Wednesday, September 19, 2007
When The African Queen first heard about The Baseball 101 Clinic for Women--she immediately wanted to attend. A Chance to learn from The Coaches for Our Washington Nationals. An opportunity to get first hand experience playing baseball. Sitting in her customary seat watching any game--is far different than swinging that bat and throwing that baseball.
"I have never ever played Baseball before," said Sohna. "So, I was looking forward to learning more about the game from teachers and coaches of the game--on the same field that Our Washington Nationals play. What could be better than to learn on the field at RFK!! I knew it would be fun."
Of course--she didn't want to participate alone. This experience must be shared. Sohna's good friends--Colleen and Iris--willingly agreed to go. "Having sat here (at RFK Stadium) in my seat for every home game," said Colleen. It would be great to actually go out onto the field. That would be special."
So, all three headed off on Saturday, September 15, for the 10AM Start to Baseball 101 at The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street. A beginning time less than 9 hours after Our Washington Nationals completed a late night, rain delayed, game against The Atlanta Braves. You can bet all three stayed to the very end of that affair--and still showed up on time the morning after. Nearly 45 Women were on hand--gathered to take in the lessons from their Professional Instructors.
On hand--ready to teach--Third Base Coach Tim Tolman; Bench Coach Pat Corrales; Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte, First Base Coach Jerry Morales; Bullpen Catcher Nilson Robledo, Batting Practice Pitchers Pablo Reyes, Jose Martinez and Practice Coach Julian Martinez.
After a short introduction--the ladies warmed up with Nationals Conditioning Coach--Kazu Tomooka. Stretching and Agility skills were emphasized. After loosening up--the women were separated into smaller groups to work various skills stations throughout RFK for the two hour session.
Corrales worked The Nationals Indoor Batting Cage--under the third base stands--behind The Nationals Home Dugout, along with Martinez.
Tolman explained baserunning techniques and taught some of the hand signals he gives to batters at the plate and runners on base. And, told a funny story. Colleen noting: Tolman said: ‘How many of you remember when I successfully wave a runner home and he is safe? And, can anyone of you remember those moments?’ Everyone is looking at their feet--because no one remembered,", continued Colleen. ‘But, you can always remember when someone was thrown out or I stopped them,’ finished Tolman.
Colleen stating: “Oh-yeah, I can remember when (Jason) Bergmann was out. And when so and so was out (laughing).” ‘Yeah,’ he replied—‘They always remember the outs!!!’
Everyone laughing along with them.
First Base Coach Morales--a fine Major League Outfielder during his playing days--explained fielding techniques--especially how to get your body in front of the baseball.
When Morales was teaching the ladies about catching the baseball--Sohna asked why is it that sometimes players for Our Washington Nationals have failed to call the baseball and wave their teammates away--avoiding a possible collision or confusion. Jerry Morales explained: "Its all about communication--but in this ballpark--with a stadium full of people--they may not hear each other." Sohna then responded: ";Then, why can't they communicate another way and wave each other off?" Morales concluded: "Yes, but sometimes miscommunication just happens."
Julian Martinez hit grounders to the various groupings. Sohna & Colleen proud of their efforts. "The coach told me I threw the baseball well. My fielding wasn't bad at all," said The African Queen. Of course Colleen said: “I did discover I throw like a girl—apparently." Iris responding: “That’s a good thing!!(both laughing)."
But, the general consensus favorite instructions seem to come from Bullpen Coach Aponte. As each group moved to his station located in the Visting Bullpen--Rick met each and everyone one of the participants--introducing himself--then asking their names. Then, he went about explaining various pitching techniques, how to grip a baseball to throw different pitches. The object of the pitcher--is to keep the hitter--off balance.
"He was great," Sohna stated. "Rick Aponte took his time to explain what every pitcher tries to accomplish on the mound. And, the fact that so many of the games best have stood right here on the warmup mound at RFK Stadium. He was so personable. Told me how to grip the baseball for certain pitches. Everyone intently listened to every word he stated. Just terrific!!"
“And, its not just a great experience, but I think its important to participate in an environment like that," said Colleen. "Where women don’t have to feel intimated by the fact they may not know anything about the game.”
Iris continuing: “The other thing is its sometimes easier to learn from Professionals than from YOUR HUSBAND, or your boyfriend, or the fans sitting around you.”
Because they understand the game better? (SBF)
“There is not the tension there. You understand me? Lets just put it that way,” concluded Iris.
Diamond Club Usher--Susan--also participated in the Baseball 101 Clinic: “The coolest thing was the the fact that after three years, I finally went on the field. But, the reason for doing (the clinic) was because I LOVE IT!!! And, the idea of a baseball clinic for women fascinated me. And, I loved all these women coming together in a different environment. Finally, The Clinic was very, very well done. In fact, I complemented Barbra Silva (Nationals Community Relations Director) and told her how good it really was.”
After the physical portion of the First Women's Clinic came to an end--all participants were invited up to The Miller Lite Bullpen--near Diamond Club on the 400 Level of RFK for a Prsentation by MASN Broadcasters Don Sutton, Bob Carpenter and Debbi Taylor. A Two Hour Lunch that included lessons on how to score a baseball game, a wonderful chat from Hall of Famer Sutton and as Iris noted: “She (Debbi) provides a woman’s perspective on the game—professionally. She sees things that ladies can understand. That’s important."
Honestly--the effort put forth by Our Washington Nationals, to make this 4 hour event possible--well worth the $75 paid to join the activity. Included in the clinic and lunch was a goodie bag which consisted of two seats to that night's game versus The Atlanta Braves. A Bob Carpenter Nationals Version--Scorebook; A Pink Baseball 101 Tee-Shirt, as well as, a host of Giveways from RFK Stadium throughout the past two seasons.
Later, I asked Colleen and Iris whether they were now ready to Pinch Hit if Our Manager Manny Acta needed them in the clutch?
Colleen: “No” Iris: “But, I can do a little coaching now—-if they really pressed me into it!!"
All of us laughing. In fact--all of the ladies had had a great time.
Most Definitely, The African Queen.
Clinic Photography--Jeff Sherman and SBF