Tagged: Nationals Park

Welcome Back, Baseball

It has been quite some time since this page has been active, and I got to figurin’ that that ought to change. College basketball has consumed the vast majority of my sporting interests since early November, but as Bronson Koenig ended the dreams of my beloved Xavier Musketeers all-too-early in March, I have turned back to the national pastime. A great couple college basketball and the MLB make; when one ends the other begins.

Ryan Zimmerman

I have been thinking about various ideas for this site in particular, and I will try and take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to cover the team from my perspective over the course of the season. I’m sure my good friend Steve Miller and I will have some more stories to share from Nationals Park.

Harper

It has been exactly six months (or about 183 days and 26 minutes) since the Washington Nationals last played a game that counted in the standings. Granted, it was a loss to the New York Mets, but it was a real game nonetheless. Now, it’s go time. In about ten minutes, reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, ace Max Scherzer, and the rest of the Nationals will get their season underway against the Atlanta Braves. As the Nationals Twitter account has been promoting throughout spring training, the Nats have #OnePursuit. Many speculate that with injuries, age, and impending free agencies, the window for the Nats to win is slowly closing. Today marks the first step on this particular journey.

Harper and the Squad

So, without further ado…let’s do this thing.

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Saying Goodbye to a Win and a Park

It was a solemn day, Friday, as it marked the final time I would be making the trek to Nationals Park in the 2015 season. As distance abounds between the park and my place of learning, I will have to settle for cheering on the team from the constraints of my dorm room.

Last week produced a whirlwind of events, not all of which were positive in nature. In fact, Steve and I only saw the Nationals win once in our four games, and Friday’s finale proved to be the most gut-wrenching of all as I will relay to you below. For a full background on the tales of the week that did not all pertain to the national pastime, be sure to check out Steve’s recap here.

Steve and I arrived to the park right as the gates opened, allowing ample opportunity for batting practice leading up to the game. I tracked a Jayson Werth bomb that was my best chance as of yet, but I made it across the aisle just too late and the ball skimmed off the edge of my glove. Luckily, I had a chance at redemption only a few moments later when Werth hit another one; this time the ball found itself securely in the back of my glove. As for Steve, he made an acrobatic catch on a home run by none other than Dan Uggla, one of his favorite MLB players. imageThe Colorado Rockies took their turn but did not produce many home runs to where we were standing in the Red Porch, save for one caught by Steve.

We meandered around the stadium as we killed time before first pitch attempting to find some consumables along the way. Upon filling our stomachs with some delightful American food, it was time to go watch some baseball.

The Nats got off to yet another good start, taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann did his part in shutting the door and held the Rockies off the board until the seventh inning. He got an extra run of support in the fourth along with two more insurance runs in the sixth to make it 4-0 entering the final third of the game.image

Colorado trailed 4-1 in the eighth as recently-dominant relief man Drew Storen strode to the mound from the bullpen. For the first time since the Papelbon trade, he allowed a runner to reach scoring position. All of a sudden the bases were juiced. And then…Carlos Gonzalez put the Rockies ahead with one swing of the bat, a laser over the right field fence.

Nationals Park was deflated. What looked to be a certain 4-1 victory had see-sawed into a 5-4 deficit seemingly in the blink of an eye. It was not over yet, and the Nats had two more chances to muster just the one run they needed to tie it back up.

The Nats left a runner stranded at third in the bottom of the eighth, so still behind by one in the ninth, they were looking at 9-1-2 coming to the plate.

One runner reached, and the Nationals had none other than Bryce Harper coming to the dish with two outs, down by a single run. One swing of the bat and the home crowd would be going home exuberant, but it was not to be. Tommy Kahnle earned his first career save and the game was over. With yet another Mets win, the Nats were now 2.5 games behind in the division.Steve and II watched the post-game Freedom Fireworks with a strong sense of nostalgia. The summer was quickly coming to a conclusion and I will soon be heading off to begin another chapter in my life. Hopefully, my beloved Nationals can write themselves a storybook ending to their season.Steve and I departing Nationals ParkSee you next year, Nationals Park.

Playing Favorites: Ranking All 30 MLB Teams from Greatest to Least

2014 was a year which fell short of expectations for the Nationals. We made the playoffs, but once again could not make it out of the first round.

