Notes from NatsTown is blogging from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan.
Today is the fourth and final day of the 2010 Winter Caravan.
10:16 a.m.–As we were walking to the elevator, Adam Dunn appeared out of nowhere and jumped like Michael Jordan onto Josh Willingham’s back. Needless to say, they both fell to the ground like a bag of bricks.
“That definitely felt like 260 pounds,” Willingham said. It might have been the first time Dunn has sneaked up on anyone.
10:29 a.m.–Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. We just left Nats Park. It is only fitting that the Caravan experiences some weather related problems after the Nats had a billion (22) rain delays during the season. This Caravan operates on the same motto as the United States Postal Service. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will stop this Nats Caravan.
Our first stop is the Children’s Hospital and then we are heading to the PG Sports Complex to sign a few autographs. We are concluding the 2010 Caravan at White Flint Mall.
11:11 a.m.–As Brian Bruney colored, “You would be the best kindergarten teacher if you didn’t play baseball,” Dibble said. That is tough to debate.
11:32 a.m.–”I can’t lose weight,” Dunn said. Piece of advice: “If you lose weight, you lose bombs.”
11:33 a.m.–”Dunn can you smile for me so I can take a picture of you,” a lady asked. “I can smile with best of them,” he said. “That is a beautiful smile Mr. Dunn,” she replied.
11:39 a.m.–Tuneesha Watson has a granddaughter in the ICU that wasn’t able to attend. She filled in perfectly. She collected an autograph from each player for her granddaughter. “It is so cool to have the players here today,” she said. “The kids will remember this forever.”
12:01–We have left the Children’s Hospital.
1:13–The snow continues to fall but the wheels keep on turning. It definitely made the trip longer… we are right by Fed Ex Field and the traffic is as congested as if it there is a Redskins game today.
1:36–Dunn threw his phone to Zimmerman as if it was a football. It landed well short and hit the ground. “My phone is unbreakable,” Dunn said. Zimmerman threw it back. It hit the wall…a chair… and finally stopped moving when it hit the ground. It was safe… and it’s definitely unbreakable.
2:17–The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation granted the Forestville Boys & Girls Club with $5,000 to assist with programming and equipment needs. The Forestville Boys & Girls Club is an organization with a 49-year history of teaching boys and girls the fundamentals of baseball. Their work has enabled thousands of children and teens to engage in tournament competition and to learn the values of teamwork and embrace the game of baseball.
“We are honored to partner with the Nationals organization on this extremely important project, and extend our heartfelt appreciation for their support of our County’s youth,” said Samuel J. Parker Jr., Chairman of the Prince George’s County Planning Board. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship as we work together to teach our young people the fundamentals of leadership and responsibility through the fundamentals of the game of baseball.”
3:02–Our boy Robert Probst from Dover, Del., wasn’t deterred by the snow and made the trip to the autograph session. If you remember from Day Two, he drove to Woodbridge on Thursday night. “I told you I would be here today,” he said. “There is nothing that could have stopped me.” He is also like the USPS. He left his house at 11 a.m. and it took him three and half hours to drive the 80 miles. See ya at NatsFest Robert.
3:34–We are now departing the PG County Sports Complex… and it continues to snow.
3:46–The electronic sign on 495 reads: “EXPECT MAJOR DELAYS… CHOOSE ALTERNATE ROUTE.” Right at this moment the traffic is flowing freely (sounds more like a description of a river)… if only we knew what was ahead of us.
4:08–The Beltway just became a parking lot. We are seven miles away from our destination.
4:40–We have gone two miles in 32 minutes… one of the few crashes.
4:49–This picture doesn’t do justice but there were at least 20 deer prancing and dancing in the snow as if Santa was coming.
4:58–Riggleman made a trip to the front of the bus to talk to Harold the bus driver and possibly call in a reliever to speed things up. He returned to reveal the problem. “I think I found out what the problem is,” Riggleman said. “Traffic jam.”
5:03–Yeah, that car is stuck. It might have been the highlight on the journey. To its credit the car was more determined than The Little Engine that Could. There was just one problem–this car couldn’t. The Mustang tried to get out about every 30 seconds. We kept cheering for it… it didn’t exactly help.
