December 2009

Mark your calendar for NatsFest

It is never too early to daydream about the baseball season especially when the Nats Caravan barnstorms around DC, Maryland and Virginia. The 2010 Nationals Caravan gets the wheels turning on Jan. 26 and it paves the path for NatsFest on Jan. 31. It may only be December and the temperature may be hovering near freezing but the start of Spring Training is just around the corner.

 


Zimmerman fan fest.jpgSo if you are in need of some warm, fuzzy thoughts to sooth the soul on these blustery winter nights, just keep in mind that the Nationals pitchers and catchers report at the end of February.

 

The Nationals officially open Nationals Park on April 5 against the Phillies but the unofficial start to the season is the last week in January with NatsFest–baseball’s version of a grass roots convention. NatsFest gives each fan the opportunity to get autographs, photos and meet with the players and coaching staff.

 

Last year was the first annual NatsFest and fans came out in droves to greet players with a warm Washington welcome. The excitement for the Nationals and the beginning of the baseball season was evident with each smile.

 

The Nationals have an even bigger, better NatsFest planned for 2010:

 

·        
NatsFest2010 logo.jpg
The 2010 Winter Caravan will take place Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Saturday, Jan. 30, concluding with the 2nd Annual NatsFest on Sunday, Jan. 31 at Nationals Park

 

·         The Caravan will consist of Meet-and-Greets, Autograph Signings and Community Appearances throughout the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area along with a Hot Stove Luncheon at the ballpark on Friday, Jan. 29

 

·         Season Ticket Holders will receive information on claiming their complimentary NatsFest tickets after the New Year (four per account)

 

·         A limited amount of tickets may be made available to the general public, based on availability

 

·         The team will officially release complete information the first week in January, including Nationals players attending (those confirmed by this date), caravan stops, and NatsFest details

 

On the Road with the NatMobile


NatMobile and Screech c.jpgThe NatMobile isn’t the Batmobile but it does have a few bells and whistles to boast about. In August, the NatMobile rolled into NatsTown with one goal–bring Nationals baseball to the local and regional communities. Since then the NatMobile has taken this message to anywhere and everywhere there is a road and Nationals fans.

 

The NatMobile is an extended arm of Nationals Park that gives fans a taste of the excitement that can be experienced in NatsTown.  When parked, the NatMobile transforms into one of the most exciting and interactive trucks around. The moment you step into the NatMobile you will be stunned by the Nationals memorabilia on display, team highlights on our 40-inch TV and, of course, the beautiful view or Nationals Park.

 


NatMobile pulled out c.jpgThe NatMobile has participated in many of events like a book signing with the Deen Brothers from the Food Network and the Montgomery Thanksgiving Parade. Centerfielder Nyjer Morgan has even joined the NatMobile on the road.  The NatMobile has also participated in many street festivals, baseball games, community events and parades. Keep your eyes open because you never know when you will see the NatMobile.

 

For requests or further information about the NatMobile, click here or follow them on twitter here.

Lannan and Maxwell spread holiday cheer


Lannan and Maxwell cc.jpgNationals pitcher John Lannan and outfielder Justin Maxwell got together at ESPN Zone on Saturday to spread some holiday cheer at the Fourth Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington Holiday Party. The players handed out toys, signed autographs and played games with the 120 children who attended the party.

“One of the main reasons I stayed in the area [this offseason] was to be able to do more outside of the season when I have more time to spend with these kids and be in the community,” Lannan said. “This is my second year at the Boys & Girls Club Holiday Party and I’m having a lot of fun.”


Happy kid c.jpgLannan and Maxwell passed out gifts to each child and the excitement was evident with each Barbie, Batman figurine, finger skateboard and My Ameoba handed out. The two then went from table to table signing autographs and posing for pictures with all the club members while the kids ate mini burgers, chicken fingers and pasta.

“The kids really enjoyed this party,” said Leah Lamb, who is the Chief Development Officer of B&GCGW. “Half of them can’t sleep the night before. It’s very exciting for all of us. It’s wonderful not only because it kicks off the season for our kids, but in some cases our kids don’t necessarily have the means–their parents don’t have the means to provide a Christmas for them. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to enjoy the holiday season.”

About an hour into the party “Screech” joined the fun and caused quite the ruckus. The kids were excited to see him and his bag of toys. “Screech” brought Build-A-Bear Screech toys for everyone in attendance.


