Friday, February 23, 2007
A Baseball Fans Dream
Make no mistake about it, my just concluded week of Spring Training with Our Washington Nationals will go down in my life as ONE OF MY GREATEST!! I didn't really know what to expect, beforehand. Knowing I would not have total access, left me wondering whether I might be wasting my time. If I couldn't talk to the players, there was no real reason to make the trip. The closer you are to an actual event, the less information you can gather or hear, as your resources can be limited. Most of the real Nationals News from the past week, I read on my computer, on the internet, at my hotel, after returning from practice.
Once The African Queen and I arrived in Viera, we headed out to Space Coast Stadium, to check out the scene, this past Monday morning. To our surprise, Our Washington Nationals allowed fans to walk between the four practice fields. No one was allowed to go on the fields, unless you were actually with The Nationals or Credentialed Press. But, even The Press were restricted on the field. Yet, the players and coaches were extremely accessible. At any given time, when players were not participating in drills, most all of them were willing, to either talk, take a picture or sign an autograph.
The number of fans that reguarly attend Spring Training over the years for many Major League Teams were stunned, and quite thrilled. Our Washington Nationals went out of the way to open up to its fan base. Sure, you had the hucksters carrying their binders of 100 cards of every player and cases of bats for team members to sign, so they could attempt to make money on eBay (You are always going to have those fools). But, by far, the majority of the folks attending camp were fans. Baseballs Fans, enjoying the opportunity to get close with Major League Players. The atmosphere was GREAT!!
And, you got to credit Team President, Stan Kasten and General Manager, Jim Bowden for letting this atmosphere grow. Along with new Manager, Manny Acta, The Nationals want to be "Fan Friendly". The Nats want to be close to their fans. Washington wants to build an image of accessibility. They certainly showed that fact to me this week. Can you imagine The Yankees or The Red Sox allowing their fans so close to the players for Spring Training. I doubt it.
The openess of the week, allowed me to freely seek interviews, take pictures and produce a good amount of posts that hopefully many Washington Nationals Fans enjoyed. When I was granted a Full Credential this past Thursay, the entire week in Viera became complete. Players for The Nats became familar with me, accepted me, chatted with me. And for me, these players become the guys that live next door. Seeing all of them having normal everyday conversations that you and I have each day, made me realize that the only difference in their life over mine, is their chosen profession. They play baseball for a living. I do not. That, along with the money, is the sole difference.
As the week progressed, I found myself enjoying meeting each player, not just because they were a Major League Player for the team I love, Our Washington Nationals. More so, because I was enjoying getting to know them, as people, personalities-folks with substance. Another person to learn something from and add to my life experiences. And, let me tell you, there was no more interesting personality than Chris Snelling. Later, I will post up my extended conversation with him. He was flat out cool, different. Quite worth getting to know a little bit better.
Baseball players like Snelling, Mike Restovich plus up and coming prospects Garrett Mock and Zechry Zinacola were fun to meet. Although Esmailyn Gonzalez and I struggled to communicate through a cross cultural language barrier, I just loved his constant smile, his innocence. Hopefully that smile and fun face will remain with him for years to come. These five along with countless others, and their personalities made my week of Spring Training with Our Washington Nationals Special--A Baseball Fans Dream!! I could not thank The Nationals more for their kindness. And, The African Queen, for putting up with me, allowing me to pursue my passion, all week long.