November 2013

Week of Thanks

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As we prepare to gather with friends and family next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, this time of year provides a natural forum for personal reflection. We here at the Washington Nationals have been doing just that recently – thinking of all we have to be thankful for this holiday season – as we continue the countdown to Opening Day 2014.

Over the course of the next week, we plan to share some of the reasons we are thankful, with stories about the people and organizations that have made a truly meaningful impact in our community.

And, in the spirit of the season, we’re asking you to do the same.

Tell us what you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving and be entered to win a chance to take your family’s holiday photo on the field at Nationals Park!

All you have to do is let us know who or what you’re thankful for, and why, in the comment section below. Please keep your entry under 150 words, and be sure to check back to see what your fellow Nationals fans are thankful for this year.

- OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES -

What we’re thankful for this year:

USO Metropolitan Washington

Children’s National Medical Center

DC Public Schools

Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team

Food and Friends

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Kyle’s Kamp

Fans

The Chamber’s Got Abe

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by Noah Frank

We recently invited you, the fans, to partake in our #IGotYouAbe Holiday Photo Contest, by taking our cutout of Abe to your favorite holiday location and incorporating him in a photo that showed off your Nationals pride. After collecting your submissions, we picked five as finalists – each receiving a Nationals Holiday Pack, which includes tickets to four 2014 games as well as an Abe holiday ornament – and asked you to vote for your favorite as our Grand Prize Winner.

With nearly 60,000 votes tallied, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came away the winner, and will get a visit from Abe himself at their holiday party.

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Congrats to our winner, and make sure to pick up a Holiday Pack of your own at nationals.com/holiday.

Down on the Farm: Souza’s Patience Pays Off

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by Mike Feigen

November 1 was a significant day in the history of the Washington Nationals. Matt Williams was welcomed to Nationals Park and introduced as the club’s fifth manager since baseball returned to The District. It was a day of celebration.

But earlier that morning, the Nationals made a less heralded move – one that signaled redemption for a young player who hopes to play for Williams in the near future.

Souza_StevenSteven Souza, Jr., drafted by the Nationals in June of 2007 – the 100th-overall player selected and the sixth pick in the first three rounds by Washington – was added to the 40-man roster. Two of the players taken before him, Ross Detwiler (sixth overall) and Jordan Zimmermann (67th overall) are already household names in D.C., while Souza’s path to the Majors remains a work in progress.

Unlike the aforementioned college pitchers, Souza, an outfielder, came to the Nationals straight from the prep ranks. He bypassed a college scholarship to sign out of Cascade High School in Everett, Wash., a program that had sent former third-round pick Grady Sizemore to the big leagues just a few years earlier. Upon signing, Souza headed across the country to Viera, Fla., where he hit four home runs and added four stolen bases in 44 games for the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) Nationals.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitter split time between Short Season-A Vermont and Class-A Hagerstown in 2008, then repeated at Hagerstown in 2009 and 2010, hitting a combined .235 with 15 home runs and 43 stolen bases in 207 games with the Suns. At the age of 22, after being sidelined for 50 games, he advanced to High-A Potomac, where he hit .228 but improved his on-base percentage – posting a .360 mark – while adding 11 homers and 25 steals.

At that point, with five seasons of professional baseball under his belt, the young outfielder found himself at a crossroads.

The setbacks had been difficult, the progression through the Nationals system had been slow, and he’d made his own mistakes to compound the situation. Souza contemplated walking away from his dream.

***

Souza will join his Mesa Solar Sox teammates in the quest for an Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday (MLB Network, 3 p.m. ET). It’s been two years since he reconsidered his place in the game, and in that time he has developed into a legitimate five-tool threat. Most recently, he’s become one of the top performers in the prospect-rich AFL circuit – all while playing less than most of his AFL counterparts.

Designated a “taxi squad” player, restricted to two games per week, Souza has maximized his opportunities in limited at-bats. While he wants to play every day, Souza said he’s learned that any chance to play is a blessing.

“Playing on the taxi squad has taught me a lot about coming off the bench,” Souza said.  “You have to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Souza hit .357/.426/.476 with eight runs, eight RBI and 10 stolen bases this fall, while hitting safely in 10 of his 11 games for the AFL East Division Champion Solar Sox. Twice he stole three bases in a game, showing off his explosive speed.