As we ring in 2015, for my first post of the year I decided to rank all 30 teams of Major League Baseball by how much I like them. Steve just did this yesterday, and he was saying he’d like to see what I thought. I’m excited to see what this year brings! Feel free to comment on your preferences or if you feel, in your opinion, I got something wrong.

1)   Washington Nationals – Does this really need explanation?

2)   Cincinnati Reds – Without a DC team, I loved the Reds with so much of my family from Cincinnati. I still love the Reds, but only when they don’t play the Nats. If anyone has tickets to the All-Star Game this year, let me know.Jordan Zimmermann's No-Hitter 006

3)   Chicago Cubs – It’s been a lot of years since they’ve won the World Series. If the Nats aren’t in it, I would guess a lot of baseball fans would like to see them take one.

4)   Chicago White Sox – First Adam Dunn and now the beloved Adam LaRoche. They also signed David Ross, the veteran catcher, who I met a long time ago when he was a member of the Reds. I wouldn’t mind seeing them win.

5)   Kansas City Royals – Captured America this year during their magical postseason run. Sadly, they ran into a certain roadblock by the name of Bumgarner.

6)   Cleveland Indians – Poor Cleveland. It seems like they have pieces to do well, it just needs to come together.

7)   Seattle Mariners – I’ve been to Safeco, and the Nats have good memories from this year of their visit to Seattle.

8)   San Diego Padres – All of a sudden the Padres mean business. They got Derek Norris, who I’ve watched progress since his days with Potomac, and a bunch of other big name players recently in free agency. I wouldn’t mind seeing them do well.

9)   Houston Astros – Their mascot, Orbit, is about the only reason they’re this high on the list. He’s probably the best mascot in all of MLB. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to see why.

10)   Miami Marlins – Stanton drops bombs. I’m still trying to catch one of his BP homers when the Marlins come to Nationals Park.

11)   Colorado Rockies – Coors Field is so nice, I’ve seen a game there, and my dad lived in Colorado for a while. They also participated in a stand-off with the Nats this season, which I loved.

12)   Tampa Bay Rays – One of my favorite movies ever is The Rookie, and Jim Morris was on the Rays.

13)   Oakland Athletics – Moneyball showed such an interesting view of baseball, and poor Oakland never seems to succeed anymore. Before the Royals grabbed my attention, I was hoping the A’s would find themselves in the World Series.

14)   Detroit Tigers – I played on the Tigers and it gave me some of my best youth baseball memories.

15)   St. Louis Cardinals – They win a lot. A lot of people really don’t like them. I, however, are one of few neutral fans who don’t mind them. I love watching the battery of Wainwright and Molina. There’s a reason they’re not higher up on this list, but those are the reasons they aren’t lower either.

16)   Texas Rangers –Jim Morris made his debut for the Rays on the road at the Ranger’s stadium. I’ve also seen their stadium from driving around it, and it was a sight to see.

17)   Minnesota Twins – Anymore, the Twins are sorta just, there. Not great, not awful, just there.

18)   Toronto Blue Jays – You don’t hear a ton about the Blue Jays but watch out this year, they could make a run for the AL East.

19)   Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout is a stud. Also, I rooted for Anaheim when they were in the World Series a lot of years ago.

20)   Los Angeles Dodgers – I don’t particularly dislike the Dodgers, but I don’t really like them either; I’m indifferent.

21)   Arizona Diamondbacks – Whenever I went to Reds games when I was younger, it seemed like I always saw the Diamondbacks play. There was only so much of Craig Counsell’s swing I could take.

22)   New York Mets – I also played on the Mets in Little League, but being in the NL East, I don’t like them as much.

23)   New York Yankees – Along with the Cardinals, I don’t hate the Yankees. But Derek Jeter was one of the major reasons I tolerated them, and now that he’s gone, they’ve fallen lower on this list.

24)   Milwaukee Brewers – I still remember sitting in the hotel room in Virginia Beach and watching Josh Willingham hit his second grand slam of the game for the Nats in Milwaukee.

25)   Baltimore Orioles – Peter Angelos, why do you make things so difficult? They also ruin the National Anthem.

26)   Philadelphia Phillies – Lingering dislike from when the Phillies fans would pack Nats Park.

27)   San Francisco Giants – I’m just not a huge Giants fan. Used to love them with Barry Bonds, but then he used steroids.

