By Scott Allen Scott Allen Reporter covering D.C. pro and local college sports Email Bio Follow May 23 at 11:53 AM Laura Gentile was as surprised as anyone when the new mascot designed to look like ESPN reporter Buster Olney reached the finish line first - EntornoInteligente / Laura Gentile was as surprised as anyone when the new mascot designed to look like ESPN reporter Buster Olney reached the finish line first in Sunday’s special edition of the Presidents’ Race at Nationals Park. Olney’s giant-headed likeness was paired with George Washington of the Nats’ original Racing Presidents in a relay competition and, upon receiving the baton from George, held off mascots modeled after his “Sunday Night Baseball” colleagues Jessica Mendoza, Alex Rodriguez and Matt Vasgersian.

“I don’t think Buster is that fast in real life,” joked Gentile, ESPN’s senior vice president of marketing, who watched Sunday’s race from home.

. @AROD , @jessmendoza , @Buster_ESPN and Matt Vasgersian mascots raced each other in this edition of the @Nationals Presidents Race 😂

— ESPN (@espn) May 20, 2019 Gentile’s team came up with the idea to turn the “Sunday Night Baseball” crew into mascots shortly after she was promoted to her current position last September.

“If you’re a sports fan, you know the Nationals have these races and it’s a great stadium experience,” she said in a phone interview this week. “We really just wanted to play a role in that . . . Our “Sunday Night Baseball” talent, they’re all unique individuals, they all have great personalities. It’s a distinctive booth. We just thought it was a fun way to bring them to life under the guise of what the Nationals do every single home game.”

Think we look alike?! 😂 #twinning #SNB

— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) May 20, 2019 Gentile said the Nationals, who debuted the fourth-inning Presidents’ Race in 2006, took to the idea immediately and were helpful throughout the process of getting the mascots made.

“We actually ended up using the vendor that created the [Racing] Presidents ,” Gentile said. “Everything has to be authentic and true. We saw some original sketches from other vendors and we thought, ‘Hmm, maybe not.’”

Still, some viewers noted that the finished products bore little resemblance to Olney, Mendoza, Vasgersian and Rodriguez, and suggested that some of the images from the race were scarier than the Nationals’ bullpen’s ERA.

I’ve known @Buster_ESPN for 25 years. Buster Olney is a friend of mine. You, nightmare-inducing head, are no Buster Olney. (But congrats on the big victory, Buster.)

— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) May 20, 2019 I am going to have nightmares about this

— Danny (@recordsANDradio) May 20, 2019 “Jessica’s probably looks more like Jessica than some of the others, but that’s what you get with an idea like this,” Gentile said. “They’re all amazing. We thought it was funny, especially when you see them running around. You don’t have to get that literal with them, like Matt’s hair doesn’t have to look exactly like Matt’s hair, or there are bags under Buster Olney’s eyes because he’s been working really, really hard.”

Gentile said ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” talent took the mascots “with good humor” when they met the disproportional versions of themselves before the game.

The ESPN mascots stood on the warning track in center field as the Racing Presidents took off from the left field corner. “Where’s Alex?” Mendoza asked while watching the race unfold from the broadcast booth. Rodriguez joked that the relay was “rigged” when his mascot finished dead last. It was perhaps only right that Rodriguez bring up the rear after he made disparaging comments about D.C. as a sports town during a broadcast earlier this year.

. @Buster_ESPN clearly rigged the race …

— Jessica Mendoza (@jessmendoza) May 20, 2019 After the game, ESPN’s Racing Broadcasters returned to Bristol, where their fate is to be determined. There are no plans to take the mascots on the road to other “Sunday Night Baseball” stops this season, but Sunday may not have been the last fans will see of them, for better or worse.

“The idea was specific to Washington and the game there, but if it became an annual event with the Nationals, that would be kind of fun,” Gentile said. “It wasn’t meant to be anything more than just a great way to interact with fans in a different way and show them a side of ESPN that was fun, and give the viewing audience a sense of what it’s like to be in the stadium when you’re watching a Nationals game.”

Thank you @Nationals for some serious fun last night as our own heads joined the Presidents Race!! Hilarious 😂🙌🏽🏆 @arod @Buster_ESPN @espn #MattyV

— Jessica Mendoza (@jessmendoza) May 20, 2019 Read more on the Nationals:

Nationals find another way to lose, this time with their best reliever

Dave Martinez is a good man. But he probably shouldn’t be managing the Nationals.

Ridiculous feud between Todd Frazier and Adam Eaton now features homeowner’s advice

Nats manager: It’s a great job, if you can keep it

Scott Allen Scott Allen has written about the Capitals, Nationals, Redskins, Wizards and more for The Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog since 2014. Before joining The Post, he wrote about high school sports for USA Today, developed courses for a Web-based training company, and worked as a reporter and page designer for the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune. Follow

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