Saturday, February 23, 2008
Saturday February 23, 2008 was Picture Day for Our Washington Nationals. Dressed in the Game Whites--all photography was taken for the Media Guides, Scorebooks, HDTV Screen for use throughout the upcoming season. As a result--everyone practiced in The Home Red, White & Gold. So, don't get any idea a game was played today. But, there was plenty of action and items of interest--if you are paying attention.
The Site of both Boone Brothers on the fields, confirmed the fact that Our General Manager Jim Bowden had seen enough good things out of Brett to jump him up to Major League Camp to workout alongside Aaron. And, oh yeah--Jimbo was back on his Segway.
The use of the Bullpens adjacent to the practice fields today allowed for some up close and personal picture taking. And, a unique opportunity to judge any pitcher's stuff. Standing virtually right next to any toss--you can hear the whiz of a good fastball humming right past your ears. And no one threw harder this morning than Collin Balester. Standing next to Peter Lockley (photographer for The Washington Times) I mention--"He throws hard!!" Peter responds: "Yeah, and he's got that big body too." Our New Number 40 in your scorecard is a real talent. Nothing soft about that young man's pitches.
Also-these bullpen sessions depict just how active Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire is with EACH AND EVERY Pitcher. Time after time--Our Number 46 stood, watched--interacting himself into those throwing. Never, does that man seem to relax. Quite incredible that man must be.
But. before the bullpen sessions began, there was side discussion on catching techniques with all the receivers in camp. And Bench Coach Pat Corrales has everyone's rap attention. Talking about his playing days and protecting the plate when a runner is charging toward him and the ball is on the way: "The very first time a runner ran me over and put me in the hospital--I told myself--'NEVER AGAIN!' From that day forward, whenever a guy was looking to barrel me over--I went on the offensive. Instead of staying back--waiting for the impact--I stepped forward right into the runner. Sure, there was a huge impact--but that one step forward--stopped that guy right in his tracks. I never, EVER, got injured again on a play at the plate." The sight of everyone thinking about Pat Corrales thoughts, then standing up and mimicking the maneuver--PRICELESS. This is what Spring Training is all about--in a nutshell.
This was a fun day at camp. The rhythm of spring has begun. There is a ebb and flow to the movement around the fields. And, as always--there is time to get an autograph. Over 200 fans on location this fine Saturday. And, That Most Charismatic of Managers--Manny Acta--loving The African Queen in her Sun Hat.
Other highlights worth mentioning:
Rob Mackowiak has been quite the engaging fellow with fans. From the get go--he has been very kind to not only The African Queen and myself--but many other fans. He is very approachable and has an interesting persona. Upon seeing my RED CALVES from walking around in shorts the past few days at The Nationals Training Complex--he yells out--"Man, you are going to be HURTING TONIGHT!!--pointing at my legs. " Yeah, I know (I replied)--but you need to do the shuttle run today--after only getting back from a double hernia operation--three months ago--who is going to be hurting more?"
"You got that right. I might die right here!" Whereupon, I asked Rob Mackowiak--"Could you ever top the very day your child was born?" On May 28th--2004 while playing in a double hitter at PNC Park--Rob hit a Grand Slam to defeat The Chicago Cubs in Game One of a doubleheader--only a few hours after the birth of his son--Garrett. Then, to top that-- Rob hammered a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th--in game two--to tie the score in an eventual Pittsburgh Pirates Sweep.
"No--Man, I can't imagine EVER TOPPING THAT DAY!!" Ryan Langerhans is walking by--questioning 'What Happened?'. After Mackowiak explains--Langerhans chuckles while walking back on the field--"You should have RETIRED!! You can NEVER BEAT THAT!! No Way." Everyone breaks up laughing. Mackowiak--"Yeah, I know. I should have listened to reason."
Later Pete Orr is sitting in one of the dugouts. He and Willie Harris are in a discussion over their baseball gloves. Orr uses a Mizuno Model. Why do you use that glove? asked Harris. Orr responds--you know--its not the best leather, but its comfortable--and they gave it to me."
Quotes Of The Day:
Sohna was walking past Jose Rijo as he headed to the bullpens--The African Queen calls out: "Hey, looking good in that uniform!!" Rijo--laughing and smiling as always--responds: "Feeling Great Too!! I am ready to throw five innings!!" Everyone breaks up laughing.
Some may recall my conversation with Garrett Mock during last season's 2007 Accelerated Camp. Quite the affable Texan--Garrett and I hooked up this morning for an extended interview--for later. As many know--he is a dark horse favorite for the rotation in 2007. But, what caught my attention and made The African Queen very proud was this answer to one particular question. Is there any added pressure to make The Majors and get a higher salary--now since your wife has given birth to your new baby? (SBF) "No--not all. And, I will tell you why--because if lightening strikes me today and I never can play Major League Baseball again--I will happy knowing I have a son. That birth of our child--has made my life."
Speaking with Odalis Perez on how two years ago The Nationals were in heavy pursuit of his talents--but he ended up signing a more lucrative contract with The Los Angeles Dodgers: "Everything came out (at the end) for the money, the contract. My Agent decided to accept the move to Los Angeles. So, it was not all my fault that I did not come to Washington (at that time). But, I am here now and am very happy to be a National."
I found this comment incredibly honest and shows how sometimes agents decide where a guy plays--even if that player would be more comfortable elsewhere.
The Pictures of The Day:
Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns are inseparable. These moments did not go unnoticed by The African Queen and myself--very nice to see.