Saturday, January 31, 2009

Did You Know Facts About 2008

Looking through the 2008 Season Statistics for Our Washington Nationals--the following "Did You Know Facts" stood out for me. Less obvious notes that you might not otherwise catch. The African Queen was getting a kick out of hearing some of these while learning more about Our Team.

After finishing 2008 with a 59-102 record, Washington has recorded a 284-363 (.439) record since the Inaugural Season of 2005. The Franchise's 24th losing season in their 40th year of Major League Baseball.

Last May 19th, when Washington defeated The Philadelphia Phillies on South Capitol Street, The Franchise recorded it's 3000 Career Victory. The first 2,755 coming as The Montreal Expos.

Washington did have a winning 5-2 record when drawing greater than 35,000 at Nationals Park. And were 16-18 when the crowds at home reached 30,000 or more.

But they were winless on Artificial Turf (0-3), 59-99 on grass, and were shutout 20 times.

Washington had 32 Wins and 49 Losses at the halfway point to the season. 27 & 53 the rest of the way.

August was the closest Washington came to playing .500 ball for any particular month: 14-15.

Wearing Home Whites--Our Washington Nationals were 26-33. Wearing "DC" Red: 8-13.

The Atlanta Braves were soundly beaten in the season series against Washington--Braves losing 12 of the 18 games played. The Florida Marlins on the other hand--pounded Washington to a tune of 14 Wins and just 3 Loses.

Washington used 50 different players, 25 of whom were pitchers. 15 Rookies donned a Nationals Uniform in 2008.

Only Shawn Hill and Nick Johnson are the remaining players that wore Montreal Uniforms before the team moved to DC.

By finishing with the worst record in Major League Baseball, Washington will be given The Number One Overall Pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. The Franchise has never drafted first before in 40 years. The Expansion Washington Senators picked first in 1969 and chose Jeff Burroughs--who eventually became an American League MVP and Two-Time All-Star.

Ryan Zimmerman is the only current National to have started at least three straight Opening Days for Washington (2006-2008).

19 Different Players were involved with 30 Disabled List Transactions in 2008--losing 1216 total games in 2008. Ironically, this number is LOWER than 2007. During the final season at RFK Stadium, Our Washington Nationals lost 1260 player games to The DL. (I was stunned to read that fact)

Cristian Guzman was the only Opening Night Starter to not go on the DL in 2008. Every position on the field was affected, except shortstop. "The Guz" and Willie Harris were the only players that were on the roster all season that DID NOT visit The DL. (Everday Players that were available for all 162 Games).

Emilio Bonifacio and Roger Bernadina both wore two different uniform numbers last year. Bonifacio first 6, then 7; Bernadina first 7, then 2 (after FLop was released). Rob Macowiak and Alberto Gonzalez both wore number 12 in 2008. Ray King and Charlie Manning both wore number 36.

Guzman had 57 Multi-Hit Games; Milledge 35; Harris 26; Zimmerman 23 (despite missing 50 games to injury).

Jesus Flores led the team with 18 Multi-RBI Games; Milledge was next with 14 and Ronnie Belliard had 13; Zimmerman 12.

Washington had 59 Game Winning Hits total--Jesus Flores, Elijah Dukes, Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge provided 26 of those--and Willie Harris provided five more. So 5 different players provided more than 50% of Washington's 2008 Game Winning Hits.

Dukes also led the team in Outfield Assists (9), far outdistancing the second most by Harris with four. Remember, Dukes missed nearly half the season to injury.

The Last Home Run hit by Our Washington Nationals during the Inaugural Season at Nationals Park was stroked by Ryan Zimmerman. Ironically, off Scott Olsen, then of The Marlins--now a teammate on 9/23/08.

The Last Home Run given up by Our Washington Nationals during the Inaugural Season at Nationals Park was given up by Levale Speigner. And just as ironically, Josh Willingham, then of The Marlins, now a National--hit that one on 9/24/08.

And finally--17 different Minor Leaguers in the Farm System Of Our Washington Nationals made their respective league All-Star Teams in 2008:

Garrett Mock (P), AAA--Columbus
Jordan Zimmermann (P), Bobby Brownlie (P) & Mike Daniel (OF)--AA Harrisburg
Adrian Alaniz (P), Edgardo Baez (OF), Matt Rogelstad (INF), Craig Stammen (P) & Josh Wilkie (P)--A Potomac
Michael Burgess (OF), Bill Rinehart (1B), Sean Rooney (C)--A Hagerstown
P.J. Dean (P--now traded to Florida in Olsen/Willingham Deal), Michael Guerrero (OF), Derek Norris (C)--A Vermont
Chris Curran (OF), Esmailyn Gonzalez (SS--GCL Batting Champion)--Rookie Gulf Coast League.

