Thursday, November 11, 2010

Storen, Espinosa, Bernadina--Even Wilson Ramos

Wanting to see who Our Washington Nationals are promoting this off-season on their jerseys and tee-shirts, I headed over to Nationals Park late this morning to check out some of the new merchandise on sale for fans at the main Team Store. About 50 to 60 folks were already inside, or waiting inline outside to "Meet & Greet" with Washington Pitcher Drew Storen.  His teammates, Shortstop Ian Desmond and Pitcher Tyler Clippard had already preceeded him to this event while Jordan Zimmermann was waiting to finish off the two hour signing session.

Interestingly, not just Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg shirts filled the store. There were Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina tees and jerseys for Pudge Rodriguez, Clippard, Zimmermann, Storen, Livan Hernandez--even Wilson Ramos. What wasn't noticable was any jersey or tee-shirt with Adam Dunn's name across the back.

The new fitted Navy Blue/Red Billed Curly "W" cap was for sale, as was a kid's sized sweatshirt with a script "Nationals" on the front. The only item in the store I noticed carrying the script "Nationals" secondary logo.  Also for sale were women's replica versions of the new uniforms.

Just thought we'd pass the information along.

PS--Talking with some fans who had taken the Nationals Park ballpark tour this morning, they mentioned Ryan Zimmerman was on the playing field with another teammate shooting some promotional spots wearing the new uniforms.

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Ryan Zimmerman Thoughts

Playing baseball was more on Ryan Zimmerman's mind than new uniforms last night at Nationals Park. The Z-Man was interested in talking about his friend, Adam Dunn, now a free agent looking for offers from all 30 Major League Teams. Zimmy also wanted to say he wasn't disappointed over not receiving a Gold Glove for defensive prowess at 3rd Base for the second year in a row in the National League. An honor bestowed on Cincinnati's Scott Rolen in 2010. And he wanted to let everybody know that he's still learning parts of his game defensively.

Here are those Ryan Zimmerman thoughts:

Zimmerman on Dunn:

“From spring training to the end of the season, I can honestly say that he is 10 times better (at first base). He had only played one year (at the position). He was in the outfield which is 200 or so feet away from home plate. Then he moves into the infield where he’s sometimes playing 80 to 85 feet away from home plate. The ball gets on you a lot quicker and you have to adjust. Surprisingly, for as big and goofy as Adam is, he’s a pretty good athlete. But he will adjust.”

“People don’t understand that he’s as big as people in the NFL. He moves around and he can beat people in races. He’s pretty athletic. But it’s hard to look graceful when you are that big. If he continues to work, like I know he will, believe me, he doesn’t want to make those errors as much as anyone else. He’s embarrassed for himself, too. That’s why he works hard, why he wants to become adequate at first base. He has a lot of pride.”

Zimmerman on not winning the National League 2010 Gold Glove for fielding at 3rd Base:

“I never expect to win those things. This league is so hard to be successful in, let alone win an award. There are so many good players at every position that it makes me work hard to be a good 3rd Baseman and help the team. If you get awards and good things happen, that’s great. But Scott (Rolen) is one of the guys I’ve looked up to and have modeled my game after. If you can think of a consistent 3rd Baseman over the past 10 years, I think he’s the guy that you look at. He deserves it just as much as anyone.”

Zimmerman evaluating himself defensively:

“Every year I go through one of those spells where I don’t throw the ball well. That is something I am really concentrating on this off-season. I can never pinpoint what it is. I’ll tell you guys when I do bad things and that’s a problem, obviously, I have had over the past few seasons at one point or another. That’s something I want to clean-up. If I can clean that up, obviously, it helps the team more. That’s the only thing (in his game) that I am really disappointed in. I think the more I play third, the more I get comfortable over there, the better feeling of how to play, where to play, the internal clock is getting a lot better. I’ve calmed down a lot when a ball is hit hard right at me. I am still learning how to play the position, but for the most part, I was very happy (with his defensive performance) and I just want to get better every year.”

“The best thing about baseball is that everyone plays the game differently. Everyone says you should throw the ball from here, from there, from here. At the end of the day, if you get people out, it doesn’t really matter. You don’t think it. you just go. And that’s it. I just want to be more consistent. That’s what I said about Scott (Rolen). He’s consistent everyday. And that’s the game of baseball.”

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Drew Storen's New Uniform Number

When Drew Storen was first introduced at Nationals Park in 2009 after signing a contract with Our Washington Nationals--he wore a Nats jersey bearing uniform number 26.

