Thursday, June 14, 2007


Under the stewardship of Our Former Manager Frank Robinson, Our Washington Nationals players were well known for being tight. As in UPTIGHT, always worried, never really knowing exactly where any one player stood with Management. And, as much as I LOVE FRANK, Our Number 20 was not known for sharing his love. Frank called himself "The Intimidator". That's not someone who gives out alot of loving embraces. A Hall of Famer who put a ton of fear in opposing pitchers during his lengthy playing career. As a Manager, Frank possessed a foreboding presence to The Clubhouse that was not always welcomed.

Its became well acknowledged that The Nationals Clubhouse during the first two seasons of Baseball's Return to DC was fractured. Some true Diva players (Jose Guillen for one) that were well known for poisoning the sanctity of Our Team. There were others (Damian Jackson) that will always come to mind, as well. But, you get the point.

What has been refreshing for 2007 is the appearance of everyone getting along. Certainly not everyone being that "BEST BUDS" sort of thing, but a camaraderie that shows not only out on the field of play, but in the dugout as well. For that, the credit must go to Our New Manager Manny Acta.

This Spring and through early Summer Our Washington Nationals have shown a relaxing elegance to this great game. A enjoyment of taking part. A feeling of being involved in something special. Manny Acta has set the tone. From Day 1, Our Number 14 has given his players their opportunity. He told them where they stand. And, if you loaf, you will sit. All while widely displaying that great Charismatic Smile of his (I JUST LOVE MANNY's SMILE).

Now, I don't have any inside scoop on what goes on, during the season, in Our Washington Nationals Clubhouse. But ANYONE can clearly see how well Our Team responds to each other in the dugout during each and every game. There is constant chatter, not only words of encouragement to teammates out on the field, but through lively conversation on the bench.

During that incredible bottom of the 9th Rain Soaked and Delayed Win by Our Washington Nationals this past May 12/13 over The Florida Marlins, the morning Ryan Zimmerman powered out that fabulous Grand Slam off Jorge Julio at 1:42AM, I was personally standing behind the Nats 3rd Base Dugout during that last great inning alongside Colleen. We both were enraptured with the conversions going on amongst each and every player while the game continued in front of them. There was a feeling of confidence in the air. The trust in their teammates to get the job done. All the while, the personal chats continued, fun and games were at hand. Yet, during each and every At-Bat, every single Washington Nationals Player was involved in watching the outcome of the game at hand.

It was fascinating to watch. And, when Zimmerman powered out that game winner, Our Washington Nationals Dugout ERUPTED in Jubilation, running onto the field to welcome their Hero, Our Number 11, back into their fold. A moment that has always stuck in my mind--as special. Memorable for Fine Attitudes on display in front of me. A feeling of belonging. At each and every subsequent Nats Home Game at RFK Stadium, I have witnessed this same good-fellowship.

Again, this togetherness was on display last night in Baltimore--this time--while watching the game on MASN. Austin Kearns was wired for sound throughout this long extra inning affair. Even though Washington had lost the lead twice, and once with two outs and two strikes on two different Baltimore batters, you could clearly see there was no panic in Our Nationals Dugout. Just a feeling of resiliency--time to step up again. Everyone to remain calm.

Honestly, I can't imagine that same feeling in Our Dugout with Frank Robinson at the Helm.

The sight of Austin Kearns jumping up and down in the dugout cheering on Felipe Lopez's game winning 11th inning three run triple a total joy to experience, comfortably at home, in front of my own television screen. Kearns reacted like any real baseball fan of a team would. Just like YOU or I--Austin ACTED LIKE A CHILD. And, all his teammates were joining in on the fun.

Visually, it was the BEST MOMENT OF THE NIGHT. An instant to be remembered by me for a long time. Kearns cared and so did Our Washington Nationals. Nothing finer to view.

