Sunday, August 31, 2008


The "Twack!!" heard was immediately followed by "Crack!!", that sweet sound of Wood Bat meeting a Baseball. That time when a batter solidly strokes a pitcher's thrown ball. A noise so loud this afternoon at New Nationals Park that it awoke a slumbering crowd watching, at that time, a rather pedestrian ball game. South Capitol Street was silent until this very moment. Down 4-3 entering the bottom of the 8th inning this Sunday, Our Washington Nationals caught fire. A leadoff single to Ryan Zimmerman and walk allowed to Elijah Dukes by Journeyman Pitcher Elmer Dessens provided the first sparks. The kindling wood necessary for Aaron Boone to ignite those burning embers by smoking an Dessens' Fastball deep and over the left centerfield wall into The Atlanta Braves Bullpen. A Three Run Homer, so solidly crushed, it gave Washington their second lead of the game at 6-4.

And Sent Our Fans into that unexpected tizzy, once again, of witnessing their once sleep walking team, fight back, overcome, and eventually Flat Out Crush a now lesser opponent. You can say whatever you want about The Braves, but over the past week, Our Washington Nationals have played as a most Cohesive Unit. The One so many expected far earlier in this 2008 Campaign. A season lost early, but a team now looking to find some hope for the future.

No matter the circumstances, no matter the odds, Washington is finding ways TO WIN these days. Something not seen most all year. The Attitude Developing which goes a long way for establishing confidence in young players. No better effort than this afternoon at, arguably, one of the most Gorgeous Late Summer August Days you may ever experience in The Nation's Capital.

Having Atlanta down now 6-4, Our Washington Nationals DID NOT LET UP. For first time all year, A KILLER INSTINCT, SEEMINGLY, HAS SET IN. DC's Very Own realizing a decisive victory was at hand, if and only if, they finished off The Braves. Which they did, in CONVINCING STYLE, by sending Eight Additional Batters to the plate after Boone's Blast in the bottom of this game changing 8th frame. Although Washington would leave the bases loaded when Elijah Dukes looked at a full count strike three to end this rally, Our Washington Nationals would score two additional insurance runs beforehand, thanks to Emilio Bonifacio's double, a Wil Nieves run scoring single, a Willie Harris single and Cristian Guzman RBI single to left. Five Runs Total Scored that directly led to a unusual Sweep Of The Boys From Georgia.

This Firestorm so large--even after being called on for MOP UP Duty in the Top of The 9th--"The Human Rain Delay" could not even effect Our Washington Nationals spreading blaze. Jesus Colome retired The Atlanta Braves in the 9th and struck out Josh Anderson swinging at Strike Three to finish off Washington's sixth straight win of 2008. The largest streak this season and the best since a similar run from July 31st to August 5th, 2007--over one year ago.

Final Score from an EXCITED New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Atlanta Braves 4. Curly "W" Number 52 was a surprising victory won and at the hands of a Young Team finding it's way under the pressures of the Major League Game, while getting assistance from now Healthy Veterans, who understand, and have the experience to win. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! continuing a WEEK LONG CELEBRATION of Our Manager's young charges, maybe and finally, getting it. His message coming across,"Preaching and Teaching" has always been Manny Acta's belief. Hope he brings to the table each day. Hard learned lessons that may finally be paying off.

As the Dog Days of Summer slowly fade away--Our Washington Nationals are one of the Hottest Teams In The Game. A Firestorm is brewing, but can their new found confidence extend through another three game set, against The Philadelphia Phillies and their always obnoxious and annoying fans.

Baseball, the ever changing game is producing one of it's magic moments once again. Who would have thought that possible, just one week ago. Really, this latest effort is quite remarkable--And Thrilling To Watch. Just like Aaron Boone's Game Winning Home Run. The Crack of that bat slapping that baseball was marvelous to hear. Good thing New Nationals Park was quiet at that time, because the sound of Our Number 8's Homer was just as good as the sight of the ball landing over the fence. Yes, that was some Good Stuff.

Game Notes & Highlights

Collin Balester was quite the sight on the mound this afternoon. For the first few innings, Our Number 40 had ZERO COMMAND. He just couldn't find the plate. And as remarkable as Our Washington Nationals six game winning streak has become, Balester was uncanny in his ability to find his way in and out of trouble. Runners on base in 6 of his 7 innings pitched. A three run homer handed up to Yunell Escobar in the 4th, but not enough damage to negate Washington getting back into the game.

Honestly, in the first inning alone, it appeared as if Collin Balester could not feel the grip on any of his pitches. Everything off speed thrown well off the plate (many at the batter's head), every fastball right down the middle. Difficulty, which directly lead to his rough start. But being a Rookie, you had to be proud of the man. As I mentioned to The African Queen, more than once this afternoon: "It's quite amazing Balester is still in the game." At every turn, Our Number 40 was in trouble. Most all day he basically survived. Not involved in the final decision, Collin Balester went Seven Innings, his longest Major League Outing of 2008 and left the mound, knowing full well, he had done alright, without his best stuff.

The Makings Of A Major League Hurler. I have no idea what the future holds for Collin Balester, but he didn't give up or mail it in--even knowing he had no command for over half of this outing. He should have left the mound proud, knowing he had basically survived on the very day, he could have been torched.

Garrett Mock received his first Major League Victory of his career today. One of those wins which can only be described as a Vulture Win. Entering this game in the 8th and Washington down one, Our Number 50 was not overly sharp. He struggled just like Balester, his predecessor--for a while. Allowing a Double to Martin Prado, a wild pitch and eventual walk to Omar Infante. But Mock was able to get back into this frame by striking out Yunell Escobar and getting Jeff Francouer to pop out to Langerhans in left. No runs scored against him and when Washington strongly fought back to take over the affair during the bottom of the 8th, Garrett Mock's First Career Major League Victory was assured.

Congratulations Garrett--Take Any Win--Any Way You Can!