Just some interesting facts about Our 2008 Washington Nationals worth passing along. Study Notes for The African Queen as her Graduate Work in Baseball continues.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Probably Not This Year Either

You may recall some of the talk about a Water Taxi Service to Nationals Park. From the very first days of the South Capitol Street location being named as the stadium sight--some fans, some businesses and even some front office staff for Our Washington Nationals have all mentioned the possibility.

With Year Two of Nationals Park close at hand--we went looking for an update. And found out there has been little movement on making a water taxi service to the ballpark a possibility. The District Of Columbia Government has yet to move on even a single proposal for a dock adjacent to the ballpark. In fact, there have been no proposals. With the economy in such a downturn--Ballpark District Development has slowed a bit. Which also means Florida Rock--the cement company located on Potomac Avenue SE--may not be in a hurry to vacate their business property, as planned, to lead the re-development of the Anacostia Waterfront. And if the Anacostia Waterfront project is put off until the economy rebounds--you can bet Florida Rock is not going to want to sit on newly vacant property when their cement business can still churn over dollars for their coffers. That would not be sound business.

As for the potential Water Taxi operators, Potomac Riverboat Company told us they would love to sell The African Queen, me or anyone else wanting a ticket to Nationals Park from Alexandria, Virginia on one of their boats. But only as soon as the pylons begin to be driven for a new dock next to Nationals Park.

So it's probably safe to say: any Water Taxi to Nationals Park is not going to begin operations in 2009--either.

All Photos--Copyright Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Season Ticket Partner Zone

According to a email sent to Season Ticket Holders late this afternoon--the new and improved Season Ticket Partner Zone is up and operating.

At the link:

Ticket holders can search for others to share their season tickets for 2009. A Free Service.

Other new features:

Partial Season Plan Holders can now post their tickets for 2009.

The Minimum amount of game tickets one must post has been lowered to 10 different games.

And Lexus Presidents Club and PNC Diamond Seats can now be added to The Zone.

Considering the ongoing faltering economy--every little bit helps to enjoy Nationals Baseball in 2009.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Game Changers In Green Technology

Yahoo! Travel lists Nationals Park as Number Two on its new Top 10 List of Sustainable Design. In fact, they call The South Capitol Street Ballpark a Must SEE for Eco-Tourists. Even going so far as to call The LEED-Certified Ballpark--ICONIC. How about that? Yahoo! Travel also really likes The Bike Valet option too!

Number One on the list is The Living Roof of The Science Center in San Francisco. Very Interesting.

The District Of Columbia Government and Our Washington Nationals--Game Changers In Green Technology--But Iconic? Never expected to hear that word to describe Nationals Park (as much as I enjoy it).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Conversation With Bobby Williams

This past Sunday night, a celebration was taking place at The Potomac Nationals 14th Annual Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction. The Mills Cup--The Carolina League Championship Trophy--was on display. And not lost on most of those in attendance at The Hyatt Fair Lakes in Fairfax, Virginia, was the very fact that The Potomac Nationals success of 2008 reflected well on the still growing Farm System of Our Washington Nationals. A barren system just a few short years ago that now--at least for the first time since The Franchise moved from Montreal--is on the verge of developing some impact players for The Major League Team on a more consistent level.

On hand to meet and greet The P-Nats faithful at The Hot Stove was not only Washington Senator Great--Frank Howard, but also Bobby Williams--The Director of Player Development for Our Washington Nationals. Mr. Williams was there to update some of Potomac's most faithful fans--assuring them that even more young, quality talent is coming up through Washington's System. Some of whom will be playing in Woodbridge, Virginia this year for The P-Nats. After the program and presentations had all ended, Bobby Williams sat down with me for an engaging interview. He had 10 Minutes and we attempted to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.

With that, here we go with My Conversation With Bobby Williams--The Director of Player Development for Our Washington Nationals:

The Potomac Nationals are celebrating tonight a Championship Season with their fans, but many times that’s not the goal of the minor leagues—It’s developing talent for The Major League Roster. How do you balance improving that talent, but still building a winning system when there is so much player-shuffling going on? (SBF)

“We did have a lot of players come through Potomac last year (68) and probably more than normal years. But we battled so many injuries at the upper levels, which forced us to move some players up to fill those spots. We have talent now. We have depth in our system now--which has allowed us to fill those holes here at Potomac with quality players. So, there is not a drop in performance and the level of play is still high. That's great credit to our advanced scouting system now in place.”

“It was a great year for us last year on a number of levels—especially here in Potomac with the championship. We are trying to develop players for Washington, Major League Players—that’s our top goal. But, we also want to develop winning players--Championship players that understand how to play under pressure. So when they get to Washington, they’ve experienced winning and they know what it’s like. Hopefully, they can continue that at the Major League Level.”

