Friday, February 23, 2007

A Baseball Fans Dream

Make no mistake about it, my just concluded week of Spring Training with Our Washington Nationals will go down in my life as ONE OF MY GREATEST!! I didn't really know what to expect, beforehand. Knowing I would not have total access, left me wondering whether I might be wasting my time. If I couldn't talk to the players, there was no real reason to make the trip. The closer you are to an actual event, the less information you can gather or hear, as your resources can be limited. Most of the real Nationals News from the past week, I read on my computer, on the internet, at my hotel, after returning from practice.

Once The African Queen and I arrived in Viera, we headed out to Space Coast Stadium, to check out the scene, this past Monday morning. To our surprise, Our Washington Nationals allowed fans to walk between the four practice fields. No one was allowed to go on the fields, unless you were actually with The Nationals or Credentialed Press. But, even The Press were restricted on the field. Yet, the players and coaches were extremely accessible. At any given time, when players were not participating in drills, most all of them were willing, to either talk, take a picture or sign an autograph.

The number of fans that reguarly attend Spring Training over the years for many Major League Teams were stunned, and quite thrilled. Our Washington Nationals went out of the way to open up to its fan base. Sure, you had the hucksters carrying their binders of 100 cards of every player and cases of bats for team members to sign, so they could attempt to make money on eBay (You are always going to have those fools). But, by far, the majority of the folks attending camp were fans. Baseballs Fans, enjoying the opportunity to get close with Major League Players. The atmosphere was GREAT!!

And, you got to credit Team President, Stan Kasten and General Manager, Jim Bowden for letting this atmosphere grow. Along with new Manager, Manny Acta, The Nationals want to be "Fan Friendly". The Nats want to be close to their fans. Washington wants to build an image of accessibility. They certainly showed that fact to me this week. Can you imagine The Yankees or The Red Sox allowing their fans so close to the players for Spring Training. I doubt it.

The openess of the week, allowed me to freely seek interviews, take pictures and produce a good amount of posts that hopefully many Washington Nationals Fans enjoyed. When I was granted a Full Credential this past Thursay, the entire week in Viera became complete. Players for The Nats became familar with me, accepted me, chatted with me. And for me, these players become the guys that live next door. Seeing all of them having normal everyday conversations that you and I have each day, made me realize that the only difference in their life over mine, is their chosen profession. They play baseball for a living. I do not. That, along with the money, is the sole difference.

As the week progressed, I found myself enjoying meeting each player, not just because they were a Major League Player for the team I love, Our Washington Nationals. More so, because I was enjoying getting to know them, as people, personalities-folks with substance. Another person to learn something from and add to my life experiences. And, let me tell you, there was no more interesting personality than Chris Snelling. Later, I will post up my extended conversation with him. He was flat out cool, different. Quite worth getting to know a little bit better.

Baseball players like Snelling, Mike Restovich plus up and coming prospects Garrett Mock and Zechry Zinacola were fun to meet. Although Esmailyn Gonzalez and I struggled to communicate through a cross cultural language barrier, I just loved his constant smile, his innocence. Hopefully that smile and fun face will remain with him for years to come. These five along with countless others, and their personalities made my week of Spring Training with Our Washington Nationals Special--A Baseball Fans Dream!! I could not thank The Nationals more for their kindness. And, The African Queen, for putting up with me, allowing me to pursue my passion, all week long.


Anonymous said...

SBF, You are absolutely right. The real baseball fans are at spring training. They don't go to the games to eat and drink, they go because they love baseball. By comparison, at RFK many don't show up until the third or fourth inning and they are gone by the seventh, never to return. Have you taken in Dodgertown, in Vero Beach? That is a real treat. I will be arriving in Vero next week. Have a safe trip home and thanks for the great reporting. I am hearing that SI may have its eye on you. Your blogging is way beyond the newspaper beat writer level and it keeps getting better.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Vero Beach, next year will be the last year that the Dodgers train there, before moving to a new complex in Glendale, AZ, which they will share with the White Sox. This weeks issue of SI has a special on Dodgertown. In that article, it mentions that the Orioles may move from Lauderdale to Vero Beach to replace the Dodgers.

Anonymous said...

SBF, I have really enjoyed your recent posts. I am soooo ready for the season to start! Thanks for giving me something to read until it does.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Phil and Ardy: Thank you for your very kind comments. I never worked harder or had a better time while on a vacation. Despite little sleep, I had a terrific time.

Phil: Where did you hear this rumor about SI?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great week of posts and pictures. Both you and MissChatter accurately captured the joy I have visiting camp here in Viera during the last 2 weeks of Feb each year (I'm a local). I'm headed out there again this morning.

The gift of such relaxed access to the team at the Barger complex didn't start with the Expos/Nats. Since opening in 1994 starting with the Marlins, the setup has been the same as you experienced last week. My favorite moments from that era were encounters with Vada Pinson and Josh Beckett, many years apart.

Re: the O's and Dodgertown...I thought I heard recently that the city was ready to toss a pile of money at their facility for upgrades in order to keep the team. Too bad, since Vero is only 45 miles down the road from here.

Dave said...

Thanks for these posts, SBF. You really make me want to plan a spring training trip. Since I'm a public school teacher, our spring corresponds with the first week of the season this year. But next year I hope to be down there myself.

Anonymous said...

Continuously, the best blog on the Nats!

Jim H said...


A banner week for you and the A.Q...congratulations!

Phil...when in Vero, stop at the Clubhouse Bar and Grill behind the Dodgertown complex. Tell Frannie (the proprietess) Jim sent you.

It's getting closer...can you feel it? Thanks again, SBF!

Anonymous said...

Dear SBF,

Your reports from Viera have been absolutely awesome. I really feel like I have gotten to know the players better through your writing, and your photos have been excellent, as well. You have done the rest of us a great service. Thanks!