Wednesday, March 02, 2011

When The Wind Becomes The Show

Only at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida could fans sit in the sun and enjoy a baseball game in shirt sleeves or no shirts at all--while others sitting in the shade are dressed like Nanook Of The North waiting for the snow to fall. Strong winds reeked havoc on the plains of Central Florida today. Fly balls drifted, fans hats & caps were blowing. Just about everyone inside the ballpark fighting off the 30 MPH wind gusts--sometimes more--in their own way.

All making for some strange sights when baseball was played on the diamond this spring training day when Our Washington Nationals took on the Florida Marlins.
Roger Bernadina got a hold of a Josh Johnson fastball and pulverized it well over the right field wall for a three run homer in the 2nd inning. "Chico" hit it hard but the wind gave the ball some serious extra distance. That was a wind-aided no-doubter.
Much like Rick Ankiel's homer in the bottom of the 6th off Florida's Tom Koehler. With the wind blowing everything toward the first base stands, it was remarkable that Ankiel's solo shot made it just inside the right field foul pole. Guaranteed, if the wind wasn't blowing, that drive ends up over the right-centerfield wall.

Ryan Zimmerman fell over the tarp down the left field line chasing a foul fly. A pop up that the wind took away from his drifting body--but not before the tarp flipped him head first into the railing of the stands. Thankfully, Zimmy laughed it off as Alex Cora helped him up.
But those prevailing winds had nothing to do with Yunesky Maya's performance. Displaying a wickedly sharp breaking ball, the Cuban signed by Washington last year put on a solid two inning display not seen during his brief stint at Nationals Park last season. Even after being hit by a ball right back to the box on his thigh from the very first batter he faced, Maya was tough out there on the mound and looked supremely confident.  Yunesky looked like the pro Our GM Mike Rizzo expected to see when Maya signed his free agent international contract on the dotted line.

What a difference six months and acclimation to a new society makes for this foreign born hurler.

Despite hitting a three run homer in his previous at-bat, it was nice to see Roger Bernadina bunt for a base hit in his next at-bat. Showing the flash needed to become an all-around player, Bernadina needs to use his speed and agility to complement his power and become that complete player.
Ryan Zimmerman knocked in two runs on a ground ball out in the 1st and solid single to left field in the 2nd.
Despite struggling mightily in his third inning on the mound, John Lannan pitched six up, six down during his first two frames and wasn't bad. He just seemed to run out of steam in his final inning on the mound.
Washington Pitchers Altahualpa Severino and Sean Burnett were pretty sharp too during their one inning stints apiece on the mound.

And because we are big fans of him--we cheered Shawn Hill when he pitched one scoreless inning for The Florida Marlins this afternoon. Once again fighting back from continual arm injuries, the former National, the man that never gives up is always worth watching. Talented but injury prone, Shawn Hill is someone worth rooting for to make it.
On most any given day, any baseball fan would also love to see Florida's Josh Johnson start a Big League Game.  The man throws hard and is consistently good. Today though was not his day. He got tagged by Washington for five runs in less than two innings. His pitches were all over the place and he wasn't helped by his shortstop Hanley Ramirez making a silly error on a routine ground ball to his left in the bottom of the 1st inning.

For Washington, J.D. Martin didn't do himself any favors allowing three hits and one run in his sole inning on the mound either.
Sohna & Frank Cumberland fighting the winds.
Final Score from Space Coast Stadium were the winds became the show and included D.C.'s Team winning their third straight game out of the gate in Spring Training: Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Florida Marlins 4. As usual during these early preseason games, guys wearing numbers 62, 64, 71 & 72 made appearances, but for a short period of time Washington's Fans got a glimpse of few of their potential starters in 2011 when Bernadina, Zimmerman, Lannan and yes--Yunesky Maya--impressed on the Space Coast Stadium field this day.

Other Highlights From Today's Action:
Who would have thought that Dave Jageler would report to training camp on the same day as Henry Rodriguez (delayed by a visa issue in Venezuela)? The other half of the famed "Boys Of Summer" Broadcasting Team flew in from New England this morning to watch his first game. As usual, Jags was on top of his game: "For the first time in months, I actually saw grass on my lawn as I left my home this morning to come here. Like clockwork, it's snowed every Tuesday for the past three months." When I mentioned today's windy weather in Viera along with yesterday's torrential rains were, by far, the worst days of the past two weeks of our visit to Spring Training?

Dave replies while lifting his arms up in the air: "I don't want to hear anybody complaining about this!!"
The African Queen and I were totally surprised to run into Wil Nieves' wife, Yormarie, carrying her young daughter, Maria Isabel, at Space Coast Stadium this afternoon. With Wil now playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Yormarie is looking forward to heading out to Arizona next week for spring training (The Brew Crew trains in Phoenix). And happily reports everyone in the family is doing just fine.
While waiting to meet up with Shawn Hill after today's game, this guy comes walking by us and taps our shoulders: "I know you two. I read your blog all time in Puerto Rico." Big Lou as it turns out is Luis Atilano's father and says he enjoys reading the fun commentary that Nats320 provides every day from Puerto Rico. "Don't ever stop, you guys do a really nice job covering the Nationals."
Photo Courtesy Of Dave Waterfield
Big Lou was extremely funny too.

Briefly chatting with former Nationals Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire, he was sporting a terrific tee-shirt that's become a motto for Florida's pitchers and defenders. On the front: "Defense". On the back: "27 outs, No More."
And finally, Shawn Hill told Nats320 he's happy be back in the game. Still hoping to work through all his previous injuries, Hill hasn't given up on his dream--becoming an established Major League Pitcher.  Remember, Shawn is still just 29 years old.  Yeah, we are still rooting for him.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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