Team President Stan Kasten has stated over the past few days that this is the very first year, since the Nationals arrived in Washington, that the Minor Leagues players in the system are on the cusp of truly benefiting the Major League Roster. (SBF)

“We had some outstanding drafts in ’07 & ’08. The Scouting Department has done an outstanding job, not only by drafting the right players, but signing them and getting them into our system--allowing our development people to continue the development process. Some of these guys are now starting to move up the ranks and are very close. Guys like Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis (who we actually got in a trade). Michael Burgess is getting there. It’s exciting to see these youngsters progress and move through the system quickly.”

I know it’s only a rumor right now, but the word is out that Jack McGeary (left-handed pitcher) may forgo his final two years at Stanford to play professional baseball full time with The Nationals. What kind of talent is he? People here in DC don’t really know that much about him. (SBF)

“He really is a tremendous talent. He has a very good arm, a plus curveball. His fastball is 88MPH to 91MPH with good command. He is also developing a change up. He’s got outstanding makeup and work ethic. He’s got the desire to succeed. He knows what it takes and he’s willing to put in the time. McGeary is trying to be in school at Stanford and still trying to prepare for professional baseball. He’s been able to balance both and put in the time to improve as a player--and I am looking forward to seeing him this spring.”

You just mentioned a topic that I think is pretty important and many other baseball people say the same thing—make up. You can have all the talent in the world, but how important is make up to becoming a Major League Player? (SBF)

“Make up is extremely important. It can be a separator for a player that’s got all that talent as you say but he may not have the work ethic. He may not have the heart, the desire, the determination, and the passion for the game. So, I think make up is extremely important in a player and in many respects, it’s the sixth tool (hit, hit with power, run, throw and field are the standard five).”

You’ve mentioned young players many of the fans may already know about—Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Burgess, Ross Detwiler even--are there some lower level players that may even be coming to Potomac right now, or very soon, that fans may not know about—but you think are pretty solid talents? (SBF)

“Derek Norris is a good looking young catching prospect in our system. He had a very good season this past year in Vermont. He has a really strong arm and hits with power. He has a very good approach at the plate. He knows the strike zone. He gets on base and draws walks. His receiving and blocking (of pitches) are improving. He works hard at that. He’s got a chance to move through the system quickly once he really locks in on his defense.”

We have a young left-hander that pitched well for us last year in Vermont—Will Atwood. He’s a good-looking lefty that has three quality pitches he can throw for strikes. He’s a guy that’s got the chance to also move through the system pretty quickly.”

Jim Bowden and Dana Brown have in many respects concentrated on pitching early on in each of the past drafts. Do you feel the system is getting better balanced with a better grouping of prospects all over the field and not just on the mound? (SBF)

“I think it will. We just didn’t have a whole lot of talent in our system a few years ago. And pitching and defense wins championships. We just didn’t have the pitching depth in our system. So that was our focus in the past few drafts. Since we now have depth in pitching, yeah, I think you will see us looking elsewhere on the field.”

Everyone knows The Nationals have the Number One pick in this year's draft. And you have the 10th thanks to Aaron Crow declining to sign last summer. Stephen Strasburg is highly touted. That pick aside, what is the goal for Washington in this year’s draft? (SBF)

“We are going to take the best player available. When it’s our turn to pick the best player on the board will be chosen—regardless of position. Hopefully, all will pan out.”

I understand building the farm system; others want to see faster development on The Major League Roster. Is there a medium.” (SBF)

“It takes time. It takes time to build an organization—especially from where we are coming from. We are building from the ground up. It’s scouting. It’s drafting players and then getting those players into the system and developing them through your player development system. We are trying to get those players to Washington as quickly as we can. It does take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. We are making progress. The Farm System has come along way in a few years. So, I think the Major League team is going to start seeing some of these youngsters soon.”

Mr. Kasten said this afternoon at NatsFest that fans need to have more patience because he believes fans may not see all the development going on in the Minors, but the franchise is actually getting there. (SBF)

“With Potomac winning the champion here last year and The Dominican Summer League team winning two years in a row—there are players coming up that people in Washington may not be familiar with yet, but they are coming and it’s exciting.”

I know that Dana, Mike Rizzo and even Jose Rijo with his Academy in The Dominican Republic have been looking for some good young latin talent. Supposedly, Washington found one in Esmailyn Gonzalez. Are any of those type players close to breaking out? (SBF)

“Gonzalez has made huge progress. Huge Progress!! Last year, he had an outstanding year in the Gulf Coast League. He was the Batting Champion in the GCL. His defense continues to get better. He’s starting to get stronger, mature physically and he’s showing a little more pop in the bat. He’s hitting some doubles and triples. He hit two home runs last year. He really is making a lot of progress. He's maturing, not only physically, but also he’s showing more leadership ability. His English is still not fluent, but he’s working at it, getting better, and I expect him to be ready for a full season at Hagerstown this year. I am really pleased with how far he’s come along and am looking forward to seeing him this year.”

