Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dedicated MASN HD Channel Begins April 1st

No--it's not an April Fools Joke. MASN begins broadcasting Full Time in HD beginning tomorrow--April 1st. A total of 210 games involving Our Washington Nationals and The Baltimore Orioles will be shown in High Definition in 2009. The first baseball broadcast to be aired this Saturday, April 4th when both Washington & Baltimore meet at Nationals Park in the final game of Spring Training before Opening Day.

105 Baseball Games for each team will be shown in High Def. Check your satellite, cable or Verizon Fios provider for exact channel. I read the other day that Verizon is carrying the new MASN HD channel.

Here is the complete press release from MASN:

MASN Launches MASN HD Wednesday

Dedicated HD channel to televise 210 HD Nationals and Orioles games in 2009

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - MASN, the local leader in live sports entertainment and the television home of the Nationals and Orioles, will launch its full-time HD channel on Wednesday, April 1 and will televise 210 Major League Baseball games in high definition in 2009. Both teams' home-openers will be televised in high-definition, including the Orioles vs. Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards live at 4:00 p.m. on April 6 and the Nationals vs. Phillies at Nationals Park live at 3:00 p.m. on April 13.

MASN will televise in HD the teams' final pre-season tune-up on Saturday, April 4th as the Nationals host the Orioles at Nationals Park live at 6:00 p.m.
MASN HD will televise 105 Nationals and 105 Orioles games in high definition this season. The network will shoot and produce every Nationals and Orioles game in high-definition for archival purposes and for rebroadcast the next day on MASN HD.

MASN HD will now occupy a permanent channel position in the HD lineup of its cable and satellite carriers throughout a seven-state television territory. MASN and MASN 2 will remain unchanged.

With three channels this season, the easiest way to locate MASN, MASN2, or MASN HD is for viewers to check the channel guide on their televisions. Viewers can also log onto masnsports.com for a full listing of cable and satellite channel positions for MASN, MASN2 and MASN HD.

Most of MASN's cable providers are carrying MASN HD this season, including Antietam, Armstrong*, Atlantic Broadband, Bay Country, Broadstripe, Charter*, Comcast*, Cox, DirecTV, Easton, Harron Metrocast*, NTelos, Openband, RCN, Reds Cable, and Verizon FIOS.

* May not carry MASN HD in all regions within MASN's television territory.

Take Note

The tickets and information sent to our home yesterday concerning this weekend's Full Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day Event included two important facts to remember if you are attending.

So take note.

When anyone arrives for admission to the 1PM Scheduled Appreciation Day, not only must they bring their Golden Ticket sent by Our Washington Nationals for the event, but everyone MUST ALSO present their April 4th Exhibition Game Full Season Ticket to that evenings game with The Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park.

Repeat--you must have both The Appreciation Day Ticket AND The Orioles/Nationals Full Season Game Ticket. The last exhibition game of 2009 is scheduled to begin at 6PM. You CAN NOT have a Golden Ticket & an individually and separately purchased game ticket for the exhibition affair. You must have a FULL SEASON GAME TICKET ONLY.

Additionally, and this has been an issue with some fans in past team events. The flyer sent along with The Appreciation Day Tickets clearly states that Ryan Zimmerman will be on hand for photographs ONLY. Our Number 11 will not be signing autographs. It is our understanding that Ryan has an autograph contract with a third party that does not allow him to sign at events like this. Just passing along the information.

Other Photo & Autograph Rules: One Autograph per player signing. One Photo per player. No one is guaranteed to receive an autograph/photograph with every player at Fan Appreciation Day.

Full Season Ticket Holder Appreciation Day will begin at 1PM and run until approximately 3:30PM. Fans who use The Nats Express from RFK can leave their vehicles in Lot 8 all day until the conclusion of the baseball game. Fans that have purchased game parking in garages or lots may also leave their cars at those locations for the duration of the game. No need to worry about moving your car. This will allow many to watch Batting Practice between The Season Ticket Holder Event and The Exhibition Game.

So, if you are attending these two events this Saturday, April 4th--Please Take Note Of The Detail Information--and bring Both your Appreciation Day Golden Ticket AND your Orioles/Nationals Full Season Game Ticket to Nationals Park.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's Conference Call (The Conclusion) With Manny Acta

The final 10 Minutes of Today's Conference Call with local media and bloggers consisted of Our Manager Manny Acta fielding eight questions about the projected 2009 Lineup for Our Washington Nationals. Of note were queries on Lastings Milledge as projected leadoff man and protecting young arms Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis from overuse so early in their burgeoning Major League careers.

With that, here we go with the final chapter of Today's Conference Call, concluding with Manny Acta.

Question: Why are you confident this season will turn out better than last?

“We are excited about our club. It’s a better club than what we had here the last two years. Obviously, the addition of Adam Dunn gives us a legit hitter in the middle of the order that we haven’t had here over the last few years. Also, we have (Josh) Willingham, (Scott) Olsen, (Daniel) Cabrera—those are people that have made our team better in the off-season. We didn’t have to show up here in spring training and try to find three or four, or five starters. We came into camp with three guys already penciled into our rotation. So that is good news.”

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your thinking as far as the outfield goes? The number of outfielders you have out there and who you think is going to be playing a lot?

“Nice try, but I am not going to give up yet the three outfielders that are going to play. I know that the guys are competing. We have an abundance of outfielders and we like what we have—at least we have options now. If a guy or two goes down, we still feel we still have a quality outfield to put out there. As things stand right now, we have (Adam) Dunn in leftfield, (Lastings) Milledge is going to play center and we have (Elijah) Dukes and (Austin) Kearns competing in right. And Willingham is also competing for playing time. None of these guys are trying to break Cal Ripken Jr.’s record of Consecutive Games. So, I will be able to get them in there and rotate them and give them some at-bats.”

Follow-up Question: Do you feel like this a positive thing for this club?

“Yes I do. I think those guys have played every day and are not probably going to be as happy about not playing every day. But when it comes down to our club, it gives us depth we didn’t have in the past. We are not going to have to be reaching down to AAA to be able to put guys in the outfield, or try to develop kids that are not ready to play at the Big League Level. We now give the Front Office the chance to make a deal if it is the right one for us.”

Question: How difficult was last year for you? And how can you make sure that doesn’t carry over, the frustration in your players, carry over this year?

“It’s not going to carry over at all because those guys understand. We’ve had a great camp. The guys are healthy and I think if three or four or five guys had gone down in spring training right away, it would have probably brought the same feeling we had last year. Knock on wood, it’s been good. And also, we can feel it. It was tough (last year). I am not going to say it wasn’t tough to have a year like that. But I took the positive out of it, which was being able to develop (Jesus) Flores, (John) Lannan; give playing time to Dukes and (Collin) Balester—give him some outings up here. Once we realized how difficult the year was going to be for us, it was all about developing a few of our younger players. We felt those guys made some strides.”

