Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Baseball 101 For Women--Version 2.0
“As a fan you get to watch, and if you are not a truly knowledgeable fan---you might notice some things different," said Carolyn. "But when you get the chance to talk to the coaches, you find out it’s the little things that count. How to grip the ball. How to run the bases. Things you just don’t know about. It helps me see the game differently.”
Carolyn was one of over 75 women who showed up on the field at New Nationals Park this past Saturday, June 28, to participate in Our Washington Nationals 2nd Annual Baseball 101 for Women Program. A coaching skills and baseball primer taught by the coaches of Our Washington Nationals. Sohna participated last season and she couldn't wait to step back out on the field this year with many of her like minded friends and fans of the game of baseball.
"This gives me the opportunity to try to play the game," stated Sohna. "And get a better understanding of just how difficult the game is to play."
Beginning at 10AM, the ladies began by warming up with Strength & Conditioning Coach Kazu Tomooka. For 15 minutes, the women went through a normal warmup procedure for any baseball player. Then, after loosening up--were divided into five groups of 10 to 12 people. In 15 minute intervals--the ladies rotated as a group to separate stations set up around New Nationals Park.
“I came mostly because I wanted to get an inside look," said NatsNut one of the campers. "I wanted to see what it was like on the field. And go in the dugout---see what the players see. It is a completely different experience. That's what I wanted."
And that's what she got.
Third Base Coach Tim Tolman taught the art of giving signs to batters at the plate and how to properly run the bases. Why he sometimes sends runners home in an attempt to score. And why sometimes he doesn't.
First Base Coach Jerry Morales taught fielding techniques, outfield positioning and even told the ladies about his very long professional career in the game. Sohna and Mr. Morales even got into an animated discussion about how Jerry is constantly waving his arms to the outfielders from the dugout--attempting to move them into an area the team feels a certain hitter will stroke the ball. Upon saying to Jerry Morales that she has noticed that sometimes Lastings Milledge does not see his waves--Jerry responded: "You notice that too!! It's true. Sometimes the players are spending too much time looking at the HDTV Scoreboard or something else around this beautiful new park." Cracked everybody up.
Bench Coach Pat Corrales went over preparing for any game. "We have the information on computer about every single hitter and player in the game. We know exactly what each player is going to do in every single situation. It is our job to stop that person from doing what he does best. And that's where the game is played." Mr Corrales went into great detail about building a team with young talent. The patience needed to teach and the forward thinking to believe in what you are doing. Pat Corrales was with The Atlanta Braves when they were one of baseball's worst team. Then The Braves started rebuilding, from scratch, just like Our Washington Nationals are attempting right now. The Braves--with Pat Corrales as bench coach--won The 1995 World Series.
Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte explained the nuances of the bullpen. How the relievers get ready for action. And the fact that he reads a rather large notebook each and every game--while in the bullpen. These scouting reports contain the details and hitting techniques of each and every batter from the opposing lineup that might enter the game. It's Rick's job to make sure Our Pitchers are aware of every situation and how they should approach it.
Additionally--Mr. Aponte spoke about the Bullpen Phone. Maybe one of the best tidbits of the day. How attached to the phone is a special alarm. If no one answers the phone after ONE RING--a rather large ALARM BELL goes off!! "It's why you always see me running to pick up the phone. You don't ever want to hear that alarm go off." Rick went on to say that Our Washington Nationals Bullpen is so deep into a corner with the stands far above--that most fans can't hear the alarm if it goes off during a game. But The Visitors Bullpen in leftfield is very near the stands. "We always laugh when a new team comes to town," he said. "They have no idea the alarm will go off after one ring. It's quite funny to see them scramble."
Hands on as always--Our Bullpen Coach showed the ladies how to grip certain pitches. Then each and every participant stood on the bullpen mound and threw tosses to home plate.
Finally--all the women were invited to The Batting Cages--behind the Home Dugout-- to swing away in the batting cages. Batting Coach Lenny Harris was very engaging. Telling the ladies that hitting is the hardest thing to do in sport. It takes concentration. It takes skills and it takes patience. The Major Leagues All Time Pinch Hit Leader told the women that after 17 Years of playing in The Major Leagues--the most important thing that happened to him during his entire year--was winning a World Series Ring--as a Florida Marlin in 2003.
"Nothing beat that. Nothing. It's why I played the game. Came close a few times, but that wasn't enough. Winning The World Series meant everything."
In groups of two--the women hit off batting tees. Harris adjusting their mechanics and taking time to show the ladies how to swing properly. They were having some fun. NatsNut stated: “Being in the batting cage was kind of scary. I am glad we didn’t hit against the pitching machine. That would have been really scary to see those balls screaming by. But, it was fun.”