5:25–3.6 miles away. I would be surprised if we arrive by 6 p.m.
5:45–”We are still 2.2 miles away,” Willingham said. “Does anyone have a DVD we can watch.”
6:04–We are sooooo close yet so far away. We just drove in a circle around the mall.
6:13–We made it. It only took 2 hours and 39 minutes to travel 22.2 miles.
7:17–The Caravan is over. It was a fantastic four days. Be sure to make it to NatsFest tomorrow.
Notes from NatsTown is blogging from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan.
The Second Annual Hot Stove Luncheon started at 1:15 p.m.
NBC’s “Meet the Press” Moderator and Nationals Season Ticket Holder David Gregory returned as moderator for the second straight year. There was a question-and-answer session after lunch and then the Nationals players signed autographs for those in attendance. Here is the list of players and front office staff that were in attendance: pitcher Jason Marquis, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, John Lannan, reliever Ryan Speier, Craig Stammen, reliever Matt Capps, Tyler Clippard, reliever Brian Bruney, shortstop prospect Danny Espinosa, 2009 first round pick Drew Storen, Manager Jim Riggleman, GM Mike Rizzo, Team President Stan Kasten and broadcaster Rob Dibble.
The Tony Plush No. 1 Regina Pats jersey was priceless. Morgan played for the Pats of the WHL for a brief stint during the 1999-2000 season. He played in seven games, scored two goals and sat in the penalty box for 20 minutes. Don’t mess with T. Plush when he is on the ice. On the other side of the scale… his teammate that same season Brett Lysak played 70 games and had only 24 penalty minutes.
The caravan will head to the Verizon Center to watch the Caps play the Panthers at 7 p.m. Nationals players will meet with fans and sign autographs in multiple locations at the venue, from 6 to 7 p.m.
“Rocking the Red” at the Caps game with the Nats.
9:02–The Nats just won the air hockey shuffle. The announcer just said, “They won because they didn’t bring Teddy with them.”
Notes from NatsTown is blogging from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan.
It is day two of the Nats Caravan and for a complete rundown of day one you can scroll down or click here.
Day two will be just as busy as yesterday. We will begin with a lunchtime appearance at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl. The bus will then travel to Fort Belvoir, Va., site of the USO of Metropolitan Washington. The group will spend two hours assembling care packages for troops overseas, and meeting with wounded warriors and those stationed at the base. The final stop of the day will be an autograph and photograph session at Pfitzner Stadium, home of the Potomac Nationals–the Nat’s Single-A affiliate.
11:24 a.m.–We have officially got the wheels turning on the bus.
We have the same crew on the bus today: Manager Jim Riggleman, reliever Ryan Speier, 2009 first round draft pick Drew Storen, shortstop Danny Espinosa and broadcaster Rob Dibble.
Nationals President Stan Kasten and GM Mike Rizzo aren’t on the bus but they will be a Ben’s.
11:35 a.m.–In preparation for Ben’s Chili Bowl, the guys are signing player cards to hand out. Dibble is trying to master the science of signing on a bus–the slightest bump feels like the biggest pothole–he has decided just to sign when the bus is stopped.
11:49 a.m–We just passed One Fitness on the corner of S St. NW and 14 St. NW. Their motto is “Change your body… Change your world.” We couldn’t help but think about Globo Gym from the movie Dodgeball… “We are better than you and we know it.”
11:52 a.m.–There is a long line of people waiting outside BCB. Someone suggests that the players go through the back door. “We will go through the front door,” Dibble said. “I will lead the way.”
11:57 a.m.–It turns out that the line of people were students waiting for a school bus.
12:15–The players ordered their food and then handed out player cards. Let’s just say Ben’s makes the batter’s box look big.
12:18–Everyone was trying to get a photo with the players.
12:19–A minute after the photo was taken, the lady dropped her phone. It sounded like it shattered into a million pieces… maybe the case just broke but it looked rough. “It’s fine,” she said. “I drop my phone all the time. The photo is safe.”