Question: How do you see Adam Dunn on the positive side, On Base Percentage, Power, as it relates to his negative side—fielding and the strikeouts?

“I am not the biggest guy when it comes down to batting average. Obviously, if you do have a good batting average, and you have some walks, the combination is going to be outstanding. I like him (Dunn). He understands and he knows that he is better than a .240 hitter. We talked about that. It’s been discussed and he knows it and he understands that. He’s totally committed to not letting that happen again. Those strikeouts, at times, I would rather have him strike out than ground into a double play. But when you are a guy like him, with the power that he has, those strikeouts are going to be there. There are only a few guys in the Big Leagues that hit 40 Plus Home Runs and end up with 70, 80, low 100 strikeouts. Albert Pujols might be one of those guys (as well). You have to take the good with the bad and the good thing about Adam Dunn is that despite striking out a lot, he walks over 100 times too. So that makes up for some of those strikeouts. We value his slugging and On Base Percentage.”

Question: I have a question about Lastings and leadoff role. I am curious to know whether this is the best available option from your standpoint? And is this the opportunity to maybe give Lastings a real role and responsibility for the first time in his Major League Career?

“I think he is our best option right now. His tools are suited to do that type of thing. Also, the decision was made based on whether it was him or (Cristian) Guzman because I really didn’t want to put that much weight on Anderson Hernandez’s shoulders on his first everyday job in The Big Leagues. I would rather have Guzman hitting second because Lastings can run in front of him and Guzman has the ability to hit the ball through the hole from the left side. Rather than having Lastings running in front of Ryan Zimmerman—which I am not too thrilled to see at times. I would rather have Zimmerman just swing the bat because he is a doubles machine that can drive him in from first base easy. Not taking a chance of giving up an out with Zimmerman at the plate. Also, with Guzman behind him (Milledge), you can hit and run a little bit, so that is the reason. I think he is our best option right now.”

Follow-up Question: But it doesn’t bother you that Guzman is pretty much a free swinger?

“It doesn’t bother me because I’ve known that for the last 10 years. That’s one of the very reasons why he doesn’t make the best leadoff guy because he pretty much has to have a year like last year, where he is going to be hitting .320 most of the season, just to have an On Base Percentage over .345. The fact that he is the contact hitter that he is helps him hitting second in the lineup.”

Question: Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann are basically very young guys. How many innings do you think you are going to get out of them?

“Some of those guys, especially (Jordan) Zimmermann, are going to have a limit. Obviously not being able to go too far over 100. He threw about 140 innings last year in the Minor Leagues. Hopefully, he’s going to have a limit. You know what, we will get there once he goes past that 130 or 140 innings. Then, we will start thinking about that. Martis pitched more innings than him (Zimmermann). We will make that decision at the end of the season. If they are doing well, we are not going to blow any of these guys’ arms. We are not going to push that to the limit, unless by the end of the season we are fighting for a playoff spot and Zimmermann continues to throw the ball well. But we are not going to jeopardize these guys’ careers. We have this pretty much planned out like we did with Lannan in his first season.”

Positive as always, that final answer by Our Manager Manny Acta concluded Today's Conference Call with local media and bloggers in the greater Washington, DC, Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia areas. Honestly, I wish Our Washington Nationals would have this type of forum on a regular basis, giving those that cover DC's team in that more unique way--better availability in finding answers to our questions.

Today's Conference Call (Part Three) Joe Beimel & Joel Hanrahan

When Our Manager Manny Acta was detained on the practice fields late this morning, Baseball Media Relations for Our Washington Nationals went to the bullpen for relief to continue Today's Conference Call with Local Media and Bloggers in the DC Area. Newly acquired Set-Up Man Joe Beimel and Closer Joel Hanrahan each gave five minutes of their time to bridge the gap between the Ryan Zimmerman/Adam Dunn Availability and Manny's expected appearance.

Beimel actually giving a nice breakdown of how he adjusted his mechanics a few years ago--based on a tip from a former young pitching star for The Expansion Washington Senators--the team of my youth. As a lifelong Fan of The Expansion Senators (now Texas Rangers), maybe the best personal moment of today's series of Q's & A's.

With that, here we go with Part Three of Today's Conference Call--Joe Beimel & Joel Hanrahan:

Question: During the off-season, when you were waiting and waiting, were you worried you might not find a team?

Joe: “I knew I would find somebody. I had quite a few teams interested. The main reason I didn’t sign right away was because I didn’t get a decent offer. I think most of the offers I got weren’t what I expected—especially after the market crashed there a little bit. I knew I would find a team, it was just trying to find the right deal and the right team to go to.”

Follow-up Question: Then, did you have any problems trying to stay in shape and getting ready to pitch this year?

Joe: “No. Actually, I found a gym, a good gym, and the coach at UCLA let me come over there. I pretty much threw every day over there. I had a real good catcher to catch me. Staying in shape wasn’t really a problem, I am just kind of glad I didn’t have to go through all the drills and stuff here in spring training for the first couple of weeks—running around and doing all that (chuckling). I got my work in and was able to go home and hang out with the kids a little more.”

Question: You’ve already been anointed the 8th Inning Guy; with Los Angeles (Dodgers) you were more of a situational guy. Do you see this change more as a challenge and do you feel any more expectations especially going from a pennant contender to a team that is in a rebuilding process?

Joe: “I think it’s going to be a little more easier. You already have the role and it’s established. You can go in and work on that. Last year, I kind of switched roles half-way through the year. I was throwing for one inning—up until the All-Star break. Then, after that, I was used as someone to get one guy out here and only facing four or five hitters a week. That was definitely an adjustment for me. This year, I come into a situation where you already know what to expect. There is no guessing. You don’t really have to worry about trying to adjust.”

Follow-up Question: Do you feel any different going from a contender to a team that is rebuilding?

Joe: “It is a little different. It’s a different situation. This is definitely a young team. Look at our lineup, it’s pretty solid, the only question I think we are going to have is the young starters that we have. They’ve got a lot of talent, but if they can figure it out quick and figure out how to get guys out on a consistent basis, they are going to be pretty good. They already have the stuff to do it, it’s just whether they mature quickly and do that. Or, if they are going to go through the growing pains, and all that, that a lot of young pitchers do go through.”

Question: Looking at your career numbers, you’ve been pretty solid in both leagues, how have you developed?

Joe: “I had a pitching coach when I was in AAA with The Devil Rays, whose name is Joe Coleman (Yes, the same Joe Coleman that pitched for The Expansion Washington Senators and traded to Detroit in the infamous Denny McLain Trade, Winter 1970). He actually helped me out a lot. He suggested that I make a little turn in toward second base when I came to the top of my delivery. I have been doing that since ’05 and it just kind of took off. That has really helped me. It’s also helped my sinker against right-handers (hitters), as well as, hides the ball from lefties when I am going away from them (at the plate). That was one big turning point, I would say, in my career.”

Follow-up Question: So you have deception in your delivery? Or did that change how your pitches work?

