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."

It does.

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


Tom said...

The Nats 320 world is all good again!

Positively Half St. said...

Thanks for the bird's-eye view. I hope your family is fine after your loss. This post does well to show the relaxed nature of early Spring Training.

Calle Real N20 said...

I'm very glad to see you back and commenting. And at Spring Training! I was a bit worried.

I'm also very sorry to hear about the losses in Sohna's family.

Todd Boss said...

Good to hear from you guys again. After the radio silence I was afraid you had packed up Nats320. Sorry for your loss and I'm glad to hear work has "worked out."

AVM221 said...

Sohna, sorry for your loss. Glad to see Nats320 back on-line and baseball players back on the field. Thanks for the full report from Spring Training.

DND said...

We can breath a sigh of relief that you all are safe and sound. We should arrive Monday around noon so see you monday or tuesday. So sorry to hear about the losses in Sohna's family.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

First, I want to express my condolances to Sohna. I hope that spring training this year will help bring solace to her grieving.

I know we didn't get all the free agents we hoped for (and it irks me that one of them chose the Orioles over us) but we didn't exactly come out empty handed from the off-season. I'd like to see how Werth, LaRoche, and Zimmermann (2 n's--I mean Jordan) do this offseason. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I'm still hoping that this year we finally manage to win 82 games and pass somebody (the Mets? Marlins?) in the standings.

I'm also disappointed in how the Nats are going to run their Fan Fest this year. Bad enough it has to be on a weekday only a day before Opening Day, but now you not only have to pay for admission, but get reservations? Is it really that expensive to open up Nats Park in January or February? I know the stadium lease means this sort of thing has to be in the District which means National Harbor is off-limits, but wouldn't the D.C. Convention Center or the lobby of a D.C. hotel do? Penny wise and pound foolish move on the Nats part.

[Also, I'm glad to finally hear that the Nats are going to be broadcast on an FM station again. About time! If Bonneville won't broadcast sports on any of their FM stations, I'm glad to hear the Nats going to a station that will! May have to get a WJFK bumper sticker for my car. [I can understand if you don't want to publish this part until the news is official, which is why this is in brackets.]]

Hopefully by the time you get back from Florida, winter will be just a distant memory for us in Washington. Have a good time!

Biff said...

We want to express our condolances to Sohna and for her to know that we care and hope she is doing much better now that spring training is here. We have missed you two!

Jim Webster said...

Good to see you posting again. But your comment "Not much seems to phase the young man . . ." Perhaps you meant to say "faze" as in "daunted" or "disconcerted." Your broadcast background is showing.