28)   Pittsburgh Pirates – I don’t have a ton against the Pirates, except that they play in Pittsburgh. And that right there is the major problem.

29)   Boston Red Sox – Boston and Pittsburgh, my two least favorite sports cities in America. I’ve visited Boston (not Fenway), and the city itself has so much history. But we’re talking sports and baseball here, and man do I not like those two cities’ teams.

30)   Atlanta Braves – If you thought anyone else would be last, then you obviously don’t know me very well.

Nationals 10th Win in a Row has Fans Bobbing Heads in Approval

Last night was Ian Desmond bobblehead night at Nationals Park.  As I stated in my post about the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome, I’m not one of those crazy, die-hard bobblehead fans.  However, that Garden Gnome may have converted me.  I found myself desiring a bobblehead of my favorite baseball player, which lead me to 1500 South Capitol Street on Thursday afternoon.  While I was not first in line for this one, I did receive one nonetheless.

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

In deciding whether to attend the game or not, I was slightly hesitant.  I had not seen a win at Nationals Park since Jordan Zimmermann’s complete game two hitter against the Marlins last season, and the Nationals were in the midst of an outstanding nine game winning streak.  I figured my presence at the game obviously wasn’t going to affect on-field performance and I thought it would be pretty neat to say I was at the Nats’ 10th win in a row.

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Gio Gonzalez pitched the last game I attended but had a much more solid outing this time around.  He threw 7 full innings while not allowing a run and striking out six along the way.  He only yielded four hits and three walks, an encouraging sign of hopefully similar outings to come in the near future.

The story of the game early and throughout the entire contest for the Nationals was runners left on base.  It seemed that everytime the Nats would find themselves with an opportunity to score, they would also find a way not to score.  In fact, as Adam Kilgore tweeted, through 7 innings the Nats had eight hits and six walks (i.e. lots of baserunners).  However, at that same point in time they were 0 for 11 with Runners in Scoring Position, and had left eight runners stranded.  Had the Nats gone on to lose the game, I’m sure that would have been a more prevalent topic in Matt Williams’ post-game press conference.

The Nationals’ defense though backed up their pitching.  Behind multiple double plays, the game was scoreless entering the 9th inning.  If the Nationals were to extend their winning streak it would come via the walk off.  But what’s new?  The Nats had walked off four of the last five days, so why not make it five of the past six?

A side-note, I had never seen a Major League walk-off in person before even after all my years of attending games.  I guess it was the magic in the air, but I could sense something was brewing in the bottom of the ninth that might put that streak to an end.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Denard Span notched his second hit of the ballgame.  Upon reaching first base, Mark Trumbo, the Diamondbacks’ first baseman, said to Span, “Just how you guys like it (referring to now possibly winning on a walk-off).”  After waiting patiently and analyzing the quick-delivery of Arizona’s pitcher, Evan Marshall, Span stole second base.  He picked a perfect pitch to steal too; a slider, giving him that extra time to slide in and beat the tag.

Span was now in scoring position and it was a question of whether Rendon would come through.  I had my camera recording for what I hoped would be that elusive walk-off I had yet to see in person.  Rendon connected and hit a ground ball to the third basemen, and it’s Arizona’s third basemen Jordan Pacheco whom Nats fans should thank.  He made an errant throw to first, and when Trumbo failed to scoop it, the ball bounced into the Nationals dugout.  The ball was out of play and by rule Denard Span was allowed to score.  The Nationals were now the owners of a 10 game winning streak; only the second time they have accomplished this since returning to the District in 2005.

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The Nationals had walked off for the fifth time in six days.  I had witnessed my first Major League walk-off.  My losing streak at Nationals Park was over.  I got my favorite player’s bobblehead.  I captured the walk-off on video, which you can see below.  Needless to say, it was a good day.

Gnome Sweet Gnome: The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome Experience

Almost two years ago, I created my Twitter account (@PaulFritschner) and began to follow an account called Jayson Werth’s Beard (@JWerthsBeard).  The real-life owner of this account remains anonymous, so we simply refer to it as the Beard.  It posts creative photoshops relating to the Washington Nationals, possibly it’s most famous of which is a picture of Jayson Werth’s face photoshopped onto the face of a garden gnome.