When Our Number 40 was in trouble right off the bat this afternoon in the 1st inning, Wil Nieves came to his rescue when he tossed out Omar Infante. The Atlanta Third Baseman attempting to stretch an RBI single to left past a diving Ryan Zimmerman. Today Starting Left Fielder Ryan Langerhans scooped up the hit ball and threw home, a little off line, in an ill-fated attempt to throw out The Braves Martin Prado. Realizing Prado would score easily, Nieves rushed forward, in front of the plate, caught Our Number 29's toss and FIRED A STRIKE to Emilio Bonifacio manning second base who forcefully slapped down the tag on Infante. A Defensive Play Of This Game Effort by Nieves that was rewarded, rightfully, when Second Base Umpire Lanny Vanover gave the Out Call. The Inning Ending Out Call.

The Braves Elmer Dessens entered this game in the bottom of the 8th to pitch for Atlanta and promptly allowed five earned runs, thanks to his three run homer allowed to Aaron Boone and some assistance from his Bullpen Mate. Wil Ohman allowed two additional hits and one walk in his wake. Dessens who entered this game with an ERA hovering around 10.00, left with an Earned Run Average of 31.50 and his first loss of 2008. He really wasn't good.

There were a few other fine defensive plays this afternoon.

Nieves would also toss out a stealing Gregor Blanco in the fifth at second base. And Willie Harris would make a fine sprinting grab to his left on a sinking liner to centerfield hit by Josh Anderson in the third frame. Finally, Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens with the reflex reaction grab off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the 5th. If Jurrjens does not get his glove in front of his face--he would have been seriously hurt. Instead, the Atlanta Starter found the baseball in his glove and easily tossed out Our Number 11 running to first base.

Washington got on the board in the bottom of the first when Willie Harris led off the frame with a single off Jurrjens. "The Guz" followed with a drilled shot off the centerfield wall, added to by a Dukes infield ground out up the middle, scoring Harris, and a solid single to left by Today's Player Of The Game--Aaron Boone.

Our Number 8, getting a rare start of late, stroking the game deciding three run shot, his first inning RBI Single, knocking in four runs and scoring one himself on his Home Run. Boone answering to his name being called after his 8th inning Homer, moved to the top of the steps of Our Washington Nationals Dugout to, ever so briefly, wave to the crowd in appreciation.

Again, the top three hitters in Manny's Batting Order providing spark this day. Harris with three hits total. Cristian Guzman and The Z-Man with two apiece. In fact, the first five hitters in today's Washington Lineup--Harris, Guzman, Zimmerman, Dukes and Boone provided five runs scored, batted out 9 of Washington's 11 hits, and knocked in Seven of their 8 Runs. Mighty Impressive.

31,090 attended the final game of 2008 at New Nationals Park featuring The Atlanta Braves. Our Washington Nationals getting over the 2 Million Mark in their Inaugural Season on South Capitol Street. On pace to reach 2.4 Million Fans attending the 81 Home Games this year. An average of just under 30,000 per game.

Teddy was leading The Geico Presidents Race all the way until the final 20 yards during the regular 4th inning entertainment skit. Then, Our Lovable Loser lost steam, faded badly and never even crossed the finish line. Teddy needs to begin working out again. He pooped out, when he should have struted his way to victory.

This Sunday was Kids Run The Show Day. Children 12 Years Of Age and under whose parents had registered them, were randomly selected to throw out the first pitch, present the lineup card to the umpires, take the field with Our Washington Nationals at game start, announce the Starting Linups--even hang out with Clint and The NatPack, among other voluntary chores offered to be a part of a Game Featuring Our Washington Nationals.

Immediately after the conclusion of this game, Our Washington Nationals announced a series of call ups to The Major League Roster. On September 1st each year, every team in The Major Leagues can recall up to 15 additional players to their everyday rosters. This afternoon, Kory Casto, Alberto Gonzalez, Roger Bernadina and Levale Speigner received the call, along with two players who will be making their Big League Debuts--Pitchers Mike Hinkley and Shairon Martis.

Finally, as Josh Anderson struck out late this afternoon at approximately 4:23 PM, I could not help but notice the shadows creeping in over the left field stands. Monday's Labor Day Game Versus The Philadelphia Phillies is a 3:05PM start. For the first time all year, since so few games were scheduled so late in the afternoon--those shadows depicted in the above picture may well play a major role in the tomorrow's game. From probably the 4th or 5th inning on--Shadows will completely cover home plate--at least for a couple of innings. A pitcher's advantage that New Nationals Park has never played to since it's opening in March.

Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)

Retro Saturday Night

The Disco Age of The 1970's is long past, ancient history to most every member of Our Washington Nationals that took the field tonight at New Nationals Park. Long Hair, Big Afro's, Bell Bottoms, High Heeled Men's Platform Shoes, Go-Go Boots and Wide Collar Polyester Shirts--Vintage Clothing on display this Saturday evening along with the Songs of The Decade of My Youth--The Dance Music and The Free Spirt of the High Flying 70's. Fond Memories refreshed at The New Ballyard on South Capitol Street as Our Washington Nationals celebrated "70's Night" against The Atlanta Braves--In Style.

Parliament-Funkadelic is probably not exactly the type of tunes Elijah Dukes grew up listening to on the radio as a youth. But George Clinton's Infamous Band that spanned the entire Decade of my teen years would have appreciated The Funky Moves put on by Our Number 34 this evening in the bottom of the 10th. The only element missing was a strobe light shining down brightly.

Our Ballclub now learning to fight back, becoming competitors--not rolling over--not giving in.

Youth now understanding--even when the worst seems at hand, there should never be a time you give up.

Our Washington Nationals are learning to dance to a beat of their very own.

Like Tonight In The Game Deciding 10th Frame.

Young Anderson Hernandez lead off by walking with the score tied at 8 runs apiece. "The Guz" followed by ripping a liner off the glove of Atlanta First Baseman Martin Prado. A single that sent Our Number 6 to second and got Our Fans up and out of their seats--wanting to see the electric moves of Ryan Zimmerman--once again. Excitement delayed when The Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox intentionally walked Our Number 11 to load the bases with nobody out. A right strategic decision that found the Home Faithful still booing the move and sending the youthful exhuberance of Lastings Milledge to the plate.