Joe: “It added a lot of deception, but it helped me stay back when I get to the top of my delivery. Stay back on the back leg, keep my weight back a little bit more and allow my arm and everything else to catch up. I would have to say the biggest thing is the deception.”

Now Joe Beimel stepped away from the microphone and Our Closer, Joel Hanrahan finished off this portion of today’s Phone Conference Call.

Question for Joel: Joel—can you relate a little bit about the World Baseball Classic experience—specifically to being with some of the more established pitchers in the game? And if they were able to give you some pointers about what it’s like to close in some of those high intensity situations?

Joel: “It was a great experience. I got to talk with a number of guys about what they do. I got talk with a Putz, J.J. Putz (New York Mets). One guy I am going to be facing a lot; we talked about some of the guys in our division. We basically talked about the guys we were playing with at that time, like Chipper Jones---how to get him out—stuff like that. But we really didn’t talk a whole lot about coming in, in the 9th inning and what not. We had some good talks out there with many different people.”

Question: Last year, once Jon (Rauch) was traded, you were thrown into the closer’s role without much of a chance to think about it. Now since you’ve had an off-season knowing that is going to be your role, is that a helpful thing? Can you use that to your advantage? And was it good to be handed that job and have to learn on the job last season?

Joel: “Kind of both ways. I talked to some people before about being in the bullpen and closing. What the approach is and what not? It was good having the entire off-season to think about it. I actually met a couple of guys that used to be closers like Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins. I talked to Chad (Cordero) quite a bit. Every time I saw someone, I would ask them—when it comes to that situation—what are you trying to do? What do I need to do to learn? They gave me the impression it’s like being any reliever. You have to have the short-term memory and just attack the hitters, play to the situation. If you have three runs, you have room to work with. That’s basically it, have a short-term memory.”

Question: Is that the hardest thing for you to adjust to. As a closer, you are guaranteed to lose some games. I would guess not letting that get to you is one of the key parts of the job?

Joel: “Well, I wouldn’t say you are guaranteed to lose some games. Brad Lidge didn’t lose any (last year for The World Champion Phillies). But you go out there on the mound each time, whether it’s a 10-run game or the game is to put up a zero. It doesn’t change your approach a whole lot. You just have to go out there (on the mound) and get three quick outs.”

Question: I want to ask you about your control in spring training. Have you been throwing your pitches the way you want?

Joel: “I don’t know. My walks are a little bit down, but I am still getting behind in the count. Yesterday I pitched and I got behind, I think, in every hitter in the first inning (he threw). I ended up giving up two runs. I threw about 20 pitches in that first inning. Once you get behind, it makes it a lot tougher. I am really trying to focus on getting that first pitch strike in there and go from there. If I give him a walk, then try to get the double play.”

Question: It seems like the complaints that are coming out of the WBC were from the pitchers not getting enough innings in. Did you feel that or did you feel you got enough time, enough preparation time physically while you were at The World Baseball Classic?

Joel: “I think the pitchers that did say something might be the starters that were trying to get extended. They are trying to throw 75-80 pitches. But as a reliever, I pitched many games. I got plenty of work in. I still have some more work to do here, but they (Washington) have been getting me into games here on the Minor League side. And I don’t feel like I am behind at all. I think I have about 11 or 12 innings in right now, with two more to go. I don’t feel it’s affected me that way (negatively).”

With that final answer, Our Manager Manny Acta entered the Press Conference Call, relieving Joel Hanrahan of his duties answering questions--making himself available to conclude today's get together via phone. That conclusion coming up this evening.

Today's Conference Call (Part Two) Ryan Zimmerman & Adam Dunn

Continuing with the earlier Phone Conference Call arranged by Our Washington Nationals--local media and bloggers not in Florida are asking questions to guests set up by The Baseball Media Relations Office. After Team President Stan Kasten ended the initial session--he handed the microphones over to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn for 10-minutes. The duo he referred to as "The Comic Relief Portion Of Our Show."

Here is that complete transcript:

Question: Ryan, can you compare the tone of the club compared to last season?

Ryan: “I think we are definitely a lot closer this year than we were last year. I think in the clubhouse, a lot of us have played together for a couple of years now and know what to do. It’s just a little bit more comfortable. I think spring training is a little bit smoother. And we are ready to play. It’s just a matter of us being around each other more and know what everyone is like.”

Question: Ryan—mentally as a hitter this year with Adam (hitting) behind you, does that take a lot of pressure off you. Do you feel like you will get better pitches to hit with that kind of bat behind you?

Ryan: “I think it will definitely help. But I don’t think I am going to get all fastballs to hit all the time just because of who is hitting behind me. I think he (Adam Dunn) gives our lineup a lot more depth—maybe someone who was hitting 5th or 6th is now hitting 7th or 8th now. I think that will help out a lot more than just him (Dunn) hitting behind me. But it’s definitely a lot better than what we had last year.”

Question: Adam: I was curious to know whether your experience this year with the World Baseball Classic, only playing once every couple of days, did that hinder, put you behind a bit, in getting ready for this coming season?

Adam: “No, I think it actually helped because we were playing all nine innings as opposed to spring, where you early in spring you wouldn’t be playing a lot. It seemed like every at-bat was taken more seriously than in spring training. I don’t think it slowed me down, not at all. I actually think that it probably helped.”

Question: Ryan, you came into camp this year really in shape, how has that helped you get ready for this season?

Ryan: “I am not in better shape than before. I have been in shape every year. But I think with the more years you play, you realize more what you need to do to get ready. And it was easier for me, knowing what I needed to do this off-season and just kind of learning from the past couple of years. I am getting ready a little bit quicker but nothing drastically different than what I have done in the past off-seasons. Just a couple of things—maybe eating a little bit better, a few things like that—but nothing crazy.”

Question: Adam will you be keeping Phil Collins as your walk-up music (to bat). And Ryan, what do you think about that soundtrack?

Adam: “I will probably keep Phil Collins as the music. I am a big fan of that.”

Question: So Ryan, do you think that will fit in?

Ryan: “Yeah. I think that we have a wide variety of walk-up music, I guess you could say. I switched a bunch. But no, I don’t think it would be any problem.”

Question: Adam, do you have a preference between first base and the outfield? And which are you real comfortable with right now?

Adam: “I have said it all along. It really doesn’t matter to me where I play. I think that they (baseball management) will put the best team out there. If that’s me at first, or me at third (yes, he said 3rd—by mistake), me in left, or right or center—I don’t care. It doesn’t matter—whatever is best for this team.”

(As the next question is about to be asked—you can hear Adam mutter to Ryan: “I actually said third!! And chuckles)

Question: Adam, Sports Illustrated did a story on you a couple of weeks ago about your so-called reputation around the game. You mention in the article, you don’t really pay attention to that sort of stuff. Is that true and is it ever hard to tune that stuff out?