In fact, NatsNut was wishing to do even more: “I wanted a little bit more technical instruction. I wanted someone to show me how to grip a baseball. How to actually throw a pitch. I wanted to see a real live pitch being throw close up. Those types of things that are hands on. Now that’s not a big deal, because we still got to talk with some of the coaches—which was really fun. But, I totally wanted to do some fielding. I really wanted to go out there and shag flies. It would be really cool if they let us shag balls during batting practice!! (Laughing) It would be so much fun!!”
Sohna agreed: "We had fielding practice last year. And had the opportunity to catch and throw the baseball. As much as I enjoyed playing today, I would have loved to catch and field some more. I would enjoy that." Even Miss Chatter chimed in: "I really wanted to field some grounders. That was alot of fun last year."
But nothing took away the enjoyment these ladies had on the playing surface at New Nationals Park this past Saturday. They all went away smiling.
“To have the chance to meet the coaching staff and have a great time with my girlfriends," exclaimed Jen. "that was a total blast!! I especially enjoyed meeting some people who--based on watching the games--I might get frustrated with—the hitting coach, or the third base coach. But when I meet them and find out they are delightful—that made the fun so much better. (Laughing)"
Becky stating: “I thought it would be fun to participate because I enjoy baseball, so any opportunity I have to get on the field or play baseball—I try to take advantage of it. As it turned out, I had a great time. The coaches were fun. The ladies were great and it was just wonderful to be out here and enjoy the stadium in a completely different way.”
As it turned out, Becky was the hitting and pitching star of the camp. She started playing baseball when she was nine years old and still plays softball today. "I am telling you my friend," said Rick Aponte to Becky. "You are a very good player. Maybe we can sign you up!! (Laughing)." Rick was only half kidding. Becky was named The Most Valuable Player of Baseball 101 for Women in 2008.
After the training session ended and the team photo was taken--all the ladies headed up to a Party Suite, just outside Club Level, down the leftfield line at New Nationals Park. Inside--along with Lunch being served--the women were met by four special guests. MASN Sideline Reporter Debbi Taylor, Team Masseuse Tatiana Tchmouroff and Our Washington Nationals Infielder Felipe Lopez and his wife--Jen.
For 30 minutes, with Taylor hosting the lunch--the women asked questions to Tchmouroff and The Lopez's. Tatiana is well known for, not only her 10 years of work with The Baltimore Orioles, but for her recent MIRACLE MASSAGE of Dmitri Young's back that got Our Number 21 back on the playing field--after being on the Disabled List for some time.
Jen and Felipe discussed a few things about their family life. How travel and time constraints of the baseball season, affects the everyday lives of their two young daughters (ages 3 and 7). Jen home schooled the oldest at first, but now has placed her in a private school. She along with the family members of other players--lean of each other for support during the baseball season. Thankfully, she believes--her kids are young enough to not be affected by the heavy burden baseball plays in their everyday lives.
But Jen did tell some good stories about her husband--Felipe.
What does Felipe Lopez do during the off season? Jen says: "Felipe has a big huge sledgehammer and a big monster truck tire in the garage. And he goes out and swings, and swings and swings all day long. He does that and cleans his car." Felipe adding in: "And the garden too.” (Everyone cracking up)
How they met: Jen: "We met at a stoplight. Seriously!! He told one of his friends in the car, he wanted to meet me (in Hagerstown, Maryland, Single A Ball). His friend gave me the number. And this is where the discrepancy arises. It sat in my car for about a month. He says one day. (everyone laughing) Eventually, I called it.
Felipe responds: “I barely knew English at the time. And I was really shy. So we just stood there. But it worked out.” (funny comment)
Jen and Felipe just celebrated their 8th Wedding Anniversary.
Finally--no discussion with Felipe Lopez can ever end without a question about his many tattoos.
Felipe: "My father would not let me do anything. He was very strict. After we got marred, I got one tattoo as a symbol for my oldest daughter. Then it just got kind of addictive (laughing). I don't plan of getting anymore."
Did you know: Felipe Lopez wears a special tattoo, designed by his wife Jen--on the right portion of his neck. It means "always and forever."
Four Hours after The Baseball 101 Women had first entered New Nationals Park--Version 2.0 ended for 2008. Each participant was given two tickets to last Saturday Night's game against The Baltimore Orioles in Section 237. Many of the ladies met up again a few short hours later to share their thoughts and passion for baseball. The game they have all come to love.
You can bet--there will be a Version 3.0 Next Season at New Nationals Park. And Sohna will participate again. She loves attending the event.