Our Number 44 has slowly changed his game for the better over the course of the 2008 season. No longer a flash in the pan, since returning from The Disabled List, Milledge has been one of Washington's most exciting players. He's been patient, working ahead in the count. But on this occasion, the thrill of the moment got to him and The Braves Pitcher Vladamir Nunez struck him out swinging on four pitches. A first out that frustrated a roaring crowd even more when Ronnie Belliard followed and RIPPED a liner to dead center. A possible game winning hit that found Atlanta's Centerfielder deftly moving in to catch the sinking baseball as Hernandez danced off third base attempting to score--looking to make an Electric Slide of his own.

The Anticipation High.

But as Josh Anderson recorded the out, Hernandez took off from third, only to be held at the last possible moment by Our Third Base Coach Tim Tolman. A Flash Dance of Tolman's own that had the crowd Roaring in disbelief. Our Number 10 JUMPING UP AND DOWN along the first baseline in a Saturday Night Fever of his own, not understanding why his teammate had been held off the dance floor. Ronnie Belliard, like the fans watching in the stands--didn't want Hernandez to be a Wall Flower. This spur of the moment decision by Tolman found Anderson's throw dead on to the plate, and cut off by Atlanta First Baseman Martin Prado. Yes, Hindsight is 20/20, and if Hernandez had taken off for home, it would have been a close play. He might have been safe. But he may also have been called out. And Tolman well knew that the stimulating moves of Elijah Dukes was scheduled next on the dance floor.

Why not give Our Number 34 the stage for everyone to witness his ever improving talent?

Dukes has all five tools. He can hit, hit with power, run, field and throw. But the skill he showed everyone in the announced crowd of 30,326 on this Saturday Night was his ability TO TAKE A PITCH. Elijah Dukes is learning to be patient, understanding that as big and powerful as he is, Our Number 34 can be just as dangerous by waiting--displaying composure well beyond his years and the temperment some believe his does not possess.

Flashing his powerful bat, Dukes moved ahead in the count, up 3-1. An advantage that now found THE ENTIRE REMAINING CROWD on their feet cheering on a possible joyous ending. "Happy Days" were possibly here again, everyone knowing full well Our Washington Nationals many times have failed to execute in the clutch--especially when Our Number 34 fouled off the next two pitches.

But not this time around.

As it turned out This Retro Party was just getting started. The Bases were full. The count now loaded. And New Nationals Park ready to explode. On the very night flashy style and jiggle were on prominent display, Elijah Dukes simply WATCHED Vladamir Nunez's fastball offering sail outside and off the plate for Ball Four.

A Game Winning Walk Off--Walk Off. A new slide developing which featured Dukes twirling his bat off to his right side, pirouetting into the air and then doing the boogie all way into arms of his teammates rushing onto the field in celebration at first base--scoring Anderson Hernandez with the game winning run--in arguably one of the best games played in The Inaugural Season of New Nationals Park to date--during maybe the best stretch of play by Our Washington Nationals all season long. How different Our Lineup looks when healthy and motivated players take the field each and every day.

Not many would have believed possible just a short time ago that Washington could dance their way back into any competition down by 4 runs in the bottom of the fifth and garner Curly "W" Number 51. When Washington was reeling through their recent dozen losses in a row--every opportunity to strike back, when down, was wasted. Advantages now capitalized on as Our Washington Nationals winning streak has reached 5 straight games--tying the longest stretch this season.

And by the time this Retro Saturday Night Affair had ended on South Capitol Street, The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! displayed Our Washington Nationals stepping out to a new jig. A competitive nature reborn from lessons learned from a now experienced past. The majority of Our Players suiting up tonight in their Modern, Technologically Advanced, Dri-Fit Uniforms had never witnessed the whacky years of the 1970's, but at least for one night, they understood how to tango to a different beat. The Disco Moves Of 30 Years Past were back this evening and Our Washington Nationals found a fighting spirit to revel in it's comfort.

Final Score From High Flying, Polyester Filled and Colorful New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Atlanta Braves 8.

"70's Night" was one of the most compelling evenings all year. And Our Fans, The Nat Pack, Clint, and even My Best Friend Screech!! suited up in Retro Style making the night that much more enjoyable. This was a great evening at New Nationals Park-both on and off the field of play.

Game Notes & Highlights

Jason Bergmann displays some serious Jekyl & Hyde Moments. One day, Our Number 57 can be virtually untouchable, not many batters he faces are going to to hit him well. Then, take an evening like tonight, when Jason gets torched by allowing 4 doubles, three of them back to back to back while giving up 4 Runs in the top of the 3rd inning. And later allowing two homes runs--one a liner to right just over Washington's Bullpen to Brian McCann and a drilled opposite field shot to right center by Martin Prado. Six earned runs allowed in less than five innings. Not only did Jason walk three Atlanta Hitters, he didn't strike out a single Brave. Not One, very unusual for a man that commands some good stuff. Control which Our Number 57 had little of tonight. One of those evenings when Jason deserved a loss, but was bailed out by his teammates.

Saul Rivera was handed his 3rd blown save of the year in the top of the 8th by allowing a single to Greg Norton, a single to Josh Anderson and a double to right by Gregor Blanco. A game tying 8th run scored by Norton that could have resulted in the game winning 9th run scored by Josh Anderson--if not for The Defensive Play of This Game.

As Norton scored easily, Elijah Dukes was picking up the baseball and firing it to Anderson Hernandez standing in short right field taking the relay. When Atlanta Third Base Coach Brian Snitker sent his speedy Runner Anderson around third and on to home, Our Second Baseman Hernandez reeled off a one hopper to Jesus Flores at the plate. As The Braves Centerfielder attempted to slide around the now close play at home, Our Number 3 displayed the savvy of a veteran. Realizing the baseball might just reach home plate, in time on the bounce, Jesus pulled his glove back toward the the body of the sliding Anderson--allowing the baseball to land in his mitt at the exact same time The Braves Centerfielder was moving past and behind him. A smart play that allowed the baseball to travel it's maximum speed and gave Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland the time to witness and signal the out call!! The Defensive Play Of This Ball Game and possibly game saving run because, if Jesus Flores had attempted to catch the baseball in front of home plate and then move the caught baseball in his mitt toward Anderson, precious seconds would have been lost. Instead, Our Number 3 let the ball come to Anderson, whereupon Jesus simply recorded the out.