Down on the Farm_StevenSouza“As a bigger guy, speed is what separates me from some other bigger guys,” Souza explained. “I’ve worked a lot on agility and footwork. I owe everything to (Nationals first base coach) Tony Tarasco. He’s taught me everything I know about baserunning, and it’s translated well on the field.”

Souza’s AFL performance is coming on the heels of an All-Star showing at Double-A Harrisburg in 2013, where he hit .300/.396/.557 with 39 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in just 77 games. In 2012, with renewed enthusiasm for the game, Souza compiled an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .938 with 23 home runs and 14 stolen bases across two levels.

The transformation has been striking; after hitting no better than .237 at any of his primary stops in his first five years, Souza has hit no worse than .290 in the two seasons since.

Doug Harris, Washington’s Director of Player Development, has been thrilled to see Souza’s career blossom.

“Steven has really come into his own over the last two years,” Harris said. “He has a broad skill set with the ability to impact a game in a variety of ways. Not only has he performed at a high level during that span, but also exhibited many intangibles that have earned him a 40-man roster spot.”

For Souza, being added to the Nationals 40-man roster was a validation for all of the hard work he put in to revive his career.

“I was really honored and humbled,” Souza said of receiving the call from the Nationals. “I’m thankful to be in such a great organization.”

When offered a chance to look ahead, Souza was reluctant to set goals, saying instead that he would let his faith guide him. He made it clear, however, that he’d love to have an opportunity to play at Nationals Park in the near future.

“Honestly, if Matt Williams wants me to come in and help the team win, I’ll do that in any way I can,” he said. “If I don’t make it this year, I’ll work hard and play wherever they send me. I just want to contribute somehow – either to a win or two, or winning a championship. I’d be happy to fit in somewhere and just fade into the background.”

***

Mesa experienced a symmetrical season, racing out to a 7-0 record (plus one tie), dropping 11 of 17 games in the middle of the year, and then rallying to win its final six contests to finish with a 19-11 record. The furious finish was just enough to edge Salt River for the East Division title by a half game, as the Rafters ended their year with seven consecutive wins.

Saturday’s AFL Championship Game will be broadcast live on MLB Network at 3 p.m. ET, with the Solar Sox taking on the West Division Champion Surprise Saguaros.

Progress on the Academy

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by Noah Frank

On Thursday, members of the local media were invited on a tour of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Ward 7, to take in, first-hand, all of the progress there. Turf has been laid down on two of the three fields, including  Field One, a full-size baseball field. The framework of the facility’s centerpiece – an 18,000 square foot building that includes eight classrooms, a teaching kitchen, batting cages and a fitness area – has been built, and crews worked around the touring party during Thursday’s visit as they remain on target for a January 2014 completion date.

For your own first-hand view, explore this gallery for updated photos of the beautiful site as it begins to come together, and click the link below to follow the progress live from our on-site camera.

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- Click Here to Watch Live Progress on the Academy -

Read more at nationals.com and masnsports.com, and watch video from the tour at CSNWashington.com.

Arizona Fall League, Week 5 (11.5–11)

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by Mike Feigen 

Each week, we will recap the performances of the eight members of the Nationals organization participating in the Arizona Fall League, a “finishing school” for top prospects.

The eight Nationals players are members of the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of young stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers farm systems. The Solar Sox will battle the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros during the six-week season, with each team made up of players from five MLB organizations.

Richie Mirowski continued his successful fall campaign.

Richie Mirowski continued his successful fall campaign. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

The Solar Sox enter the final three days of the Arizona Fall League season with a half-game lead over the Salt River Rafters in the East Division, with each team vying for a spot in the AFL Championship Game this Saturday.

Mesa (16-11-1) will host Peoria (10-18) and Glendale (13-13) Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to Glendale on Thursday for the season finale. Left-hander Sammy Solis (4-2, 2.25 ERA) is tentatively scheduled to make Thursday’s start, which could potentially put fellow Nationals southpaw Matt Purke (3-1, 3.91) on the mound for the Championship Game.

That contest, which will feature the champions of the East and West Divisions, will be televised live on MLB Network at 5 p.m. ET from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s fifth week (November 5–11):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO

Season Totals: 9.0 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO, 4.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .235/.263/.353, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB in 19 PA

Season Totals: .299/.329/.442, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 8 R, 3 SB, 3 BB, 1 SAC, 1 HBP in 83 PA

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 11.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 1.64 ERA, 0.818 WHIP

Catcher Adrian Nieto turned in another solid week.