A long-term guy that actually may pay off--you believe? (SBF)

“Yeah, and you’ve got to remember he just turned 19 (years of age). Still very young, but extremely talented.”

That concluded My Conversation With Bobby Williams.

Clearly, The Farm System for Our Washington Nationals still has some holes to fill. But, progress has been made since the 2006 Season. And for first time since that Inaugural Season of DC Baseball in 2005, there is a light to be seen at the end of what was a long dark and empty tunnel. Some talent has now been drafted and is currently being developed. Hopefully soon, some of that work will pay off and make a serious impact on The Major League Team called Our Washington Nationals.

Rushmores On The Party Circuit

With all the activity surrounding The Winter Caravan, Season Ticket Holder Luncheon and NatsFest over the past six days, there was not a really good time to post up The Inauguration Photos Of Our Racing Presidents on the party circuit. Not only did Abe strut down Pennsylvania Avenue on top of The Illinois Float for The 44th President Of The United States' Inauguration Parade, but he along with Tom, GW & of course Teddy, partied throughout The District of Columbia that evening of January 20th, 2009. Here are a few of those photos showing The Rushmores strutting their stuff--courtesy of Our Washington Nationals.

Abe, Tom & George at The Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.

Always on a course of his own--Teddy flying solo at The Delaware & Arkansas Inaugural Balls.

And now some Bonus Pictures--My Best Friend!! Screech!! in Syracuse with Teddy at The Chiefs Hot Stove Banquet on Friday, January 16th.

Never shy for the camera--Our Lovable Loser--Teddy--always gets the big TV Interview.

No matter where Our Racing Presidents go, they always draw a crowd.

All Photos Courtesy of The Washington Nationals--All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Rob Dibble Media Availability

Tonight at 7PM Eastern, newly announced MASN Color Analyst for Our Washington Nationals was available via conference call for the local media. Given the opportunity to call in--I listened and transcribed the entire 16 minutes of the conversation.

Before this Press Conference occurred, Our Washington Nationals released a brief statement by Team President Stan Kasten: "We are thrilled to have a talent like Rob Dibble join our broadcast crew. His enthusiasm and knowledge will quickly make him very popular among Nationals viewers. Rob and I talked today about the three things we know he will be: honest, informative and fun."

MASN spokesperson--Todd Webster--mentioned to the media that Don Sutton was offered an opportunity to return to Atlanta and broadcast for The Braves again and had asked to be let out of his 4 year contract with MASN. Washington then set up a series of criteria given by Mr. Kasten and John Guagliano (Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting for Washington) in finding Don's replacement--including someone who was committed to the team long term. MASN worked with the team to find the right candidate--all done privately. More than 10 were originally considered. Although complete contract terms were not disclosed, Rob Dibble received a contract for MORE than two years--that's as specific as it got.

With that, here is the complete Media Availability with Rob Dibble tonight via Phone Conference Call. Dibble was in California as this took place:

“First, let me say, thank you to everybody that’s on the conference call. A: what an honor and privilege is it to get an opportunity to work for MASN and work for The Washington Nationals and work with Bob Carpenter and also follow in the footsteps of Don Sutton. Who was not only a Hall of Fame player but I also feel was a Hall of Fame Broadcaster as well and has always been a favorite of mine.”

“It’s just an evolution for me since I retired from the game in 1996. I’ve done play by play on TV and Radio. I’ve done it every year on radio for XM for the Futures Game at The All-Star Game. The last four years I have done year round baseball talk on Sirius/XM with Kevin Kennedy. So getting back into the game as far as closer to the field is definitely something I was very excited and actually very honored that I was considered for the job. It came on quickly. It was a tough decision, but I will be working for Sirius/XM in a smaller capacity than in the past. And my main focus will be The Washington Nationals and MASN.”

Question: One of the great things about your style is that you have been very candid and very passionate about your stances on a number of issues in regard to baseball. Do you feel now being part of a broadcast team is going to take away from that passion or will you be as outspoken as you have always been?

“No, I will always be as outspoken and honest as I have been for the past 12 years. I think that what people may not know about me is that I am not Rob Dibble, the former Nasty Boy player. My Father was a newsman for 50 years, until he passed away 11 years ago. I come from one of the most honest and excellent broadcasters ever in his field. What I bring to the table is a fairness and openness and I will never hold back on a player because my job is to first to The Nationals and MASN but second to The Fans. Players are not paying me. The players are playing baseball and I keep it to that. I will not assassinate their characters. I am not going to be critical of a guy that doesn’t deserve it. I am not going to rip on a guy because he makes $20 Million per year.”