Adam: “Yeah, it’s actually easy. If it weren’t brought up daily by writers and stuff like that, it would be a dead issue. But for some reason, it’s brought up a lot, so I have to talk about it. There are probably other things in this game I would like to talk about more. But I don’t really care what people outside this clubhouse think. That’s my approach.”

Question: Ryan, you know Adam pretty well. I am sure you knew that kind of talk was not accurate. As an opposing player the last couple of years, what did you see in Adam Dunn's game and what does he now bring to the clubhouse?

Ryan: “Obviously, he has the big bat in the middle of the lineup. I think that a lot of people criticize his defense a lot more than it needs to be. I think he is a pretty could athlete that can do a lot of things. I guess a lot of people doubt what he can’t do, but he loves to play the game and goes out there every day and plays. I think that in a clubhouse when you have the guys you play with every single day, you earn their respect by going out and playing every day, playing when you are a little banged up. Or playing when you are not feeling 100%. And I think that is the reason why he (Adam Dunn) has that respect.”

Question: Ryan—how have you developed as a hitter since you first broke into the big leagues, this being your 4th season? How much farther along are you now than when you first got here (to DC)?

Ryan: “I don’t think I have changed the way I hit at all. I think it’s more mental. I think that the part of seeing a lot of pitchers and figuring out what they are going to do to you on certain pitches and situations—what certain pitchers throw--is the key. That is just the fact of getting experience, being around a little bit. I think you learn what to do to succeed and be ready for the game, get your swing right and be consistent. I think that is the obvious part.”

Question to Ryan: “Do you feel you have made enough strides in that area, with experience, and repetitions, that there is another plane, another level, you can reach as a hitter?

Ryan: “There is always another level. You can probably do better than you did the year before. But it definitely helps with more experience and having a better plan—knowing what they (opposing pitcher) are going to try to do to you. When you get to that level, you find an approach and you just do it.”

Question: Has either one of you had the chance to work with Rick Eckstein (New Batting Coach) extensively yet. Do you have any comments about the difference between the hitting coaches style this year compared to what it was previously?

Ryan: “I think we’ve all had a lot of time to work with him. I think he’s always down there (on the field), ready to work. He takes his job very seriously and wants us to do the best that we can do. And I think he is very smart. He uses a lot of video. He’s very good at relaying information from what he sees and making it simple and relating it back to you. That’s a big part of it.”

Question: Adam, now since you’ve had time around this team, how has it met your expectations, maybe even different from your original expectations with this club?

Adam: “I don’t think it’s really been different. I had really high expectations coming in as far as the talent level and things of that nature. But it’s been exactly what I thought. And that’s saying a lot, because I really had high expectations. This is going to be a lot of fun. Most importantly we are going to win a lot of games.”

With that Ryan Zimmerman's and Adam Dunn's time concluded. At this point, Our Manager Manny Acta was expected to join the media session. But he was delayed on the practice fields--so in the meantime--newly signed lefthanded reliever Joe Beimel joined the discusssion, closely followed by Joel Hanrahan.

Their respective Q's & A's with the assembled media during today's phone conference call to follow.

Today's Conference Call (Part One) Stan Kasten

Late this morning, the media and bloggers that are not consistently on the ground in Florida covering Spring Training 2009 for Our Washington Nationals were invited to join in a Conference call via phone. The opportunity for many to ponder questions toward Team President Stan Kasten, Our Manager Manny Acta and players Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan. Originally expected to last only a half-hour, the call was extended when Manny was delayed on the practice field--allowing for Beimel and Hanrahan to join the eventual 40-minute long Q & A.

Team President Stan Kasten led off for 10-Minutes. Here is that complete transcript. Manny Acta and Our Players to follow.

With that here is Today's Conference Call (Part One) with Mr. Kasten:

“Hi Guys. Let me say that for the last century or so since spring training began, it’s always been a time of optimism for teams. No team leaves spring training without thinking that they can win. And that certainly is the case with us this year. But we have real reasons for feeling as good as, as positive, as optimistic, as we do. The team that was so young last year is now a year further along in their development. The team that was so injured last year is now healthy. We’ve made some important additions to our rotation, important additions to our lineup. Recently, we made some important additions to our bullpen. So, boy, things are really falling into place and coming together. And so we can’t wait to get the season started. With that, I will open it up to any questions.”

Question: In the wake of Jim Bowden resigning, you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you are very pleased with how others in the organization have stepped up. As far as baseball operations are concerned, is the team going in a different direction than they may have otherwise gone due to the change in management structure?

“I can’t say that. No, I don’t think that would be fair. We still look to be opportunistic and we think we have a lot of guys in our camp that because of that opportunism we always espouse. We have a kid on the mound today, Shairon Martis, that is going to be in our rotation now—that we acquired opportunistically. So, we will continue to do that. But, I do think the young guys, who have peppered me with a heck of a lot more emails than I have even got before, with just ideas. It’s too early to really say there has been a new course set. We’ve spent the last four weeks, just trying to get everything back on track. It is back on track. We’ve had a great spring training. Everything in The Dominican (Republic) is running smooth. So, I think we have any questions and turmoil behind us. And that was Job One after that change. There will be time in the future to assess whether there are any substantive changes. But for now, we are right on course.”

Question: Looking ahead even farther, If Richmond (Virginia) can solve our stadium issue, and that’s a big if, we have been after this for a while—as you know. Do you see Richmond, as a potential home for a Nationals Farm Club down the road—be it AAA or AA?

“Well as you know there is only so much I can say. But you know historically my feelings about Richmond. I love the city, always have and have spent a lot of years there when I was with another club (The Braves). Richmond has some issues. Obviously, they do not have a Triple A or Double A quality facility. They need to get that. They also don’t have a franchise for either Double A or Triple A. They need to get that. If they (City of Richmond) do those things, then it would be a very desirable place. It’s a great market with great fans and any team would be happy to be in there. And let me say that is as far as I am able to go for today.”

Question: How are ticket sales going and do you expect Opening Day to sell-out?

“Don’t know yet. Opening Day is still two weeks away. Ticket sales are down for us, like they are for so many people. I am going to have more to say specifically about that in the week leading up to Opening Day. But there is no question that our fans are experiencing some very, very tough times. We are aware of it. We are doing many things to try to deal with that. That’s why we lowered ticket prices. We’ve made smaller ticket packages. We’ve got Family Value Ticket Packages, Family Value Food Packages. We are doing those types of things, but there is no question the fans are going through some tough times and we are doing our best to respond.”

Question: You have talked many times about the challenges you have had in your career. But you never shy away from reality. How would you compare this past off-season and this spring, challenge wise, to what you have faced in your career?

(Laughing at first) “This was something different. But I don’t know how to stack up challenges. They just require concentration of the mind. They require the staff coming together. I think all of those things happened. We had great support from ownership. Really, a great pulling together by the staff to deal with it. We got it behind us very quickly. And the result is that we are all on the same page, moving forward, with a camp that has had as much enthusiasm among the players as I have ever seen. So if you can judge anything by the results, I would have to say that everything has been very successful. Yeah, it was a challenge, but it was met and we are all working forward.”