12:25–The players were asked to take their jerseys off while they eat. They are professional baseball players… not professional eaters.
12:47–The Nats will soon have a photo on the wall to join the likes of Bill Crosby, Dr. Dre, Chris Rock, President Obama and Dave Chappelle just to name a few. Don’t mind Jamie from Myth Busters in the back of the photo.
12:53–Party in the kitchen.
12:56–It was the guys first stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl. There is a good chance they will be back. “Food was pretty good. It was good Chili,” Espinosa said. “I wasn’t going to eat a lot of it because we are going on the bus.” Thank you.
12:59–We are off to Fort Belvoir.
1:53–We are here.
1:59–The players are getting a tour of the warehouse and then they are going to help put together care packages. Owners Mark Lerner and Judy Lenkin Lerner are here too.
2:06–The care package process has begun. The packages have everything: pens, shaving cream, razors, trail mix, beef jerky, books, magazines and much more. You name it and it’s probably in there. The assembly line they have going on right now would have impressed the late Henry Ford.
The USO warehouse has four parties like this a month at Fort Belvoir and they travel all around the States to make care packages too.
“It is such a morale boost for the troops to have the Nationals players come here,” Director of Operation USO Care Package Ron Wise said. “I really hope they get to see and understand the impact they are making. They are so important. The troops will talk about this for months and it really speaks volume for the Nationals organization.”
2:20–The stuffing party is in full force. The first bell rang. They ring the bell every time 500 care packages have been made. When the bell rings everyone starts screaming and dancing so the troops know we care.
2:44–Second bell rings.
3:09–Third bell rings.
3:15–Fourth bell rings. I told you Henry Ford would be proud of this assembly line. Ok… so it might have been premature.
3:33–The crew just finished packing the bags. Total count: 2,025 packages. Not a bad day at all but we didn’t quite set the record. They most packages they have made in one day… 15,000 with the help of 300 people. “It was pure insanity,” Wise said. “I don’t think we will ever match that.”
4:00–We are off to Woodbridge.
4:45–We are here at the P-Nats stadium. I don’t think Storen or Espinosa could be happier to return.
5:30–The pens and hands are ready for 2 hours and 30 minutes of autographs. Screech has been stretching his fingers and practicing his signature all day.
6:11–Screech is putting on a mascot clinic–making fans laugh, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
It may have been a loaded question when I asked the crowd if they have ever seen a mascot as funny…but they answered it correctly and that’s all that mattered. “I haven’t,” one person said. “Not even close,” said another person, “he is hilarious.”
30 seconds later… A season ticket holder for just about every sports team in Washington asked Screech if he was going to be skating at the Caps game tomorrow night. He whistled yes and then she reminded him that SlapShot (the Caps Mascot) took him down last season.
“The Caps mascot has bulked up my friend, bulked up,” she said. “You better watch out tomorrow night. We are going to have to see how many times you end up on the ice Screech.”
Game on SlapShot.
7:25–I just met Robert Probst from Dover, Del. He drove 122 miles to attend tonight’s event. I told him he unofficially drove the most miles to come here.
“What do I get for that,” he asked.
I told him I could probably hook him up with a pocket schedule.
“I can’t contain my excitement,” he responded with a bright smile.
8:00–Day two is in the books and the USO event was the most memorable.
“The USO stuff was great,” Dibble said. “I have a new appreciation for the care packages they send out.”
“It was a great time,” Storen said. “It is always good to give back to the Military since they do so much for us.”
Notes from NatsTown is blogging from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan. Be sure to follow us.
10:20 a.m.–The Caravan is off. We just left Nationals Park.
On the bus today: Manager Jim Riggleman, reliever Ryan Speier, 2009 first round draft pick Drew Storen, shortstop Danny Espinosa and Rob Dibble.
10:30 a.m.–We just picked up Storen, Espinosa and Dibble at the Hyatt Hotel and we are off to our first stop…
Our first stop is at Unity Health Care’s Southwest Health Center, a health clinic that serves all District residents regardless of ability to pay. In December, Nationals front office employees helped refurbish and repaint the center in late December. The players will greet staff and patients at the clinic and deliver new books for the waiting room.