Screech with kids c.jpg
Nationals and Boys and Girls Club at ESPN Zone 022 cc.jpgAfter everyone had their fill of food, they all headed to the game room for an hour of air-hockey, bowling and racing, among other games to bring the joyous celebration to an end.

“The holidays are always a special time,” Maxwell said. “To see all the smiles on their facesit means a lot to me. The DC-area is my home and has been for most of my life and I thank God for the opportunity to play here.”

Washington welcomes Pudge


 
Pudge Rizzo.JPGJune 19, 1991. The date probably doesn’t mean anything to you but it was the beginning of an era for a young, stocky 19-year-old nicknamed Pudge–a nickname that originated right from his physical attributes and 5-foot-9 frame. Ivan Rodriguez was scheduled to get married that day in between games of a double header. It didn’t quite go as planned.

He was called into the manager’s office and was told he had to delay the wedding because he was going to the Big Leagues. His manager told him he would only be there for 15 days. Well, 15 days passed and he was still playing. Now 18 years have passed. And yeah, he is still playing.

June 20, 1991. It was an unforgettable day for Ivan Rodriguez. He made his Major League debut and drove in two runs with his first Major League hit, capping off the Rangers five-run, ninth-inning rally to beat the White Sox 7-3. He threw out a pair of would-be base stealers too.

Almost 18 and half years–half his life–and 14 All-Star games, 13 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards later, we know it  wasn’t an accident. It was just an average day at the ballpark. It was Pudge being Pudge.

If baseball was Greek mythology, he would be Hercules. Among catchers with 1,000 games caught, Rodriguez is first in games caught (2,288), runs (1,308), hits (2,711), doubles (547) and extra-base hits (902). Those are all nice but he can’t refrain from mentioning that he threw seven no-hitters in Little League.

“They are still talking about that today,” Rodriguez said.


Pudge 2.JPGPeople have always been talking about Rodriguez since he debuted in the Majors. The numbers, the accolades and the gold gloves, they speak for themselves.

“It is an exciting day for Washington Nationals family,” GM Mike Rizzo said. “We get to introduce certainly the greatest catcher in our generation and, quite possibly, the greatest catcher in the history of baseball.”

Now that is saying something. It might not be far from the truth either.

The Nationals started the offseason with a well drafted blueprint: upgrade the bullpen, acquire a veteran starting pitcher, sign a defensive catcher and improve up the middle. It is starting to take shape now. They bolstered the bullpen on Monday trading for reliever Brian Bruney and today they officially signed a future Hall-of-Famer in Rodriguez.

As expected with a 38-year-old catcher, his batting average has steadily declined the last four seasons and his best years are behind him offensively. It may not be the prime of Pudge’s career but he can still play baseball. He has 289 hits to go before he reaches the illustrious 3,000 hit club and he has every intention of accomplishing that feat. It is a goal for him but he still wants to win.

It is still unclear how much he will play in 2010. He started 108 games at catcher in 2009, 95 in ’08, 119 in ’07 and 121 in ’06. His main job will be mentoring catcher Jesus Flores, 25, and the young pitching staff.

Flores is still recovering from a torn right labrum but while his health status is still uncertain, Rizzo said he will be healthy for the start of Spring Training. But don’t be surprised if Rodriguez carries the bulk of the work load during the 2010 season. He has his whole career. He is a machine. The future Hall-of-Famer still has knees like a 28-year-old–how else could you start 108 games in baseball’s most demanding position at the age of 37?

“I am ready to play every day,” Rodriguez said. “I am a player that still can play every day and I will play every day.”

Of course, he knows he can’t start 162 games, but maybe 110. He will accept the role that is best for the team.

Maybe more important than his offensive or defensive skills, are the intangible attributes Pudge brings to the clubhouse. He is a hard working, friendly, follow-by-example team leader that will do anything and everything to win. Rodriguez has been a key catalyst for change too. See the 2003 Marlins or the post-2003 Tigers. He signed with the Marlins in 2003 and we all know what happened–they beat the Yankees in six games to win the World Series. He was the MVP of the NLCS, hitting .321 with a record 10 RBI as Florida came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs in seven games which is most notably remembered for the Steve Bartman incident.

The following season, he helped orchestrate the Tigers turnaround. He nearly led the perennial cellar dwellers to a championship in three seasons. They improved 29.0 games in 2004, a year after losing 119 games. They made it to the World Series in 2006. Next up… the Nationals.


Pudge media 1.JPG
Pudge media 2.JPG“My goal is to support the whole team and to win ballgames,” Rodriguez said. “You have to play 27 hard outs and if you do that every game, you are going to win a lot of games. Basically, that’s my philosophy. That’s the way I play the game and that’s what I plan to bring to the ballclub.” 

