by Noah Frank
As we begin what promises to be an exciting year, we wanted to take a quick moment to thank you for your continued support of the Nationals, and particularly our writing here at Curly W Live. Thanks to your readership, we rose to No. 8 in the 2013 Top 100 MLBlogs rankings. We try our best both during the season and the offseason to bring you stories and information that we think you’ll appreciate as fans. In that spirit, here are eight of your favorite posts from the past year, which you can reread for fun or check out for the first time if you missed them when they were originally posted:
1.25: Taft Makes Five
2.14: This One’s for the Birds
2.16: Hair Today…
4.14: Guess Your Players’ Pups
8.03: To the Last Man
10.16: Harper Turns 21
We’re always looking for new and better ways help you connect with the team, so please leave your suggestions in the comments below, and let’s have an even greater 2014!
16 days until NatsFest
35 days until pitchers and catchers report
85 days until the home opener at Nationals Park
by Noah Frank
One of the most confusing and misunderstood of all of baseball’s annual traditions took place last week at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. The Rule 5 Draft, the unofficial closing to baseball’s Winter Meetings, is a function of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement that helps give players a chance with a new club if they meet certain eligibility requirements. Unlike the Rule 4 Draft (more commonly known as the First-Year Player Draft, which takes place each June), players are picked from other organizations in both a Major League and Minor League phase. You can learn more about the intricacies and minutiae of the proceedings in this handy FAQ.
The Nationals’ 40-man roster was already full heading into the draft, so they did not procure anyone in the Major League phase (though they saw catcher Adrian Nieto taken by the White Sox). They did, however, make a couple of acquisitions in the Minor League portion of the event, selecting outfielder Theodis (Theo) Bowe from the Cincinnati Reds and right-handed pitcher Martires Arias from the New York Mets.
Aside from his terrific name, Bowe brings both speed and defense as a center fielder. In essence, he helps replace Billy Burns, recently traded to Oakland for left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins. Bowe is one season removed from a 70-steal campaign, and at just 23 years of age, Nationals Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba hopes to get a look at what he might provide moving forward.
“Bowe is still a young, left-handed outfielder that possesses two plus tools in his speed and defense,” explained Scialabba. “We had good information on his makeup, skill set and the way he played the game. He will compete for a spot at Double-A Harrisburg.”
Finding Arias is a credit to Nationals Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, who scouted him in the Dominican Republic earlier this year and recommended him for the Rule 5 Draft. Also 23 years old, the 6-foot-7 hurler reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, giving Scialabba and the Nationals’ staff another pitcher in the mold of many the organization has drafted in recent years.
“He’s another tall, power arm that we can add to our inventory and take on as a project,” Scialabba said. “We would like to see if we can make some adjustments to maximize his ability.”
by Noah Frank
The #NatsWeekOfGiving has been chock-full of events both in the Washington D.C. community and around the world. From Denard Span and Ross Detwiler’s recent visit to The District, to Adam LaRoche embarking on the Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour, every day has brought new chances to give back.
Don’t forget to show us how you are pitching in this holiday season for the chance to win a Denard Span autographed jersey or an Adam LaRoche signed ball. To enter the contest, simply submit a photo on Twitter of what you are doing to give back with the hashtag #NatsWeekOfGiving by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, December 14. See complete contest rules here.
With that in mind, here’s a look back at the week so far, along with details of how you can get involved this weekend.
Span and Detwiler arrived in Washington and headed straight to the nearly completed Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy for a tour of the facility. From there, it was off to Kimball Elementary – the current home of academic programming for the Academy until the building is finished in January – where the two interacted with the first class of Academy scholar-athletes. They answered questions about baseball and their lives off the field, and signed autographs for the children.
From there, they were off to the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation’s 24th Annual Christmas with the Redskins Party. Academy participants Geornae, 10, and Delonte, 9, were Span and Detwiler’s special guests at the event. The players spent the evening with them, eating dinner, playing games and opening Christmas presents.
— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) December 10, 2013
A little snow didn’t slow Detwiler and Span down as they made their way to MedStar Georgetown Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center to meet with pediatric patients in conjunction with the Hope for Henry Foundation. They were joined by Screech as they decorated an amazing, intricate Nationals Park gingerbread house, designed Nats ornaments and took pictures and signed autographs for the children. The visit also included personal room visits for those unable to participate in the larger group activities.
LaRoche checked in with his first dispatch from the USO Holiday Tour, which had taken him to Greece. Already one of the team’s most involved players when it comes to military stationed in the D.C. area, LaRoche has been a perfect fit for such an adventure.
“I’ve never been around so many people who genuinely appreciate us being here,” he said in a recent email from abroad. “We continue to try to make it clear with our troops that we’re getting more out of this than we think they are.”
Meanwhile, back at home, Nationals staff took part in Project USO Elf and helped distribute holiday gifts to military families. They were joined by Racing President Bill, as well at John “Cakes” Auville, John-Paul “JP” Flaim and Danny Rouhier, who helped gift-wrap and deliver donated presents.
