If you start swaying, your weight takes over and you’re in trouble.” For his dance, he opted for the Nae Nae and Stanky Leg — “I figured topical is always good,” he says.

Besides mere speed and athleticism, Tom Davis, entertainment director for the Nationals, says he’s looking for enthusiasm: “it’s really about people who are going to keep you excited, stay fresh, and really keep wanting to do it.”

Race 6

Noticeably absent from the event was fan-favorite (and perennial loser) Teddy Roosevelt, along with his successor William Howard Taft, who both normally race at ballgames.

“Teddy, this has kind of been his thing for several years is he likes to take a nice warm vacation during these months,” Davis says. “George, Abe, and TJ have been real troupers being here for the last 10 seasons we’ve been doing this.”

Race 5

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Jackson Knapp
Assistant Editor