Saturday, September 26, 2009

Talent & Effort

When the rains began to seriously come down at Nationals Park this afternoon, Our Washington Nationals were already down 5-0 to The Atlanta Braves. Another early deficit and up hill battle which DC's Team never was able to overcome. Looking to stay dry as the downpours continued, The African Queen and I moved a few rows back in Section 218 of The Stars & Stripes Club.

After the switch, there were a couple of young boys now sitting with their parents two rows in front of us. Folks we had not really noticed beforehand. Clearly, the kids and the two parents were friends. They were just out enjoying an afternoon of baseball. The score really didn't seem to matter. Major League Baseball was being played and the youngsters were having a great time. One of whom actually got a foul ball. A day of fathers just being with their sons.

Reminding me of my youth, when over the course of six years (1966 to 1971) my brother, Michael, and I attended as many Washington Senators Ball Games we could possibly get to at first D.C. Stadium and later renamed RFK Stadium. Back then, we had gone for the baseball. And we went to have a good time. And we went to LEARN something about playing Big League Baseball. Winning and losing didn't really mean a whole lot to us back then. Look, these were The Expansion Washington Senators. If Hondo slugged out a home run--we went home happy.

True. Ask Phil Wood that--he will tell you the same thing.

There was talent on the diamond back then in The Nation's Capital. Just not enough of it to win consistently.

Much like the situation currently involving Our Washington Nationals these days. Direction which was never found before The Senators moved to Arlington, Texas. Footing which Our Washington Nationals are currently planting.

Even when today's game got well out of hand, these kids were still into the game. And their parents were explaining and reviewing most every play. Explaining what was just witnessed and teaching what should have been done if an error or mistake was made. And there were plenty of those opportunities this afternoon for lessons. This was not a pretty game. All this instruction fitting--because one of the youngsters was wearing a tee-shirt with the following two sentences printed on its back: "Talent is what you have. Effort is what you give."

The Fathers' Motto throughout this entire affair. A point they emphasized all day long: "You may believe you are the best player out there on the field of play. But none of it will matter if you don't give your best every single minute you are on that field."

Throughout the game, the parents were quizing their kids over what they just saw? What could have been done better? How would you have handled that situation?

Lessons in baseball, of the mental type, that can go along way toward educating children just learning the nuances of The Great Game. But the parents weren't getting into the way of their children's enjoyment. They were enhancing the experience. Class was in session this Saturday Afternoon and, quite frankly, fascinating to watch. In fact, much better than the actual game playing out in front of us on South Capitol Street. And the care and meaningful dialogue brought back fond memories of those many times sitting in the stands on East Capitol Street when I was the age of these kids--taking in the game, having fun while grasping and becoming better versed in How To Play The Game.

Yeah, The Washington Senators of my youth didn't win a whole lot back in those days. And neither are Our Washington Nationals right now. But what a pleasure it was to witness two fathers and two sons enjoying a Major League Baseball Game in The Nation's Capital this Saturday Afternoon. The score didn't matter, the outcome neither because these parents were teaching their youngsters one of the most important facts in life: "Talent is what you have. Effort is what you give." The exact same lesson taught by my parents nearly four decades ago.

Final Score from Nationals Park were DC's Team was never really into this game, but at the same time--strangely enough--were never quite out of it until the 9th inning came along: The Atlanta Braves 11 and Our Washington Nationals 5. Loss Number 102 in 154 Games was similar to all that has come before during this final home stand of 2009. Down big early and continuing to make fielding mistake after fielding mistake--Washington dug a hole so big there was really no way they were going to dig themselves out this time.

Like so many games of my youth when The Senators were down, my brother and I rooted for Frank Howard to step to the plate and swing his lumber. And just like back then, those two kids enjoying the game today, innocently in front of us, experienced a similar moment in the bottom of the 8th when Our Franchise Player, the talented Ryan Zimmerman (getting the day off to rest) pinch hit with a chance to tie this game up at 6 apiece if he so happened to knock the baseball out of the park. A comeback that did not happen when Our Number 11 flied out to right field. But provided just enough excitement to let those children go home even more happier because they had seen their hero give his best effort.