An original photoshop of a Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Courtesy of @Jwerthsbeard)

An original Jayson Werth Garden Gnome photoshop (Courtesy of @Jwerthsbeard)

Back in February, the Nationals announced the promotional schedule, and wouldn’t ya know: August 5th was the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome. Bobbleheads do not usually matter much to me as far as a must-have giveaway, but after seeing all those crazy photoshops, I knew I had to get myself a gnome. You may ask, what’s the craze? It’s just a plastic garden gnome of a player. Maybe to you it’s a plastic garden gnome, but to the Nationals community it is a fantastic piece of baseball memorabilia.

The day was getting closer and after seeing the lines for the Bryce Harper Bobblehead, along with all the promotion the Nationals were doing on social media for this gnome (also here), I knew the lines were going to be incredible. I thought to myself, well, if I’m going to get there so early to be able to get one, I might as well be first, right? In order to be first would mean a long wait. To aid in my relief from boredom, I asked my friend from school, Francis Bright, if he would attend the game with me and wait in line. He was all for it, and Gnome Gnight was set.

We arrived downtown around 1:15 and when we couldn’t see a line at the gates forming yet, so we walked down the street to grab some lunch at Potbelly. We figured it would be a long, hot couple of hours, so we made sure we were adequately prepared.

To my surprise, nobody was in line yet, and we walked up simultaneously with one other man to take our spot in a line.  This was right around 2:10, and the gates opened at 4:30, so we now had about 2 hours and 20 minutes before we could receive our gnome.

The Gnomes in boxes

The Gnomes in boxes

First in line for the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome around 2:10 (Paul Fritschner)

First in line for the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome around 2:10 (Paul Fritschner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We brought our gloves for batting practice, and I had brought a ball, so we played catch for about a half hour until we decided we should sit at the gate so as to secure our place in line. This meant that we were relegated to finding a way to pass about two more hours.

At 3:30, with exactly one hour left to go, I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Scott Allen, a sports writer for the Washington Post. He asked if he could interview me about waiting in the line. I was ecstatic, and did the interview over the phone a few minutes later.

Around that same time was when the line began to take shape. I took this picture right before the interview:

I relayed the message to many people I knew about what had just happened, including podcast co-host Steve Miller. he was the first one to send me the link to the article after it was posted within minutes. I will include all the links to the article later in this post.

The interview excitement helped the next few minutes go very quickly. All of a sudden there was less than a half hour to go, and the excitement was building. Throngs of people made their way down Half-Street from the Metro, anxious to take their place in line.

27 minutes to go

27 minutes to go

The ushers began to prepare for the onslaught of gnome-hungry fans. After all the time waiting, I was beginning to get somewhat anxious for the gates to finally open. With seven minutes to go, it was now a sea of red down Half-Street and around the gates.

Then at 4:30, after nearly two years of photoshops, six months of waiting for this game, and almost two and a half hours at the gate, I had my hands on a Jayson Werth Garden Gnome.

As an added benefit to being in the front of the line, this meant prime position in the Red Porch to take in batting practice. Francis got a ball right after we had gotten ourselves situated when, who I believe was, Tanner Roark launched a ball that bounced off the field and up into the seats. It was now my turn for a ball of my own.

Since I was little, I have attended Potomac Nationals games, as I wrote about in my very first post. I have collected dozens of baseballs from those games and many baseballs from Major League games, but even after all these years, I have never caught a ball on the fly. As in, catch a foul ball or a home run before it hits the ground. I’m always having to chase after them. I made it my goal to catch at least one before I go off to college next year, and I thought that maybe after all the good things that happened, today would be the day.

Sure enough, Danny Espinosa (99% positive it was him) launched a home run right to where I was standing. It was only a matter of whether I or the few other people standing around me would get it. I stuck my glove way up (shades of The Sandlot), and the ball smacked right into my glove. I had finally been in the right place at the right time.

Danny Espinosa BP Home Run ball

Danny Espinosa BP Home Run ball

The day was now on another level.  Francis and I watched the Nationals finish up batting practice and proceeded to watch the Mets. We didn’t catch any more baseballs, but I was plenty satisfied. I had my gnome, a baseball, and an interview. Now all we needed was a Curly W.