Catcher Adrian Nieto turned in another solid week. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .250/.250/.500 in 12 PA

Season Totals: .275/.348/.350, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 1 SF in 46 PA

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (1-0), 4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO

Season Totals: (3-1), 23.0 IP, 20 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 9 BB, 17 SO, 3.91 ERA, 1.261 WHIP

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals:  .091/.167/.091, 1 BB in 12 PA

Season Totals: .152/.350/.370, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 14 BB in 60 PA

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (1-0), 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO

Season Totals: (4-2), 24.0 IP, 26 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 7 BB, 25 SO, 2.25 ERA, 1.375 WHIP

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .444/.444/.556, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB in 9 PA

Season Totals: .368/.442/.421, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 7 R, 10 SB, 5 BB in 43 PA

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Kicking off the offseason

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Hello everyone. Happy autumn.

November 11 is always a special day on the calendar. Veterans Day provides a solemn opportunity to reflect upon, and honor this nation’s true heroes and their lasting legacy of sacrifice. The Nationals organization is proud of our strong relationship with Veterans, and of our lasting commitment to the military as a whole.

Well, another fantastic World Series ended almost two weeks ago and we are now officially in the midst of the offseason. But the good news is that as the chillier temps roll in, we are also two weeks closer to Spring Training and Opening Day, 2014!

I’d like to congratulate the Red Sox on their remarkable season and third championship in 10 years. To ascend from last place in the AL East to World Champs in 13 short months is no small feat.

Boston’s “worst-to-first” narrative should serve as offseason fuel for every owner, general manager, executive, player and fan. We are reminded that baseball is never stagnant, and anything is possible.

It was an exciting day here in Washington when Matt Williams became the Nationals' fifth field manager since baseball returned to D.C.

It was an exciting day here in Washington when Matt Williams became the Nationals’ fifth field manager since baseball returned to D.C.

Of course, while the game’s collective eyes were on three-plus riveting rounds of October baseball, Mike Rizzo was hard at work putting the finishing touches on our list of managerial candidates.

What was noteworthy, as Mike told us later, was that he had much more trouble whittling the list down to a manageable number than compiling the original list, which contained 50-plus names.

And while I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on any individual candidacies, I do feel comfortable saying that our game is flush with distinctive managerial talent.

I enjoyed meeting, talking with and asking questions of these gentlemen. I learned something from each, and was inspired by their progressive views, enthusiasm for the game and, specifically, this job in the Nation’s Capital.

As you know, we officially named Matt Williams the Nationals’ fifth field manager on October 31. We are ecstatic to have Matt on board. Perhaps it is cliché, but Matt is the right man, at the right time, to lead this team to greater heights.

Matt’s distinguished playing career speaks for itself. A five-time All-Star who claimed four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Matt played in three World Series and owns a ring from arguably the best Fall Classic (2001) of the last 20 years.

In talking to Randy Knorr, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark at the Williams press conference, all four were excited for both Matt and the organization.

Ian and Tanner knew a lot about his career, but what was interesting was that they gained this knowledge as young baseball fans. All four mentioned Matt’s work as a coach on Kirk Gibson’s dynamic coaching staff in Arizona.

Matt did not wait long to integrate his family locally. In all, he spent more than four days in DC with his wife, Erika, and daughter, Madison. They even joined some friends for Halloween trick-or-treating on Capitol Hill. It was fantastic to see the Williams family so eager to explore everything that DC has to offer.

I think everyone agrees that Matt made a terrific first impression at the press conference. He worked in a few brief meetings with Mike, but Matt and his beautiful family also investigated places to live and schools for his young daughter.