This WAS A GREAT PLAY!! And Savvy Too.

Of course, Jesus Flores found himself right in the middle of the mix earlier in the game. Our Number 3 has sambaed his way through his own beat all season. Not expected to play a significant role all of 2008, Flores now finds himself developing as a clutch hitter--Dependable, with the game on the line. None more so than when Jesus UNLOADED on a Buddy Caryle fastball over the middle of the plate in the bottom of the 5th and sent a drive to DEEP LEFT CENTER, a bases clearing double that not only gave Flores his team leading 56th, 57th & 58th RBI's but sent this, one time, out of reach game back to even at six apiece. A short lived tie that turned in Washington's Favor when Anderson Hernandez blooped a looping ball between The Atlanta Infield to center for an RBI Single.

A 7-6 lead that advanced one more run to 8, when Ronnie Belliard stroked a seeing-eye single up the middle just off the out-stretched glove of The Braves Shortstop Omar Infante. An RBI Hit scoring Lastings Milledge who had singled with one out in the bottom of the 6th off Jeff Bennett, stole second and scored when Our Number 10's baseball found a way through The Atlanta Infield. A now two run advantage lost when Chipper Jones FLAT OUT HAMMERED a Charlie Manning pitch to deep right center for his 20th Home Run of 2008 in the 7th and Saul Rivera gave up that run scoring single to Gregor Blanco in the 8th. The game tying hit that might have resulted in becoming the Game Winning Hit, if not for that GREAT DEFENSIVE EFFORT on the play by Elijah Dukes to Anderson Hernandez to Jesus Flores for The Defensive Play of This Game.

But like all the victories of late, this one was a Team Win.

Washington's starting batting order tonight rapped out 16 hits. Anderson, "The Guz" and Ryan Zimmerman with three apiece. Lastings Milledge, Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes with two hits each. And Ryan Langerhans walked three times tonight. Of course Jesus Flores with his one Clutch Hit, his Three RBI Double in the bottom of the 5th that turned this game around.

More and more, Our Washington Nationals are looking like a competitive team, fielding a lineup that is slowly becoming a force. They might not be able to pound the baseball out of the park to win each night, but they are learning to play within their means. A single here, a stolen base there, an advancement of a runner into scoring position. Small ball that pays off when the opponent realizes Our Batters are no longer getting themselves out with runners in scoring position. And it doesn't hurt when Our Team, in the field, plays flawlessly.

And how about those Atlanta Braves? Yes, missing John Smoltz, Tommy Glavine and Tim Hudson has hurt them tremendously on the mound. But in the field, would you really rather have many of the players Bobby Cox is forced to throw out on the diamond most every night right now? Chipper Jones and Brian McCann aside, Atlanta looks like its on it's very own slipping slide. They do not look good--as a team.

Elijah Dukes is one athletic specimen. He's also the most talented baseball player on Our Washington Nationals Roster. That man can play and as this 23 Year Old gets more experience, Our Number 34 could develop into one of the best players to wear a Washington Uniform for seasons to come. Really, Elijah Dukes is wonderful to watch. If only he can solve his off the field problems. For the most part, Dukes has been a good citizen in the public eye. We can only hope, Elijah can leave his personal demons behind. For if he does, Elijah Dukes is capable of being an All-Star, a top performer in the game. Our Number 34 is that good. He really is. And he should be playing Centerfield, where is arm could make a difference.

Speaking of Dukes, when Elijah was batting in the game deciding 10th inning, why in the world was Jesus Flores even warming up in the On Deck Circle? The bases were loaded. The game was tied. There were two outs. Our Number 34 was either going to win the game or extend it with a recorded out. Our Number 3 was NOT GOING TO BAT--no matter what. It makes no difference in the whole scheme of things, but it just didn't make any sense. Jesus Flores, or any other player for Our Washington Nationals was not going to bat during the remainder of that inning. Not going to happen. I found that strange.

Finally, 70's Night was quite the extravaganza at New Nationals Park this evening. The HDTV Scoreboard featured Dot Matrix electronics, subdued Color Graphics in each teams logos and some terrific 1970's Mod Style Photos of Our Washington Nationals.

The Nat Pack LOOKED TERRIFIC, as did Clint, some Nats Staffers and Fans. Really, this stuff was fun. Sohna and I enjoyed the festivities all night long. Even My Best Friend!! Screech!! posted up in a Tie-Dye Pink Nationals Jersey and Bandana. Our Washington Nationals need to do this promo again and really push the idea to Our Fans. But next time, Our Team needs to wear those Sand-Knit Polyester super tight uniforms from the 70's. The ones with the colorful elastic waist bands instead of belts. Great Stuff though. This was a really cool promotion.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)

More Pix from the night--click on any picture and it will blow up to large size.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nats Express From Lot 7 Tonight--August 30th

Plan accordingly, The Nats Express Shuttle from RFK to New Nationals Park is operating from Lot 7, tonight, Not Lot 8 due to DC United Playing a MSL Soccer Game on East Capitol Street.

Here is the complete Team Press Release:

Nats Express to Operate Out of RFK Lot 7 on Saturday, August 30

WHAT: Washington Nationals fans choosing to park for free at RFK Stadium and take the Nats Express to Nationals Park may park in Lot 7 on Saturday, August 30.

Due to a D.C. United game, RFK Stadium Lot 8 will not be available to Nationals fans. Lot 7 may be accessed off the Whitney Young Bridge (East Capitol Street) or off of Oklahoma Avenue. The Nats Express begins ninety minutes prior to Nationals home games.