“It was a privilege to be a player and it’s been a privilege to be around MLB as a broadcaster for 12 years. I hope to continue doing this for the next 20, something I don’t take lightly. I try to steer clear of trouble off the field, as far as broadcasting goes. I still believe I am a role model as far as being a citizen of The United States. So, when I am broadcasting, I know there are a lot of kids listening. I know there are a lot of coaches that are listening to any type of tips and coaching things I can bring to the broadcast. And I think that at the end of the day, Bob Carpenter is my partner and I have worked with some great guys in the industry—Brent Musberger in particular—and people like that. The job is first and foremost to do the play-by-play, to make it an enjoyable entertaining happening for the fans. And then I add my element, which is my expertise and my color analyst. So, is there any reason for me not to be critical about the players? Absolutely not. Do I respect the fact that I work for The Nationals and MASN—absolutely.”

Question: Why do you think that you and Bob Carpenter will be a good fit together? And also, you will be the 4th analyst on MASN TV for The Nationals—are you here to stay for a while?

“I have a multi-year deal that I am very happy about and which I am committed to. That was one of the discussions. Remember, for some of the people in the room that forget that four years ago, before I did “The Best Damn Sports Show” job, I interviewed for this position. At the time, it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t married at the time. I was engaged to my lovely wife. And now I am in the position where she actually had to give me the OK to almost go back to being a player. Remember there is a lot of commitment and sacrifice involved. You have to travel with the team. You are basically on the road half of every month for nine months. So, if you don’t have a strong marriage it’s not easy to do this job.”

“To answer the other part, with Bob Carpenter. A: I have always loved Bob Carpenter’s work whether it’s ESPN, or whether it was back with The Cardinals. He’s one of the best in the business. And Don Sutton also comes into the equation because I am following in his footsteps following him. I have always idolized him, not only as a former player and pitcher and Hall of Famer, but as a broadcaster. He has always been honest. He tells it like it is and he is true to the game. My first job one is to Major League Baseball. Nobody is bigger than the game. Nobody should just become the story apart from the game. That is what I am bringing to the game also. I also played the game. I talk about the game. But the game is what the fans are interested in. They are not interested in Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble, per se. But they want us to have as much fun and passion watching, seeing and calling this game as I actually did on the field.”

“Now I can never replace what I did as a player. But as a broadcaster, it is my job to not talk down to you, but watch the game with you. And that’s what most of the fun of my job will be in the future.”

Question: You mention remaining on with Sirius/XM in some capacity. Can you describe what your role there will be? And secondly, since we don’t have a full resume for you, what is the extent of your game calling on television—color commentary and play-by-play?

“I started calling games back in ’97 with ESPN for radio and television. And I agreed way back in the day to a four game per week schedule, which turned into a seven-year career with ESPN. The radio and TV broadcasting led to Baseball Tonight to The Dan Patrick Show, SportCenter, ESPN News—the chats I did for .com—I could go on and on and on. But I don’t want bore you with my broadcasting stuff. I have always been calling games since 1997 whether it was for television or radio, for FOX. In fact, this year I was actually given the opportunity to call a couple of games and one of the games was rained out for Big Fox (Network). And I was allowed to come in and do a couple of Pre-Game Shows. So, I have always been doing a radio show on baseball. I did radio shows on weekends about baseball with Karl Ravech back in my ESPN days. And for the last five years, year-round, I have been managing the afternoon drive show on Sirius/XM,”

“I don’t think it’s as much calling a baseball game as it is being fair to the listeners. I am never going to be a homer. I never liked guys that are homers when I played. If we are not playing well, I am going to tell you why we are not playing well. I am not going to be critical of the team, just to be critical. It’s my job to explain if a guy is inexperience at a position or if a pitcher needs to pitch inside. But I am not going to assassinate his character either. I hated that as a player. Broadcasters should understand they are broadcasting. I was never a perfect player. I am not going to tell people I was a model citizen as a player. But I am also going to lack the etiquette that the game demands. I am not going to be swearing on air. I am not going to be disrespectful just because people think 20 years ago ‘you were this!’ I am not a player anymore. I won’t even try to remember what it was like when I was a player. I know I played. I can look at my statistics, but it’s been a long time since I stepped foot on the field. So, I respect the fact these young men are busting their asses on the field. And after that, I am going to be as honest as I possibly can.”

Question: And your Sirius/XM role going forward?

“Going forward, I will still be doing that five days a week, but it will only be two hours a day from 4PM to 6PM. And that will give me ample time to do pre-game and post-game stuff with MASN. Like I said before, my commitment now is to MASN and The Washington Nationals moving forward in my broadcasting career.”

Question: What impressions do you have about The Nationals at this point? What do you know about them, their roster, their talent, etc?