Francis and I made our way to the other side of the stadium to begin our ascent to our seats in Section 226. My dad was already sitting up there, and when we arrived he had just had a conversation with the couple behind him. Apparently they were already aware of the interview article and confirmed I was the one who was in it. It’s amazing how quickly information spreads

Lefty Gio Gonzalez started for the Nats, opposed by Zach Wheeler for the Mets. Gio gave up a triple in the first inning to Daniel Murphy, who later came in to score to make it 1-0. The Mets added another run in the top of the second before the Nats answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch to make it 2-1.

Both pitchers began to settle into a groove, but the groove for Gio would only last so long. The Nats could not provide him with much run support, even squandering a scoring opportunity when a groundball hit Asdrubal Cabrera. Ian Desmond had to return to third base and did not end up scoring, thus leaving the Nationals still at a deficit.

Gio began to struggle in the 7th inning with the Nats still trailing 2-1. Drew Storen replaced him with men on first and second, both of whom came in to score after a sacrifice bunt by Wheeler and a single by Daniel Murphy.

The Nats gave up one more run in the 8th inning to make it 6-1, the eventual final score. They could not muster much of a rally in the game’s final two innings, leading to a defeat on Gnome Gnight. A Curly W was not in the books after all. Jayson Werth himself did not get a gnome, and said post-game of the 15,000+ who didn’t receive one, “I know how they feel.” Also an interesting statistic I read from Scott Allen today. This season, the Nats are 1-6 when playing in front of 40,000+ people and 2-10 when playing in front of that many since 2013.

However, while the actual game may not have been fantastic, basically everything else about the day was.

The interview took off and was posted in various articles across many different websites.

The original article, written by Scott Allen of the Washington Post, can be found by clicking here.

A section of USA Today called For the Win picked it up, the article for which can be found here.

The website Deadspin also did a piece of their own on the line for the Gnomes and their article can be found here.

We were hyperlinked in an article on the NBC Washington website and that can be found here.

Finally, for those curious, the gnome is being sold on eBay for over 150$. So if you think its just a cheap giveaway, it’s a giveaway that could earn you some money if you wanted to sell it. Check out the bids here. I for one will be keeping my gnome.

Please be sure to subscribe to my blog via email on the right side of this page. You will not receive any junk mail, just an email whenever I post.

Here are some more pictures from the rest of Gnome Gnight. It was really a fun day; a day I will not forget for a long time.

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome

The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome

The Washington Nationals take batting practice

The Washington Nationals take batting practice

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Panorama picture of Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Panorama picture of Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

The Gnomes in boxes

The Gnomes in boxes

Waiting in line for the gnome

Waiting in line for the gnome

Nationals Park employees unpack the Garden Gnomes

Nationals Park employees unpack the Garden Gnomes

Paul Fritschner and Francis Bright

Paul Fritschner and Francis Bright

Waiting in line for the gnome

Waiting in line for the gnome

Post-Interview (...get it...)

Post-Interview (…get it…)

27 minutes to go (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

27 minutes to go (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

A fan dressed as a gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

A fan dressed as a gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nats Holding Steady

This post is more of a post to let you all know that yes, I am still alive. With AP testing and my high school baseball season all culminating in the last couple of weeks, it has been hard to find the time to really sit down and give the time due to writing a quality post. However, save for maybe finals week, I’m back now for the long-haul of the rest of the season.  I do have a variety of posts I’d like to write, and I will be attending a game at Nats Park in the near future, so be sure to keep checking back in for the latest updates.

As of right this minute, the Nationals are a half game back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  The Nats defeated the Mets today 6-3 behind a solid outing from Jordan Zimmermann and a monstrous performance by Wilson Ramos at the plate. He led the way by going 2-3 including a walk, double, and 4 RBI. Ian Desmond left his own stamp on the game, launching a mammoth solo home run over the visitor’s bullpen in left field.

The Braves rallied late and earned a win over the Cardinals today. As one fan put it on Twitter, the Nats can’t seem to beat the Braves even when they aren’t playing them. With the win, as I said, the Braves hold a half game lead over the Nationals.

On the injury front, Gio Gonzalez is the latest National to land on the Disabled List. He has shoulder inflammation, but an MRI revealed no structural damage, which is a huge relief for the Nats, meaning that he won’t need surgery. Gonzalez has struggled this year though, not earning a win in his last five (5) starts. Hopefully after this stint on the DL he will take the rest of the season in stride and turn out more consistent pitching performances.