WHO: Washington Nationals Fans choosing to take the free Nats Express

WHEN: Saturday, August 30, 2008

WHERE: RFK Memorial Stadium

Lot 7

Oklahoma Ave & East Capitol Streets, SE


As Joel Hanrahan stepped to the mound tonight at New Nationals Park, I stepped into The South Capitol Street Ballyard for first time during this homestand. Thanks to the very fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON visiting Denver, Colorado over the past week decided to book a flight today. The Denver International Airport was packed! Delays, Gate Changes, Cancellations, with seemingly every single plane taking off fully loaded--especially those trips coming to Washington, DC. (The Media alone, including us, were paying some serious excess baggage fees this Friday)

Our 1:44PM Flight moved to 3:40PM, eventually 4:05PM (Mountain Time), and put my goal of attending tonight's game between Our Washington Nationals and The Atlanta Braves in serious jeopardy. Not taking off from DIA until 6:05PM Eastern, Our United Airlines Flight did not arrive until 9PM at Dulles International Airport. 45 Minutes later, the television gear was retrieved, then shuttled to my car in Daily Parking Lot 1.


Could I Make It? The passion was running high.

No matter the circumstances, no matter the score--my goal was to make it to New Nationals Park by the end of tonight's game. No way I was going to miss Four Consecutive Complete Games. As I started up my car, 3WT was tuned in, Charlie & Dave, pleasing to my ear, stating Our Washington Nationals were already up 7-3. This affair was in the top of the 7th inning. Odalis Perez had just been replaced by Charlie Manning.

Could I make the 31 Mile Trip from Dulles to New Nationals Park before the final out was recorded?

A New Game was at hand. A Challenge to beat the clock--knowing it would take a good 45 to 50 minutes to reach South Capitol Street. As the game progressed, I found myself distressed. The timing was not good as I traveled down The Dulles Toll Road, onto Interstate 66, through Rosslyn, onto 110, and past the Pentagon. The 7th inning had finished. The 8th inning was coming to a close.

Sadly, it seemed this effort would result in failure.

Then, as I turned onto Interstate 395, moving toward the South Capitol Street Exit on the SE/SW Freeway, Steven Shell got into trouble in the top of the 9th. A one out hit-by-pitch to Kelly Johnson followed by a walk to Gregor Blanco had given new opportunity. Our Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire trotted out to the mound--not only to calm Shell down--put to give Joel Hanrahan the better chance to warm up--properly.

Game tactics which found me know cruising down South Capitol Street and parking just a short walk from New Nationals Park. Preciously Needed Moments which gave me the time needed to move inside the park. Our Number 38 was on the mound, now having concluded his warmups, facing New Braves Centerfielder Josh Anderson. Moving swiftly and spotting The African Queen visiting with Our Friend Pat, I headed over to surprise them as Anderson grounded into a force out. "The Guz" fielding the hit ball and tossing to Emilio Bonifacio for the second out of the final frame.

Only one out now remained before this game would officially conclude. I had to reach their seats before that 27th out of this affair was recorded for The Braves. With Martin Prado now at the plate for Atlanta, Anderson, having reached on a fielders choice, ran to second base on Hanrahan's first pitch in the dirt to Prado. Defensive Interference, which gave me those illusive moments to reach Sohna and Pat. As they sat chatting, I bellowed out: "So, have I missed much excitement so far?"

Sohna was so surprised, she jumped up to kiss me right away. Pat, smiling broadly, stood to strongly shake my hand. "We were just talking about you and your trip," said Pat. "Yeah, we were wondering whether you were going to make it?", replied The African Queen. Together, they filled me in on the game at hand, and all turned our attention to Joel Hanrahan. Intently, we watch Our Number 38 take his 7th Save of 2008 and third from this very week--by recording the final out this game on a called check swing strikeout. Together, Sohna, Pat and I stood and clapped and High Fived over a nice moment.

Our Washington Nationals had won--their fourth in a row. And I had made good on my promise. I was there, in a seat, when the Final Out Was Recorded.

Curly "W" Number 50 of 2008 was another TEAM WIN!! for Our Washington Nationals. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! celebrating a young team playing some excellent baseball over the past four days. And signaling, when you make the effort, with passion--anything is possible. Just like, what seemed like, my never ending trip this afternoon and evening to attend--at least a few moments of Our Washington Nationals Game against The Atlanta Braves.

Nothing like passion, the wanting to be there, just like Our Players are beginning to show--once again--in exciting style.

Final Score from New Nationals Park, where Pat says REAL BASEBALL FANS have showed up all week long!! Our Washington Nationals 7 and The Atlanta Braves 3.

Game Notes & Highlights

Although I did not see it in person, Dave Jageler raved about Ryan Zimmerman's diving stop to his left on a sharply hit grounder by Martin Prado in the 7th. A sure run scoring single, if not for Our Number 11's continuing excellent fielding over the past week. Sohna believes "Z" is playing, defensively, just as effectively as many of Our Fans have come to expect of him over the past two seasons.

On another note, I really enjoyed reading commenter Steve's take on Our Fan Base in yesterday's post while traveling.

Here are his written words:

The game last night was fantastic! One of the best since baseball returned to D.C.!

On people leaving -- I don't think more people leave than any other park watching a non-playoff contender play in its home park (except Sundays when there's more kids at the park). The way the ballpark is built, you see everyone leaving at once. I've been to many other parks and there's not one exit to see everyone leave. People are so quick to criticize Nats fans, I don't know where all the bitterness comes from. Who are we threatening?

On another note -- it's clear that we fans cannot depend on the media nor the team to get baseball to truly catch on here - winning will help, but, until then, it falls to us fans, if we want baseball to stay here and thrive, to talk up the team, invite friends to the game and the beautiful park, get our places of employment and youth teams and scout groups and neighborhoods to take group outings to the park.

It's going to take grassroots evangelizing to get people to see what a great game baseball is and how relaxing and fun a day at Nationals Park is. It's up to us, Nats fans. The Lerners aren't going to do it, Stan Kasten's not going to do it, the Washington/Baltimore Post, burying the team's great sweep in the bowels of the sports page sure isn't going to do it, the national media - full of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Baltimoreans won't do it. Only us. Take folks to a game. Ask them to listen to Charlie and Dave on the radio and watch MASN with the sound down. If we love baseball and want it to be anything more than a small market, perennially losing venture, we have to act. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. It's up to us to make sure baseball in Washington works this time around.