Question: Can you elaborate on how your day-to-day responsibilities have changed since Jim Bowden resigned?

“I have had to put a lot more time down here in Florida, were I still am today, finally returning home tonight. In the past, I would be down here for two days at a time, maybe three. I am completing a 10-day stay here now. I have never in my career done that. But it was necessary because there were some gaps that we never wanted within the organization, operational gaps were the issues--so I was down here, able to pitch in. I have done a lot more on the baseball operations side than I have had to do in the last three years. We are going to find our level as we finalize what operating personnel and structure will be in the coming weeks and months. But it’s been smooth. There have been more hours for me. It’s meant a bit more hours for Mike (Rizzo—Asst. GM) because don’t forget, before all this happened, he had a full-time job preparing for the ’09 Draft, as well as, all of this. And he still is doing that. So, it’s meant more hours, but not more than 24 per day. We’ve had more than enough to get the job done. And I would say we are doing it.”

Question: Are you doing a lot of baseball evaluation?

“I wouldn’t say evaluation. No. But the job is quite a bit more complex and layered than evaluating players.”

Question: Roster question, but also an organization question. The situation around Dmitri Young. He hasn’t played a Major League game yet. Does that eye toward starting him off on the DL for the Big League Club? What is the situation with Dmitri?

“That would be my guess, if I had to guess at the moment. I would say he starts on the DL until he gets into shape. I don’t know how long that takes and I don’t know what happens with rehab time and the like. But I have to give him credit; he has made a lot of progress. He had gotten, with his condition, to a very troubling state by the end of last year—medically. And he’s done a lot we haven’t been talking about medically—in the off-season. He has dropped an awful amount of weight—looks pretty good now—but needs to continue work at it. And needs to get into even better shape. And when that happens, I am telling you, you could blindfold him and the guy can hit. We are not going to forget he still has that ability.”

Last Question for Stan Kasten: “Your community relations department seems to be undergoing a bit of an overhaul. Is there a new direction that the fans can expect community relations can go in?

“I wouldn’t say new direction. I would say an expansion is our goal. We’ve had quite a bit more coordination among the departments and that has caused some of the changes that we’ve been going through recently. But we very definitely have a plan to do, not just the things we did before, but even more. The centerpiece of what we want to do remains the Urban (Baseball) Academy (Dream Foundation Goal) that has been delayed because of the change in (Presidential) Administrations. But we still are fixated on pulling that off. That’s going to be a big piece, but it’s only going to be one piece of the many, many other programs that we will continue to have.”

End of Stan Kasten’s Q& A—handing the conference call over to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. Joe Beimel, Joel Hanrahan and Our Manager Manny Acta to follow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Very Impressive Move

The decision by The Tampa Bay Rays to option their young phenom pitcher David Price to AAA Durham yesterday was very impressive. Despite all the hype written about Price and his post-season rookie exploits in 2008, Rays Management felt more comfortable letting David mature a little more in The Minor Leagues.

Tampa Bay said they wrestled with the decision--but at the end of the day felt it was the proper move. The Rays believing Major League Innings now for David Price were not as important as his overall development for later.

You have to figure Our Washington Nationals are debating the same pros & cons when it comes to Our Young Phenom--Jordan Zimmermann. Until his last outing this spring, J-Zimm has been pretty outstanding. But he's never pitched above AA Ball and thrown more than 134 innings in any season.

What is best for the short and long term development of Jordan Zimmermann?

Every individual situation is different. There are character and make-up factors also to be considered. Having no idea what David Price is like personally, Jordan Zimmermann does seem to have his act together--and that's important too.

As mentioned before, I would rather not see Jordan rushed to The Big Leagues. And after reading The Tampa Bay Rays, despite being a legitimate contender in The American League East again for 2009, sent down their top pitching prospect to protect their future, it wouldn't surprise me to see Our Washington Nationals make an equally impressive move and start Jordan Zimmermann at AAA Syracuse to start this season.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Manny Hasn't Decided Yet.

"Manny hasn't decided yet," proclaimed Team President Stan Kasten on MASN tonight while answering a question from Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble in the broadcast booth. Mr. Kasten was talking about the possibility of Our Washington Nationals carrying three catchers to start the 2009 Season. He was also commenting on how Our 25-Man Roster might pan out.

He didn't say: "We haven't decided yet."

Nor did he respond: "That's a group decision to be made by Baseball Operations and Management."

Stan Kasten publicly stating tonight that Our Manager Manny Acta has the final say about who makes the 25-Man Roster for Opening Day.

No one is telling Our Number 14 who to play.

No one is telling Manny who sits.

And no one is telling Mr. Acta who gets sent down to the minors.

When it comes to Our Lineup for 2009--Manny Acta makes the final call.

How different from years' past. Unless it's an emergency, no more Paul LoDuca types playing left just because he's a veteran with a high salary.

You play, if you deserve it.

Nothing else matters.

Manny Acta's in charge when it comes to matters on the field of play.

No one undercutting his authority.

What a quote: "Manny hasn't decided yet."

Maybe, the most refreshing line of the entire Spring Training--2009.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No, It's Not Official Yet

(AP Photo--Ron Edmonds)

Not mentioned in tonight's hard news only Press Conference with The President of The United States in The East Room of The White House, was the information passed my way this afternoon by The White House Press Office. Despite one report stating otherwise, President Obama HAS NOT officially accepted Our Washington Nationals invitation to throw out The Presidential First Pitch on April 13th at Nationals Park.

Undoubtedly, The President wants to continue this Washington-Born Tradition now entering its 100th Year. And resurrected in The Nation's Capital by President Bush when The City Of Washington returned to Major League Baseball in 2005. But a heavy schedule and potential conflicts may be standing in the way. That doesn't mean President Obama is not coming to throw out The First Pitch. What it does say is that everyone is trying to find a way--to make it happen.

No, It's Not Official Yet.

But let's hope President Barack Obama can find the time to be at Nationals Park on April 13th at 3PM Eastern Time.

Dual Language Blogging Coming To MASN

You gotta love Our Manager Manny Acta. Always personable, affable and outgoing--Manny is taking himself out there even farther in 2009. The Most Charismatic of Men is going to be BLOGGING on MASNSPORTS.com Manny going MAINSTREAM with a weekly written blog in both English and Spanish, as well as, a monthly video blog speaking his native tongue and English. Our Manager's efforts will also be an additional outlet to promote his impACTA Kids Foundation. Manny's Foundation started to help out those youths in need, in both his native Dominican Republic and here in The United States.

Having seen Manny Acta over the past few seasons in action, you can bet he's going to be telling it like it is. Manny's going to be good at this--and funny too.

Here is the complete press release from MASN.