10:39 a.m.–We just arrived at the Health Center.
10:59 a.m.–Chair of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Marla Lerner Tanenbaum kicked off the official start of the Caravan at the Health Center.
11:01 a.m.–Marla just mentioned how when the Nationals refurbished the Health Center in December, they were divided into two groups: a group that knew what they were doing (The Ballpark Ops) and a group that didn’t know what they were doing (Other Front Office staff… the painters).
For not knowing what they were doing, they did a great job painting.
11:15 a.m.–The players delivered books and helped stack them on the shelves.
11:20 a.m.–They handed out some Nats gear, signed some autographs and Screech made an appearance.
“It was a great first stop for the Caravan,” Storen said. “It is always good to help people out and hopefully make their day.”
11:45 a.m.–We just departed the Health Center and we are heading to Hard Times CafÃ©.
12:03–The bus just arrived at Hard Times. The Fab-Five will start signing at 1. That’s 57 minutes from now if you are counting… so they are now going to enjoy a scrumptious Hard Times meal.
12:51–The food at Hard Times was delicious. The plate of nachos could have fed a city. A few tidbits from lunch…
*Speier’s favorite player growing up was Rob Dibble.
*Storen thinks the Colts will win the Super Bowl.
12:54–Players start signing in six minutes and there is already a nice size crowd waiting to get autographs.
1:04–State of the Nats-Jim Riggleman and Rob Dibble thanked the crowd for coming and talked about the upcoming 2010 season.
1:25–The Donkey made an appearance and got a few autographs. You maybe have seen him before… he went to over half the games dressed as a donkey last season. “We went to one of the first games last year and my friend and I noticed they needed some crazy fans,” he said. “So my friend and I sewed together the donkey costume.” They sat in Section 236 so they could take advantage of the student discount. He spent the whole season trying to get Adam Dunn to acknowledge him. As you can imagine, he was unsuccessful… maybe in 2010 Dunn-key.
2:23–We were talking about nicknames and how Adam Dunn doesn’t like being called “Big Donkey”… Danny Espinosa said he doesn’t really have a nickname. Storen interrupted and said everyone calls him Espy. Storen said he has never had a nickname but if he opened up a storage company he would call it Storen Stuff. “Or you could call it Storen Space,” Dibble added.
2:41–The bus arrived at the mall for the 5 p.m. appearance at Build-A-Bear. A camera crew will be following Storen and Espinosa around as they shop. Storen said if anyone asks why they are being taped he will tell them…”We are from Jersey Shore.” Good thing there is a Jersey Shore nickname generator… Drew Storen… “D-Train.”
2:42–Storen jokingly suggests that each player wears their jersey while walking around the mall. “Do you guys have a Strasburg jersey I can wear?,” Storen said laughing.
4:47–The crew is ready to meet-and-greet fans at Build-A-Bear. There is a line forming of Nats fans waiting for autographs from the players. T-minus 13 minutes till they get to build a bear.
5:01–Let the autographs begin.
5:03–Screech has a thing for high fives to the face. He wouldn’t tell me why.
5:33–You can’t go to Build-A-Bear and not build a bear. It is like going to a baseball game and not eating a hot dog.
5:39–This might have been the highlight of the night. Apparently, each bear needs a heart with a heartbeat to live… so to create that heartbeat each bear owner must do the following with a heart squeezed in their hands…
5 seconds later… spin around three times.
10 seconds later… jump three times or just stand on your tip toes.
20 seconds later… do three push-ups… with Screech pressing down on your back.
5:41–The “beating” hearts were placed inside the bears and they were all stitched up.
7:06–Day one is done.
7:25–On the drive back to the ballpark, we started talking about Dibble’s career. Who was the hardest out? “Every batter was always the toughest out,” Dibble said. So we checked the numbers… How about Pedro Guerrero (batted .455 (5-for-11) with 7 RBI) and Juan Samuel (batted .415 (5-for-12) with one home run and 7 RBI)? “Yeah, I never could get them out,” he said with a cringe.
