Sunday, August 30, 2009
The following sentence had to be spoken softly to The African Queen: "Ronnie Belliard has just been traded to The Los Angeles Dodgers."
She didn't believe me. And then upon realizing this was the truth: "Oh, No!"
One of Sohna's most favorite players that has EVER donned a uniform for Our Washington Nationals--and a Nats320 favorite from the moment he first stepped on the practice fields in Viera, Florida--traded late this afternoon to The Los Angeles Dodgers for two, count 'em, two prospects. No one would have thought that possible this past All-Star Break. Ronnie wallowing on Our Former Manager Manny Acta's bench--not getting much playing time. Veteran experience then deemed worthy under Interim Manager Jim Riggleman. And General Manager Mike Rizzo taking advantage of Ronnie's professionalism and receiving Single A Right Handed Pitcher, Luis Garcia, plus a player to be named later, for what basically is a five-week rental of the expiring Belliard contract. And gives "Lucky Number 10" (as The African Queen always has called him) a seriously good opportunity for a second World Series Ring.
A decent and fair trade all around, but one that did not leave both of us a little heavy in the heart.
Winning means everything in sport, but good quality people whom we cheer for stands tall on our list of priorities. Ronnie Belliard was nothing short of a professional playing for Our Washington Nationals. He provided so much entertainment value for the buck. And easily, was personally responsible for two of the best highlights of the past three seasons.
Enjoyable moments never to be forgotten.
Remember, Ryan Zimmerman may well have knocked out that opening night home run at Nationals Park on March 30, 2008 with Charlie Slowes bellowing out on WFED: "The Z-Man Has Done It Again On Opening Night at Nationals Park!!" A memory for the keepsake book. But, "The Ballplayer" provided the most electrifying home run in Our New Ballparks Short History that very same season. His down to the last strike homer off Baltimore's George Sherill in the bottom of 9th on June 29, 2008 was as unexpected and thrilling as ANY LAST SECOND WIN WE WILL EVER WATCH.
And as much enjoyment as Ryan Zimmerman's consistently given us these past four years, I don't think The African Queen and I have ever walked out of Our South Capitol Street Ballpark so excited in the past two years than that late Sunday afternoon in 2008. Ronnie's swagger coming out of the box--knowing his deep fly was that day's game winner--almost as good as the home run itself.
Yes, "Manny Ramirez, Jr." strutted his stuff late that June Sunday Afternoon in 2008. Now, he will take his always cool business west to Los Angeles to be a teammate of the one player he has always mimicked his swing by--Manny Ramirez himself.
How Perfect. Ronnie Belliard has got to be thrilled.
And so are we.
Cool and always polished, nothing seems to phase Our Now Former Number 10. Just like arguably one of the greatest fielding plays in Our Washington Nationals Young History. During a rather routine Curly "W" over The Cincinnati Reds on July 31, 2007, The Reds Jeff Keppinger slashed a hard hit grounder right back to the box. Having no time to react, Saul Rivera ended up deflecting the baseball off his ankle toward a moving Ronnie Belliard rushing to second base. Now, with the ball changing course and BEHIND him, Our Number 10--like a Whirling Dervish--stuck down his glove hand to his left as he continued falling away from the play--caught the baseball--continued twirling in an about face motion--right to left. Then to the great delight of 20,165 at RFK Stadium--turned with his back to the play while releasing the baseball from his glove hand perfectly to Felipe Lopez standing on second base to retire Ryan Freel. A no look catch and throw that was one of The Best Defensive Plays Of The Year. Even Ronnie Belliard had to laugh at his performance.
Yet his workmanlike efforts, displayed daily on the field, were not a laughing matter. Now at 34 Years Of Age and on the downside of a solid Major League Career, Ronnie Belliard still turns the double play at second base as well as anyone else in the game. He didn't get that "The Ballplayer" moniker here on Nats320 from loafing on the field. Belliard always gave his best and was never short-changed on a single swing standing at the plate wearing a D.C. Uniform. How else would we give him his other great nickname--"Manny Ramirez, Jr."?
"No one walks to the plate like he owned the diamond quite like Ronnie Belliard," always stated The African Queen.
Unquestionably, Ronnie has no where near the power of his now new teammate and nicknamed namesake in Los Angeles, but not many players swing the bat as hard as Belliard. So determined to be a game changer, he has used the exact bat model and make of Albert Pujols--The St.Louis Cardinals' great slugger--since 2006--whom Ronnie was a teammate with when The Cards won The World Series that year.
A complete player, Sohna always appreciated his efforts in NatsTown. And Ronnie Belliard always acknowledged her support. In just a friendly way, they hit it off. Every single time The African Queen ran into Our Former Number 10 around the ballparks, Ronnie would always stop and chat with her.
He was cool. Just like all his wonderful nicknames we used for him:
"Manny Ramirez, Jr."
And, of course, "Our Lucky Number 10"--Sohna's personal favorite.
Three monikers officially retired this evening with Ronnie Belliard heading to Los Angeles to play for The Dodgers.
Enjoyable memories are what always brings Sohna and I back to Spring Training in Viera, Florida and Nationals Park for each and every home game. And it's personalities like Ronnie Belliard that make every single one of those trips worthwhile. There was never a dull moment with Ronnie Belliard at the plate or in the field for Our Washington Nationals. And we will always hold a soft spot for Our Former Number 10.
Understand, Ronnie Belliard made baseball fun for The African Queen and for that alone--he will always be held close to our hearts.
Good Luck Ronnie Bellard. Thanks for the wonderful memories.
PS--Make no mistake about it, when The Los Angeles Dodgers visit Nationals Park in September, we will be cheering for Ronnie Belliard. And if his new "MannyWood" team goes deep into the playoffs, we will be following "Our Lucky Number 10" closely--hoping he gets that ring.