Saturday, February 21, 2009
Sights & Sounds From Our First Practice Today
Initial thoughts on Adam Dunn: Very nice man--went out of his way to say hello to any fan that approached him between the practice fields today. He signed autographs before practice began and engaged The African Queen and myself--without us asking him one thing. Dunn also practiced at first base today with Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young.
This camp is serious. There is the usual spring training camaraderie and laughter. But unlike the past two seasons we have been here, there is a professional tone of getting your work done. Coaches are drilling their athletes--discussing topics and adjusting skills. The very sight of New Batting Coach Rick Eckstein taking video of Austin Kearns, Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell, Nick Johnson and many others said it all. The Baseball on the field needs to be taken seriously at all times. Ryan Langerhans telling Sohna and I that Eckstein works harder than any coach he has ever been involved with. And that Rick Eckstein has done wonders with his batting approach at the plate. Other players stated the same fact to us this day about Eckstein.
Ronnie Belliard looking rather fit today in his home whites. Significantly over the winter, Our Number 10 has gotten himself in better playing shape. So has Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman.
Stating nothing negative against the previous staffers, Shawn Hill says that new Strength and Conditioning Coach John Philbin and new Physical Therapist Elizabeth Wheeler have implemented some excellent training routines to his and other player's regimens. "I like their ideas and hopefully that will pay off over the long run," said Hill.
New Mr. Ocho-Cinco--was in high spirits today. Lastings Milledge telling one fan asking him about his number change: "I like to mix things up every once and a while."
The new keeper of THE HORN is Spring Training Instructor Bob Henley. Over the course of the three hour practice, Henley (The GCL Nationals Manager) keeps everyone on the move by blowing two air horns at selected intervals--resulting in groups of players running from one field to the next for additional skills practice.
On practice field number three--there is Bulls Eye chalked out in front of home plate on the grass. Although this skill was not practiced on this particular field today, the coaches mentioned Our Washington Nationals were using this bulls eye the other day during bunting practice. The idea that the closer any batter could bunt a baseball to the center, the more successful the batter would be in laying one down in sacrificing themselves to advance a runner.
Team President Stan Kasten was on hand, talking with the media and checking things out. Later, after Bill Ladson reported that Jose Rijo had been granted a leave of absence due to the distraction of the Esmailyn Gonzalez/Daniel Lugo incident--Mr. Kasten spoke to all the reporters in the press box at Space Coast Stadium.
Our General Manager Jim Bowden was on hand taking in practice along with Assistant GM Mike Rizzo and Special Assistant Bob Boone, but he DID NOT speak to the press. Mr. Kasten later telling the media, JimBo will be encouraged to talk to the media about baseball, but not the ongoing Gonzalez/Lugo incident.
After warm ups, pitchers practiced fielding skills off the mound. Shawn Hill, Ryan Wagner, Saul Rivera, Wil Ledezma and Gary Glover were among those that tossed in side sessions before throwing Live Batting Practice to Washington's many hitters. Infield was taken as Manny Acta, Rick Eckstein and new 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach all hit fungoes one after the other in a fast moving around the horn fielding session. Catcher's practiced run downs from 3rd base to home. And everyone went to the Batting Cages for some extra swings.
And as always--our good friends Robert & Phil are at camp--this time for 10 days to meet, greet and get autographs from as many players from Our Washington Nationals as they can acquire.