December 11, 2009. It was a memorable afternoon for the Nationals. Rodriguez smiled ear to ear putting on a Nationals jersey. Then again, being able to put on a jersey every day has been the favorite part of his celebrated career. 

No matter what kind of numbers he puts up on the field, he will make a difference in Washington, DC. His numbers may be declining but his positive mentality and friendly demeanor haven’t changed. His nickname may no longer apply–slimmer, faster and built with a body most 18-year-olds dream of nowadays–but it stuck and it won’t change. He doesn’t want to change his nickname… the Immortal Ivan.

“I like Pudge,” he said.

He just wants to change the ways in Washington.

 

Winter Meetings Update from Indianapolis – 12/10

Notes from NatsTown has a handful of correspondents working the lobby and covering the happenings from the Nationals’ Baseball Operations suite at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis this week. Here’s an update from Indy:

The Winter Meetings wrapped up today with the annual MLB Rule 5 Draft, which was held this morning at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis. The Nationals selected a total of four players in the Draft… one in the Major League Phase and three in the Triple-A Phase.

Here’s a brief explanation of the Rule 5 Draft, courtesy of the good folks at Wikipedia.

The Nationals selected OF Jamie Hoffmann from the Dodgers in the Major League Phase of the Draft and then traded him to the Yankees to complete Monday’s deal for RHP Brian Bruney. This is a common practice, and in this case it made a lot of sense for Washington. Rather than roll the dice on an unproven player in the Rule 5 Draft – who, by the way, would have to spend all of the 2010 season on the 25-man roster or be offered back to his original club – they got a proven Big League reliever in Bruney for the cost of a Rule 5 pick ($50,000).

Washington entered Thursday with a full 40-man roster, and unconditionally released RHP Zack Segovia to open a roster spot so they could participate in the Major League Phase of the Draft.

In the Triple-A Phase of the Draft, the Nationals selected right-handed pitcher Arismendy Mota from the Chicago White Sox, left-handed pitcher Michael Wlodarczyk from the Tampa Bay Rays and outfielder Nicholas Moresi from the Houston Astros. The cost to select a player in the Triple-A Phase is $12,000 and there is no requirement that they spend time on the Big League roster during the following season.

 

With a full docket of meetings, negotiations and receptions in the books, the final challenge at the Winter Meetings is always finding a taxi cab to the airport as the entire Big League delegation scrambles to catch their flights immediately after the final pick is made in the Rule 5 Draft.

 

This year’s Winter Meetings were a success for the Nationals. They were able to improve their bullpen, foster important relationships, add some Minor League players and added numerous irons to those that were already warming in the fire. 

Winter Meetings Update from Indianapolis – 12/9

Notes from NatsTown has a handful of correspondents working the lobby and covering the happenings from the Nationals’ Baseball Operations suite at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis this week. Here’s an update from Indy:


082009-205 rizzo p c .JPGRelationships play a big part in baseball, and the Winter Meetings are a great spot for touching base and fostering those relationships that you rely on over the course of the year. Whether it’s scouts talking to other scouts, GMs discussing players or even managers breaking bread with media, this game is all about relationships.

Today was a great example of why the Winter Meetings are about so much more than just signing, trading and drafting players.

Amid the meetings and media sessions on Wednesday, two events took place that afforded the Nationals the opportunity to show their appreciation of those who often don’t get enough praise… the media who cover the team’s beat and the affiliates who work diligently to provide environments conducive to developing the Club’s Minor Leaguers.

The skipper, Jim Riggleman, was one of the hosts of the Winter Meetings’ annual manager/media luncheon at noon. All 30 MLB managers hosted their local beat media for the event in the Marriott’s ballroom. Several national media members also attended the event, but tables were broken down by team, giving the managers a chance to better know their media members away from the ballpark and talk about things other than baseball. The average fan doesn’t truly grasp how much time media members work to tell their stories. They often spend more time at the ballpark than with their families. And, while that may sound like a dream job to some, it takes a toll over the course of an eight-month season, beginning at Spring Training. They work very hard chasing details, sometimes working days to pull the pieces together for a story that may be told over a matter of minutes (or column inches).

Later in the evening, the Club hosted its Minor League affiliates for a reception at a local restaurant in Indy. Team President Stan Kasten along with GM Mike Rizzo and his Baseball Ops staff met with the top officials from Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown and Vermont in what was a great event. Most people don’t understand how many hard-working, passionate people it takes to run a baseball organization. The Nationals are very fortunate to have a great roster of affiliates, all of which have outstanding people at the helm.

