The Good View
The Nationals hit the road again today, heading to Lake Buena Vista to pay a visit to the Atlanta Braves for the first time this spring. Champions Stadium is located at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, immediately adjacent to Walt Disney World. As such, the back of the concourse is built into a larger set of structures, resulting in some bizarre architecture for a ballpark. Instead of the usual slow curve of the concourse and tunnels below, there are lots of right-angled turns, which can leave you perplexed after a while about exactly which direction you are headed.
As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones. We found MLB Network’s Peter Gammons roaming the tunnels under the ballpark and followed him – and the music – to find our way out. What music, you ask? That of the world famous Atlanta Braves Philharmonic Saxophone Quartet, practicing prior to the game. They would play both pregame and during inning breaks, lending a sense of a bygone era to the Spring Training atmosphere.
There was a great moment on the field during the end of batting practice, about an hour before today’s game. As Bryce Harper signed autographs down the left field line, Davey Johnson yelled over to him from the batting cage. Harper trotted over to find a special guest who had requested his presence.
“Harp, I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time,” said the jovial, giant, middle-aged man adorned in Braves warm-up gear. “I’m Dale Murphy.”
Wait, what? If that all sounds a bit backwards to you, one can only imagine what the 19-year-old prospect – who was all of seven months old when Murphy played his last game in 1993 – must have thought. It was no surprise, though, that Murphy received the louder round of applause when introduced prior to the game from the pro-Atlanta crowd in Lake Buena Vista.
It is said that one of the great things about baseball is that you see something new every day at the ballpark. While there was nothing notable during the game to match that description, there was during the ceremonial first pitch. After sailing the first attempt wide left to the backstop, the young boy given the honor got a second chance, this time firing a strike. We are at Disney World, after all, where dreams come true (it says so right on the sign!).
Gio Gonzalez was very solid in his first outing of the spring, allowing just one single over 3.0 innings of scoreless work, striking out both Matt Diaz and Michael Bourn. Meanwhile, the offense was strong in support, as both Jayson Werth and Mark DeRosa contributed early solo shots and Chad Tracy plated a pair with a two-out double in the third. The DeRosa home run was especially encouraging, given the multiple wrist surgeries he has overcome just to be able to swing a bat again.
We joked with DeRosa, referencing a remark he had made a couple of weeks ago around the batting cage, that he had not hit a home run in two years. It turns out he hit one last spring as well, with the Giants.
“It definitely feels good,” he said. “I’m really trying not to get too high or too low because I’ve been through such a tough last two years.”
The tendon sheath that had caused him so much pain and time on the DL finally came fully off the bone in his right wrist last May. As awful as that may sound, it may have turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. DeRosa has been pain free through the offseason and the first couple weeks of camp.
“I haven’t been treating it, icing it, nothing,” he said of the ailment that has suffocated his last two seasons. “So I’m just knocking on wood every day, waking up excited to get to the field and finally play healthy.”
Anthony Rendon also collected his first hit of the spring on a double in the eighth and came around to score on a Tyler Moore sacrifice fly for the final run of the game in the 5-2 Nats victory.
We’ll return to Viera tomorrow, as the Nats get their first look at the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. Here are the Nationals results to date:
vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0
@ Houston – L, 3-1
vs. Houston – L, 10-2
@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1
@ Atlanta – W, 5-2
vs. St. Louis – Wednesday, 1:05pm
Overall Record: 2-2