Curly W Live Welcomes Owner Mark D. Lerner
Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.
Greetings NatsTown from sunny and warm Viera, Fla., the Spring Training home of the Washington Nationals.
It would be impossible to describe the feeling you experience when you first arrive at Spring Training each February… the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the sound of a bat striking a baseball, the buzz you feel in the air as fans of all ages assemble to watch Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper driving balls over the fence during batting practice. Nothing compares to Spring Training, especially after a long, cold winter in Washington, DC.
Today, the Nationals open their Spring Training schedule with a matinee against the New York Mets. Just a quick trip down I-95 to Port St. Lucie, then we’ll get to hear the first “play ball” of the 2011 spring season. I am really looking forward to it.
For Nationals fans who weren’t able to escape to Florida to catch the opener, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along on nationals.com. Our spring broadcasts on TV and radio begin next week (speaking of radio… check nationals.com this morning for an exciting announcement that will positively impact our radio listeners beginning in 2011). Our first game on MASN is this Saturday against the New York Yankees in Tampa.
Since my wife, Judy, and I arrived in town on Saturday, I have had the opportunity to watch a few workouts and catch up with many of our players. I’ll share my initial impressions below:
* We were in town just a matter of minutes on Saturday afternoon, before we encountered three of our neighbors — Bryce Harper, Doug Slaten and Sean Burnett — at the apartment complex we will call home for the next few weeks.
Doug and Sean are two of the nicest guys in the game, and we are fortunate to have that pair of reliable southpaws in our bullpen.
Bryce also has a great personality and is mature beyond his years. I hadn’t seen him since he participated in the Florida Instructional League in October, and let me tell you… he has worked extremely hard over the last number of months to prepare for his first pro season. It looks as though he has gained significant muscle, which will surely help him as he navigates through his first professional baseball season. It is hard to believe he is just 18 years old.
* I caught up yesterday morning with our General Manager Mike Rizzo over breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel (where else!) near Space Coast Stadium. He is very pleased with the way the first two weeks of camp have gone, noting a renewed spirit, work ethic and professionalism at workouts. And, he remarked that several of the veteran players he acquired this offseason are making an immediate impact in the clubhouse and on the field. We just have a great batch of players that Mike has imported and they seem so much more dedicated to playing the game right, working hard and enjoying themselves as a team or unit.
It does bode well for 2011…
* The first guy I run into as I pulled into the park was Stephen Strasburg. He looks terrific and it’s evident that he has been dedicated to his rehab and conditioning. He was long tossing 75 feet yesterday at practice.
* A very large crowd greeted the team at practice today. I ran into many of our fans who have come down from DC. I love connecting with our fans, and this blog is one outlet that will afford me that opportunity. I encourage any fans that are planning a trip to Viera to catch some spring action, please stop by to say hello as we cheer on the Nats together.
*Sad news yesterday for all baseball fans, as we heard about the passing of Hall of Famer and Dodger legend Duke Snider. The Nationals family send their deepest condolences to the Snider family.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks, as I plan to blog periodically (three-four times each week) to share my Spring Training experiences and thoughts with our dedicated fans in NatsTown.