 

 

Winter Meetings Update from Indianapolis – 12/8


brian bruneycompressed.jpgNotes from NatsTown has a handful of correspondents working the lobby and covering the happenings from the Nationals’ Baseball Operations suite at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis this week. Here’s an update from Indy:

 

With two days in the books at the Winter Meetings, the Nationals have been one of the most active teams and have been working diligently to improve the club.

 

Monday, Washington acquired reliever Brian Bruney from the Yankees. GM Mike Rizzo sees Bruney as a back-of-the-bullpen guy who could compete for the closer role. The hard-throwing right-hander has a bulldog mentality and big-game experience.

 

The Nationals’ Baseball Ops brass spent most of today (Tuesday) bunkered down in their suite atop the Marriott hotel in Indianapolis talking to agents about available players and other teams about possible trades.

 

This year’s Winter Meetings mark Rizzo’s first as quarterback of the Nationals’ brain trust, and he has all of his top aides with him here. Bill Singer, in particular, was Rizzo’s top advisor on the Bruney trade. Rizzo’s lieutenants are absolutely critical at these meetings, not only for their opinions on players but also for their knowledge of other teams’ needs and available players.

 

Two days remain before the Nationals’ delegates head back to the District. Wednesday should be another day of meetings and discussions and then the Meetings will conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

Nats acquire RHP Brian Bruney from Yankees


Brian Bruney.jpgThe winter meetings are but a few hours old and the Nats have already made a move to bolster their bullpen. They acquired right-handed pitcher Brian Bruney from the New York Yankees in exchange for a player to be named. GM Mike Rizzo drafted Bruney in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft when he was with the D-backs.

 

Bruney joins the Nationals after going 5-0 with 14 holds and a 3.92 ERA in 44 appearances with the World Champion Yankees in 2009. Bruney is 8-0 with 26 holds, one save and a 2.95 ERA in 76 appearances spanning the last two seasons (2008-09) with New York. In those same two seasons, Bruney has surrendered just two blown saves.

 

The 27 year-old Bruney is 16-10 with 43 holds, 13 saves and a 4.27 ERA in 230 career games (one start) spanning six seasons with the Yankees (2006-09) and Diamondbacks (2004-05).

 

To make room on the roster, the Nationals unconditionally released right-handed pitcher Saul Rivera.

Nats Spring Training Schedule


 
Airal Shot of Space coast stadium.jpgYou can now start planning your trip to Viera, Fla., to watch the Nationals.

 

The Nats released their 2010 Spring Training schedule, which is highlighted by a home matchup against the World Champion New York Yankees on March 12 and will conclude with an exhibition tilt against the Boston Red Sox on April 3 at Nationals Park in Washington, DC.

 

The spring schedule is comprised of 32 Grapefruit League contests, including 15 home games at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. The majority of the Nats schedule is comprised of contests against the Marlins, Mets, Astros, Cardinals, Braves and Tigers. The Red Sox Nation will make a stop in NatsTown on April 3 at Nationals Park. It will be the third straight season that the Nation’s Capital will host a baseball exhibition prior to Opening Day. The Nationals kicked off the 2008 and ’09 campaigns with exhibition contests against the Baltimore Orioles.

 

If you have a paper chain countdown for Spring Training, there should be 78 rings left till the team’s pitchers/catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 19. Position players are scheduled to report on Feb. 24 and the first full-squad workout is on Feb. 26.

 

Keep in mind that individual game tickets for the Nationals’ spring contests at Space Coast Stadium, excluding the March 12 home game against the Yankees, will go on sale Jan. 23 at 10:00 a.m. You can purchase them at the Space Coast Stadium Box Office, online at nationals.com, or by calling 321.633.9200.

 

Also note that tickets for the Nationals-Red Sox game on April 3 will go on sale at the same time individual game tickets for the 2010 season go on sale in February.