“I know they won 59 and lost 102. They have a lot of great young players. Ryan Zimmerman was hurt for much of last year. They need to get a little bit stronger as far as starting rotation, bullpen. But they have a lot of great young talent. And they acquired more, when they acquired Willingham and Olsen. I see them as a young Braves type of organization. When you have Stan Kasten who was a part of all those division championships, World Championships with The Braves—building one of the strongest farm systems I have ever played against as a player. And then play against them in The Major Leagues—he knows how to build the nucleus. So, I think I am here to grow with this ball club. I feel they are a handful of players away from a Division Winner. It can happen that quickly. I will give you a for instance. I know The Reds, before I got to The Big Leagues, were finishing second a lot. Then in 1989 with the entire Pete Rose thing, we finished 5th with a lot of injuries. Then we come back and go wire-to-wire and win The World Championship in ’90 and then have a lot more injuries in ’91 and go back to 5th place. Baseball is a game that no matter how great you look on paper, or how bad you look on paper, you can do some amazing things. A lot of it is the character and a lot of it is your belief in faith that you put your uniform on the same way The Phillies do. You put your uniform on the same way The Mets do, or The Braves or The Marlins. And you need to respect that fact and respect yourself. I think this Nationals team is very capable of winning 75 or 80 games—maybe even more. It’s just a question of staying healthy, getting great pitching and defense and going out and earning that right to be called a good team.”

Final Question: I was wondering whether you had any reservations about coming onboard here given the fact that The Nationals were fairly down in the TV Ratings last year. I think they were last in The Majors? That got a lot of attention. I was curious to know about the level of interest in baseball in Washington?

“Well, A—if I didn’t believe in The Nationals and MASN, I wouldn’t be here. And I wouldn’t have committed to a multi-year deal if I wasn’t committed and felt that this team could go straight up. I think that is what excited me about it. They treated me like one of the family already when I talked to the people—including Chris Glass from MASN and also all the people at MASN. They have been amazing to me. That’s the type of atmosphere you need to build a winner. It’s starts not just with the broadcasters and upper management people and The Nationals, but it’s down on the field and I am just calling the games. But, I am going to have as much fun talking about a last place Washington team as a first place Washington team because when I was a player, I didn’t care whether I was in last place or first place, it was a privilege and it was exciting to be in The Major Leagues—that’s our vision. So this is part of my dream to also be a Major League Broadcaster and broadcast Major League games—it’s something I have wanted to do since I retired. It does not matter if it’s The Nationals, the bad ratings—I am looking forward to 2009. I am not looking back to 2008.”

With that final answer--no further questions were asked of Rob Dibble.

Rob Dibble

I don't know much about Rob Dibble in the broadcast booth. Followed his career with The Cincinnati Reds when he was part of "The Nasty Boys" bullpen, but don't recall having seen him much On-Air broadcasting baseball. I've never watched the Fox sports program he co-hosts. So, I really have no judgement to base his work on.

People tell me he is a 'tell it like it is" sort of analyst. And that Rob Dibble doesn't beat around the bush in giving his opinion.

Whether that's good or bad, I will find out soon enough. For as of today, Rob Dibble was named to replace Hall Of Famer Don Sutton in the broadcast both for MASN Nationals Television Games. Being a former Cincinnati Player, Dibble really made me chuckle upon hearing his name--figuring JimBo might well have had a hand in his signing here.

Meanwhile, Sohna and I will miss Don Sutton. We thought he provided an excellent level of baseball knowledge to each broadcast and was a really nice man too.

Good Luck Don--to you and your family--back in Atlanta.

Here is The MASN Press Release

MASN Names Rob Dibble As New Color Announcer for Nationals Baseball 2-Time All Star, World Series Champion, MVP of the NLCS, XM/Sirius Broadcaster

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- MASN has named Rob Dibble as the new color commentator for the Washington Nationals. He will join play-by-play man Bob Carpenter in the booth beginning with the 2009 season under a multi-year contract with MASN.

A 2-time All Star and MVP of the 1990 NLCS with the Cincinnati Reds, Dibble was part of the "Nasty Boys" bullpen which helped Cincinnati win the 1990 World Series. His broadcasting career includes stints at ESPN, Fox, and

"I'm excited to join MASN in covering one of the great new franchises in baseball, and I'm honored to be part of the MASN and Nationals' families. I will try to bring my experience as a pitcher, a ballplayer, and a broadcaster to the booth and bring fans a deeper understanding of what's happening on the field," said Dibble. "I've never been shy about sharing my opinion, so fans will know where I'm coming from."

"MASN has earned a national reputation for its commitment to the Nationals and to bringing fans inside the game, with features like Wired Wednesdays and pitch tracking. I'm looking forward to being part of the biggest baseball network in the country."

Dibble's arrival at Nationals Park will be a reunion in the broadcast booth, as he worked with Bob Carpenter at ESPN in the 1990s.

The Nationals' former color analyst, Don Sutton, who was halfway through a 4 year deal with MASN, had asked to be released from his contract for personal reasons.