  • Congratulations to Ian, who won his second consecutive Silver Slugger representing NL shortstops on Wednesday evening. I know Ian values this award because it is voted on by National League managers and coaches. As Nationals fans who watch him every day, we are all aware that Ian plays the game “the right way.” So, it nice to see that his leadership and passion for the game are admired throughout our league. Incidentally, Ian was the only infielder in baseball this season to achieve 20-homer, 20-stolen base status. Each of baseball’s other eight 20-20 players were outfielders. Ian should be very proud. Is there any doubt that he has been the best shortstop in baseball the last two seasons?
  • I was, however, disappointed to learn recently that Denard Span was denied what would have been his first Gold Glove. I just don’t see how a center fielder, who played in 153 defensive games and committed exactly ZERO errors does not break through. Denard made all the plays he had to, and more. Anyone else remember our 6-5 home win on August 14 against the Giants? With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Denard made spectacular game-ending, snow-cone catch to deny Hunter Pence of a go-ahead double. Remember, this is a defensive award and offensive production should not have influence. There really is no other way to say it other than … Denard was truly robbed!
  • Mike is currently at the General Manager’s meetings in Orlando. I suppose we can now officially declare that the Hot Stove Season is upon us. What else is remarkable is that the Winter Meetings (also in Orlando, Dec. 9-12) are now less than a month away. Rumors, trades, signings, Rule 5 Draft … let the baseball talk begin!

My optimism remains on ‘high’ for 2014! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Until we blog again from the Winter Meetings next month…

Mark

Denard Span Recognized As Nationals’ Wilson Defensive Player Of The Year

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by Amanda Comak

Denard Span acknowledged early in the 2013 season that when it comes to “Web Gems” he probably didn’t have a large library of plays that had been highlighted. Those, many outfielders say, come from mistakes that turn into great plays. But Span’s greatest strength as a center fielder is making the difficult look effortless and routine.

And in a 2013 season highlighted by plenty of spectacular catches, Span did just that for the Washington Nationals.

Thursday evening, Span was recognized as the Nationals’ top defensive player and their representative for the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra were given the top honors. Additionally, the Diamondbacks were named the National League Defensive Team of the Year, while the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals tied for the honor in the American League.

Span, a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates. The highlight of his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.

Founded in 2012, the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award winners are determined by using a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding statistics. They were announced in an hour-long show on MLBNetwork on Thursday night.

Here are all of the players who were honored by Wilson:

Baltimore Orioles- Manny Machado (3B)

Arizona Diamondbacks – Gerardo Parra (OF)

Atlanta Braves – Andrelton Simmons (SS)

Boston Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia (2B)

Chicago White Sox – Gordon Beckham (2B)

Chicago Cubs – Darwin Barney (2B)

Cincinnati Reds – Jay Bruce (OF)

Cleveland Indians – Yan Gomes (C)

Colorado Rockies – DJ LeMahieu (2B)

Detroit Tigers – Austin Jackson (OF)

Houston Astros – Matt Dominguez (3B)

Kansas City Royals – Lorenzo Cain (OF)

Los Angeles Dodgers – Juan Uribe (3B)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – J.B. Shuck (OF)

Miami Marlins – Donovan Solano (2B)

Milwaukee Brewers – Carlos Gomez (OF)

Minnesota Twins – Brian Dozier (2B)

New York Mets – Juan Lagares (OF)

New York Yankees – Robinson Cano (2B)

Oakland Athletics – Josh Reddick (OF)

Philadelphia Phillies- Carlos Ruiz (C)

Pittsburgh Pirates – Russell Martin (C)

San Diego Padres – Chris Denorfia (OF)

San Francisco Giants – Gregor Blanco (OF)

Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley (2B)

St. Louis Cardinals – Yadier Molina (C)

Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria (3B)

Texas Rangers – Craig Gentry (OF)

Toronto Blue Jays – Colby Rasmus (OF)

Washington Nationals – Denard Span (OF)

Ian Desmond Wins Second Straight Louisville Silver Slugger Award

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by Amanda Comak

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Davey Johnson said it so often during the 2013 season, there became little point in even posing the question. In the former Washington Nationals manager’s mind, the best shortstop in the league was the one he got to write on his lineup card nearly every day. As the postseason awards begin to roll in this month, it appears the rest of the baseball world is starting to agree with Johnson.

Ian Desmond won his second consecutive Louisville Silver Slugger Award on Wednesday evening, honored again as the best-hitting shortstop in the National League.

“I play the game the way I do out of respect for the players who came before me,” Desmond said. “It’s an honor to be selected for the Silver Slugger, and it’s humbling to know that it’s voted on by National League managers and coaches.”

The Nationals’ star middle infielder beat out tough competition from Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee Brewer Jean Segura to become just the second Nationals player to earn two Silver Slugger Awards. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman took home the honor in 2009 and 2010.