It was another busy day for the Nationals. They signed right-handed reliever Tyler Walker to a one-year deal, and Chris Duncan and starting pitcher Chuck James to Minor League contracts.
Walker becomes yet another addition to the revamped relief corps which includes Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Eddie Guardado, Ryan Speier and Doug Slaten. Walker throws a 91-93 mph fastball mixed with a slider and an occasional change-up. Walker, 33, appeared in 32 games last season for the Phillies going 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA (12 ER/ 35.1 IP).
The 28-year-old Duncan was a supplemental first round pick by the Cardinals in 1999 and made his Major League debut in 2005. As a rookie in 2006, he batted .293 (82-for-280) with 22 home runs and 43 RBI in 90 games. He comes from a family with baseball ingrained in their DNA. His dad Dave was a Major League catcher for 11 seasons and is currently the Cardinals pitching coach. His brother Shelley is a first baseman for the Cleveland Indians and played his last three seasons in the Yankees organization.
Chris enters the 2010 season hoping to return to his 2006 form and that could land him a spot on the Major League roster. It was a forgettable 2009 after he had a productive April, batting .304 (21-for-69) with two home runs and 14 RBI. His number precipitously fell after that. From May 1 to July 20, he batted .199 (38-for-191) with three home runs and 18 RBI in 65 games with the Cardinals before he was traded to the Red Sox on July 22.
James started seven games for the Braves in 2008 and is a career 24-19 in 64 games (55 starts) with a 4.48 ERA.
*Be sure to follow us as Notes from NatsTown blogs from the bus throughout the Nationals’ 2010 Winter Caravan. The fun starts tomorrow when the Caravan gets the show on the road. The first stop is at Unity Health Care’s Southwest Health Center, a health clinic that serves all District residents regardless of ability to pay.
*Dave Matthews Band will host a concert on Friday, July 23 at Nationals Park. The Zac Brown Band will open for them. This will be the ballpark’s second-ever show, following Elton John and Billy Joel’s sold-out show in July 2009. Tickets and parking will go on sale to the general public on Friday, February 26 at 10:00 a.m. online at www.tickets.com and by phone at 888-632-6287.
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Nationals continued their philanthropic efforts around the DC area and participated in a volunteer effort on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at a local D.C. Public School. In support of the President’s “United We Serve” initiative and Serve DC’s Seasons of Service Days, Washington Nationals Front Office Employees volunteered at Ballou Senior High School’s School Beautification Project.
Education is one of the cornerstones of the Nationals’ community relations programming, so it was only fitting that staff spent their “day off” helping to beautify the local school and make it a more inviting place for students.
At the school, Nationals staff banded together with several other local volunteers – including Ballou students – to remove graffiti from the hallways, clean lockers, repaint the bathrooms and interior doors, design bulletin boards, and paint murals in the school library. Within four hours, the school had already transformed into a nurturing environment where the students can learn and grow.
Community Relations is one of the pillars of the Nationals organization, and the Nationals are happy to have had the opportunity to make the school a positive place for the students to thrive during their high school years and beyond.
–The Nationals had six players that filed for salary arbitration and today was the day when eligible players exchanged figures or agreed to a contract with the club: Jason Bergmann, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, Jesus Flores (Super Two), Wil Nieves and Josh Willingham. The Nationals agreed to 2010 contracts with Bergmann, Flores, Nieves and Willingham, thus avoiding salary arbitration. That leaves Bruney and Burnett left for salary arbitration and the hearings begin February 1 and end the on 21. There is a good chance the two will never reach the arbitrators. Last year 111 players filed for salary arbitration, of those, 46 exchanged figures with their respective club and only three had their case heard by arbitrators: Dan Uggla (Marlins), Shawn Hill (Nationals) and Dioner Navarro (Rays). Uggla and Hill both won.
Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum who qualified for arbitration as a super two will likely walk away the biggest winner much like in 2008 when Ryan Howard qualified as a Super Two and won his arbitration hearing… his salary jumped from $900,000 to $10,000,000… just a 1,011 percent raise. (To qualify as a Super Two a player must have at least two years of service, but less than three, have accumulated at least 86 days of service in the previous year, and rank in the top 17% of all 2-year players in service time. The cutoff point generally falls between 2 years, 128 days of service and 2 years, 140 days.)
