Spring Training – Day 1
Greetings from the unassuming center of the Nationals baseball universe. I say unassuming, as the town that houses Washington’s spring complex is something of a reflection of the team itself heading into the 2012 campaign. For those who have experienced other Spring Training venues before but have never been to Space Coast Stadium, it is a quiet, quaint ballpark on a largely undeveloped strip of land just outside of the sleepy town of Viera.
Smack in the middle of Florida’s east coast, about 10 minutes from the Atlantic, the town of just over 17,000 is unassuming, to say the least. In stark contrast to the history-steeped monuments and cathedrals of Washington, everything is new here. The first developments did not break ground until the ‘90s, and the major commercial development did not arrive until the new millennium. For those used to a standard of city life that may seem boring, but it also means there is plenty of room to grow.
As I checked into the hotel last night, I asked about dinner options in the area. The desk clerks began excitedly rattling off all the new options in town. From Japanese food to Chicago-style pizza, it was true – there was a little bit of everything here. And with all these new options there was an excitement, a hope for what their town was becoming.
Sound familiar? It ought to. The excitement is tangible around camp, as this team comes together for the first time since last year’s inspired September run and an offseason full of exciting new additions. The players have not been shy to admit it, either. Edwin Jackson likened the youth and swagger of this club to what he saw during his time with Tampa Bay in 2008. He won a career-high 14 games that year as part of a young, dynamic pitching staff that led an up-and-coming team all the way to the World Series. For those that have already forgotten – understandable, due to the Rays’ recent success – the franchise had never enjoyed a winning season prior to that year.
Of course, nobody is running to make proclamations about pennants and World Series appearances. Nothing has been won yet. This is still a team with humble beginning, just now coming into its own. But just like the town that surrounds camp, it is growing up in front of our eyes, and there is plenty to be excited about.
We’ll be chatting more with other members of the team this week as they filter into camp. Many have reported ahead of schedule, though, and are already patrolling the cages, bullpens and practice fields around Space Coast Stadium.
Throughout the spring, we’ll have regular posts from both John Dever, Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations, as well as Principal Owner frequent Curly W Live contributor Mark Lerner.
For now, we’ll leave you with this final thought. Viera means “faith” in Slovak, the native language of the Duda family that first developed the area. It’s hard to think of a more fitting word for this year’s Nationals squad, as preparation begins in earnest this week for a new season.