"I have truly enjoyed the two years I had in Washington covering the Nationals and working for MASN. I will always be thankful that my wife Mary, my daughter Jackie and I had this experience. MASN is a first-class operation and deserves great credit for their pioneering success at presenting the Nationals games and effectively promoting the team. I appreciate that MASN has granted my request to be released for personal reasons, and I'm grateful for their understanding and cooperation," Sutton said. "I'm going to miss the class, the professionalism and the friendship of the folks who made sure we got good pictures on the air."

Dibble will make his high-energy debut in the MASN booth during Nationals spring training in March.

P-Nats Hot Stove Banquet

UPDATE: The Potomac Nationals announced The 14th Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction raised $3100 for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

“There were people concerned when they (The Washington Nationals) first came in they would take fans away from us," stated Art Silber, Owner of The Potomac Nationals. "But it's really almost two different things. The cost factor (to attend any game) is a significant difference. And I really believe that more than anything, the closeness has built up even more fans for us because a lot of the Major League Fans never came to Minor League games. Now, fans do have the opportunity as we always say: ‘See The Future Stars Of The Washington Nationals’."

"We market on that basis and it’s been pretty successful.”

Mr. Silber was standing among a packed house at The Hyatt Fair Lakes in Fairfax, Virginia. Nearly 200 Fans, Boosters and Sponsors of The Potomac Nationals were on hand to celebrate 2008's Carolina League Championship and look forward to another fresh start of young talent coming on board for 2009. Coming right behind Sunday's NatsFest at Nationals Park, January 25th became a Full Baseball Day for The African Queen and I. The 14th Annual Potomac Nationals Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction was in full swing. My Favorite Player Of All Time!! Frank Howard was on hand to engage the crowd, be his usual robust and outgoing self and entertain like not many former baseball players out there. And Bobby Williams, Director of Player Development for Our Washington Nationals was there as well. Mr. Williams giving the gathered P-Nats Fans and Boosters a preview of what to expect at Pfitzer Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia for the 2009 Season.

“Our Scouting Department has done an outstanding job over the past few years. We’ve had two great drafts in ’07 and ’08, "said Bobby Williams. "We are adding talent to this system. Talent which we didn’t have a couple of years ago. And now we have this talent that is down below and moving up. We have earned the right to the number one pick in this year’s draft. We also have the 10th pick overall. So it is really shaping up. It has the chance to be a spectacular draft this year.”

Art Silber agrees: “There is no question the team we had last year and the team will have this year are certainly better than the first (P-Nats) team of four years ago. But at the same time the quality of the coaching, the manager and the scouting has improved dramatically. I think when the new ownership group (The Lerners) came in with Stan Kasten—a person with as much baseball experience as he has and the tremendous success he had with Atlanta—he knew the right formula and he knew which pieces you must have in place to make it happen.”

Throughout the night, guests could bid on Silent Auction Items including the opportunities to be "GM For The Day" for the P-Nats, Or--Announcer at a 2009 Potomac Home Game. But Potomac Nationals items where not the only things available in the wide ranging auction. A Signed Hockey Stick from The Washington Capitals was there for the taking, as well a baseball bat signed by Hall Of Famer Tony Gwynn and another Baseball Package signed by Cal Ripken, Jr. All proceeds going to The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

"Hondo" spoke privately with The Booster Club before the main event began, then shook hands and signed autographs for anybody wanting. Later Frank Howard gave his usual funny and self-deprecating speech to the gathering. (We haven't had the time to do the transcript, but here is an audio link courtesy of The Potomac Nationals).

What was clear throughout the evening's event is that the now 5-Year committment to Potomac by Our Washington Nationals is paying off dividends.

Mr. Silber seems very pleased: “This relationship is incredibly important. When you have the opportunity to be affiliated with a ball club that is in your backyard and your fans have the opportunity to see players at early stages of their careers and then maybe two or three years later see them playing in the Major League Ball Park and it’s all local—that’s a tremendous advantage. And certainly, the trend for many of the major league teams in recent years has been to try to have as many of their Minor League Affiliates as close as possible."

And Bobby Williams promised another quality group of young players for The P-Nat Fans in attendance at The Hyatt--Fair Lakes: "We have players down in our system, down below, who are going to be coming through Potomac this year. We’ve moved a lot of prospects up, but we have more players coming and that’s exciting. There will be some quality players here this year, if not at the start of the year, but later in the second half for sure. You can expect another good pitching staff. The rotation right now should have all prospects in it. The lineup is going to be an exciting mix of power and speed. Some guys who can run and some guys who can hit for power. Defensively, we are excited about the players that will be here. It should be a good defensive team. It should be a good group of guys.”

The Potomac Nationals first home game of 2009 is set for April 17th. On that night, attendees will receive a replica Carolina League Championship P-Nats Ring--similar to very ones given to Staff and The Players of The 2008 Carolina League Champions. 2009 Season Tickets are now currently on sale.

