Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learning Your Lessons--Well

Acela Express Train Number 2171 had arrived at Union Station from New York. The Time was 10PM. Tired, but relaxed--I was now in my car--finally heading home for a good night's sleep. Then, my phone began to ring off the hook. The African Queen was calling--Jesus Colome was GIVING IT UP!! A Lopsided Lead was quickly diminishing against The New York Mets.

9-3 the score before "The Human Rain Delay" began to struggle mightily in the bottom of the 9th. Our Number 43 had continued with his September Struggles. Jose Reyes slamming his second home run of the evening off Colome--this time a three run shot to right--that shrunk the lead of Our Washington Nationals to three. "How come Manny has him in there?" Sohna exclaimed on the phone. "He's been terrible!!!"

All I could do was SMILE!! Because less than three years ago--The African Queen would have little interest in most baseball games. Not, the outcome, not the strategy, certainly not about any of The Players and their personalities. Sure, she attended many Major League Baseball Games around the country with me for nearly 20 previous seasons. But, Sohna had never been A FAN--an interested watcher of the games. How times have changed.

The Inaugural 2005 Season of Our Washington Nationals caught her attention. Expecting her to maybe attend 35 Games or So that first season of Baseball's Return to Washington--she posted up for 48. Alfonso Soriano lit her torch in 2006. A SUPERSTAR PLAYER that she could follow. An All-Star that got her ever more interested in HOW TO PLAY THE GAME. She made 71 Baseball Games last season. During each and every subsequent Nationals Game at RFK Stadium--Sohna asked questions. Not just looking for the answers--but the explanation--The WHY?--in order to understand.

Her Baseball Instructional Class was in Session all the way to the very last game ever played at RFK Stadium this past Sunday. 2007 found The African Queen missing JUST 4 Games!! 4 Games!! I remind you. Not a single regular in Section 320 was not drilled on baseball information and knowledge from The African Queen. You may recall--just last week--The Nats320 story on Baseball 101 Clinic For Women--recently held at The Old Ballyard. Sohna was an active participant. Playing Baseball--something she would NEVER have considered doing before--now High On Her List. How I recall those countless times when someone we know asked how I was doing. And, The African Queen would respond (almost sarcastically): "He's DOING BASEBALL!!" (Just love that phrase).

Well, Sohna's "Doing Baseball" now--and this evening her ever growing passion for The Great Game thrilled me, when she began to question strategy. "What is Manny's thinking right now. Does he not realize that Colome should be taken out!?" She was hanging on pins and needles with Jesus Colome losing his form. Then, her subsequent phone calls became more frantic when "The Chief Cardiologist" was called in, the now, 10-6 Game with One Out in the 9th--AND COULDN'T Retire Anyone. Single to David Wright (that Charlie Slowes called a golf swing off the shoelaces), a walk to Carlos Beltran to load the bases and a smoked opposite field liner, down the right field line, by Moises Alou--scoring all three RUNNERS!! Amazingly, a one time 7 run lead was nearly given away.

"Chief doesn't have it tonight, he's bouncing his fastball," said Sohna. He's bouncing his fastball? The African Queen was intently watching. Chad Cordero had grabbed her attention. She was watching closely. And, couldn't believe it when Our Manager Manny Acta slowly walked to the mound--to remove Our Number 32 from the game. An embarrassment for Chad that found him slamming his baseball glove into the Dugout Seats. Sohna had never recalled "The Chief" being removed from a game--with that game on the line. But, he had--one time this season. A few times--in seasons' past.

Now upset with himself on the bench--Chad Cordero saw his SET UP MAN--Big Jon Rauch--trot to the mound to PUT OUT THIS EVER GROWING FIRE. No, you never want to blow a seven run lead--but, you never, EVER, want to accomplish such an awful feat in NEW YORK--against The METS!! Not much of a worse feeling possible than that.

As this ever longer inning was playing out--I was getting ever so closer to home. Between listening to Charlie & Dave on the radio and The African Queen on the phone--there were alot of worried Fans of Our Washington Nationals out there. Which all made me laugh when at nearly the same time--Charlie Slowes commented on the radio broadcast: "This would be one terrible lost." While Sohna mentioned on my cell phone speaker phone: :I don't think I could sleep if they lost this one so badly."

Cracked me up. Yeah, Our Washington Nationals were hanging on the precipice--but The African Queen's rapt involvement was making this mess--a joy to listen to. Her attention to the smallest details tonight--fabulous.

Concentration which "The Wookie" showed by striking out Carlos Delgado swinging and ENDING The Mets RALLYTIME!! by getting Paul LoDuca to swing at his first pitch offering. A pitcher's pitch that LoDuca popped to right--an easy fly ball that Austin Kearns caught for The Final Out. Sohna relieved over the unexpected tension. Charlie Slowes--showing a serious sign of relief.

While The African Queen used her learned knowledge of the game to express her opinions of the action on the field--Big Jon Rauch entered to school The Mets, and His Teammates--on how to end a Big Rally. "The Wookie"--having seen Jesus Colome and Chad Cordero receive less than satisfactory grades--applied a learning curve--to FINALLY SEND THOSE NEW YORKERS HOME UNHAPPY!! That's a lesson--all of us can learn from.