You can still take part in the #NatsWeekOfGiving by taking part in Wreaths Across America’s wreath laying event at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday. Nationals front office staff along with 106.7’s Holden Kushner will be at the event along with thousands of other volunteers. This special day pays tribute to all who lost their lives in service to our country. If you are unable to make it but would like to donate to the cause, you can do so before midnight tonight. Sponsors for wreaths are sill needed and you can contribute at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. You can keep up with the organization on Twitter @WreathsAcross.
Thanks to all of you who have joined us thus far. It’s not too late to get in the spirit of the #NatsWeekOfGiving!
by Noah Frank
On Thursday, the Washington Nationals announced our #NatsWeekOfGiving, which will run through next weekend and will include visits from players, mascots and staff to the Youth Baseball Academy, MedStar Georgetown, Arlington National Cemetery and more. But the week launched in earnest on Friday, when the USO announced that Adam LaRoche has been invited by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, to take part in his upcoming Holiday Tour. LaRoche follows in the tradition of Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen as Nationals players to take part in the military venue tour.
“They said it’s something you don’t want to miss,” said LaRoche of his conversation with his teammates about their experience on the Holiday Tour last year. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for four or five years.”
LaRoche will be joined this year by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Bridget Kelly, former New England Patriots offensive tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion Matt Light, actor/comedian Thomas “Nephew Tommy” Miles, stars of A&E’s hit reality show “Duck Dynasty” Jep and Willie Robertson, and former correspondent on NBC’s “The Voice” Alison Haislip.
Much like Detwiler and Stammen last year, LaRoche admitted that he really didn’t know how to mentally prepare for the trip, as he has no idea what to expect. Nevertheless, LaRoche’s experience with veterans in the states has helped fill him with anticipation for the trip.
“All they want is to be back over with their brothers in arms,” LaRoche said of the Wounded Warriors he has visited with at Walter Reed Medical Center over the past three seasons. “If that doesn’t inspire you a little bit, there’s something wrong with you.”
We will have coverage of LaRoche’s USO Tour experience right here on Curly W Live.
In the meantime, you can take part in our #NatsWeekOfGiving by submitting a photo on Twitter of what you are doing to give back this holiday season. To enter the contest, simply submit a photo with the hashtag #NatsWeekOfGiving by 11:59pm on Saturday, December 14. Our Grand Prize Winner will take home an autographed Denard Span jersey and our top runner-up will win an Adam LaRoche-signed ball! Click below for official contest rules and let’s get the giving underway.
by Noah Frank
While the headline news of the day may have been the announcement that Adam LaRoche would join Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey to take part in his upcoming USO Tour (more on that later), there was another event happening at Nationals Park on Friday. New Nationals Manager Matt Williams met with a couple dozen youth baseball coaches and administrators from Washington, D.C. to discuss the future of the game in our nation’s capital.
Over lunch at the Red Porch, Williams fielded honest questions and concerns and interacted with the group for the first time. He listened to stories of the youth baseball landscape in D.C. and the challenges that face those charged with coaching and mentoring our local youth. And while the group was never going to solve every issue in a single lunch, the event offered an opening up of dialogue with the most publicly visible coach in The District.
“I think it’s awesome for the baseball community and for the D.C. community to have the Nationals extend their hand,” said Clark Ray, Executive Director of the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA). “I know these guys are just ecstatic about having the opportunity here today.”
The dream of revitalizing baseball among D.C. youth is a project that will take years to become a reality. The official opening of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in January will help further that process, but initial conversations like the one on Friday help set the tone for accomplishing those long-range goals. They also provide a little inspiration for the coaches working hard every day to spread the dedication for the game they love to the next generation.
“Just that reverberating through the community will help elevate baseball in the city moving forward,” said Ray of the event, and how it can help the coaches involved. “I think it gives them a little more moxie. I bet you some of these coaches will speak with a little more passion after today. It’s great for baseball.”
We hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend with your families as we all gave thanks for the meaningful people in our lives. Many of you also offered terrific submissions in our Week of Thanks contest, and after careful consideration, we have picked our winning entry:
“I am thankful to be part of a large, loving family. My parents recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. My husband & I have been married for 37 years. I have 5 younger siblings & numerous nieces & nephews. We are spread across this beautiful country that is protected by our wonderful military, but one thing we all have in common is baseball. We may cheer for different teams, but the game itself is magic! When you walk through the gate at a baseball stadium, all your worries stay outside. A feeling of euphoria envelopes you & you’re free from troubles. Baseball can put a smile on your face and a song in your heart regardless of what’s going on in you[r] life. I am so thankful for that!”
– Joy Bolick
Congratulations to Joy and her family, who have won the opportunity to take their holiday photo here at Nationals Park! Thanks to everyone else who took part in the contest for sharing your kind words and helping spread the spirit of Thanksgiving.
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.
Congrats to our winner, and make sure to pick up a Holiday Pack of your own at nationals.com/holiday.
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.
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.
“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.
If you would like to apply to be a mentor, please contact Chris Reed at Christopher.Reed@nationals.com for more information.