Adam LaRoche made a surprise appearance on the MASN broadcast of today’s game and said that he hopes to resume playing on Sunday. This is another good sign for the Nats who will regain a consistent starter at first base. Nothing should be taken away from Tyler Moore though, who started there today and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game and made this fantastic catch to sit down the first batter of the game. 

We will see how the Nationals fare over the next couple of weeks. They open a three game series tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds before hitting the road for four games against the Reds’ NL Central foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nats return to DC following that series for a 9 game homestand: three against the Marlins, three in an inter-league matchup against the Rangers, and then three against the Phillies.

More to come on here as more transgresses!

Opening Day, Sports Illustrated, and Roster Moves

As I’m sure most of you are aware, there is this pesky thing which sometimes gets in the way of recreational activities. School. Needless to say it has been a busy past couple of weeks since I last posted about the reaction to my push-up video, and much has transpired since then. Let’s get ourselves caught up:

  •  First and foremost is the most exciting news. My dad received two tickets to Opening Day at Nationals Park for his birthday, which means he and I will be taking in all of the April 4th festivities! I will be sure to take lots of pictures and report back on all the happenings. Sadly, it’s against the Barves (yes, that was on purpose), but Opening Day is Opening Day and I can’t wait to be apart of it.
  • Once again this year, Sports Illustrated has chosen the Washington Nationals as their pick to win the World Series. As many of you may remember, they also chose us last year and some blamed the disappointing season on this “curse.” We will see how the year plays out and if, hopefully, they will be correct.
  • From a roster standpoint, the most notable move of the month was new manager Matt Williams’ decision to send Ross Detwiler to the bullpen to begin the season. Many presumed he would take over the role of 5th starter behind Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister, but that was not to be. Rather, it is still a competition between last season’s two star rookies, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark (pronounced Row-ark).
  • Doug Fister will likely start the season on the disabled list after suffering a strained lat as Spring Training came to a close. Hopefully he recovers quickly and can get back as soon as possible. On a positive note, barring anything drastic happening in their exhibition game against the Tigers this Saturday, this will be the most serious injury coming out of Spring Training. Needless to say, the Nationals were pretty lucky in not suffering any major/serious injuries.
  • On a personal note, the high school baseball season is already underway. It feels good to once again be playing baseball myself. I’ll keep you all updated on how we do as the season progresses.

Only four (4!!!!) more days until the Nats open their season away against the Mets on Monday. We’ve been waiting long enough, let’s get started.

#Natitude

 

NatsFest: Then vs Now

Once a year, the Nationals organization provides a tease for Nationals fans; an event signaling the looming arrival of spring training and generating excitement for the upcoming baseball season. This fantastic event is called NatsFest. Many Major League teams put on fan festivals around this time, and the Nationals are not to be excluded in that count. The 2014 NatsFest was Saturday, and even though I was over two hours late because of taking the SAT, I was there nonetheless. However, the 2014 festivities were much different than the festivities four years ago in 2010; the first year of NatsFest. They were two much different scenes, so I decided to share my experiences at both.

Then: 2010

In 2010, NatsFest was held at Nationals Park. Basically every part of the stadium was open; you walked in through the main gates, got to tour the locker room, hit in the real batting cages adjacent to the locker room, get autographs signed inside on the second level of the stadium, and listen to guest speakers such as Tim Kurkjian and George Will. Best of all, it was free and not very crowded at all. The Nationals had had a dismal year the previous season in 2009, and the fan support was accordingly low. Not saying it was empty, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the 8,400 that were at the Gaylord Convention Center this past Saturday.

Mom and I at NatsFest in 2010

Mom and I at NatsFest in 2010

We parked in the stadium’s parking lot, got the tickets we had reserved, and made our way in for what would be such a memorable experience. I saw players up close such as Pudge Rodriguez and got to have my picture taken with Ryan Zimmerman. Back then the lines weren’t so crazy, so I went back a second time and got a picture with then-manager Jim Riggleman and then-National Jason Marquis.

