Thursday, February 22, 2007
What made today's access so special, was how comfortable all the players reacted to my approaches. Over the past four days, they had seen me at each and every practice. Already, many had answered my questions. They knew who I was. That I write The Nats320 blog and am having fun doing it. The more comfortable Our Washington Nationals became with my presence, the more and more their natural ways were openly expressed, in front of me.
While interviewing Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann asked me what blog I write. I replied, "NATS 320". Bergmann, sitting on a stool, reading the USA Today Newspaper, stated: "Yeah, I know that one, you're Screech's Friend. I read alot of the blogs. Its always good to see what the fans are thinking. I don't necessarily agree with what many say, but its important to find out." Later, Bergmann would chat with me for a good five minutes on this very subject. To be posted, at a later time.
Luis Ayala is a card shark. Since Day One, Luis has taken a liking to, not only me, but The African Queen. He finds us interesting. After each practice, he stops by me to say something or comment to my questions. Today, in The Clubhouse he was sorting a deck of playing cards. I asked him what he was doing? What games do you play? Luis responded: "Take a card, any card." I picked one face down and sneaked a peak. Without him seeing the card's face, I stuffed it back into the middle of the deck. Ayala shuffled the cards three times, then told me to pull out another card. I had originally picked the Ace of Spades. And, did so again after his shuffle. Luis just started laughing. "Pretty Good, huh? Gets "The Chief" everytime!!" We both slapped hands, chuckling. Luis Ayala is fast becoming another favorite of mine.
Nick Johnson was out on Field 3 today, doing a 12 minute walk. Although he is far from 100% healthy, his humor has not missed a step. We chatted in the dugout, after his workout for a good 10 minutes. Talking baseball, comparing injuries and recovery times. You may recall I broke both collarbones in an horrific accident in my early 20's. My injury took one year for me to recover--18 months fully. Again, the entire chat will be posted later, but near the end, I asked Nick if he had ever seen so many players in a Big League Camp? "How many are here?" he replied. "72, if YOU are counted," I said. Nick nods his head up, looks right at me and states: "Do I count? I guess I do. I can't hit a baseball right now, but I sure can hit the team buffet!!" We both laughed, high fiving, so hard, that Spin Williams, one of the pitching instructors asked us to keep it down in the dugout. This was my favorite moment of the day. Nick Johnson was totally at ease chatting with me. It was nice and friendly.
As I walked onto the field during warmups this morning, John Patterson was standing at the water cooler. He looks down at me as I walk through the gate. "You in today?" he said. "Yeah, I responded, but I promised my wife I would not stalk you after Carrabba's the other night." JP chuckled, "That would be a good thing, welcome aboard."
Later, Patterson was standing behind a batting cage joined along with Jim Bowden and Stan Kasten. John standing there with no cap, long hair flowing down to his shoulders. Their conversation was very animated, and led to them talking about his hair. Whereupon, Stan Kasten stated: "We are just going to have to call you "Newt Guzzler". They all laughed mightily for some time, almost to tears.
Barry Larkin, Manny Acta & Austin Kearns were standing behind the batting cage when Acta turned to Kearns asking him what was the longest home run he had ever hit. Kearns starts thinking, when Larkin states: "Come on Austin, that's a no doubter. Remember that one you hit in Puerto Rico against the Expos, that thing went a mile!" Kearns: "Yeah, that was like a softball swing. I just clubbed it (pretending to take a softball cut) and it just never seemed to stop. And, I didn't even swing hard."
Manny jumps in: "Yeah, I remember that, it went over the fence, over the stands, over the Advertising Signs. I think it may well be still flying. THAT, MY FRIEND, WAS A MONSTER! Thanks. Its glad to know I saw it." Everyone Laughs.
Chad Cordero is not too happy with the new Batting Practice Cap. Since they are made of a polyester micro-fiber, the bill of the cap does not go flat. "Its sort of kills my image. I can't wait to wear the Red Curly "W". But, "The Chief" may not be aware of the fact that the new Game Caps are also a polyester. April 2 may come too soon for Chad's Image, if the cap can not be ironed flat.
Also, despite the fact that Cordero will make $4.15 million this coming season, he still may not buy a house. "I like living with my six buddies back home in our current setup." Someone asked him whether he would invite his buddies to live with him in a new house. "Yeah, maybe, I love my friends."
Finally, I got in the elevator at Space Coast Stadium with Todd Jacobson from The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and Robert Fick. They are already in an animated conversation about this child size red Tie, (already tied and is just looped around the neckline) that Fick has in his hands. As Todd already blogged about, the tie was given to Fick by Stan Kasten, because Robert is terrible with ties and did not wear one on the road once. Learning that Kasten was on the scene, Fick traveled up to the executive suite of the stadium to return this fine piece of wardrobe to Mr. Kasten.
Todd and I were laughing. Robert Fick is a total character.
Through today's anecdotes, Our Washington Nationals became more like everyday people to me. The experience was very enlightening. February 22, 2007 was a GREAT DAY TO BE A WASHINGTON NATIONALS FAN!!!