Sure, any hard fought, down to the last inning victory, is a special joy. Yet, for the first two seasons of Nationals Baseball, many of those wins didn't seem to bring out The BEST IN EVERYONE. Rarely was there a sense of allegiance to the game.

Under Our New Manager Manny Acta, the times have changed. Our Washington Nationals are RELAXING. Outwardly, they appear to love competing, each and every night. And, it doesn't matter to me that we currently have a last place team. They have become fun to watch.

Our Washington Nationals are, once again, ENJOYING PLAYING THIS GREAT GAME CALLED BASEBALL.

No longer Uptight. But, Tight As Teammates, And FRIENDS.

Thank You. Manny Acta.


SenatorNat said...

Once again, SBF captures the moment and gets the storyline right! You and I are among the few who recall the way Gil Hodges, No. 14, managed. Acta sure reminds me of him - seemingly effortless pitching change decisions, and prudent line-up shake-ups, calm and steady at the helm, a player's manager but in charge (not a lot of back-slapping), a soulful presence, respectful and respected.

Fortunately for us, the Mets have a wonderful manager and they wouldn't need to coax him back, anytime soon...a la Hodges, who managed the Miracle Mets in 1969. God Bless His Memorary - he was the nicest guy to little kid fans like me in the mid-60's.

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

Bang the Drum Natly said...

Very excellent post SBF, and I couldn't agree more...
This team has a youthful, workingman's mentality to the game, no prima donnas (at least as far as I can tell) to disrupt the flow, and our youngest manager in baseball adds to that. Granted, there have been decisions throughout the first part of this season which have left me thinking "what the...", but I chalk that up to a manager who is learning right along with the team he commands. What I have seen from all of this so far, is HEART. Acta's been using his heart for his managing decisions (where the club of old (emphasis: Robinson) would rely seemingly strictly on the old school numbers/matchup game), and the team is playing right along with that (he types, as Cordero in a very un-cardiac-like night finishes off a sweep of the O's - Whoo Hoo! -- 8 games out of 1st says the happy-go-lucky and thus unrealistic 6th grader in me) We've got a really, really good bunch of guys playing together, and with every day and game, win or lose, it's making it harder and harder for me to face the fact that we're most likely going to have to say goodbye to some of our quickly bonding family. And so I live it up with relish while it lasts - every pitch, hit, run, out, and hopefully win.

Cheers, and happy baseball!

Bang the Drum Natly said...

I should add that as a still somewhat O's fan (for the record-I still dig the team, but I couldn't agree more with the O's fan who wore the "fukangelos" player shirt - hands down one of the best shirts I've ever seen), I feel for Jeremy Guthrie, who's gotten about one of the rawest deals in baseball, whether it's been the bullpen implosions (the Boston game the most obvious of quite a few examples), or some really REALLY questionable calls at the plate, including this evening. A few tonight going the other way, and this one might have turned out quite different...
I believe he was claimed off waivers from Cleveland (insert the "what were they thinking, or lack thereof" moment) and so I have no idea how this whole process works as to his availability in the near future, but he's exactly the kind of player I dig. Playing the game right, never losing composure (at least on the outside), and a gamer, bringing it every time he comes to the mound. Nevertheless, I have to feel for the guy this season, despite the fact that we beat him tonight...

As an aside - tomorrow night: Bacsik vs. Halladay.
On paper, Oy.
BUT, after our games vs. Peavy, Smoltz, Santana, et al. so far this season, Let's rock!!!!

Steph2853 said...

I loved your post! I think we are certainly lucky to cheer for a bunch of guys who truly seem to love the game. Manny Acta has been such a blessing for this group of young guys. It’s amazing what a positive attitude and a true love for the game will get you. GO NATS!!

Anonymous said...

Guillen was a leader a life-blood of the 2005 Nats, how dare you characterize him as a cancer. I have met and had conversations with many of the Nats over the past 3 season and Jose was one of the nicest and most gracious players anyone would ever want to meet. I would take a team of 25 Jose Guillen's.