Thursday, February 22, 2007

Today's Anecdotes

What made today's access so special, was how comfortable all the players reacted to my approaches. Over the past four days, they had seen me at each and every practice. Already, many had answered my questions. They knew who I was. That I write The Nats320 blog and am having fun doing it. The more comfortable Our Washington Nationals became with my presence, the more and more their natural ways were openly expressed, in front of me.

While interviewing Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann asked me what blog I write. I replied, "NATS 320". Bergmann, sitting on a stool, reading the USA Today Newspaper, stated: "Yeah, I know that one, you're Screech's Friend. I read alot of the blogs. Its always good to see what the fans are thinking. I don't necessarily agree with what many say, but its important to find out." Later, Bergmann would chat with me for a good five minutes on this very subject. To be posted, at a later time.

Luis Ayala is a card shark. Since Day One, Luis has taken a liking to, not only me, but The African Queen. He finds us interesting. After each practice, he stops by me to say something or comment to my questions. Today, in The Clubhouse he was sorting a deck of playing cards. I asked him what he was doing? What games do you play? Luis responded: "Take a card, any card." I picked one face down and sneaked a peak. Without him seeing the card's face, I stuffed it back into the middle of the deck. Ayala shuffled the cards three times, then told me to pull out another card. I had originally picked the Ace of Spades. And, did so again after his shuffle. Luis just started laughing. "Pretty Good, huh? Gets "The Chief" everytime!!" We both slapped hands, chuckling. Luis Ayala is fast becoming another favorite of mine.

Nick Johnson was out on Field 3 today, doing a 12 minute walk. Although he is far from 100% healthy, his humor has not missed a step. We chatted in the dugout, after his workout for a good 10 minutes. Talking baseball, comparing injuries and recovery times. You may recall I broke both collarbones in an horrific accident in my early 20's. My injury took one year for me to recover--18 months fully. Again, the entire chat will be posted later, but near the end, I asked Nick if he had ever seen so many players in a Big League Camp? "How many are here?" he replied. "72, if YOU are counted," I said. Nick nods his head up, looks right at me and states: "Do I count? I guess I do. I can't hit a baseball right now, but I sure can hit the team buffet!!" We both laughed, high fiving, so hard, that Spin Williams, one of the pitching instructors asked us to keep it down in the dugout. This was my favorite moment of the day. Nick Johnson was totally at ease chatting with me. It was nice and friendly.

As I walked onto the field during warmups this morning, John Patterson was standing at the water cooler. He looks down at me as I walk through the gate. "You in today?" he said. "Yeah, I responded, but I promised my wife I would not stalk you after Carrabba's the other night." JP chuckled, "That would be a good thing, welcome aboard."

Later, Patterson was standing behind a batting cage joined along with Jim Bowden and Stan Kasten. John standing there with no cap, long hair flowing down to his shoulders. Their conversation was very animated, and led to them talking about his hair. Whereupon, Stan Kasten stated: "We are just going to have to call you "Newt Guzzler". They all laughed mightily for some time, almost to tears.

Barry Larkin, Manny Acta & Austin Kearns were standing behind the batting cage when Acta turned to Kearns asking him what was the longest home run he had ever hit. Kearns starts thinking, when Larkin states: "Come on Austin, that's a no doubter. Remember that one you hit in Puerto Rico against the Expos, that thing went a mile!" Kearns: "Yeah, that was like a softball swing. I just clubbed it (pretending to take a softball cut) and it just never seemed to stop. And, I didn't even swing hard."
Manny jumps in: "Yeah, I remember that, it went over the fence, over the stands, over the Advertising Signs. I think it may well be still flying. THAT, MY FRIEND, WAS A MONSTER! Thanks. Its glad to know I saw it." Everyone Laughs.

Chad Cordero is not too happy with the new Batting Practice Cap. Since they are made of a polyester micro-fiber, the bill of the cap does not go flat. "Its sort of kills my image. I can't wait to wear the Red Curly "W". But, "The Chief" may not be aware of the fact that the new Game Caps are also a polyester. April 2 may come too soon for Chad's Image, if the cap can not be ironed flat.

Also, despite the fact that Cordero will make $4.15 million this coming season, he still may not buy a house. "I like living with my six buddies back home in our current setup." Someone asked him whether he would invite his buddies to live with him in a new house. "Yeah, maybe, I love my friends."

Finally, I got in the elevator at Space Coast Stadium with Todd Jacobson from The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and Robert Fick. They are already in an animated conversation about this child size red Tie, (already tied and is just looped around the neckline) that Fick has in his hands. As Todd already blogged about, the tie was given to Fick by Stan Kasten, because Robert is terrible with ties and did not wear one on the road once. Learning that Kasten was on the scene, Fick traveled up to the executive suite of the stadium to return this fine piece of wardrobe to Mr. Kasten.

Todd and I were laughing. Robert Fick is a total character.

Through today's anecdotes, Our Washington Nationals became more like everyday people to me. The experience was very enlightening. February 22, 2007 was a GREAT DAY TO BE A WASHINGTON NATIONALS FAN!!!


Anonymous said...

Love your blog SBF. But, not to be a complete grammar/spelling nazi, do you mean to title this "Today's Anecdotes" as in short stories or "Antidotes" as in a counteract to poison? Really, not trying to be facetious. Just helpful

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous--Yeah, thanks, its called not alot of sleep and alot of work, rushing to get something up. So The African Queen and I could go out to do something very special for tonight. And, its a doozy. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I like the story of Ayala's card trick. Can he pull rabbits out of hats, too? (Or at least coax the Wookie to come out off the depths of the RFK bullpen?)

By comparison to Jay Bergmann, it looks like Chief has been working on his cap, so maybe there's hope for the flat billed look. (But will he be able to balance a baseball on his cap again?)

I'm not surprised Chad hasn't given much thought to house hunting. Between trade rumors, salary negotiations and salary arbitration, I'd guess recently he's had other things on his mind.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome SBF. Great to know the personalities I'll be rooting for this year at RFK.

But there have to be a lot of people milling around asking players and caoches questions. You get the sense that this is also a spring training in talking to the media? Everyone seems so positive and relatively approachable. This has to be coached too, right? I can't imagine being in my office, trying to get work done and having bloggers and reporters coming up and asking me how it's going. I'm pretty impressed with how at ease the players, coaches and front office staff seem.

And any fans down there sought you out yet? I'll definetly be stoppping by 320 to shake your hand once the season starts.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous: Per Stan Kasten, this organization has made every effort to be fan friendly. The players and coaches are asked to be approachable, within the bounds of the fans also letting the players get their work done on the practice fields. The players and coaches are available before practice, and after to fans as they leave the fields. No one is allowed on the fields at all. Even without a press credential, I was able to do a lot things, by being creative. Its worked well, so far. No doubt, I am a test case for this team. Hopefully, I have led off with a good example.

And no, no one has approached me down here. I am still fairly anonymous. The Nationals players and management seem to know me more than fans. That's OK with me, as I am having a good time. The Nationals have made it more fun for me to be a fan than I ever imagined. I only hope that it all continues. I am having a GREAT TIME!