Before Storen even arrived for his first Spring Training in Viera, Florida in 2010, Drew was handed uniform number 58. Since then, he's been trying to get that number lowered. Drew even stated he'd would like to cut that high numeral in half. Yesterday, that desire finally paid off.

Last evening at Nationals Park, not only did D.C.'s Team unveil new 2011 uniforms, but Drew Storen showed off his new uniform number--the number 25.

His thoughts on the change:

“I wanted to switch. I just couldn’t decide on the number. 25 has a legacy of power hitters. So I am just trying to change that up a little. Having number 58 was like being a linebacker (in football) and of course I have the body for that (chuckling). That number is for someone who is trying to fight for a job in spring training. Matt Capps could pull off number 55 because he’s established, but when you are young, you need to try to go as low as you can. And that’s what I’ve done.”

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Clean, Crisp & Pretty Nice

Chatting with John Lannan after tonight's 2011 Uniform Unveiling at Nationals Park:

John Lannan: "How we perform on the field is more important than how we look."

Nats320: "So it doesn't matter how the Curly "W" looks as long as you get the Curly "W"."

John Lannan: "Yeah, I like that (chuckling)."
Drew Storen, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan & Ryan Zimmerman

Ian Desmond in Modified Red Alternate, Tyler Clippard In Away Gray

Our Washington Nationals held a fashion show this evening on South Capitol Street to introduce a new on the field look beginning next season. Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, John Lannan, Ian Desmond,  Jordan Zimmerman and Tyler Clippard gave up a portion of their off-season to participate in this invitation-only event that seemed to please the crowd in attendance. 
No longer will the block lettering (Fuddrucker look) "Nationals" appear across the front on the home jerseys for D.C.'s team. Instead, the Curly "W" has been embraced for baseball in the Nation's Capital. Equity in branding was on display as Our Washington Nationals showed a clean, crisp and pretty nice new look. 
New Primary Logo

That white on the new home jersey is BRIGHT. It just doesn't get louder than that.  Accompanied by the new Washington Nationals (Curly W) logo on the left sleeve, the new home uniform will be worn with the now standard red Curly "W" cap. Beginning in 2011, Washington will be one of just three teams in the majors that displays their home city logo on their home jersey (The Detroit Tigers and The New York Yankees are the only others--D & NY respectively).
Drew Storen In New Home White, Jordan Zimmermann in New Blue Curly "W"

The Patriotic blue "DC" jersey has been retired and replaced by a darker blue Curly "W" version.  That new uniform and the returning script "Washington" away jersey will be worn with the new red bill, blue body and white Curly "W" cap.  In our opinion, that cap alone, a big improvement over the basic navy blue, white Curly "W" cap worn since the Inaugural Season of 2005.
Additionally, the red alternate with white Curly "W" will return for 2011 with some slight modifications. Only to be worn at home, the upgraded red jersey will now have blue piping down the buttons and at the cuffs, while sporting the new Washington Nationals Primary logo.
Nationals Fan Frank Cumberland Showing Off His New Primary Logo  Tee-Shirt

Here are the additional changes, not publicly stated this evening:

Washington's home batting practice jersey beginning in 2011 will be a modified version of the Red Alternate with White Curly "W".

The blue batting practice jersey will be worn before away games only.

The home field jacket will be a modified version of the Red Alternate Jersey as well. Included on the left sleeve will be the now primary Washington Nationals Logo with Curly "W".

In the style guide for Washington's marketing purposes, the "Nationals" block lettering will be retained for tee-shirts, memorabilia, etc.  For the time being, the "Nationals" logo on the HDTV Scoreboard will remain in tact.

Additionally, the new Washington style guide will include a "Script" Nationals logo--available for tee-shirts, memorabilia and other products.

Just after the completion of tonight's fashion show, Nats320 talked with Andrew Feffer, Chief Operating Officer of Our Washington Nationals about the upcoming changes.  Here is that conversation:

Nats320: Are you getting away completely from the block "Nationals" logo?
Sohna With Andrew Feffer

