There might be some competition to show up early to Wednesday night's Washington Nationals game. That's because the first 20,000 fans to arrive at Nationals Park will get a Jayson Werth Chia Pet.
"When we were looking at our giveaways this offseason, we were finding that the traditional shirts and hats really weren't resonating," said Valerie Camillo, the team's chief marketing officer. "So we wanted to come up with unique items that were worth the effort."
The Werth Chia Pet was a product of those brainstorming sessions. Blessed with a nice beard, Werth has been tremendously popular among Nationals fans.
Last year, the team used a Werth gnome to help sell out a weekday game against the New York Mets. Camillo said that with a strong walk-up crowd against the below .500 Arizona Diamondbacks, all 41,000 seats will be filled Wednesday.
"He's a character and he has a very big following on social media,'" Camillo said. An anonymous Twitter poster with the handle @JWerthsBeard has nearly 18,000 followers.
With the team running commercials for the Chia Pet, Werth himself even has pushed the team to make changes.
"On our initial tests, we were just doing facial hair and Jayson came to us and said we had to do a little chest hair too," Camillo said. So the new advertising of the Werth Chia Pet now has chest hair growing.
Said Camillo: "I think he has a love-hate relationship with us. He loves giving us feedback on things we are doing that are focused around him, but I can imagine he's also thinking 'dear god, not the marketing people again!'"
The Werth item isn't a knockoff, as it was actually made by the Chia Pet brand. The terra cotta planter kit in the shape of pets and celebrities was recreated by San Francisco-based Joseph Enterprises, which took the fun Mexican herbal garden national in 1982. The company also owns The Clapper.
Werth also made headlines Tuesday, declaring that the NL East was still the Nationals' to lose, despite their current one-game deficit to the first-place Mets.
"I think it's a matter of time really. We're a great second-half team. ... Half our team has been hurt all year. That's the reality of it. When we all get back, we're right there, in first place. We're a game out now. But I think going forward we can get all back healthy and get rolling and it's our division to lose," he told The Washington Post.