Saturday, February 19, 2011
About Time You Guys Got Here!
"Where you been?" stated Our General Manager Mike Rizzo. "It's about time you guys got here!"
Yeah, we know.
After multiple times zones, multiple cities and a few countries too, The African Queen and I have finally arrived in Viera, Florida for Spring Training 2011 with Our Washington Nationals. Over the past month, we've been dealing with the tragic death of close relatives in Sohna's family back home. And if you've followed the major news stories overseas, you might have a good idea what's been keeping us busy, workwise.
There has been virtually no time for baseball.
At least until this past Thursday.
For the 5th consecutive year, we loaded up the home office, motored onto I-95 in Alexandria, Virginia and drove the 865 miles (14 hours including stops) to Melbourne/Viera, Florida. Used the 18th of February to acclimate and headed out this morning to watch our first practice.
Sohna and I were not disappointed.
The early days of Spring Training are some of the best days to attend. Everyone is relaxed gearing up for a new season. Players are happy to see each other again. Or meet new friends--as is the case with Adam LaRoche.
There's not a lot of pressure on the players to be 100% ready to actually play a game--which means the players are pretty accessible to the many fans too that show up to watch. A few hundred were in attendance today, most of whom seemed to want to get an autograph from Stephen Strasburg. They lined up early and waited until the end of the formal practice for Pitchers and Catchers.
While watching the proceedings, we took the time to say hello to those we haven't seen over the winter. Or in Mike Rizzo's case, just check up on what's going on. "Rizz" did mention he's looking for Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann to "step it up this year". He wants to see both of them develop into the solid pitchers scouts envisioned coming out of college. "I don't want them to peak, but I want to see them take the next big step." If Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann do just that, Our General Manager feels his starting rotation can make Our Washington Nationals a top club in 2012 when Stephen Strasburg returns fully from his surgically repaired elbow.
Of course, Livan Hernandez was in mid-season form story telling with his teammates. At one point, he was in a very animated discussion with Ian Desmond, Nyjer Morgan and Michael Morse about watching NBA Basketball and how he would love to play in one NBA game--just to be able to swish a three pointer and run down the court while hand slapping everyone sitting courtside. The Quote Of The Day--typical Livo--loud, funny and in total control while holding court.
Speaking of Mikey Mo', he and Roger Bernadina must have been pumping some serious iron this off-season--their bodies were rock solid. Bernadina's biceps were massive. Roger said he spent two straight months in Holland working out with his personal trainer. Michael mentioned he didn't lose sight of becoming an everyday player.
Drew Storen was his usual affable self. Sohna and I must have chatted with him for a good 15 minutes after practice. Drew was just as interested in our off-season as we were of his school work at Stanford. We got a kick out of seeing Storen, Collin Balester and Tom Gorzelanny all standing next to each other on the field during drills wearing three new jersey numbers. Balester now 23, Storen 22 and Gorzelanny 32.
Garrett Mock told Sohna he and his wife are expecting their 3rd child while Ross Detwiler mentioned he's extremely happy to head into spring training 2011--100% and ready to fight for a job. "Last year at this time was just depressing for me," he said. You might recall, Ross suffered a hip injury that needed surgery--which set him back in 2010.
Jesus Flores looked finally ready to play Major League Baseball too. "I played well in Winter Ball (in Venezuela) and I am just happy coming to camp not hampered by an injury. I am really happy."
And just like every single player, coach and front office person we talked to about it, we had to agree--the new red batting practice jerseys worn with red Curly "W" cap and white pants are sharp!! So much better than the mix-matched blue batting practice jersey and red cap worn in 2010. "I like the red," stated Mike Rizzo. "It stands out against the white."
Finally, no first day of practice for us would be complete without chatting with Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein about his recent kidney donation to his brother Ken. We thanked him for his courage. Rick said both he and his brother are doing just fine. "In fact, I don't feel any different than I did before the operation." Good news all around.
Sohna and I will have much more over the coming days from Viera. We are just getting started with our Spring Training coverage. So thanks for checking back in. Sorry to be away for so long, but family commitments and work assignments dictated the situation.
All photos copyrighted--Nats320 --All Rights Reserved