Andrew Feffer: “We are not getting away from the Nationals logo. Washington Nationals is still a part of the primary logo on the sleeves. But when we started this process, we listened to our fans first. They felt very strongly about the Curly “W”. In fact, they were buying it. They liked it. So this is an opportunity for us to respond to our fans in a very positive way, also to embrace the city. The Curly “W” stands for Washington and you will notice it on all of our uniforms. The Curly “W” is our primary (logo). The home, away, alternate and patriotic--I believe we are the only uniform that, I am aware of in baseball, where the home city is on the chest. So it honors our city and our fans who waited over 30 years for baseball." 
Nats320: Are we seeing the complete faze out of the “DC” logo?
Feffer: “No. In fact, the “DC” logo is still a part of our style guide. So you will see it on hats and tee-shirts, our fans will still have the opportunity to select that. But the equity of the brand and equity of The Nationals is the Curly “W”. And you will see more of the Curly “W” in not only the uniform, but in marketing materials, the in-game presentations, and in the way we communicate with our fans.”
Nats320: How about the HDTV Scoreboard, there is a pretty expensive “Fuddrucker” Nationals logo sitting on top of it. Is that staying or what?
Feffer: “The Nationals logo is the same. If you look at the patch on the sleeves, you will see we are using block lettering there. So the same block lettering you will see on the scoreboard, will also be a part of what you see on the primary set of uniforms.” 
Nats320: Changing uniforms, does it bring good luck, a better fortune?
Feffer: “Someone asked me that earlier. It sorted out as less about a look for a uniform and more about a discussion with our fans. We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year talking to our fans, learning about what they felt the team needed to do to improve and what the opportunities were. In response to that, we found the equity in developing the brand and for developing the experience and customer service for our fans was wrapped up in the Curly “W”. They felt very strongly about that.”
“So as we look forward to 2011, we had to decide how we would express that brand of youth, energy and authenticity--which is in the players. We looked at the uniforms. We looked at the marketing materials. We looked at the scoreboard. We looked at the experience. Everything reflected toward that youth, energy and authenticity and that has to be shown in a very demonstrative way in everything we do.”

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Washington Needs A Better Spring Training Schedule

(Click On Picture To Enlarge)

Thanks to the fact that few Major League Teams call the east coast of Florida their spring training homes these days, no wonder Our Washington Nationals are considering other cities to train before the start of every baseball season. The 2011 Spring Training Schedule was released this afternoon and Washington plays 15 of their 30 pre-season games against The New York Mets, The Florida Marlins and The Atlanta Braves. The very same three teams that see each other 54 times during the 162-Game Regular Season.

Additionally, only four other Big League Teams will take on D.C.'s Team in spring training ball in 2011.

That's just unappealing if you want to see Washington take on opponents normally not on the regular schedule. Sure, you can drive across Florida and take in other team's sites, but if you are a Nats Fan that's not always appealing. Since The Los Angeles Dodgers pulled out of Vero Beach for Camelback Ranch in Arizona and The Baltimore Orioles headed to Sarasota, Florida--only the Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, Braves, Astros and Tigers truly remain within reasonable driving distances from Viera, Florida for Washington to play on a daily basis in late February and March.

In fact, can you imagine if Jeffrey Loria, the owner of The Fish didn't INSIST Major League Baseball give his Marlins' The Montreal Expos Jupiter, Florida training complex when he abandoned his Expos Ownership for The Marlins in 2002? Our Washington Nationals would today be isolated from most every remaining team in Florida at Jupiter--except for The St. Louis Cardinals (who share the same Jupiter complex), The Mets (in Port St. Lucie) and the Space Coast Stadium Complex (Viera/Melbourne).

15 teams currently train in Florida, the other 15 in Arizona. That means one team in the Grapefruit League and one team in the Cactus League must play a split squad game every single day of Spring Training in order to have competition. It also means in Florida that many teams don't take all of their star players on the road. The distances between training sites are longer. Compare that to Arizona where 13 of the 15 Cactus League Teams are closely grouped together surrounding Phoenix, Surprise, Scottsdale, Goodyear and Peoria.

Far more convenient, probably a lot more fun too to attend.

Personally, Sohna and I like Florida and want Our Washington Nationals to remain in Florida for Spring Training. They are an East Coast Team and the east coast of Florida is convenient for fans heading down from the greater Washington, D.C. area to see Spring Training. What we would love to see is Major League Baseball convince a few more teams to return to the Atlantic Coast of Florida. We are just not sure that is going to happen.

But one thing is clear, Major League Baseball has a problem with the five teams that call east coast cities of Florida their spring training homes. And today's release of the 2011 Spring Training Schedule for Our Washington Nationals drove that point home more than ever.

Yeah, they play The New York Yankees home and away, but no Red Sox, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins, Rays & Pirates. And that's really sad. Our Washington Nationals need a better Spring Training Schedule.

What's the chances of getting a few teams in Arizona to return to Florida?