Game Notes & Highlights

Garrett Mock really didn't pitch well. He also wasn't helped by his defense. Pete Orr thought twice about throwing a dribbler hit to him charging in from 3rd base in the top of the 1st inning. And when he hesitated, Orr lost the grip of the baseball and threw it into the ground. An infield single and throwing error which allowed Brian McCann and Yunel Escobar to score Atlanta's 3rd and 4th runs of the very first inning. This after Escobar had driven a two out, two strike single to right scoring Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. Mock continuing to not find the necessary out pitch when in trouble. Seven hits, four walks and six runs allowed (four earned) is not getting job done over five frames of pitching. The talent he possesses. The finishing he does not.

And even after Zack Segovia came on in the top of the 6th to pitch three innings of scoreless ball. An effort that actually allowed Washington to creep back into this game thanks to a pinch hit three run homer off the bat of Mike Morse and RBI single from Willie Harris--Our Bullpen again let everything get out of hand. Mike MacDougal unable to find the strike zone. And when he did in the 9th, The Braves hit him. Much the same with Ron Villone who allowed a crucial home run for the second time over the past three days late. This time, McCann taking Villone deep and into the upper deck of the rightfield seats near the Scoreboard Walk and Foul Pole. McCann hammered that pitch for a two run shot that, basically, closed this game out. But not before Logan Kensing allowed two more Braves to cross home plate (one charged to him).

On the other hand, Atlanta's young phenom pitcher, Tommy Hanson, was cruising along until Morse flat out SLUGGED a 93 MPH Fastball to dead centerfield. An absolute blast that landed on the green grass below the Batters Eye. A three run pitch hit homer that gave Washington's Fans something to cheer about and hope they could come back all the way. A long shot which didn't happen when Hanson settled down to finish seven complete while striking out seven. That young man really has some good stuff on the mound. And doesn't seem too phased about being a rookie.

Elijah Dukes had two really bad errors today. In the top of the 2nd, Chipper Jones hit a liner right at him, right at his glove. And Our Number 34 simply muffed it. Later, in the top of the 9th when this game got really out of hand when The Braves scored five runs, Dukes bent over to pick up a single by Adam LaRoche. He didn't bend over enough and the baseball scooted right under his glove and past him.

Sohna and I really like how The Atlanta Braves line up after a win to congratulate each other. Instead of the those in the dugout rushing out onto the field--they line up and meet the players one by one. Sort of classy and different.

Teddy returned for today's Presidents Race and came from behind to take the lead as all four Presidents turned the corner at the right field foul pole. As those among the announced crowd of 29,058 rose to see if Teddy would actually win?! Teddy decided to take in the love and proceeded to dance a jig in front of the stands. Abe rushing past to take the honors at the red tape.

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation raised nearly $3,000 for their charities this afternoon with their final Saturday Auction of the season. Among the items bidded on: Cristian Guzman, Elijah Dukes & Willie Harris signed jerseys. A base from Opening Day 2009, Jesus Flores signed cap. And signed bats from Adam Dunn and Willie Harris--as well as a 2009 Team Signed Baseball.

The rain came down steadily all game and forced the grounds crew to continually work the infield and mound to keep the field playable. Unfortunately, the bad weather cancelled the Gospel Music Fest scheduled as the post game entertainment.

And finally--there was a Movie Film Crew with a panaflex camera set up in the camera well just to the left of Our Washington Nationals Dugout today. Sohna and I are guessing they were filming game action for that movie shot earlier this summer at Nationals Park and throughout Washington, DC starring Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson and Reese Witherspoon. The one where The African Queen, myself and a few hundred other fans of Our Washington Nationals participated as extras.

Today's InGame Photos--Luis M. Alvarez (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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