PS--I did ask Art Silber about the possibility of The Potomac Nationals getting a new stadium: “I think we are just a victim of the economic environment. Obviously, the county (Prince William) has been incredibly supportive. But they certainly can’t do anything right now. We are waiting any day right now to find out about the naming rights (for Pfitzer Stadium). If the naming rights are sold, we are all set to move ahead.” (and make things happen)

PSS--Mr. Silber who fills in as First Base Coach for The Potomac Nationals during each season, stated his goal is to become the very last person in Professional Baseball to wear jersey number 42--Jackie Robinson's number. Growing up in Brooklyn, Art was a diehard Dodger and Jackie Fan. Only he and Mariano Rivera of The New York Yankees are the only two persons left in Professional Baseball still allowed to wear the now retired number in the sport. They both wore 42 at the time baseball retired Jackie's Number forever back in 1997.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Children's National Medical Center

“This is a desperate cause because we have 1800 patients we see on an annual basis with Type One Diabetes," stated Dianne Wicklein, Director of Development for The Children's Hospital Foundation. "As you probably know, diabetes—Type One and Type Two—is an epidemic now, Type Two especially. In the past, you never heard of children having Type Two Diabetes. But now thanks to the sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise and so forth we are now seeing it in children at a very, very alarming rate. In fact, DC has the highest rate now nationally of children with Type Two Diabetes."

Ms. Wicklein was standing in The Atrium of The Children's National Medical Center in NW Washington, DC. Surrounding her were young children of all ages--suffering from diabetes and other illnesses. And Our Washington Nationals were on hand to help out in making their future a better one. Looking to close out this four day tour strong, one of very last stops on The 2009 Winter Caravan may actually be one of the most important ones. Since March of 2007, The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation has committed to assisting in helping to build a Diabetes Care Complex at The Michigan Avenue NW Children's Hospital.

"The total cost of the project is $5 Million Dollars," continued Ms. Wicklein. "The Nationals made the lead gift of $2 Million Dollars, and what's happened with their commitment, was that we (Children’s National Medical Center) were able to secure space in this hospital's master facilities plan.”

So basically The Nationals have jump-started and got the word out there that otherwise you might never had been able to do? (SBF)

Ms. Wicklein: “Absolutely. We would not have been able to start this project without them. We have a wonderful working relationship with them and we are both committed—together—to at least get us to $3.75 Million ASAP!! And then all the way to $5 Million.” Currently, $1.1 Million has been raised in additional funding. Once that $3.75 Million level is attained, ground can be broken on the Complex Care Center."

Since The Dream Foundation's investment, over 248 additional donations ranging from $5 to $500,000 have been pledged.

“The Children’s Complex is really going well. We are happy to with the progress," added Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, Chair of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. "But I would like to get over the financial hump this year. I really would like to get there. Granted, it’s a tough time to raise money, but this is such an exciting opportunity for The Dream Foundation to get these doors open—so we keep pushing it."

The Dream Foundation is driving the cause forward because, to many, time is of the essence in curtailing the epidemic of pediatric diabetes. “Of our 1800 patients, about 89% of them are Type One Patients, 11% Type Two and growing. This is a chronic illness that needs a lot of care, ongoing care, and education—so you need adequate space to be able to do that," explained Dianne Wicklein. "And the facilities we have now here at the hospital are very inadequate to properly teach and support our families in the way we really need to. We do a wonderful job already. We have the premiere program, I think, in the entire Metropolitan Area for Type One Diabetes. But what we could do with this additional dedicated space is just phenomenal.”

For nearly one hour, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Justin Maxwell, Steven Shell, Terrell Young, Mike O'Connor, Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes and TV Broadcaster Bob Carpenter entertained the ill youths. Even My Best Friend Screech!! was on hand to provide some laughter. Of all the Winter Caravan Events witnessed over the past extended weekend, this stop at The Children's National Medical Center had that special feeling of importance. The opportunity to assist one less fortunate today and make their life a better tomorrow.

“We (The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation) needed a health cornerstone in Washington", concluded Ms. Tanenbaum. "Diabetes is so under funded because it’s such a chronic disease. This is something you live with for a long period of time. It’s expensive; it requires a lot of education. The really horrible effects of the disease might not manifest itself until later in life. There are so many things about diabetes that make it difficult to fund. And there is such a wellness component to it that I felt a sports franchise (Our Washington Nationals) must have something to say about that?”

PS--Some of you may recall a special "Text To Give" night at Nationals Park last season.

Dianne Wicklein: “Last year on July 13th, we had the First Annual Children’s Nationals Day at Nationals Park. That was very exciting. Our kids were all involved in the Pre-Game. We launched the first in Major League Baseball “Text To Give” where people could text in their donation while at the ballpark enjoying the game. It was a miracle we got that program approved by Major League Baseball but it was so successful we are going to be doing it again this year. Our second annual event will be on July 5th, 2009”.