WOODBRIDGE, Va., — For their next promotion, the Potomac Nationals have decided to give away an arm and a leg…well at least an arm.
Instead of a bobble head, the Washington Nationals’ Advanced A team is handing out a plastic arm and elbow, entitled “Ode to Tommy John Surgery Statue” to their first 1,250 fans attending their game on Saturday against the Wilmington Blue
The plastic quarter body, wearing a white jersey spelling out the first few letters of
Nationals, features a right arm winding up at a right angle to throw a pitch. A baseball sits in the hand of the figurine. The elbow’s muscles are exposed, allowing fans to remove a white, triangular-shaped ulnar collateral ligament, also known as
UCL. Brian Holland, general manager of sales, suggested that detail.
“The Nationals aren’t afraid of [the surgery],” said Mike Weisman, the Potomac-Nats director of broadcasting and media relations, who came up with the idea in a brainstorming session last winter.
The model arm memorializes the pioneering surgery of Dr. Frank Jobe, who performed the UCL operation on major league journeyman Tommy John. He tore his
ulnar collateral ligament in 1974 while pitching for the Dodgers and played 14 more seasons after undergoing the operation.
Weisman explained his rationale for the giveaway. “Tommy John surgery used to be a death sentence to a career, whereas now some guys come back even better. They don’t seem to worry about it as much, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do some kind of play off of that.’ Not entirely thinking anyone was going to find it remotely funny or remotely crazy or anything.”
After the team announced the promotion, it received lots of mentions on Twitter and recognition from Kenny Mayne on SportsCenter.
Fans interviewed Thursday night laughed and liked the idea of the giveaway, not worrying about any superstition it could bring to the team.
“I think [the surgery] is a positive thing,” Warren Jackson, 78, said. “It’s helped a lot of players come back, so I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it’s not my arm they’re giving away.”
Jackson laughed and rubbed his right shoulder, which he had replaced due to arthritis.
Notable Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann both went under the knife in their rookie seasons.
Strasburg received the surgery in late 2010 and returned for five games in 2011.
However, the Nationals decided to limit his amount of work as part of his recovery, shutting him down after 28 games in 2012. He has been to the All-Star Game three times since the surgical procedure.
Zimmermann bounced back from his 2009 operation and pitched the Nationals first
no-hitter in 2014.
Both formerly pitched for the P-Nats.
Minor League Baseball draws fans to games through creative promotions and having multiple special events in a single night. Saturday’s P-Nats game is also “How the Grinch Stole Halfway to Christmas” night.