Wednesday, December 24, 2008
When Our Washington Nationals announced yesterday afternoon the signing of five free agent players to minor league contracts, there was not a lot of buzz about these latest of invitations to Spring Training--2009. In fact, there was no reason to get excited. All of these players have holes in their games--it's why they are free agents. But two of them at least have history with The African Queen and I along with Old Section 320 at RFK Stadium. One of whom was involved in maybe the funniest unexpected moment during the three years of Nats Baseball on East Capitol Street.
But first up, there is Jorge Sosa. In 2005, Sosa was a starting right handed pitcher for The Atlanta Braves. That Inaugural Season of Washington Nationals Baseball was also Sosa's finest season as a Major League Pitcher. He finished the 2005 campaign with a 13-3 mark and a stellar 2.55 ERA. On Saturday, September 10th with Washington reeling in the standings, but still in the playoff hunt, Sosa would pitch eight shutout innings at RFK Stadium on National Television. Fox Sports was carrying the game. Braves Rightfielder Jeff Francouer would save Jorge's day with a SPECTACULAR running into the wall head-first catch off the bat of Cristian Guzman in the bottom of the 5th with My Main Man!! Ryan Church on first base. Francouer JUST getting his glove on the ball as it headed over the rightfield wall and into The Nationals Bullpen (I stand corrected, Washington had yet to switch their bullpen from leftfield to rightfield). Jeff pounding the green padded wall so hard, the paneling came loose and the game had to be delayed for a repair. Surgery to the wall, not to Francouer's head, or body (This play was easily one of the best defensive catches in the three years of play at RFK. Francouer had no fear).
But what made this game special was The Catching Of A Foul Ball. In 2005, I was 46 Years Old and had NEVER caught a foul ball EVER while attending countless Major League Baseball Games--not a single one. For this particular afternoon affair, we had extra seats, so Sohna and I gave our Section 320 tickets to good friends to enjoy all the camaraderie that Section 320 became at RFK. We, instead, sat in the front row on the Upper Deck, right behind the first base dugout in Section 413.
In the bottom of the 7th, with Washington already down 4-0 to Atlanta, Sosa was cruising along with his shutout. Up stepped Vinny Castilla with one out. Being the first pitch swinging hitter that Old Number 9 was, Vinny swung at Jorge's very first offering. Right away, Sohna and I realized the resultant foul ball was heading right for us!! But, would it make the Upper Deck? Scared that I would fall over the railing, instinctively, The African Queen hung on to my leg as I reached over and clasped the baseball with both hands. I had caught the ball and couldn't believe it!! The usual claps of nice catch--ensued. Later, we would find out that Fox TV had caught my catch as well, replayed it, while the announcers chuckled over Sohna holding my leg.
After catching the baseball, I looked down and over at all of our friends in Section 320 along the 3rd baseline at RFK Stadium. MickNats, NatsDelNegro (now called BangTheDrumNatly), SenatorNat and RallyTime!! Richard were just howling in laughter. They all knew SBF had never caught a baseball at a Major League Game before and were living in the moment with Sohna and I over the unexpected happening in seats we normally would never sit. Since that day, we've probably caught and retrieved about a Baker's Dozen Baseballs at Nats Game, but none have been as exciting or thrilling as catching that first one--thrown by Jorge Sosa and fouled off by Vinny Castilla.
Still have that ball--framed in a protected case. Yes, it's priceless to me.
Interestingly, Castilla is also involved in one of the funniest moments of All Time in Section 320 at RFK Stadium, although Castilla was long gone as a Third Baseman for Our Washington Nationals at the time of this incident. But, this moment was just as PRICELESS!! All thanks to Jose Castillo and The RFK Stadium PA Announcer.
Now you may recall, The RFK PA Guy was named Jim Clarke. He once worked New Orleans Saints Football Games at The Superdome in Louisiana, but he didn't know ANYTHING about baseball. Consistently over the two years he worked Nationals Games at RFK, he would make mistake after mistake that you just had to shake your head about. In Section 320, we used to laugh all the time at his blunders. Later, we would find out, even The Media Guys in the Press Box had issues with his errors. And when he was eventually fired, his wife went BALLISTIC about how it was handled.
On Friday Night, May 5th, 2006, Our Washington Nationals were hosting The Pittsburgh Pirates. Jose Castillo (not Castilla) was the starting second baseman for The BUCCO's that evening. In the top of the 2nd inning upped stepped the right handed hitting Jose Castillo to the batters box. As he steps in, ready to take his cuts, over the loud speaker is CLEARLY HEARD: "Now batting for The Pittsburgh Pirates, Number 14, VINNY CASTILLA!!"
Vividly, I recall looking over at BangTheDrumNatly and he's giving me that "Did I hear that correctly look!!" Yeah, he did say it even The African Queen noticed the mistake. For the next inning and throughout the game, none of us in Section 320 could do anything more but laugh, almost uncontrollably, over the miscue. Mr. Clarke had made many a blunders on the PA--but that one was just too good not to enjoy. What made it even better, was The PA Announcer never corrected himself--not once. To this day, I still find myself chuckling over that incident.
And when I read that Jose Castillo was signed to a Minor League Contract yesterday by Our Washington Nationals, the memory of that day just came flowing back into my head, as if it happened yesterday. That and all the fun we always had, every single game, in Section 320 at RFK Stadium.
"Now batting for The Pittsburgh Pirates, Number 14, VINNY CASTILLA!!"