Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quality Pitching, Dry Cereal & "Agent 99"

Sohna and I showed up fashionably late for practice this morning at Space Coast Stadium--10:15AM. As it turned out, we were right on time. Because--former Major League Players Bobby Bonilla and Phil Bradley were in camp representing The Major League Baseball Players Association. The Union making their yearly visits to each team to go over league business--involving each and every player. John Patterson is Our Washington Nationals Player Representative (And Many Thanks to Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post--for passing along the information).

The big news today, was the sight of Nick Johnson actually taking sliding practice. Although I was working on another angle at that time--its my understanding Our Number 24 had no problems. Of course--even when healthy--Nick Johnson has one of the most awkward slides ever--but the fact that he tested his leg and felt no pain--was a very good sign.

Paul LoDuca was on the field practicing. He did not take Batting Practice, but he did do long toss with Johnny Estrada.

Shawn Hill was nothing short of stellar in the 40 pitch limit live batting practice session he threw. Facing a formidable lineup of Wily Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Alex Escobar--no one could touch Our Number 41's lively sinker. Swing after swing, stroke after stroke--not much serious contact by Washington's Top Sluggers. Escobar on finally lofting a meager pop just to the outfield grass--raises his arms in Triumph!! "I Own You!!, he yells at Hill. Knowing full well--Shawn was the one in control this afternoon. Was he ever impressive.

Afterwards--Our General Manager Jim Bowden wheeled over on his Segway for a private conversation with Hill. Complimentary remarks that left Shawn telling Bowden--"Thank you sir, for those remarks" (must be the Canadian influence--Shawn always the gentleman). As Hill was leaving the field, briefly we chatted. When I asked him how he felt, he once again proved to be his best critic--"I did OK, (OK--he was lights out!!) but more importantly, I feel healthy and great." You gotta love this guy. He is very impressive, both and on and off the field. (Yeah, I know--Sohna and I have a very nice interview in the can with Shawn Hill--but there is only so much time in the day right now for us.)

"The Chief"--seemingly had the slider working well during his Live Batting Practice Session--facing such "luminaries" as Josh Whitesell and Jorge Padilla. The point is not who you are facing--but how well you command your pitches. Just Two Weeks into this camp--no one is throwing close to 100%. Chad Cordero had his breaking stuff working well this morning. Honestly, he looked good.

And finally, as promised--The Band Is Officially Back Together Again. Dave Jageler posted up for his very first day of Spring Training Workouts. In Mid-Season Form--Dave reported the year started well this morning, when for breakfast, he enjoyed his customary cereal sans the milk. Mr. Jageler has never put milk on his cereal and has never enjoyed the pleasure of hearing the "Snap, Crackle & Pop" of Rice Krispies. A story that his partner, Charlie Slowes, loves to tell. Some of the fun that has played out on the radio broadcasts the past few seasons. "I don't like soggy cereal," Dave told Sohna (laughing). "I don't blame you," replied The African Queen.

Speaking of Charlie--he reminded me that I left out his favorite line from yesterday's conversation about "GET SMART" and the shoe phone. "That phone was well ahead of its time--except for The Rotary Dial!" The African Queen and I couldn't stop laughing over Slowes pretending to dial his shoe, stating: "I can just hear the clicks of the dialing wheel, now." Charlie Slowes is quite the character.

And--he coined a new name for The African Queen at The Nationals Practice Fields today. Throughout the day and later at The Team Store--whenever Charlie came across Sohna--he stated: "Hello, Agent 99", or "Agent 99". It was funny, and Sohna loved hearing her new alias. Are we nuts, or what? All three of us must still be stuck in our childhood days. There is something endearing about that fact. Really there is. (The New "Agent 99" and I are chuckling while writing this). Charlie--gives us a call from your "Shoe Phone".

Come On!!--you have got to love the humor of it all. Moments like this--make Spring Training Fun for us. No question about it.

