Sunday, February 24, 2008
Fun With Games
On a very overcast and cloudy day--the cool temperatures were a nice relief from the heat, humidity and the wind over the past few days here in Viera, Florida. Yeah, I know--you would have loved to have such a problem back in DC right now. But, anyway, once again Our Washington Nationals donned their Home Whites this Sunday for a second day of practice. Not all the pictures were completed yesterday morning. Which actually makes Training Camp look more official. No, the routines haven't changed yet--but the Game Uniforms pump up the atmosphere. And, makes picture taking even more special.
The Big News today: Jesus Flores is in camp. He arrived last night. All 75 players invited to Major League Camp are now on board and ready to go. After talking with The African Queen--Flores personally told her that his delay came from the paperwork for his B-1 Work Visa--not getting to the United States Embassy in Venezuela in time. Apparently, he did not receive the proper paperwork in a timely manner. But, once all that information arrived in Caracas, this past Thursday, quickly his visa was granted.
Although after missing a pop up directly in front of the plate--when he didn't turn his body around--and almost ran into Nick Johnson hard--Flores might have wished he was still delayed--after Our Manager Manny Acta lit into him over the miscue. Sorry, my spanish is not that good--but, Our Number 14 said more than just "No, No, No, NO!! That's not how we do it!!" Sohna saying: "Will these guys ever be able to call each other off? How many times have we witnessed just such an error over the past three years."
Fortunately, not everyone was having trouble fielding the pop flies.
As Our Manager continues hitting pop ups to the top fielders in camp on Field One--Manny lofts one between first and second--Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young converge--Dmitri calling off Ronnie--AT THE LAST SECOND. Upon grasping the ball--while nearly falling over--Austin Kearns--playing right field--yells out: "There you go--the first baseball tackled this spring!!" EVERYONE, and mean EVERYONE cracks up. Young gleaming those pearly whites, enjoying the moment. Manny nearly drops his bat and misses the baseball during his next fungo swing.
Speaking of Belliard--Our Number 10 does call off others, not only well, but as loud as you could ever imagine. Not only does he shout: "I got it!" But, he bellows out "I GOT IT! I GOT IT!!" Then, upon catching the baseball calmy states in a very low tone: "See, I told you so!"--snickers all around. Apparently, Our Number 10 does this routine all the time. An effort which is enjoyed by his teammates.
Among the daily routines and drills--the camaraderie shared among teammates are the moments Sohna and I cherish the most. Like these--which really made this Sunday Special. Sometimes its all about the fun and the jokes.
Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte is hitting fungoes to a group of Washington Nationals Pitchers. They are working on situations, runner on first, first and third, etc. as "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" steps to the mound. Fictitious runner on third--less than two out and Aponte hits a rocket right back to the box--that handcuffs "The Chief". Error on Chad Cordero. The Entire Pitching Staff starts laughing--because they all know the rules. A penalty has been drawn that Sohna and I are not aware. As Jason Bergmann fields his play cleanly--he heads to the plate to cover home. And yells over to The African Queen and I--"(SBF) you got to get a picture of the head slaps!!" Sure enough, when Our Number 32 returns to the mound--he removes his cap--and a group of players slap the side of his head--in great joy. Ray King--leading the way. A lighthearted moment and enjoyable to watch. The African Queen saying: "These guys seem to be enjoying the work."
AA Manager John Stearns is a talker--and never remains quiet while tossing batting practice. A group which includes Cristian Guzman, Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson are taking their turns. Stearns continues to fire away--not only with a baseball--but with his ongoing commentary. Johnson, waiting to step into the box--yells at John: "Don't you ever shut up?" Without nary a second lapsing--Stearns bellows out: "One of these days Johnson--you will understand that I am a baseball coach too!"
Later--as Brett Boone completes his swings--the players are sweeping up the many baseballs all over the practice field. Stearns, very loudly, yells at Brett. "Boone, when you were little, probably in diapers, I was living The High Life in New York City. And, your father (Bob Boone) tried to block me from the plate. You know what?--I MOWED HIM DOWN!! A great moment in my life. I just wanted to share that with you."
Other Highlights from today:
Jon Rauch is warming up to pitch live batting practice. His battery mate is Wil Nieves. They have never worked together before. After both are loose--Big Jon and Wil are going over his pitches in the nearby dugout. "I like to come in hard and low. So, you need to stay down," says Rauch. "Yeah, I understand," replies Nieves," I was talking with Jesus Flores about you this morning. I know I can handle you. It will just take some time." Rauch responds: "OK--I am easy to work with."
Yet, another reason for Spring Training.
And, Oh Yeah--How fitting on this overcast and rainy morning--"The Human Rain Delay" was getting in his bullpen session. Yes, Jesus Colome was taking his time on the mound--between pitches. And, he wasn't even facing any batters yet. Sohna started chuckling the moment she saw Our Number 43 throwing--or rather prancing around the mound.
And finally, today was Doggy Day. For whatever reasons--fans brought their dogs to The Nationals Training Complex this Sunday. And this particular dog came dressed in a Ryan Zimmerman Tee-Shirt. With his entire family alongside--The "Z" Dog took pictures with a good handful of players. His Owners having good time--with Our Washington Nationals. But, unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman was driven off the fields after practice in a golf cart--and did get a chance to meet his doggy fan.
"Quotes of The Day"
Jesus Flores is saying hello to Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire and Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte while Chad Cordero is warming up. "The Chief" yells over to Jesus--"You finally arrived? Thanks for coming." (Sarcastically). Flores fires back: "And, its all your fault (he was late)!!" Randy St.Claire just busts out laughing. Cordero and Flores chuckle. A nice moment.
After an extended interview with Chad Cordero--Sohna and I are taking pictures with "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game".
I mention to Chad that with as many pictures as Sohna as taken with him, (SBF) has never taken even one. Immediately Our Number 32 responds laughing: "Yes, EVERYONE (within the organization) has taken a picture with The African Queen!!" Chad Cordero grinning from ear to ear. It was a very funny moment. And, his inflection was great!!
Speaking with Lastings Milledge--Sohna and I ask him what does Lastings mean? Milledge responds: "It means Last Child (in his family)."
"Pictures of The Day"
Take a look at the mechanics of these three different pitchers--all completely wide open. Chad Cordero, Tyler Clippard (who has an incredible windmill motion) and Mike O'Connor. If pitching is an art form--than this display is Poetry In Motion.
And, in honor The Washington Posts Barry Svrluga--who is scheduled to begin his Spring Training Assignment in Viera, Florida on Monday--we give you his Home, Away From Home. Yes, The Infamous Panera Bread where Barry spent all of 2005 eating his meals during the first Spring Training ever for Our Washington Nationals.