Curly "W" Number 71 was a Milestone Win. A breakthrough victory giving Our Washington Nationals the same number of wins as 2006--all with a cobbled together 2007 Team that played far better than ANYONE IMAGINED. And, a Landmark Event for The African Queen--as her knowledge of The Game Of Baseball showed the expertise to Officially Declare her: A Graduate of Baseball 101.

Beginning next season at New Nationals Park, Sohna will look to continue her education on The Great Game. Come 2008--The African Queen will be attending Graduate School--on South Capitol Street.

Final Score--in excruciating fashion--Our Washington Nationals 10, The New York Mets 9.

And, I missed that final out. I thought I could make it from the car to the TV, in time, to see LoDuca. The Yelling of "YES!! Its Finally OVER!! AND, ITS ALL JESUS COLOME's Fault!!" From Sohna, as I walked into our house--gave me all the information I needed. Yes, My Wife--has come along way in The Game Of Baseball.

How lucky can I be??

All which left me, on an evening I thought I would get a solid 8 hours sleep, finishing this post off at 1AM. Gotta be up in 5 Hours.


SenatorNat said...

I like Acta's vow not to give in to pressure by "arrogant powers" {like the Mets and Phillies} to stop using a program with vast amounts of energy...

Wait - I may have that speech confused with some guy named Ahmadinejad, but since you witnessed both, SBF, you can straighten this out for me.

Seriously, it is a shame that Acta didn't allow Ditweller to match up tonight v. Mets rookie Humber, as the Phillies would have felt that was still a very competitive move, considering how poorly "756" Bacsik has been pitching.

But, Acta probably feels that Bacsik has something extra in the tank in view of this being his old team; and they are extremely afraid of their Number One getting lit up in his sole outing, and have that linger all year.

The Showman in Bowden is probably hoping that Bacsik gets lit up in the first, and Ditweller pitches long brilliant stretch in relief (quasi-start) and Nats claw their way to win going away, for the sweep.

Rumor Mill ONLY (Washington Times was apparently pursuing this story): Kasten was prepared to quit two weeks ago, out of general frustration with what he perceived as overly tight-fisted family management, quashing some good ideas for next season at the new park, coupled with annoying impulsive personality of the GM?

That Acta actually helped talk him down off the ledge!? That Acta himself views Stan as, indeed, the Man: as the governor and prudent captain of the team's destiny curbing some of the more impulsive inclinations of the GM...

Look at the record since Kasten took over at mid-point 2006: few in-season trades (for change sake only) - the only one this year being the acquision of WM Pena - who may, in essence, be only on loan from the Red Sox, with his productivity as a National.

Kasten and Bowden got the team to buy-in and shake the money tree to sign all 25 draftees, and to hire scouts etc. Family probably feels they have "sacrificed enough" therefore, for the time being, and want to hold off on the more "frivilous" expenditures vis a vis the "fan experience," is my personal conjecture.

It has been a long, arduous season, and everyone is fatiqued, no doubt, especially Kasten, and I hope that a respite can reenergize him, should his rumored disquiet be true and it has lingered...He may have just been having a bad hair day, like Bascik does nearly every start!!

Point is that Kasten has self-discipline and is keeping his plan in tact. That he is not the showman and egoist depicted on his arrival here based on press impressions from Atlanta (greening of Stan?)

That he DOES want the team brass to cast some bread on the water now for the fan experience as the young talent matures on the field. That he works 24-7 for all facets of building an enduring edifice and brand-name, and is sometimes resented inside the sanctum, as he is not family, of course, and their is a lerner curve for familiarity...

Point is, too, that Acta gives all evidence of being one super-mature, perceptive, and patient young man, who is prepared to continue to work at his own growth and to lead this team for a generation, perhaps, and who does not suffer fools gladly.

And the point is, too, that the Lerners have, at the end of the day, gone along with many good important ideas, several their own, to help build a strong foundation for this nascent team, and while they are indeed noted for their "frugality" (using this polite term), spending $$$ for spending's sake can actually undermine team harmony, and the growth of a longterm winner.

And, I personally have seen some real enthusiasm on the faces of some of the family financial leaders about "their Nats" - like the African Queen, they appear to have become "fans."

The reality is that Kasten remains the President of the team, and this rumor, even if true, only demonstrates that Acta is a drawing card, even for his boss.

Trust in Kasten. Trust in Acta. Trust in Lerners. And the family Bow-Bow, of course. All Good.

Anonymous said...

SBF: Since it was still UN Week in NYC yesterday, I thought you'd be going to the game again last night. As I watched it on TV, I pictured you in the stands going crazy in the 9th inning. Great story about Sohna. You really do have to take her on that well-deserved vacation you mentioned in an earlier post! See you next year.

Anonymous said...

Nats 320 - A love story!
Didn't I tell you earlier in the season Sohna is the perfect (baseball fan) wife. as you know it is harder to become a baseball fan than growing up a fan like Miss Chatter et al. Jeff you've nurtured her lovingly. And it is now paying off for both of you!
See you around the ball fields!