–The Caravan will get the wheels turning next Wednesday, Jan. 27th with the first stop at the Unity Health Care’s Southwest Health Center in Washington, DC. Notes from NatsTown will be on board providing you with behind the scene shots, player comments and fan reactions. Be sure to follow us.
–If you are a Nationals Insider you can purchase Nationals 2010 Spring Training single game tickets before they go on sale to the general public with a special online presale Wednesday, January 20, at 10:00 a.m.
–In the News:
Bill Ladson reports that the Nats may have some interest in former Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer breaks down the 2009 Nats and looks ahead to 2010 with the projected starters and rotation.
MASN’s Ben Goessling talked with Manager Jim Riggleman.
Matt Capps received the best Christmas present he possibly could have got in the baseball world. It wasn’t from the North Pole but coming from the Nationals made it just as special. A day before Christmas, Capps agreed to a one-year deal with the Nationals. He officially unwrapped it today when he signed the contract.
With the Redskins naming Mike Shanahan their coach at 2 p.m., the Nationals kept the Capps signing low key and hosted an informal press conference in the cozy confines of the Nats clubhouse.
“This is a major, major announcement for the Washington Nationals, as important as Jason and Pudge in my opinion,” said GM Mike Rizzo, wanting to make it clear that even though it was an informal press conference, Capps is an impactful player. “He is a 26-year-old closer that we control and [can] grow with the franchise for a long time to come.”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Capps is a man of faith and is everything the Nationals embody. He brings a winning attitude on and off the field and has a strong commitment to the community. He is built more like a linebacker than a closer, has a neck like a wrestler and has the hard-nosed, fearless and unflappable mindset of all three.
The 26-year-old Capps didn’t need much convincing on coming to Washington either. He has been impressed with the moves they have made this offseason and will have the chance to compete for the closer role–maybe the most important part. The Nats started pursuing him the minute after the Pirates non-tendered him but Capps was on Rizzo’s radar going back to last season’s trade deadline.
“It’s nothing [Rizzo had to say],” Capps said. “He already [had] done it with the moves that he has made.”
The Nationals have made it their priority this offseason to bolster a bullpen that ranked last in the Majors with a 5.04 ERA. He is the latest addition during a busy offseason for the Nats and they aren’t done. They acquired reliever Brian Bruney on the first day of the Winter Meetings, signed future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to a two-year deal a few days later and signed starter and 2009 All-Star Jason Marquis right before Christmas.
Capps signed with Washington after spending his entire career in Pittsburgh going 19-19 with 29 holds, 67 saves and a 3.61 ERA in 271 appearances spanning five seasons (2005-09).
Capps is a control specialist that consistently pounds the strike zone with a 92-96 mph fastball. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.2/1 (208 strikeouts, 50 walks) ranks second among active closers with 50 or more saves. Only Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon (4.5/1) has posted a superior SO/BB ratio using those guidelines.
In 2009, Capps struggled locating his fastball and his numbers ballooned: a 5.80 ERA, 73 hits and 10 home runs in 54.1 innings.
“As a competitor I don’t think you ever have the season you want to have unless you throw a 0.00 ERA,” Capps said. “My numbers don’t look good from last year. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing or another that went wrong. My fastball went flat and I got away from it.”
The Nats aren’t worried and Rizzo knows that if he didn’t struggle in 2009 he wouldn’t be a Nationals player today.
“When the bullpen gate swings open, I am happy that 55 (Capps) is coming out of the bullpen,” Rizzo said. “If he didn’t post a 5-plus ERA, he wouldn’t be sitting with us right now.”
He only signed a one-year deal but the Nats will be able to offer him arbitration after the season. Rizzo doesn’t see it as a one-year deal. Nor does Capps.
“I don’t want to come to Washington and play for one year,” Capps said. “I want to be an impact player, have an impact on the team going forward and be a part of it for the next…until Mr. Rizzo gets tired of me.”
It is safe to say, Mr. Rizzo won’t get tired as long Capps continues to retire batters.