Eyeing the Draft, Rick Eckstein’s Sacrifice, and More

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.

More: Blog Entry #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7 | #8

Good afternoon, Nats fans.

As we begin Day 2 of MLB’s Winter Meetings, I first want to clear up a misconception which we are experiencing first hand this week. Florida does not enjoy a year-round tropical climate. It’s unseasonably frigid down here this week, actually dipping to the low 30s overnight. Last night Mike Rizzo did a live interview on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight outdoor set, and it felt more like we were at Disney’s Blizzard Beach than the resort’s pool area.

One of the best parts about the Winter Meetings is the opportunity to spend time with Mike Rizzo’s baseball staff, analyzing where our organization stands and hearing what they think about available players on our radar. Mike has assembled some of baseball’s top talent evaluators on his staff. While talk at the Winter Meetings always seems to start with free agent signings and trades, being around the likes of Roy Clark, Kris Kline, Bill Singer, Kasey McKeon, Deric Ladnier, Davey Johnson, Jay Robertson, Bob Schaefer, Bob Boone and Phil Rizzo (Mike Rizzo’s dad, also a longtime baseball scout who serves on our staff) really gets me excited for next season’s First-Year Player Draft. All great baseball teams are established with a strong foundation that’s built through the draft and player development, and Mike Rizzo – who is considered one of baseball’s elite amateur talent evaluators in his own right – has an outstanding staff in place to continue to ensure successful drafts.

Next June, we will again have an outstanding opportunity to make an impact via the draft. We have 2 first-round picks – 6th and 23rd overall – and a sandwich pick between the first and 2nd rounds. The 23rd overall and sandwich picks were secured when Adam Dunn signed with the White Sox as a Type ‘A’ free agent. We did lose our 2nd round pick when we signed Jayson Werth, but we will still have 3 of the Draft’s top 40 picks and our folks are saying this year’s draft class is especially strong.    

On a non-baseball topic…As many of you know, I really enjoy visiting stadiums and arenas all over the country. This morning I had the opportunity to tour Amway Center, the brand new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. What a spectacular venue. It is the best NBA arena that I have seen. Congrats to the entire Magic organization for a job well done.

Also, our thoughts and prayers go out to a member of the Nationals family, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who tomorrow will be donating a kidney to his older brother Ken. Rick is a selfless person who always puts his family and his work before himself. I have found him to be one of the classiest people I have met in the game of baseball, and we wish both Rick and Ken a speedy recovery. Read more about this story here

Enjoy your day, and stay tuned for more…

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