I really enjoyed reading Steve's comments. There is a tremendous amount of truth to them. It's going to take Fans, not the media, not the owners, to fall in love with The Greatest Game. Winning always helps, but no Franchise in the game survives without a fan base. The Cubs haven't won anything in nearly 100 Years (although they are serious contenders this season). The Rays, The Rangers, The Mariners, The Brewers, The Astros, The Rockies and The Padres have NEVER WON THE WORLD SERIES--neither did The Montreal Expos. Yet, all are thriving franchises today.

Except for The Expos in their final years in Montreal--all of these teams have (Had In Montreal's Case) built solid fan bases. People willing to attend many games of their favorite home team every season. No matter the loses. No matter the poor play.
These people are baseball fans. Aficionados of the game which Washington definitely has in place--despite the written reports of late stating few are watching or listening to games of Our Washington Nationals on Radio & Television. Washington has a solid growing Fan Base that has room to grow, but like Steve states and Sohna and I believe--we don't understand the bitterness. Only 20 of the 30 Teams in Major League Baseball have won A World Series In My Lifetime--and I am 49 Years Old. Even more amazing than The Cubbies streak, San Francisco and Cleveland winless strings are even more mind boggling. Those two franchises have built some great teams--and won nothing--but they haven't alienated and whittled their fans bases down to virtually nothing.

Neither have Our Washington Nationals.

Every single team goes through a rebuilding cycle--Our Washington Nationals are experiencing that painful growth early on in their brief history. What is doesn't mean--is that they will not be successful soon.

Finally, I just wanted to give thanks to the many fans of Our Washington Nationals who were kind enough to stop by and say hello and see how Sohna was doing while I was away this week at The Democratic National Convention. Your thoughts and efforts were very much appreciated by The African Queen and I.

Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Nick Wass

Friday, August 29, 2008

A History Making Night

Sohna called me tonight in Denver all excited. Our Washington Nationals had SWEPT The Los Angeles Dodgers. "The Guz" had hit for the cycle and Elijah Dukes flatout HAMMERED two home runs at New Nationals Park. An 11-2 pasting of The Dodgers that left her thrilled, excited and downright proud of Washington's Performance of late--just like the experience felt by me this evening at Invesco Field at Mile High.

If you can put the politics and rhetoric aside for the briefest of moments, there was nothing quite like the feeling at The Democratic National Committee Convention tonight at the Home of The Denver Broncos. Over 70,000 People crammed into hear Senator Barack Obama accept his party's nomination to run for The Office Of The President Of The United States. Working the event, we had ringside seats, the straight on view, just behind The Delegates. Stating I was proud to be there--may well be an understatement. Because, just like The New Ballyard on South Capitol Street, The Broncos Home Field at Bryant & 19th was absolutely ROCKING this evening!! And as much as I miss Our Washington Nationals, I don't think I will ever forget August 28th, 2008.

No Way. Not Possible.

What A Program!! What A Performance!!

From Jennifer Hudson singing The National Anthem to Cheryl Crow & Stevie Wonder bellowing out some great stuff. And of course, the appearance of Barack Obama to officially accept his party's nomination. A downright thrilling moment to watch--in person. An extravaganza, with not only confetting and steamers--but fireworks sharply glowing into the dark but jubilant night. This party was special. Something not ever before seen in Our Great Country.

Our Washington Nationals made some baseball history of their own tonight in winning Curly "W" Number 49. Cristian Guzman hitting for the cycle. Only the second player to do so for Washington since baseball returned to The Nation's Capital. Our Number 34's second home run of the evening was The 500th in The Team History Of Our Washington Nationals. All on the very evening The United States Of America recorded some fresh history of its own. A Moment In Time some thought The Land of The Free & The Home Of The Brave, Might Never See.

The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! memorable in The Nation's Capital tonight--not only for the play on the field by Our Washington Nationals, but for A Contender for The Office Of The President Of The United States. One of two men who may well be living at 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue come January 20th, 2009. Everyone knows, A New President is coming. But, no one knows for sure who that person may be. But whoever takes that oath of office early next year, better be committing to throwing out The First Pitch at every single Home Opener for Our Washington Nationals until the year--2012.

Nothing else would be deemed satisfactory--by me.

August 28th, 2008 was A History Making Night. 45 Years to the exact day since Dr. Martin Luther King gave his infamous "I Had A Dream" Speech at the steps of The Lincoln Memorial.

This Day Never To Be Forgotten, just like Dr. King's, those many years ago. And yes, I was Proud and Honored To Be Here in Denver--watching and experiencing this entire event--Live!! No, nothing quite like it in my entire lifetime--to date.

PS--Short Turnaround. We did not return from Invesco Field until after Midnight and have to be up at 4AM for more work. Hopefully, the excitement of the evening will keep me awake a few hours from now.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Luis M. Alvarez
DNCC Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In A Nutshell

Sohna tells me that she doesn't want to hear anyone complaining about Chad Cordero anymore. Apparently, Joel Hanrahan walked one serious tightrope to close out The Los Angeles Dodgers tonight at New Nationals Park. And Ryan Zimmerman, despite one error, played a pretty terrific game in the field at third base, maybe his best defensive effort in some time. The African Queen says Our Number 11's catlike reflexes were back--he just needs to start hitting with power.

And Oh Yeah!! She also says Lastings Milledge continues to blast the ball all over and out of the park. He hit his team leading 13th Home Run of the season. "The Guz" also added three hits and EVEN DOVE FOR A BALL IN THE FIELD!!

Collin Balester got the win. Our Number 38 his 5th save of the season. And Washington FINALLY beat Derek Lowe. Finally, on the sixth try.

In A Nutshell--that's what Sohna called me about in Denver to report late this evening. Final Score from New Nationals Park, Our Washington Nationals 2 and The Los Angeles Dodgers 1.

All on the very same day--Austin Kearns was placed on the Disabled list with a foot injury--from August 3rd? While Elijah Dukes will return tomorrow from his latest stint on rehab.

Finally, Instant Replay for Home Runs--starting Thursday. I am all for it--as long as it doesn't take a significant time to review and delay the games.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One For The Record Books

When The Los Angeles Dodgers visit New Nationals Park beginning Tuesday Night, I will be 2000 miles away in Denver, covering The 2008 Democratic National Convention--where I have been since early Sunday Morning. Yeah, I know, it is amazing and incredible news. Our Team President Stan Kasten was quite stunned when I informed him on this matter last Wednesday Morning. For the first time in The History Of Our Washington Nationals, SBF is actually missing an entire Home Series. Yes, it's true.