MASN Teams Up with Manny Acta to Give Nationals Fans More Access

Acta to blog, video blog, appear in wired segments on MASN and MASNsports.com

MASN to promote impACTA Kids Foundation

(Washington D.C.) -- Nationals fans will gain even more access to their favorite team in 2009, as Manager Manny Acta will answer fan questions and host a regular video blog in English and Spanish as part of a new interactive feature at MASNsports.com, the network announced today. MASN, the local leader in live sports entertainment, will also partner with the Nationals' skipper to promote the ImpACTA Kids Foundation, Acta's nonprofit organization which emphasizes the importance of education, health and athletics to youth in both the United States and Acta's native Dominican Republic.

Starting later this month, Acta will provide a weekly blog on MASNsports.com, where he will respond to questions from fans. Each month, Acta will also record a video blog in both English and Spanish. Manny will be discussing the performance of the Washington Nationals, his decision-making and understanding of baseball fundamentals and the work of his nonprofit organization, the ImpACTA Kids Foundation. On Wednesdays, Acta will join MASN's broadcast for special "Wired Wednesday" updates straight from the dugout.

MASN will continue to carry Acta's postgame press conference during the network's postgame show, Nats Xtra, and will provide 24/7 access to the archive of clips with video-on-demand at MASNsports.com.

Acta, the youngest manager in Major League Baseball, is entering his third season as Manager of the Washington Nationals and he is eager to utilize his new blog to interact with fans online.

"I think this is a fantastic opportunity to bring our fans inside the game, to teach them some new ways of understanding what we do out there and to connect them more to the Nationals franchise," said Manny Acta. "I'm also thrilled to be working with MASN to bring more exposure to the work we're doing with the impACTA Kids Foundation."

The launch of the blog will be a tremendous opportunity for MASN and Acta to promote the good work of his nonprofit organization both online and throughout MASN's seven-state television territory. The impACTA Kids Foundation, which began in 2007, recently started construction of a baseball complex in Acta's hometown in the Dominican Republic. Acta will also film special public service announcements which will run on MASN throughout the season to raise awareness about the organization.

"It's an honor to add Nationals manager Manny Acta to our MASN team," said MASN spokesman Todd Webster. "Manny's enthusiasm and baseball expertise will bring a lot of energy to MASN, while providing fans with unique and unprecedented access to the Nationals. On television and online, MASN is covering every aspect and every angle of the Washington Nationals."

The Spanish video blog is important to both Acta and MASN. The new feature will provide an opportunity for Acta and MASN to interact with the growing population of Hispanic Nationals fans throughout Washington, the metropolitan region, and MASN's entire television territory. Acta will also tape a special Spanish Heritage Month promotion for MASN broadcasts. CAA Sports orchestrated the deal on behalf of Acta.

About the impACTA Kids Foundation

The impACTA Kids Foundation is focused on providing opportunities for kids to achieve their dreams, in both the Dominican Republic and the United States, by emphasizing the importance of education, health and athletics. In order to accomplish those objectives, it actively seeks contributions and donations from like-minded individuals and organizations across the globe.

About MASN

With every available Nationals game, an All Star talent team, 105 high definition broadcasts and pre and post game shows before and after every game, MASN is maximum access to the Washington Nationals. MASNsports.com provides extensive online coverage of the Washington Nationals with Phil Wood's "Wood on the Ball," a dedicated beat writer, Pete McElroy, talent blogs featuring Debbi Taylor, Bob Carpenter, Johnny Holliday, and Byron Kerr, a Nationals Buzz blog, up to the minute video clips in MASN's Media Lounge, series previews, live game blogs and more. MASN is currently carried on 23 cable and satellite providers throughout a seven-state region.

San Diego--Yeah, We Can Go There

Shawn Hill signs a Minor League Contract to play for The San Diego Padres.

The news brought smiles to our faces.

The African Queen and I love that Southern California city. Regularly, we visit San Diego for business and vacation. At one time, we seriously considered moving there. Outside of The Nation's Capital--San Diego is Sohna's Favorite City In America.

But for now, we shall settle for another good reason to visit The Home Of The San Diego Zoo & Wild Animal Park.

Shawn Hill plays for The Friars now and we hope to see him play again soon at Beautiful PETCO PARK.

Good Luck Shawn!! Sohna and I wish you the very best.

San Diego--Yeah, We Can Go There.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Conundrum. A Conjectural Problem. Anything That Puzzles.

The exact description of The 2009 Starting Outfield for Our Washington Nationals.

Manny says Lastings Milledge is his centerfielder and batting leadoff.

You can bet that Adam Dunn is Manny's starting leftfielder as well.

And it would be nothing short of shocking to see anybody but Eljiah Dukes rounding out this outfield trio and starting in right. After all, Dukes is the most talented all-around player on the team.

But this is Our Conundrum. Together, those three players are not the best defensive lineup Our Manager Manny Acta can put out there on the field. You could argue Milledge in left, Dukes in center and Austin Kearns in right would be far better. But there is no way that is going happen--as long as Adam Dunn is healthy and Nick Johnson is still manning first base.

Washington's not going to take Adam Dunn's Power Bat out of the lineup--for any reason--unless he's injured.

But if Adam Dunn is playing left, then the person assigned centerfield must also cover as much ground as possible over toward where Dunn happens to be positioned. Adam Dunn can sure let fly some serious baseballs off his very potent bat. He can also let baseballs hit towards him defensively--fly right past him. That's the nature of who Our Washington Nationals received when they signed Our New Number 44 to a two-year contract. The sacrificing of some defense prowess to provide a serious offensive threat.

That's OK, if the centerfielder can get to most all those smacked baseballs Dunn will be unable to reach.

Lastings Milledge has the athletic ability. Can he also make up for Dunn's defensive shortcomings?

It's a good question.

Dukes has the better baseball instincts and the stronger arm, nearly perfect body make-up to play centerfield. But Lastings doesn't have the strongest arm. So Manny can't put him in rightfield. Our Washington Nationals would not be throwing many runners out on the basepaths with Milledge positioned in the right corner.

On the other hand, Austin Kearns has all the defensive skills necessary to play right field really well. He is above average defensively. The possessor of a very good throwing arm and the ability to take terrific tracks to hit baseballs in the corner. Austin Kearns does a great job lining up his body for all throws--to any bag and even homeplate. Our Number 25 defensively, really is, borderline Gold Glove Outfielder, when healthy. Unfortunately, his plate discipline has suffered over the past two seasons. Austin's hitting skills deteriorating so badly, he needs to ratchet it up a few notches to re-gain his lost starting role.

Which all leaves Josh Willingham really having to wonder what his role will be in 2009? Strong Bat, OK Outfielder, but really no position to play--at least on this team--at least not now. Manny's not going to be putting Josh Willingham in the game as a late inning defensive replacement. If there is anyone sitting on the bench that gets that call first--it's Austin Kearns, or Willie Harris.

Which brings us all back full circle.

When it comes to Our Outfielders, this current unit is made up of perplexing parts. Together as one--all six combine to possess some quality skills. But individually, they are a mystifying group of unequal ingrediants when it comes to Washington placing their best lineup on the field each day. What is the best answer? Which trio provides the biggest net gain?