PS: Also, what would have happened to The Cleveland Indians if Hurricane Andrew had not destroyed their brand new ballpark and training complex at Homestead Florida in 1992? At that time, The Dodgers still trained in Vero Beach and The Orioles in Ft. Lauderdale--but no longer. Today, the Tribe would have become the most isolated team in the game for Florida Spring Training. No wonder they ran to Arizona without ever holding one day of Spring Training in Homestead.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Smiling Faces Of The 5th ziMS Foundation Golf Tournament

Smiling faces were seen all around the Red Wing Lake Golf Course on Saturday, October 30th.

A lucky hole-in-one on the 8th hole would score a Mercedes Benz from Mercedes Benz of Alexandria/Arlington.

Another lucky hole-in-one on the 13th hole would score a new Jeep from Hall Automotive.

And a third lucky hole-in-one on the 4th hole would give one golfer $15,000 in cash from GET Solutions, Inc.

Those were all great prizes up for grabs, but every single one of the 144 golfers who participated in the 5th ziMS Foundation Golf Tournament will tell you they came for the fun. They came to be with their friends. And they also posted up to help Ryan Zimmerman and his family fight Multiple Sclerosis.

How else can you explain another sold out event with 39 sponsors lining up to donate cash, gifts, prizes, food, drink and clothing in excess of $70,000. Golf Styles Magazine may well call Red Wing Lake a "Must Play" golf course, but it was camaraderie that brought so many of these diverse people and organizations together. Not just Major League Baseball players, friends and family of Our Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, but doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, automotive dealers, bankers and even a freight train company--among many others.

Norfolk Southern, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Radman Radiological, Gee's Group Real Estate and Scott Wallace, D.D.S. together donating $40,000 to the cause. Under Armour providing special ziMS Foundation "heat gear" collard shirts and performance wear, while for the second year in a row, Sohna and I participated in our own unique way--again sponsoring the 12th hole.

Washington Nationals teammates John Lannan and Craig Stammen teed the ball up for the second year in a row as well and were joined in 2010 by Tyler Clippard and Hitting Instructor Rick Eckstein. Pittsburgh Pirate Joel Hanrahan was again back on the course, but was unable to play with his 2009 partner--Michael Cuddyer of The Minnesota Twins. Cuddyer was scheduled to play, but according to the Z-Man, couldn't make it due to a personal family issue. But to make up for that loss, The New York Mets David Wright joined Hanrahan's foursome which led to our personal favorite moment of the entire weekend.

Sohna and I were shuttling around the the Red Wing Lake Golf Course with the Gala & Golf Tournament Photographers for the weekend's events. Jake's & Sarah's jobs are to take pictures of each foursome that will be framed and sent to each golfer as a momento later. As we catch up to Hanrahan's and Wright's group in the fairway of the 11th hole, they are waiting for the foursome in front of them to clear the green. But even after the group pictures are taken, there is still some time to kill and Joel Hanrahan asks The African Queen whether she's ever played golf before?

"No," she responds.

"So let me show you how to hit a golf ball," says Hanrahan as he hands Sohna his club and takes a few minutes to instruct her how to stand and swing. David Wright then becomes involved telling Sohna where to grip her hands. "Choke up a little bit," he says, "It will give you a better drive."

Two Major League Baseball Players teaching The African Queen how to hit a golf ball. You can't make this stuff up.

And sure enough, Sohna rears back the club, swings down on the ball, and drives it right down the middle of the fairway!!

Yeah, she really did.

The looks and expressions on everyone's faces watching--priceless--hilarious too.

That one moment signified for us the fun that everyone came to enjoy this past Saturday. Hanrahan and Wright were just being great sports, enjoying their relaxing afternoon on the course while teaching Sohna what it's like to play another game they love--if only for a few minutes. That's one of many reasons we've attended the ziMS Foundation Gala & Golf Tournament each of the past three years. And that's why so many other like minded people return to Virginia Beach, Virginia each year now to help raise money to fight MS.

Ryan Zimmerman, his parents Keith & Cheryl, brother Shawn and their extended friends and family have made the annual ziMS Foundation Gala & Golf Tournament enjoyable to participate for EVERYONE. Yes, smiling faces were seen all-around again this past weekend in SE Virginia and they were for all the right reasons--Charity and Helping Others.

PS: For those keeping score, none of the 144 golfers were lucky enough to win either of the two vehicles nor the $15,000 cash in 2010. Maybe next year? The 6th ziMS Foundation Gala and Golf Tournament now officially scheduled for the weekend of November 4th and 5th, 2011.

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