Desmond also joins Derek Jeter (5), Hanley Ramirez (2) and Troy Tulowitzki (2) as the only active shortstops to win multiple Silver Sluggers.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the second straight year, hit .280 this past season, carrying a .331 on-base percentage that was just below his career-best .335 mark from 2012, with a .453 slugging percentage.

He was the most consistent batter in the Nationals’ lineup throughout the year, often carrying them offensively in the early months.

Desmond, 28, clubbed 20 home runs and stole 21 bases this past season — his second campaign reaching the 20-20 benchmark that recognizes speed and power — and led all NL shortstops with 38 doubles. He also drove in 80 runs.

His .784 OPS ranked second to only Tulowitzki among shortstops, but Desmond, who appeared in 158 of the Nationals’ 162 games, had 143 more plate appearances than the Rockies’ shortstop and played in 32 more games. Desmond also led all MLB shortstops with 61 extra-base hits.

A mainstay in the Nationals lineup and one of few regulars to go injury-free throughout the year, Desmond proved his breakout 2012 season was no fluke and continued to establish himself among the best in the game at his position.

Right fielder Jayson Werth had a strong case for earning one of the outfield awards, hitting .318 with a .398 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage in 129 games. His .931 OPS was the best mark of his career, and Werth hit 25 home runs, 24 doubles and knocked in 82 runs in 2013.

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds, and Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies were the NL outfielders who took home the honors.

“Last year, it was really cool to be able to share in the excitement with my teammates when [Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg] won theirs as well,” Desmond said. “I was shocked to see that Jayson didn’t get it, but respect how tough the decision process is with so many great outfielders.”

The Louisville Silver Slugger Awards, which were announced Wednesday night on MLBNetwork, are based on the regular-season performances of players and voted on by managers and coaches in each league.

Arizona Fall League, Week 4 (10.29–11.4)

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by Mike Feigen

Each week, we will recap the performances of the eight members of the Nationals organization participating in the Arizona Fall League, a “finishing school” for top prospects.

The eight Nationals players are members of the Mesa Solar Sox, which is comprised of young stars from the Nationals, Angels, Athletics, Cubs and Tigers farm systems. The Solar Sox will battle the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas, Salt River Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros during the six-week season, with each team made up of players from five MLB organizations.

Here is a look at how each of the Nationals participants in this year’s Arizona Fall League performed during the season’s fourth week (October 29–November 4):

ROBERT BENINCASA | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: 8.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO, 4.50 ERA, 1.625 WHIP

Benincasa tossed two innings in Arizona Fall League play this past week, allowing one run in two appearances. The 6-2 right-hander has excelled when pitching ahead in the count in the Fall League, holding opposing batters to a .200 batting average.

Goodwin had a solid week and earned a start in the Fall Stars Game.

Goodwin had a solid week and earned a start in the Fall Stars Game.

BRIAN GOODWIN | OF

Weekly Totals: .357/.357/.857, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB in 14 PA

Fall Stars Game: 1-for-5

Season Totals: .317/.349/.467, 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 3 SB, 2 BB, 1 SAC, 1 HBP in 64 PA

Goodwin put together an excellent week at the plate, blasting a pair of home runs and driving in six runs for the Solar Sox. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and a stolen base on November 4, helping Mesa to a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory. He also represented the Nationals in the Fall Stars Game, batting second and playing center field for the East squad. He ripped a clean single into right field in his first at-bat, displaying a compact stroke from the left side of the plate.

RICHIE MIROWSKI | RHP

Weekly Totals: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (1 SV), 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1.29 ERA, 0.857 WHIP

Mirowski continued his stellar fall, firing two scoreless innings in relief on October 30 to lower his ERA to 1.29 for the Solar Sox. The former 45th-round draft pick went 10-3 with a 1.83 ERA between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2013, winning the fans’ choice “MiLBY” for Minor League Baseball’s best reliever.

ADRIAN NIETO | C

Weekly Totals: .250/.250/.500, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 R in 8 PA

Fall Stars Game: 0-for-1, 1 R

Season Totals: .286/.382/.393, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 1 SF in 34 PA

Nieto had a solid week, starring in an October 29 contest in which he went 2-for-4 with a triple, RBI and run scored. That performance helped earn the 23-year-old backstop a spot in the Fall Stars Game, during which he entered the game as a reserve and scored a run for the East team.