All Thanks To Barack.

Of course, Mr. Kasten recovered nicely when he was informed that The African Queen will still be there representing us in Section 218 this week. Gotta give Sohna credit--she's stepping up--just for me. In fact, Sohna HAS NOT MISSED A SINGLE GAME ALL SEASON.

As much as I want to be here in Colorado for Mr. Obama's acceptance speech, it will just not be the same--not sitting in my customary seat at New Nationals Park--knowing The Dodgers are playing on South Capital Street. I really wanted to see Manny Ramirez play against Manny Ramirez, Jr. (Ronnie Belliard--Our Number 10 has always idolized his Senior). But, business calls and this is a very important assignment. Many might say--an historic moment this coming Thursday Evening at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver. Being in the news business--Barack Obama accepting the Democratic Party Nomination to become The President Of The United States--simply can't be beat to watch--IN PERSON.

Yes, This Is A Good One. One for The American Record Books. And I am honored to be here to watch--despite breaking a personal record of my very own.

May Our Washington Nationals survive a few days without me attending home games--in person. And, as Mr. Kasten stated upon hearing the news--"If we win all three games of the series, I am not letting you back into this ballpark!" And yes, he was just joking.

Finally, please say hello to Sohna, if you see her over the next few days at New Nationals Park. I would appreciate the gesture--greatly.

Our Conversation With Stan Kasten (The Final Words)

After discussing Our Washington Nationals with Team President Stan Kasten for nearly 35 minutes in his office, Sohna and I turned our attention to off the field questions. New Nationals Park, Fan Experience, Concessions--items for discussion not related directly to the product on the field.

With that, here we go with The Finals Words as Our Conversation With Stan Kasten concludes.

Now, let’s switch to off the field stuff. (SBF)

Other than the re-building process with the new ballpark, what are you looking to improve on? (The African Queen)

“There is always stuff, but as I have said maybe to you guys before, and others before, there is stuff about the ballpark that remains unfinished and needs to be improved. But, I am not going to tell you guys about it. If you haven’t noticed, I am not going to point them out for you. And the same goes with stuff surrounding the team. There are a lot of things we have to work on. There are a lot of things we need to improve and we plan to do it all. But it’s not something I am comfortable talking about publicly. I just want to do it. And the results will always be the final proof we got things done or didn’t get things done.”

The naming rights issue. Is this the last year the ballpark will be called Nationals Park? (The African Queen)

“I can’t tell you that for sure. We continue to have talks. We feel like we are not in a rush. It could be next year, the year after—three years. We really are not in a rush. We want to get it right. As you know, at this ballpark, we feel like getting our sponsors involved in an interactive way—whether it’s the Sony PlayStation Area, or The Miller Scoreboard Walk, or The PNC Diamond Club or The Lexus Presidents Club. We really feel like involving them. Some of our main real estate we have not given away—like the (centerfield) plaza. Or The Home Run Extravaganza that we still have planned. Or the different areas, like The Red Loft, The Red Porch—we still have big stuff out here that we held back—pending the right fit.”

Is there any chance the stadium remains Nationals Park? I like the name. (The African Queen)

“I don’t think there is a chance that it remains named that way permanently.”

“Home Run Extravaganza? What is that? (SBF)

“It’s just a concept, some Whiz!! Bang!! Things, which happens after home runs. It’s just one of 100 things on a drawing board of possibilities we have talked about with different sponsors. Some sponsors want to come to us. They say we would like to do this after a Home Run and attach our name to it. But, it takes many different forms. That’s just one thing on a menu of many possibilities.”

How about the ball that was originally in the designs above the Red Porch? (The African Queen)

“That is real estate which is still available for the right thing. At the end of the day, we thought let’s not put a ball there. We have toyed with a number of iterations of what kind of ball, maybe video—we just don’t know. But, there was an awful lot to get done by Opening Day ’08 and we now have many things we still plan to do for ’09.”

You mentioned to me at one time The Red Loft Bar would be expanded? (SBF)

“We did. We took out one row of seats. The back row of the seats in front, which really opened up the room there. At the same time, we then built the Miller Scoreboard Bar, which is great fun and on a Friday Night especially—which we have themed out. We do have one fun special event planned there for September. We are planning on a Speed Dating Event. (Sohna and I chuckling) Yeah, seriously. We want the park to be fun and we think that is kind of a fun thing in keeping with the character of what fans are experiencing up there. So, we are always going to be trying fun things like that.”

What the latest on the statues? (SBF)

“My understanding is that they will be in for Opening Day 2009. I have not heard anything different.”

There has been this rumor that Centerplate might be sold—possibly to Aramark—can you comment on this? (SBF)

“There is nothing I can tell you because there is nothing I really know. They are a public company and they are in their own discussions. I don’t have any more information on it, but it is a situation I am watching closely, obviously. And I am talking to other teams to see what they are experiencing—other Centerplate Clients. So, we are just watching and preparing for any eventuality.”

I am just concerned about Aramark and their reputation from RFK? (SBF)

“Well, there are many different ways to do it. I don’t know if Aramark gets it or another company gets it—if they are sold at all. I just don’t know. But, we are going to insist that on what we always insist on here. We are going to insist on top quality. Service is another important thing to me—which has improved over the season, although, it is still not where it has to be. We are going to continue to work on that—whoever the concessionaire is.”

The service at The Nats Dogs Stands can be really trying on patience. (SBF)

“Yes, I agree with you on that. It’s been a yearlong challenge. I know it is better. I know it has improved, but not yet where we want it. Food Choices, I think we have more variety here than any park I have ever been to.”

Will the Nats Express continue to operate next year? (The African Queen)

“That is our expectation to use RFK. I think so, nothing is finalized yet, but that’s our hope and our expectation.” (Will it still be free? TAQ) As far as I know—yes. But that has not been finalized yet. We don’t own the land, but that’s how we are thinking.”