Dunn, Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Willingham and Harris all have great potential. But it's certainly puzzling right now--how this issue is going to play out come April.

Yes, Manny Acta's starting outfield is a difficult problem to sort. A brain-teaser that may only lead to a migrane headache for him.

For this situation truly is a Conundrum.

PS--And if you were wondering--I am just not considering Wily Mo Pena as a viable option.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Two Local Vendors Out At Nationals Park

Two local vendors will not be returning to Nationals Park for 2009. One a little bit of a surprise.

Since The Lerner Family took over operations of Our Washington Nationals in 2006, "Red, Hot & Blue" has been a food partner at both RFK Stadium and Nationals Park. In fact, the Barbecue and Ribs Eatery has been very popular. But Restaurant Officials have confirmed they have decided not to continue on South Capitol Street behind Section 106/Centerfield Plaza despite the very fact that Our Washington Nationals wanted them back in the ballpark for this upcoming baseball season. The current economic downturn has taken it's toll on many businesses. Apparently "Red, Hot & Blue" has some issues as well, and needs to sort their situation out.

Less surprisingly, "Cantina Marina" is also not returning to Nationals Park in April. The SW DC Waterfront Gangplank Restaurant never really hit it off with Nationals Fans in 2008. Located last year in Section 241 next to the ever popular Five Guys Burgers along the Scoreboard Walk in Centerfield--The Cajun Seafood Eatery received little business and simply did not wish to continue at Nationals Park for 2009.

No word on how these two establishments will be replaced at Nationals Park.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Leadoff Man

Maybe lost in the announcement that Lastings Milledge will begin the 2009 Season as the leadoff hitter for Our Washington Nationals is the very fact that Our Manager Manny Acta is giving Lastings responsibility--for the very first time.

Lastings Milledge has always been a great athlete. He has never been an instinctive baseball player. In every level of professional baseball in which Milledge has played so far--his managers and coaches have always just sent him out on the field. "Do your thing. Show us what you got". Sometimes Lastings Milledge has done well, shown promise and hit for power--revealing glimpses of a potentially good ball player. Other times, Milledge has shown, limited patience at the plate, poor baserunning skills and a below average tendency to field any baseball hit to him in the outfield. Deficiencies in his game that can drive any fan crazy--because you know, he can do better--if he's focused.

As of today, Lastings Milledge is no longer just playing ball. Manny officially pushing Lastings to become a more compete player.

What Our Number 14 has done this Sunday by officially naming Lastings Milledge as Our Leadoff Hitter to begin this season--is give him direction. Something he has NEVER HAD BEFORE. For the first time, Manny has publicly committed Our Number 85 to specific goals. No longer is just stepping out on the field "Doing Your Thing" acceptable anymore. It's time for Lastings Milledge to grow up.

Manny taking the one weak point in his batting order (No Leadoff Hitter) and challenging the only player currently on his roster that logically could possibly give him a positive result--consistently--at that position. Manny letting Lastings know that being just young and athletically talented is no longer just good enough. Yes Lastings, you are young and still somewhat inexperienced--but Manny Acta, obviously, believes IN YOU and expects a far more complete performance than shown previously.

Manny pressuring Lastings to not get too comfortable in his ways.

Be more selective at the plate.

Raise his On Base Percentage. Get on base more.

Be a far better, and smarter, baserunner.

Because as of today Lastings, you need to be a better team player. Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and either Nick Johnson or Elijah Dukes or Josh Willingham or Austin Kearns, all batting behind you, are going to be depending on your skills to set that proverbial baseball table from the top of the order. Yes, Lastings--it's now your responsibility to truly show what your final destiny can be in The Big Leagues. And I know your self-confidence is not lacking.

For all those hopes to pan out--Lastings needs to be less of a free swinger and a more selective hitter based on the situation at hand when he steps to the plate. Also, Milledge needs to spray the ball around the field. Not comparing Lastings to Hall Of Fame Inductee Rickey Henderson in any way--just using Henderson as an example--think of this. Rickey could hit the ball out of the park with power like Milledge can this very day. But what made Henderson dangerous was his innate ability to just get on base and create havoc once he got there. Teams worried about Rickey Henderson. Milledge could provide a lesser but similar threat--if he understands today's message sent by Our Manager.

Everybody wants to be a superstar Lastings. Every hitter out there would love to slug 30 Homers per season. But your calling my come from harnessing all your god-given athletic talents into that persona you probably never envisioned--Leadoff Man. Remember, once you become a threat at the top the lineup, you might end up getting better pitches to hit anyway. Pitches you can slam out of the park. Because the worried opposing pitcher, not wanting to walk you and allow a stolen base--might just think he can blow a fastball right past you. And at that time--You've Got Him!! You would be in control.

That is, if you fully take advantage of the opportunity thrown your way today by Our Manager Manny Acta.

Lastings--are you up to the challenge to be Leadoff Man?

Do you want to mature into a very good Major League Player?

Manny Acta's given you his trust today. Can your teammates, and Our Fans, put their trust in you?

The 2009 Season awaits--We shall find out soon enough.

PS: One more thing Lastings: Please work on those fielding skills too. Rickey Henderson wasn't the greatest outfielder either--but he worked hard enough to win one Gold Glove. Although I still believe you are better off as a corner outfielder once all is said and done.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Noah's Birthday With Screech

"Is that really you?" stated The African Queen.

What happened? exclaimed SBF.

My Best Friend!! Screech!! was standing in front of us. And we had no idea he was going to be there.

This afternoon we were invited out to LakeForest Mall in Gaithersburg, Maryland by "The Pretzel Man" himself. Dwayne Herndon of Noah's Pretzels--The Official Pretzel of Our Washington Nationals. This was a special occasion. Dwayne's Son, Noah, was celebrating his birthday. And as many fans have come to understand--Noah is autistic. Noah's Pretzels was started by his parents in his honor. Every day at Noah's Pretzels is spent promoting autism support and providing awareness for those families in need.

When asked to attend, there was no way Sohna and I would not be on hand to help celebrate Noah's Big Day. Since the very first moments we ever met Dwayne, all of us have had fun together.

But SCREEEEEEECH!! being at LakeForest Mall today was the capper.

My Best Friend!! as surprised as we were--immediately came over for the big hug--upon spotting us. Then proceeded to show off his rather trim waistline. Man, does he look skinny, as compared to his previous incarnation. Screech proclaiming he spent the entire off-season working out.

With Teddy? (SBF)

Screech immediately signaling "NO WAY"!! Teenage Screech knowing Our Lovable Loser doesn't have the heart to train properly.

Really, it was so odd at first looking at Screech. For quite some time, The African Queen and I couldn't get over Screech without The Bobblebelly. But as the many kids surrounded him, wanting to touch him, play with him and pull on his now removable Red Curly "W" Baseball Cap--things slowly became a little more normal.