MATT PURKE | LHP

Weekly Totals: (0-1), 7.0 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO

Season Totals: (2-1), 19.0 IP, 15 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 14 SO, 3.79 ERA, 1.158 WHIP

One week after earning the AFL’s Pitcher of the Week designation, Purke battled through two starts for Mesa and gave up his first earned runs of the fall campaign. The 6-4 southpaw will try to finish the fall league campaign strong, likely earning one final start during the season’s last week.

MATT SKOLE | 1B/3B

Weekly Totals:  .143/.333/.571, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 BB in 9 PA

Season Totals: .171/.396/.457, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 13 BB in 48 PA

Skole, just getting back into baseball shape after missing nearly the entire 2013 season, has shown excellent discipline throughout the AFL season for the Solar Sox. The slugging corner infielder blasted his third home run of the fall, while drawing his 12th and 13th walks – tied for second best in the circuit.

SAMMY SOLIS | LHP

Weekly Totals:  (0-1), 4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO

Season Totals: (3-2), 19.2 IP, 21 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 20 SO, 2.29 ERA, 1.373 WHIP

Now a three-time AFL participant, Solis has emerged as one of Mesa’s top pitchers during the 2013 AFL season. He suffered a tough-luck defeat in his only appearance of the week on November 1, allowing just two unearned runs when right fielder Tyler Collins misplayed a first-inning fly ball. Despite the loss, Solis lowered his ERA to 2.29 with the effort.

STEVEN SOUZA, JR. | OF

Weekly Totals: .222/.222/.222, 2 R in 9 PA

Season Totals: .345/.441/.379, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 5 R, 9 SB, 5 BB in 34 PA

After making headlines by stealing a league-high nine bases during the first three weeks of the AFL season, Souza was in the news off the field this week when he earned a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. The 2007 third-rounder has demonstrated power, speed and an advanced eye at the plate over the past two seasons in the Washington organization.

For more information on the Arizona Fall League, visit MLBFallBall.com.

The Academy Is…

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by Noah Frank

After years of conceptualizing and planning, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy recently opened its doors for academic programming. While construction on the building and fields at the Academy’s permanent home isn’t slated to finish until the end of November, enrollment has already skyrocketed from 21 students on the first day to more than 50 today.

In partnership with Higher Achievement, the Academy currently offers after-school programming from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., three days a week. As enrollment grows, so does the need for mentors. The Academy will cap its first-year student enrollment at around 90, with a goal of 60 mentors, each volunteering one day a week. The Academy is currently housed at nearby Kimball Elementary School, but will move into its permanent home in January of 2014 upon completion of construction.

New Nationals Manager Matt Williams (center) tours the Academy site with Principal Owner and chairperson of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Marla Lerner Tanenbaum (left) and Executive Director of the Youth Baseball Academy Tal Alter (right).

New Nationals Manager Matt Williams (center) tours the Youth Baseball Academy site.

“What once was a plan on paper is now a reality,” said Tal Alter, the Academy’s executive director. “We’ve worked so hard to get here and we’re excited to welcome our first scholar-athletes into the program, which will offer local youth with a place they can flourish through unparalleled academic and athletic support.”

The facility itself will include three lighted baseball and softball fields, an 18,000 square foot, two-story LEED certified “educational clubhouse” with eight classrooms, a community room, teaching kitchen, additional flex space, offices and indoor training facilities with batting cages.

With plans to enroll a new class of third graders every year, the program is expected to grow to nearly 1,000 student-athletes by September, 2019. Additional programming for grades K-2 is also slated to begin in the first five years, expanding the Academy’s reach to a full range of K-12 scholar-athletes.

Situated in Ward 7’s Fort Dupont Park, the Academy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to use the sports of baseball and softball as a vehicle to foster positive character development, academic achievement and improved health among at-risk Washington, D.C. youth. A public-private collaboration, the initiative has been made possible thanks to donations from the Lerner Family, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, Major League Baseball and the District of Columbia, along with other corporate and individual community and philanthropic leaders.

You can watch the progress of construction on the facility live, with our on-site camera.

- WATCH THE PROGRESS OF CONSTRUCTION AT THE ACADEMY LIVE -

If you would like to apply to be a mentor, please contact Chris Reed at Christopher.Reed@nationals.com for more information.

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