A Week Off the Field
Recently, the Nationals played a total of 35 games in just a 34-day span, a brutal stretch of the schedule with little to no opportunity for rest. With only one off day and a pair of doubleheaders during that span, the team still managed to go 24-11 over that stretch, all while finding time to make a number of off-the-field appearances around the Washington D.C. area. Here is just a sampling of a few of the events players participated in over the last week that the team was in town.
Shortly after the Nationals completed an 8-2, three-city road trip in Houston, Arizona and San Francisco, the team boarded their flight back across the country to Washington. Their flight home landed after 2:00 a.m., and players did not get back to the ballpark, then home, until after 3:00. Nevertheless, Bryce Harper – on the first off day after that aforementioned 34-day stretch – arrived at Fairfax High School before 10:00 a.m. that same morning to help out at a free baseball clinic for 200 local area youth, including 50 from the Greater Washington Urban Baseball League. In addition to making a donation to the league, he also took the time to share hitting and fielding tips and throw some batting practice to the kids.
On the morning of August 18, following a 6-4 win over the New York Mets the night before, the Nationals coaching staff provided instruction to a group of 150 local children comprised of military families and Prince George’s County youth at the Medstar Health Youth Baseball Clinic at Nationals Park. The kids had a chance to pitch in the Nationals bullpen with Nationals Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, hit in the batting cage with Nationals Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, and take part in outfield drills. After a morning of baseball on the field, relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus stopped by during lunch to meet everyone and sign autographs.
Finally, on August 20, after the Nationals had waited out a two-and-a-half hour rain delay the previous day against the Mets, winning the series’ rubber game, 5-2, Ryan Zimmerman made a visit to Children’s National Medical Center. In addition to visiting with children being treated for cancer and life-threatening blood disease, he autographed baseballs and hats and hand-delivered pizza and cupcakes. Zimmerman returned to the ballpark in time to reach base four times in Washington’s crucial, 13-inning win over the division-rival Braves that evening.
The Nationals enjoyed a rare off day at home Thursday before entering the final stretch of the regular season that has them slated to play 38 games in 41 days beginning Friday in Philadelphia. But despite the marathon, even the best team in baseball has found time to give back away from the diamond.