My chance to get a picture with then-manager Jim Riggleman and then-Nat Jason Marquis

My chance to get a picture with then-manager Jim Riggleman and then-Nat Jason Marquis

We toured the locker room, and as I mentioned, I took a few hacks in the batting cage across the hall. Those are the experiences not easily forgotten. The ones where you see up-close what you’ve watched so long on TV and have a new-found understanding for, in this case, your beloved team. The Nationals organization did a spectacular job in preparing their first fan festival. I did not attend in 2011, 2012, or 2013, so we decided this year it was time for a return trip.

Now: 2014

A lot changes in four years, and indeed much has changed since that memorable NatsFest at Nats Park four years ago. As the college search is kicking into gear, I had to take the SAT bright and early Saturday morning. When I saw the date coincided with that of NatsFest I was dissapointed because I figured since the SAT was so extensive, I would not be able to make it over there in time. Luckily, the problem was solved. I raced out of the test as soon as we were allowed to leave and my dad and I were on our way to the Gaylord Convention Center with just about an hour and a half remaining. But hey, better late than never right?

The members of the Nationals who were at NatsFest this year

The members of the Nationals who were at NatsFest this year

We walked through the doors and stood there taking in our surroundings; looking at the vastness of the room and trying to decide what we wanted to do first. We took a lap around the Center, seeing the photo stations, the autograph stations, the main stage, and the makeshift field where Ross Detwiler was being bombarded by little kids for autograph requests. Dad and I listened to a panel which consisted of Mike Rizzo and newly aquired Nationals Jerry Blevlins and Doug Fister. It was interesting hearing them discussing their goals for the season, and Blevlins added some humor when he was asked how he could hit since he was coming from the American League. He responded by saying that he had one at-bat last season in an 18 inning game and he felt accomplished when he hit a foul ball in that at bat. He quipped that we should thus view him as a contact hitter this season.

The highlights of the afternoon for me personally were the people I got to meet. As an aspiring journalist and broadcaster, when I saw Bob Carpenter,

Talking to Bob Carpenter

Talking to Bob Carpenter

the Nationals’ TV broadcaster, just standing by himself, I jumped at the opportunity to finally meet him. To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what we discussed because I was a little shocked, but I’m sure it was legendary. I watch the games and listen to his commentary every day, and to finally meet him in person was a fun experience. Also, a few minutes later, I saw my friends from The Nationals Archive standing in the back of a Q&A session. Over the past year I have loved reading their blog posts and interacting with them on Twitter, so meeting them gave me the chance to let them know how much I appreciate all of their work. Finally, as we were exiting, I shook hands with the one and only Matts Bats, another Nationals blogger. If you haven’t heard of him, check him out. He’s doing some pretty incredible things for being a nine-year-old. Needless to say, since college is on my mind, that kid will have no lack of things to write on his college resume in a few years.

Jayson Werth at NatsFest -2014

Jayson Werth at NatsFest -2014

So, all in all, even though it was only for an hour and a half, being able to go to NatsFest this year was definitely worth it. While it was different than being at Nationals Park, it was nonetheless an awesome day. I got to listen to the players, interact with people I wanted to see, and enjoy the spirit of my fellow Nats fans looking forward to this upcoming season.

16 days until Spring Training everyone…16 days.

Welcome to the Home of Our National(s) Pastime

In creating this blog, I pondered for a long time how to give it my own unique spin. There is such a large number of blogs out there, especially on my die-hard favorite team, the Washington Nationals. I watch the games every day, tweet my frustrations, and vent my enthusiasm to many of my friends who probably couldn’t care less about the great sport of baseball, much less the Nats. So I sat back and thought, how could I virtually verbalize my thoughts and knowledge about this sport and team I love so much, while also adding a spin to it which, hopefully somewhat, might separate it from the vast number of other writing outlets that have been created. A separation which can sort of set it apart so that it does not get lost in the heaps of more popular blogs surrounding it. While I know there are plenty of other sources you can read to acquire the knowledge you’re looking for, maybe there will be a bit of info in here that will suit your needs.