Is there more you can do for season ticket holders? Some claim you are not doing enough? (The African Queen)

“I don’t know what their expectations are. We need to keep working on the stadium. We need to keep working on our service. We need to keep working on our product. All of those things are what fans deserve. We will keep trying to do all we can.”

There were some online complaining after the Weekender Plan came out that included a Diamond Club Ticket for the last home game this season. These folks claiming something like this should have been offered to Season Ticket Holders. (SBF)

“There weren’t many. There will always be someone who has a problem with everything we do. I think the plan we have offered is very popular and there have been next to no complaints about it.”

Uniform Changes for next year? (SBF)

“I am not aware of any.”

I understand there are two? Like the Red “DC” Jersey is being replaced by a Curly “W” one and a possible Blue Jersey with some stars and patriotic trim--stuff like that. (SBF)

“Yes, some tweaks. I honestly don’t remember what we decided. I would call them tweaks, I would not call them major changes. I know that you follow this stuff , religiously, (Yes, he does—The African Queen) and would consider this all big and major. I just don’t remember. I would call them tweaks. We are basically still having our basic uniform.”

We’ve noticed there is not a lot of advertising around the park? Are not as many businesses interested in The Nationals? (The African Queen)

“What do you mean not a lot of advertising? In the ballpark? (Yeah—TAQ). With our LED Ring and our major scoreboard and our concourse signs—holy smokes!!—I think most people say we have too much advertising. You think we don’t have enough, BLESS YOU!! Because I am always a fan of getting even more in.

I think what she is referring to are the concrete overhangs of each seating level where the only advertisings are The Lerner owned facilities and the garage drapings that are not filled. (SBF)

“We are trying not to trash the place up with billboards. (I agree with that—TAQ). Interesting, I have never had a fan say we need more billboards (chuckling). I think we are exactly where we need to be the advertising in the park. This year, we have relationships with 125 sponsors covering many different things. Some have signage and some don’t. But, we have had a really, really, healthy year on advertising and sponsorship. Very healthy.”

How is that Red Tent on top of Garage B working out? (The African Queen)

“It’s a group party thing and it’s gotten a lot of use. (It’s a fun place before a game—TAQ). Yes, it’s a fun place and next year, now since we will have it full time—we are going to be able to program it all winter. We were never sure with construction issues and all that—we were never sure what we were going to do there this year. We did not get it until mid-season, but now since we have it and know what we have—know how well it works—it’s going to get a heck of a lot more use next year. And maybe we will use it into the game. This year, with very few exceptions, we have cut it off at the start of each game. This past weekend, we let it go until 2PM (for Sunday’s Game). Its kind of fun seeing the Wrigley (Field) type view of people hanging out and watching the game. We will probably do more of that now.”

“This is a tight footprint, I have told you this before, where the ballpark is. We don’t have a lot of extra space. We struggled and struggled at first where we were going to have the tent. (At the first Ladies Night of 2008 it was outside the First Base Gate at the corner of Potomac & 1st Street, SE). Finally, when we got that space (Garage B) it’s been a huge plus for us and the fans.”

There are a lot of odd unused spaces throughout the ballpark—especially on club level where we have always felt you could put chairs, tables, etc to add to the stadium. (The African Queen)

“These are among the things that are still getting done. We put some drink rails out two weeks ago. The drink rails themselves work fine, but they were put in the wrong place. At least we have model of drink rails that we know will work. So, we are going to put a lot more of them and we hope to have them everywhere. Stand up drink rails behind the seats.”

Like at Citizens Bank Park? They have in Philadelphia these stand up tables that are directly hanging on the backside of the railings for the last row of seats on their concourse. A ledge, if you will, that allows you to stand, eat your food or drink and not miss any of the game. (SBF)

“Yes, that is what I am taking about. We have started to do just that and there is more of that, that needs to happen. We’ve started relocating, finally, more TV’s into the areas that didn’t have them. That’s taken until just this week—in some cases. We’ve been able to reconfigure, check it out next home stand, the portable (concessions) from home plate to the left field foul pole in a more functionable way. These are the types of things you learn as you go along. We have issues with some of them getting power, water by moving some of these stands, but we are getting it done. Now, that’s not something I need to tell you, or anyone, ahead of time—but these are the things we notice all the time. The drink rails, the TV’s, the portables. We are still doing it. We just don’t talk about the need for it.”

When you walk now from 1st base to Centerfield along the main concourse there are these terrific HDTV Screens hanging under the overhang for those sitting in those sections. They stand out. (SBF)

“Yes, and some of those, frankly, are not well located. They need to be in other places. We’ve moved some of them beyond the right field fence. Those sections just got TV’s this week—under the scoreboard. They needed them. But, we have more that are needed in other places.”

I got a MASN question. When Belliard hit that fabulous game winning home run off The Orioles to win the game in the last At-Bat, we were surprised to see after the game, the post game show be The Orioles Post Game Show and The Orioles Broadcasters decrying the loss—all over Nationals Park. We didn’t think that was right. (SBF)

“I think that was just an anomaly. (MASN was sharing broadcasting crews all weekend since they televise both teams). It was just the luck of the draw.”

I know it’s just a business deal that you had no control over. But can you do anything about MASN? (SBF)


Will you be able to solve your battle over the rent with The District of Columbia? (SBF)

“Yes, I am confident that is going to be resolved in the very near future. There is nothing I can really say about it other than it’s obviously going to get resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Will there be a Winter Fanfest during this coming off-season? (SBF)

“Yes, it is going to happen, details to come.”

Speaking of money—will ticket prices change next year? (The African Queen)

“Nothing has been set yet.”

With that final answer, Our Conversation With Stan Kasten came to an end. For nearly one hour, Our Team President was generous enough to give Sohna and I some personal time to discuss the many topics on our mind, concerning Our Washington Nationals. It is important to note that Mr. Kasten is willing to speak with us, as fans, about our concerns and questions. He fully understands Fans may well have different concerns and desires. Issues, The Main Stream Media sometimes has little interest in. Thankfully, Mr. Kasten is willing to explore diverse options.

That's always a good thing--for Fans of Our Washington Nationals. Mr. Kasten is willing to talk.