Quotes Of The Day:

Sohna and I are chatting with Jason Bergmann about his just completed Live Batting Practice Session. Our Number 57 is resting on the bench--while we are standing behind the fence. He mentions that he likes to work quickly between pitches. "I don't like to think too much about the situation," says Jason. SBF says: "So, I guess no one could ever call you "The Human Rain Delay" like Jesus Colome? " Laughing & enjoying the moment, Our Number 57 replies: "Just call me Mr. 10% Chance of Rain!!" The African Queen and I crack up--Bergmann smiling--proud of his remark. That moniker is a keeper. From now on Mr. Bergmann just earned a new nickname name for The Nats320 Blog--"Mr. 10% Chance of Rain".

Earlier, Bergmann and Shawn Hill have just finished their warmup tosses for their live batting practice sessions. They, along with Chad Cordero, are the first pitchers to throw in today's BP. Minor League Pitching Instructor Spin Williams is standing between Bergmann and Hill and yells over to "The Chief"--"You ready?!" Our Number 32 calls back: "No, I need 5 or 6 more pitches." Shawn Hill fires back: "It figures--you are always late for the party." Chad Cordero grins from ear to ear--Hill snickers. The fun of Spring Training.

Photos of The Day:

If you have never been to Space Coast Stadium and Our Washington Nationals Practice Facility--this will give you a good idea how close you can get to Our Players. A number of fans from other teams that show up in Viera--always tell "Agent 99" and I that they just CAN'T BELIEVE the accessibility here and how friendly most of the players are. As long as you don't go on the practice fields and you allow the players to move freely from field to field--this situation is perfect. Management does frown on fans and the autograph hounds (the dealers) stopping players for signatures between drills. But, most all make themselves available after practice for autographs and photos. I can't tell you the number of folks that tell The African Queen and I how other camps rope off access. Our Washington Nationals are Fan Friendly. There is no question about that in Viera, Florida.

And, Along with Our Good Friends Phil & Robert--Sohna and I were offered the opportunity to take pictures inside Space Coast Stadium this afternoon. We all enjoyed the moment.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Makes me wish I were in Viera. Next March for sure!

SenatorNat said...

This is really some timeless stuff: you and Agent 99 go to Spring Training: movie material, perhaps.(And now I know that you don't read my comments, since I wrote that before Slowes came up with it, albeit,it was an obvious one)- the rotary shoe phone reference is hilarious, for sure. The way the Nationals make this like a family affair is such a striking contrast from the Redskins, who consistently treat everyone, including their fans, with a large dose of suspicion and contempt. I love the Redskins, and always have and will; but my love affair with the Nationals is more like "coming home."

I am living a bit vicariously through your reports, like so many others. Very interested in Shawn Hill's thoughts on Nationals' fandom. He is probably "spot-on" (Canadian expression?) that the Nationals can expect to draw 5-10k more than last year for the new park - good guess is right in the middle, which means about 2.5 million, unless EVERYTHING goes right, and they are actually in the race until September, let's say...And, he is right, too, that winning and a great park experience helps build the fan base out. The team has no Superstar, which is fine by me, but most professional teams trying to attract new fans need one - witness Alex the Great for the Capitals...

Boswell in his column today decrying the Navy Yard subway not being finished in time (!!)for the Opener just when we thought you had put this bed. Also, calling the cement pit across the street (Florida Rock and Gravel Company) "an enormous and inexcusable 5.8 acre eyesore" which shall be sitting there all season. Failed to mention that it's location is one reason why the project could stay on time and not disrupt local commerce and increase carbon footprint, because it was already there to supply essential materials! "Nothing in the vicinity of any other major league park is even one-tenth as ugly," he writes. Well, having been to Safeco and Jacobs and CoAmerica, I would say that this is the height of journalistic hyperbole (and I love Boz).

This is an inner-city revitalization project, and folks need to enjoy the evolution of it - being able to actually experience its metamorphosis - and maybe kicking in a good idea or two, or joining part of the overall effort, along the way, towards its realization.

My daughter rows crew for her high school team at the Navy Yard, and she and her crewmates are interested in the Anacostia River being cleaned of its debris, for practical and aesthetic reasons.

As more folks get to the Navy Yard area on a regular basis, they will naturally share her concern; and pressure will mount to see this occur.

"Baseball will be very, very good" to her shared concern, in other words.

Trust and pray for "Hill and Patterson...and 10% Chance of Rain." All Good.