"Screech!!"--Noah yelled out upon seeing My Best Friend!! Dwayne's Son didn't care what version of Our Mascot he was seeing. Noah knew he was SCREECH and that's all that really mattered. Countless kids and many teenagers stopped to take pictures with the freshly white maned Eagle. My Best Friend!! even hooking up with The Easter Bunny. And Screech no longer going shoeless. Grown up enough to now sport some nifty looking Red with White Curly "W" sneakers. The children were happy and that's what any mascot is all about.

As Noah received many gifts from his friends and family on hand--Screech went sampling some of the Noah's Pretzel's products--including some new menu items coming to Nationals Park for 2009. Not only will the various exclusive varieties of Curly "W" Pretzels be available again at the South Capitol Street Ballpark, but 4 Pretzel Wraps will be for sale as well: Hot Dog & Cheese Pretzel Wrap, Pepperoni & Cheese Pretzel Wrap, Ham & Cheese Pretzel Wrap and Turkey & Cheese Pretzel Wrap. The African Queen and I sampled the Hot Dog & Hot Cheese Wrap this afternoon. We have to say, we both agreed, it was pretty good--very tasty. Noah's Pretzel will return to their original stand just inside the centerfield gate behind Section 106, as well as their Gallery Level position behind Section 320. Additionally, Noah's will send their sellers into the stands on all levels throughout each ball game.

Being at Noah's Pretzels today in Gaithersburg for Noah--was important. Running into My Best Friend!! Screech!! was downright strange. The African Queen and I miss his original bobblebelly. We thought it made Our Mascot distinctive. Seeing his new face, in person, was actually far better than watching the photos and video clips from his premiere at the ESPN Zone in March. But "What Happened To Screech?" wasn't what so many had written about upon his unveiling last month. We didn't witness masses of children running away from him in fear--afraid of his looks. Instead, every kid and teenager we saw--clamored to get a ahold of him. He is a Mascot after all--for sake of the children.

And that's the most important aspect of all.

Happy Birthday Noah!! The African Queen and I were honored to be invited to your party.

PS--Not only is Noah's Pretzels The Official Pretzel of Our Washington Nationals, The Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, but beginning in two weeks--also The Official Pretzel of The Baltimore Orioles. That's right, Noah's Pretzels will take over at Camden Yards with a Free Standing Position on the Main Concourse, first base side, replacing Uncle Teddy's Pretzels at The Home Of The Orioles.

PPS--We got a kick out of The Bobbleheads displayed on the counter at Noah's Pretzels in LakeForest Mall. Not only were Our Racing Presidents represented, but also Bobblebelly Screech, G-Wiz (The Washington Wizards Mascot), Alex Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau of The Washington Capitals. Also on display this absolutely terrific American Red Cross Bobblehead of Capitals Great and NHL Hall of Famer--Rod Langway. I had never seen that item before. It was really nice--gotta get ahold of that one.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Best Wishes--Aaron Boone

Sohna and I were taken back by the word that Aaron Boone will have open heart surgery to repair a congenital defect in his heart that only allows two instead of the normal three flows of blood through the most important part of the human body. A decision that may well end his Major League Baseball Career.

We only wish him the best.

As Aaron Boone embarks on a potential major turning point in his life, Sohna and I hope Mr. Boone comes out of surgery healthy, well, and ready to continue a very productive life.

Good Luck Aaron!! Best Wishes. We wanted you to know that others appreciate you and are thinking of you during this difficult time.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

The MASN Commercial Shoot

UPDATED NOW with still shots of the commercial taken off MASN Broadcast.

Even though we knew it was coming, the actual viewing of the television spot took us by total surprise. Last night, during MASN's broadcast of the pre-season game between The Florida Marlins and Our Washington Nationals, a few of MASN's new Nats TV Ads began to air.

And one of them features SBF.

Shot on February 18th, 19th & 20th in Hunt Valley, Maryland, myself along with 17 other fans for both The Baltimore Orioles and Our Washington Nationals were invited to Renegade Studios in suburban Baltimore to play out our selected roles. Nine fans from each team were chosen for the final takes. Six were invited each day. The producers & director asking for three hours of time, in studio, to put together everyone's ON-AIR spots.

My part in this paid gig was shot on February 18th and is the very reason why The African Queen and I were "Late" for Spring Training--as Jason Bergmann told us on February 21st.

Fans could apply for a spot by submitting an online application or, in my case, audition at NatsFest in late January. Baltimore Fans were offered the same opportunity to audition at The Orioles FanFest as well. The only reason The African Queen and I even knew about the upcoming commercials was due to a MASN employee walking around Nationals Park during NatsFest who was simply pulling people from the crowds and asking them to head down to President Club and into the Media Briefing Room to test before the cameras. MASN's Pete McElroy noticed my Screech'sBestFriend Jersey and thought it might play off well.

So, Sohna and I headed down. As it turned out, the Commercial's Director, Peter, and his crew were so excited over my Over The Top Audition, they basically hired me on the spot, asked me to fill out the waiver forms and gave me the dates for the final shoot. When we realized the shooting date conflicted with our scheduled Spring Training Trip to Viera, we pushed back the trip four days to accommodate the free lance assignment.

Eventually, the producers sent along a final script, which was completely different from the two ads auditioned for at Nationals Park. My story would be about Willie Harris and his hustle. How strange that My Main Man!! Ryan Church is one of the batters that Harris robs of a base hit in this ad. Standing on a completely Green Set on February 18th to allow for the digital field to be placed all around me in the final product--Peter directed me as to where to point. Three focal lengths were shot, including an extreme close up angle with a wide, almost fisheye, lens. As you can tell from the picture, Peter and I got along real well.

He liked how loud I was and unafraid of the camera. For each line, Peter asked for different inflections--multiple times. In fact, the final piece that aired last night, ends with me laughing over the exploits of Willie Harris. They must have had to make a quick exit out of that take, because when I sounded off those final lines in the studio, the entire crew of nearly 25 broke up in laughter as well.

The crew was having just as good of a time as I was. And that helped make the entire experience very welcoming.

Eventually, I read two more lines on camera for spot appearances in other longer TV Ads being produced for MASN/Nationals Broadcasts and was then escorted to another office where a make shift radio sound stage had been built. There, I was given ideas about Washington Baseball that MASN wanted to depict. It was my responsibility to put those ideas into my own words and call them MASN Moments--Radio Ads for 2009. Six total radio spots were produced involving me. But I have no idea if, when or where, any of those additional spots will air.

Sohna and I appreciated the opportunity MASN gave me to be involved in their On-Air Commercials for 2009. Knowing I gave it my very best; knowing the production crew appreciated my work; knowing that Peter was a blast to work with, and then finally watching the spot run on television last night was very, very rewarding.

MASN has promised to send me a DVD of the final spots.

PS--And if you were wondering, no The African Queen didn't audition that late January day at Nationals Park. She turned down MASN's offer to partake. She was having too much fun watching me, well being me, which she finds hilarious.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved