Thursday, June 21, 2007
Five Minutes With Ryan Langerhans
This past Wednesday, June 20th, I headed over to The ESPN ZONE to take in the monthly Washington Nationals "Meet & Greet" with a player from Our Washington Nationals--hosted by Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes. This week's affair was a Double Header of sorts. Team President Stan Kasten joined Centerfielder Ryan Langerhans as the Guests of Honor. Both took questions from a very large crowd of nearly 200 folks--packed around the top floor on the 11th & E Street Eatery. As usual, both signed autographs for all those who wished. And, Our Washington Nationals provided Red Curly "W" Caps to anyone in attendance that wished to receive one.
A Fan from Cleveland, Ohio mentioned to me that he was in town just on vacation and happened to pick The ESPN Zone as his place to eat lunch that day. "I have been a Cleveland Indians Fan my ENTIRE LIFE, and they have NEVER DONE a Lunch Time Meet and Greet with a player or team official." this nice man told me. When I responded by telling him that Our Washington Nationals had done just such a get together since the very first month of April, 2005--he was impressed. "Those guys know what they are doing. Building Team Trust and a Closeness, we in Cleveland never have been a part of," he concluded. Thereupon, this man went up, received his Curly "W" Cap and proceeded to get autographs from both Ryan Langerhans and Stan Kasten.
Mr. Kasten took his usual questions concerning team building and the new stadium. Including an affirmation that "It was my responsibility, and mine only" to not return Former Manager Frank Robinson as Manager of Our Washington Nationals. "I will take all the hits for that move. I felt we needed to go in another direction.
You can read the majority of the question and answers at MLB.com. One of their Nationals.com reporters, Michael Phillips was there taking everything in for his post. We actually talked for some time. It was nice to hear that he has read The Nats320 blog on occasion.
For Fans following New Nationals Park closely--Mr. Kasten stated that JULY 11th is the scheduled ceremony for "TOPPING OFF" New Nationals Park. From that point forward, all construction will be filling in the details. And hopefully, that will mean more and more opportunities to have fan events coinciding with the stadium construction. So, EVERYONE can have a better chance to see what's being built on South Capitol Street.
Of course--being there meant an opportunity to Chat with a player from Our Washington Nationals. Ryan Langerhans (after being warned by Mr. Kasten--jokingly-- telling him that everything he said to me would be available online for the world to see in a matter of minutes) agreed to Five Minutes of Questions and Answers. He was great and very gracious with his time.
We begin following up on a comment Ryan made to NatsAccess, the MASN show that I found very interesting concerning the June 13th, 2007 game in Baltimore.
You were talking about your reaction to Washington Nationals Fans cheering on their team in Baltimore last week? (SBF)
“Yeah, I think it was the bottom of the 8th inning and they (The Orioles) got a couple of runners on in a one run ball game, and we got out of the jam—and I looked up and the whole side of the stadium above our dugout and all the way down the leftfield line—everyone was on their feet cheering. It was like Our Fans had taken over that side of the stadium. It was just great to see. Everyone coming in off the field and everyone on our bench noticed this. A Really Nice Moment.”
There is a lot of talk about how close this team is. How the players not out on the field, are always still involved in the game. Always on the railing watching. How is that different from your experience in Atlanta? (SBF)
“WE (Our Nationals) are always out there battling every day. No doubt, its tough to win. But, we have to bring our best effort each and every day. The feeling is good here as I have seen each and every guy, in this Clubhouse, wants to put in the work that its going to take to for us to get where we want to be (A Consistently Winning Team). The Perfect Example was that rally we almost pulled off the other night (Monday, June 18th—9-8 loss) against The Tigers. Believe me, EVERYONE is leaving it all out there for all nine innings, and then some.”
How weird was that week when you were traded from Atlanta to Oakland to Washington without stepping foot in the Athletics Home Park (McAfee Coliseum)?
“Really it was CRAZY and VERY HARD ON ME. I was struggling really badly with the bat (hitting below .100) at the time. Then, to get traded from the Organization I grew up in (Atlanta) was very tough. Then play for Oakland for two days. Then fly again halfway across the country to meet up with The Nationals in Chicago was just draining. I didn’t know what to expect. But, I have settled in. I am happy to be here in DC now. In a short period of time, I have really come to enjoy this group of guys and playing with this group of guys.”
Losing your close friends and teammates is tough when traded—especially after coming up and being together, sharing so many experiences both on and off the field—are you really comfortable? (SBF)
“Yes, I think I fit in here really well. No doubt I going to miss those guys (Langerhans had mentioned during the ESPN Zone chat that for the first two weeks after being traded twice, he spoke with his Best Friend, Former Braves Teammate Jeff Francouer each and every day). I am still going to keep in touch with those guys. They are still my friends. But, I like the fit here. I like the opportunity to play Centerfield here (The Great Andruw Jones was blocking him in Atlanta). Really (almost surprising in tone), its been a very good experience.”
Also, Ryan Langerhans had mentioned during the ESPN Zone Chat that in his two days as an Oakland Athletic, he only knew their Closer, Huston Street—no one else. Upon arriving in Washington he knew, if even only casually, many more Washington Nationals Players—which has made his transition far easier landing with another National League Team, instead of an American League Team.
For two seasons now, I have seen you track down each and every baseball that has ever come your way here at RFK Stadium. Including a memorable one earlier this season when you tracked down a Dimitri Young , potential game winning drive—that you caught on the run down the left field line that, honestly, looked like you were running a timed football receiver pattern and The Quarterback hit you in perfect stride (I knew right away, he remembered EXACTLY the play I was talking about—what a smile). So, what did your Former Atlanta Teammates think about playing in RFK Stadium and have those thoughts changed in your short time playing for Washington? (SBF)
“It (RFK) is a very tough park to hit in. But, at the same time it can be an extremely favorable ballpark to hit in. Because, it is SO BIG—So Much Ground to cover out there that its far tougher to hit the Home Run. But, you have to realize there is all that ground to get base hits. As a Brave, we didn’t dread coming here, but you knew you were not expected to hit a home run this weekend or series.”
“Now, since I have been here, I see the flip side of everything with RFK. I have started to use the ballpark to my advantage at the plate.” (It’s a double and triples hitting ballpark—SBF) Smiling grandly Ryan replied; “Yes—Yes it is. If you can hit some line drives into the gaps and down the lines, you are going to be able to run for a long, long time.”
How about playing the outfield at RFK Stadium? The Distances are Vast. How difficult is it to cover all that ground? (SBF)
“No doubt—those distances are VAST. There have been times when we have been able to cut down the gaps really good. Then, of course, there are times when balls slip through. Its really one of those situations when the ballpark is so big there is no way you can cover everything. There is going to be sometimes when hitters are going to place the ball in a spot you simply just can’t get too. But, it’s the same for both sides. So, it evens out.”
Last question. You were struggling with the bat when you got here. You seem to be doing far better now. What’s the difference? Who has helped you? What’s changed? (SBF)
“Its getting my confidence back. Its getting my swing back. Getting my hands going again. When I first got here to Washington, I was doing everything (swinging the bat) with my body. I wasn’t doing anything with my hands. So, my bat speed was not good. My success lately has been a result of working with Lenny Harris (Interim Batting Coach). He told me ‘everything looks fine’, its just that ‘you are not getting your hands going’. That’s why I was just getting beat on a lot of pitches. So, I have been working to improve that part of my batting. Things have really been going a lot better. My average is starting to creep up there, although I would still like to cut down on the strikeouts a little bit. I have been striking out too much. But, that's something I can’t go up to the plate and worry about.”
I’ll betcha being more comfortable in your surroundings now has been a big help also? (SBF)
“Yes, definitely. A lot less to worry about.--a lot more time to concentrate on Baseball.”
With that, My Five Minutes with Ryan Langerhans was up. Our Number 4 was really kind to give me some of his time, as he was heading off immediately to RFK Stadium to prepare for this past Wednesday Nights game versus The Detroit Tigers.