From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Bags in Hand

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Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2012 Grapefruit League Season from Viera, bringing his own unique perspective of the goings-on at Nats Spring Training.

Bags in hand, my wife Judy and I arrived yesterday evening in Florida.

This morning, I pulled into Space Coast Stadium very early. I was struck by the obviously warmer-than-DC temps, but honestly it was the optimism in the air that set this arrival apart from all my other spring visits.

Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson’s work began here almost two weeks ago. They officially put the pitchers and catchers through their paces for the first time on Feb. 21st. But, from all the reports I received from the ground, the vast majority of players reported to camp early and in great shape. It is obvious that their 2012 preparations had begun months earlier.

Games begin today at Space Coast Stadium, with an exhibition against Georgetown University.

Today at Noon, we host Georgetown University at Space Coast Stadium for the second time. What a great opportunity for the young Hoyas. I bet the memories of today’s contest last a lifetime. When this opportunity was raised to host the Hoyas, we accepted immediately. It was the perfect chance to give back and help grow, in our own small way, the game of baseball at the college level in the DC area.

As a baseball nut, I have always noticed some of the MLB-NCAA matchups at the beginning of the spring. Through the years, the Red Sox have often hosted Boston College and the same with the Marlins and the Miami Hurricanes.

I’m also excited that I’ll get to see Matt Purke pitch for the first time. For those of you who do not know, Matt was our fourth overall selection in last year’s Draft. A left-handed pitcher, Purke was a first-round pick the season prior by Texas, but chose to return to TCU for his sophomore season. I am anxious to see him in action, because he is quite talented, from what I understand.

Then on Saturday, the official Grapefruit League season begins with a road game against the Astros. In a true twist of fate, we will face Livan Hernandez, who signed with Houston in late January. I wanted to make sure that I crossed paths with Livan this spring. Not only is he an obvious favorite of mine to watch perform (it’s that changeup!), but I want to find him and thank him for his two terms of service with the Nationals. I don’t think any true Nationals fan will ever forget him. Livan threw our first pitch. He won more games than anyone in team history. And he did it with flair, charisma and most importantly, a smile on his face. I will truly miss him as a member of the Nats.

Until we next blog …

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