I’ve been a sports fan, first and foremost baseball, as long as I can remember. I grew up in a baseball-less Washington, D.C. and rooted for my mom’s hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds. It was around the age of 6 when my life as a live baseball fan really took off. I had attended games at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, even seeing a brawl I still remember between the Giants and the Reds. While those games were fun, I was too little to appreciate everything going on around me (plus I hated fireworks so every time there was a long fly ball my hands immediately went to my ears). That was when my dad decided to take me to our local minor league team, then the Potomac Cannons. Oddly enough, they were the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. For those of you who, through obviously no fault of your own, are not familiar with Potomac, they have a small, run-down stadium with game attendance that often times you can count yourself. I brought my glove to the game and couldn’t wait to get to our seats – in the field box which is right on the field. It was during the game that my life of baseball and bond with the game was forever sealed.

A couple pictures I took of the Potomac Nationals stadium from a game during the 2013 season

A couple pictures I took of the Potomac Nationals stadium from a game during the 2013 season

There was a foul ball rolling down the fence which a member of the opposing bullpen picked up. He made sure the ball got to me, and I couldn’t believe what I now had in my possession.  A game used foul ball.  I couldn’t wait to show my mom. However, in my youth and excitement, I was not keen enough to put the ball away and mark it as my first. It has since gotten lost among the heaps of foul balls which I have collected from both major league and other Potomac games over the years.

Later on, the Washington Nationals moved to DC from Montreal and I finally had a home team to root for.  They promptly acquired the Potomac Cannons from the Reds, and their name was changed to the Potomac Nationals.  I have since grown up watching and becoming attached to many

Wilson Ramos rehabbing at Potomac

Wilson Ramos rehabbing at Potomac

current members of my favorite team in their earliest professional stages.  I’ve watched my favorite player, Ian Desmond, ascend the ranks.  I’ve seen Espinosa, Lombardozzi, Eury Perez, as well as countless others, in an up-close game. I’ve also seen a number of players, such as Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos,

Bryce Harper rehabbing at Potomac

Bryce Harper rehabbing at Potomac

and Ross Ohlendorf, make rehab appearances there. When I see a player enter the Washington games which I’ve seen at Potomac, I can clearly recall the announcer’s voice calling out their name in that small stadium in Prince William County.  I have raced out of the stadium to chase foul balls (yeah, it’s small enough to do that), and analyzed game after game with my dad in those creaky old stands. One day I finally became savvy enough to write who hit each foul ball on the ball so I know who hit it when they make it into the major leagues. I most likely have a ball from Desmond, but it kills me every time I watch him play to know that just like my first ball, one of his foul’s is probably sitting amongst the bucket.

Me with Ryan Zimmerman at Natsfest a few years ago

Me with Ryan Zimmerman at Natsfest a few years ago

You may be thinking by now, is this a life story, or a blog? I wanted to give you some insight into my career as a Washington Nationals fan so that you can see I’m not a bandwagoner of the 2011 or 2012 seasons (which by the way I do not condemn by any means. The more fans the merrier!). I suffered through ’08 and ’09 along with my beloved team, but all the while knowing that one day we would achieve greatness.  I have sat all over RFK stadium, and listened to the number of MASN broadcasters over the years. So now nearly every summer night, somewhere in the house can be heard the voices of FP Santangelo and Bob Carpenter, breaking down every pitch of our team.

Not one spring has passed where I have not donned a uniform myself and helped a team win baseball games.  I am now a junior in high school and a member of our Varsity baseball team.  It’s one thing to watch the pros perform at the highest level every day, but it’s another to actually be a part of the action; spitting sunflower seeds in the dugout and going through highs and lows yourself. Playing baseball and watching baseball has become somewhat of a lost art, a passion which many today fail to grasp.  That is what I hope to bring about with this blog. That someone out there somewhere, be it a Nationals fan or a curious reader, may come to appreciate our National Pastime just a little bit more. And hey, maybe become a Nats fan along the way.

So that is what I hope sets this writing space apart from the others. My unique articles on the Nats, baseball goings-on, and intriguing historical pieces which will draw in the non-Nats fan. I plan on writing nearly everything about the Nationals, from my personal thoughts to team news, while also including other posts about happenings around the MLB, historical baseball events or notable achievements, a post here and there about high school baseball, and the off article on my thoughts on other large news. That was what I thought of with the name; to include, but not completely limit it to, the Nationals. Rather, for it to be about baseball, just mainly on the Nats. As an aspiring journalist, perhaps this can be an alley to bettering my skills and improving my chances for a successful future.  I hope you can find useful information out of reading my posts. Here’s to a winning year.

#Natitude