 

 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2010 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

 

DATE                DAY                               OPPONENT                    LOCATION                                   TIME

March 4              Thursday                         Florida Marlins (SS)          Jupiter, FL                                    1:10 PM

                                                               Houston Astros (SS)         Kissimmee, FL                              1:05 pm

March 5              Friday                             Atlanta Braves                 Orlando, FL                                   TBD

MARCH 6           SATURDAY                      NEW YORK METS           VIERA, FL                                     1:05 PM

March 7              Sunday                           New York Mets                Port St. Lucie, FL                           1:10 pm

MARCH 8           MONDAY                         FLORIDA MARLINS (SS) VIERA, FL                                      1:05 PM

MARCH 9           TUESDAY                        DETROIT TIGERS           VIERA, FL                                      1:05 PM

March 10            Wednesday                     St. Louis Cardinals           Jupiter, FL                                      TBD

MARCH 11         THURSDAY                      HOUSTON ASTROS        VIERA, FL                                     1:05 PM

MARCH 12         FRIDAY                           NEW YORK YANKEES     VIERA, FL                                     1:05 PM

March 13            Saturday                          Houston Astros (SS)         Kissimmee, FL                              TBD

MARCH 14         SUNDAY                          ST. LOUIS CARDINALS   VIERA, FL                                     1:05 PM

MARCH 15         MONDAY                          ATLANTA BRAVES          VIERA, FL                                      7:05 PM

MARCH 16         TUESDAY                         FLORIDA MARLINS         VIERA, FL                                    1:05 PM

                                                               St. Louis Cardinals           Jupiter, FL                                    TBD

March 17            Wednesday                      Houston Astros               Kissimmee, FL                              TBD

March 18            Thursday                         * * * Off Day * * *                                                                     

MARCH 19         FRIDAY                           ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (SS) VIERA, FL                                7:05 PM

MARCH 20         SATURDAY                       FLORIDA MARLINS          VIERA, FL                                   1:05 PM

March 21            Sunday                            Florida Marlins                  Jupiter, FL                                   1:10 pm

MARCH 22         MONDAY                          NEW YORK METS            VIERA, FL                                   1:05 PM

March 23            Tuesday                           Detroit Tigers                   Lakeland, FL                                6:05 pm

March 24            Wednesday                      New York Yankees           Tampa, FL                                   TBD

MARCH 25         THURSDAY                       DETROIT TIGERS (SS)     VIERA, FL                                   7:05 PM

MARCH 26         FRIDAY                            ST. LOUIS CARDINALS    VIERA, FL                                   1:05 PM

March 27            Saturday                           Atlanta Braves                 Orlando, FL                                 TBD

                                                                New York Mets                Port St. Lucie, FL                         1:10 pm

MARCH 28         SUNDAY                           ATLANTA BRAVES            VIERA, FL                                  1:05 PM

MARCH 29         MONDAY                           NEW YORK METS (SS)     VIERA, FL                                  1:05 PM

March 30            Tuesday                           Florida Marlins                  Jupiter, FL                                  1:10 pm

March 31            Wednesday                      St. Louis Cardinals            Jupiter, FL                                  TBD

April 1                Thursday                          New York Mets                 Port St. Lucie, FL                        12:10 pm

April 2                Friday                              Boston Red Sox                Ft. Myers, FL                              TBD

APRIL 3             SATURDAY                       BOSTON RED SOX          WASHINGTON, DC                      4:05 PM  

 

Home games in BOLD CAPS

 

 

The Storen Identity – 12/1

Drew Storen, 22, might be done playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League but he isn’t done writing for Notes for NatsTown. Be sure to follow the tenth overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as he writes for Notes from NatsTown and gives you an inside, behind-the-scenes look at his climb to the Major Leagues. Here is his post…

 

Welcome back, it’s good to be back blogging again. I have a little more time now that I am home celebrating the holidays, an undefeated Colts team and the return of Stanford football back in my hometown of Brownsburg, Indiana. It is great to be home and nice to relax after the Arizona Fall League, although I am already excited for Spring Training and gearing up for that.

 

Now that I am a week out of the fall league, it is easy to look back and see what a great time I had playing down there. It’s tough to complain about playing in such a beautiful place against the top competition. I was a little sad we came up short in the last game, but that’s just how things go. It was an unforgettable experience and I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to go down there and compete. Wearing the Nationals uniform was pretty awesome, and it was also very cool seeing the Big League unis for every other team.

 


Storen060208_01KT.jpgAs for the offseason, I am concentrating on actively resting my body and getting ready to build it back up for Spring Training. I believe this blog will be ongoing throughout the offseason, so keep an eye out if you want to hear what I am up to! I will be heading down to Viera on Wednesday and then to Stanford next week to visit some old friends so it should be exciting! As usual, feel free to tweet at me or leave a comment on what you would like to hear about
HERE. Also, Collin Balester is now on Twitter and is a great follow, so check him out at http://twitter.com/ballystar40.

 

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