Mark Lerner says goodbye to Florida
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
Good afternoon NatsTown!
Later tonight, after today’s 1:05 p.m. home game against the Tigers, my wife,
Judy, and I will fly back to DC, thus ending our three-week stay in Viera. We
talked last night about perhaps a longer stay next spring. Only time will tell,
but we both agreed that we struck the right balance between business and
pleasure during our visit. It sure was nice to cut almost a month off our
winter. We have enjoyed seeing Nationals fans all around Viera, not just at
Space Coast Stadium, and also on all of our road trips. Although it will be
good to get back into the DC routine, it will be hard not to let my mind wander
back to the ballclub.
Fortunately, NatsFest is only 10 days away, and of course the season opener is
the next afternoon against the Braves at Nationals Park. Here are a couple of
notes I’d like the share as it pertains to these two events:
NatsFest (Wed., March 30, 4-8 p.m. at Nationals Park)
*Batting Practice will begin at 4 p.m.
*Each of the 25 Nationals will be present and participate in NatsFest, with the
one exception being the Opening Day starting pitcher.
*We will also be bringing a few bonus Nationals for our fans to meet: Stephen
Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Derek Norris, Chien-Ming Wang and Cole Kimball. Also
look for Bob Boone and Davey Johnson to be in town that day and mingling.
*Fans will enjoy various Q and A sessions and opportunities to interact with
and take pictures of their favorite Nationals. Children will also be able to
attend and participate in their own event, a Kids Press Conference, which
begins at 6:50 p.m.
Opening Day (Thu., March 31, 1:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves)
*We urge all our fans to come early. We are expecting a sellout crowd and want
all of our fans to enjoy their afternoon at Nationals Park as much as possible.
This will also allow everyone to enjoy the extended pregame festivities.
*By the way, earlier this week, the Braves named RHP Derek Lowe as their
Opening Day starter.
So, this will be my final Spring Training blog. Why don’t we start with some
impressions from the last three weeks:
*I have talked about this before, but this really was a well-run camp. Jim
Riggleman, Bobby Henley and a dozen or so coaches and advisors put together a
heck of an operation. I honestly feel the emphasis on fundamentals set the
stage for a successful Grapefruit League and 2011 season.
*I enjoyed getting to know Mike Rizzo’s key offseason additions (Jayson Werth,
Adam LaRoche, Tom Gorzelanny, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Matt Stairs, among
others) for the first time. And I am more enthusiastic than ever about our next
wave of homegrown talent. What is not to like about Danny Espinosa, Wilson
Ramos, Bryce Harper, Chris Marrero, Derek Norris and Cole Kimball?
*Don’t the new home uniforms look fantastic? We’ve purposely worn them for all
of the games televised on MASN. They offer a clean look and, we believe, best
portray the tradition of baseball in DC. I have received
a lot of great comments down here not only from our players, but our fans as
*Mike Rizzo has a slew of big roster decisions to make in the next 10 days or
so. Who will be the 25 players to comprise your Nationals Opening Day roster?
Sure, he will seek out and process input from Jim Riggleman and his staff, but
ultimately, it is Mike’s call as to who makes that roster. Personally, I love
that he’s grinding a bit. This means there is big league talent here. These are
the type of decisions that we dreamt about back in 2007 and ’08. But at that
stage of our evolution, we were always looking to add quality big league
talent, not pare it down, at the end of spring.
*Random highlights of my Spring Training experience, in no particular order:
Michael Morse’s scalding hot start, talking to Stephen Strasburg and seeing him
throw a baseball again, Bryce Harper’s first exposure to big league pitchers,
seeing Jayson Werth on our ballclub, Kenny G’s one-minute note, the
beyond-perfect weather, the Nationals’ Par 3 Golf Tournament, a pair of wins
over the Yankees, March 11 twilight launch of Delta Rocket (spy satellite… but
don’t tell anyone).
Again, many thanks for your interest in our ballclub. We look forward to seeing
many of you at Nationals Park this summer. And down here again next spring.
I will be in touch again soon.