We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 6 of Inside Pitch.
1. How do you deal with pressure-packed situations coming out of the bullpen?
I know it’s a cliché, but every pitch matters and you’ve got to take it one pitch at a time. You’ve got to be able to shut your mind off and really focus on what the task is at hand.
2. How do you stay focused throughout the grind of the 162-game season?
It’s definitely tough to have that mindset the same every single day. That sense of urgency has to be built deep within, working every day and getting ready for whatever comes to you throughout the season. If you’re ready for it, it’s only going to help you along the way.
3. How do you define your role on the team?
My role is to do whatever I’m asked to do. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t complain about the role I’m going to be in. Every team needs those role players so the star players can do their thing and lead the team. I’m the blue collar, dirty work type of player on the team.
4. What is your specialty?
I’m a guy who can throw a lot of innings out of the bullpen. I can throw two, three (innings). In extra innings I’m a go-to guy that finishes off the game. If Davey needs a guy to eat up some innings and keep the game close, that’s who I am.
5. What’s the most underrated part of your game?
My hitting. Every pitcher will say that, but I used to do alright when I was starting.
6. Your sinking fastball has been excellent this season. How did that develop as a pitch?
Every year, I’ve always tried to get better in some form or fashion. I just throw my pitches every day and practice throwing them exactly where I want to throw them. I’ve just gotten better every year locating my sinker.
7. What’s it like being in the “zone” with your catcher?
I wish I knew how to get there every time – if I did, the game would be easy. When you’re on the same page and you’re thinking along the same lines, you definitely have more success. It takes being in sync with the scouting report, studying the hitters and the catcher knowing me and my strengths and what I’m doing well that certain day.
8. Describe the camaraderie of this Nationals bullpen.
It’s almost like we’re our own little team. We’re watching the game, talking about the game with each other and rooting for each other when we come into the game.
9. How do the guys in the bullpen feed off of each other’s successes?
You don’t want to be the guy who lets the team down. If everybody is doing their job, you’ve got to do yours and man up and protect the lead.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the cover article Front and Center, featuring Denard Span, from Issue 6 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the cover article National Det Rising, from Issue 5 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the cover article Change of Focus, from Issue 4 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. On the docket today, new MASN sideline reporter, Julie Alexandria.
1. You’ve held quite a number of jobs already in your career. What do you think is the most interesting part of your resume?
I think the most interesting thing, if not the most random thing on my resume, would have to be The Maury Povich Show – and I promise it was not as a guest spot. I was actually a guest host for one show. But he happens to be a huge Nats fan, and his dad (Shirley) has a long history here.
2. You’re also a championship figure skater. At how high of a level did you compete?
I was a competitive figure skater for a really long time. I competed on a precision team, which is basically like synchronized swimming, or cheerleaders all doing the same formations, on ice. I competed up to a national level with the Superstars from Paramount, California. I also competed solo, by myself, up to the age of about 16. Then school took over and I had to make a choice. I do skate in my spare time, I keep it up, I try to skate as much as possible. But in New York (offseason home) in the winter it’s great, because there are so many outdoor rinks. So I’m always in search of a good ice skating rink.
3. In addition to hosting and reporting, you’ve also been a stand-up comedian. Do you have any funny stories?
(Laughing) Oh gosh. Yeah, I did some improv and some stand-up comedy for a while, I tried it out. It’s very difficult! It’s so much harder to make someone laugh than to make someone cry. It was a good challenge. I actually found out that I could do a really good Christopher Walken impression.
Care to demonstrate?
Depends on where it will be used. I’ll do it when the cameras aren’t rolling.
4. We know you just got to D.C., but have you found any favorite spots in town yet?
I actually just arrived to Washington on Sunday. I am fresh off the train. I have a lot of recommendations of where people have told me to go. I haven’t been to any restaurants yet, I haven’t seen anything, been to any museums yet, but I hope to go on an off-day.
5. You’ve worked in baseball before. What was your best memory of your time spent working around the game?
My best memory working in baseball would have to be Spring Training. There’s nothing like Spring Training. The access that fans get, the ability to be right there, up close and personal with their favorite players. It’s just a fun time. It’s before any interviews or detractors, and you’re just able to have fun and watch some baseball in a free and open setting.
6. You’ve also covered a lot of football in your career. What are some of the similarities and differences in the two sports?
I covered college football for three years, and I’ve also covered baseball for three years. So I think the similarities are in the players. I have such a great time interviewing them. That’s really my favorite thing to do, just to sit down and get to know the player, get to know who they are off the field as well as on the field. Get to know the human side of their sport, what it is about their sport that they love, that makes them want to get up and play every day.
They are very different. In my college football experience, they are younger. Baseball players are some of the smartest players.
7. What was the draw for you to come back to baseball and work with one team for the whole season?
Last season I covered college football and we were basically going around to a new school each weekend. There were some repeats, but the rosters were so big and so deep at every position. So it was great to be able to make the decision to come to one team, to get to really know the players, to be really involved and steeped in the culture, to get to know the fans, to get to know the entire baseball culture. I love baseball. I’ve always been a baseball fan. So that was really appealing to me, to be sticking with the same team, getting to know how their story is woven into the season, getting to know how they react to different pitchers, how they react in different cities, to different fans, what that experience is like.
8. Have you heard about the Nationals walk-off celebrations and, if so, how have you prepared yourself for them?
I have heard about said celebrations. Word around the campfire is that you guys like to take Gatorade and like to dump it on said sideline reporter and player during the interview. What is that? What is that? Really, is that an initiation thing? Is that something you do just to see the reaction? Or is it something you do specifically to ruin my outfits. I really don’t know, I’m really scared. I’m scared for my wardrobe, I’m scared for my hair. You don’t want to see this (pointing hair) without product in it, especially in the summer here in D.C., we’re going to have a problem. I’m a little wary.
I think of all the messages I received on social networking sites once people found out I was coming to the Nationals, every single one of them was about the Gatorade bath. Let me tell you something – I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a plan that might just get me through and avoid a few of those said Gatorade baths. Does it get old?
No, not really.
You guys just keep doing it. I’ve seen a couple of the slow motion ones online. Does that cancel out the pie? Does the Gatorade bath mean you also get a pie, or if you get the Gatorade bath, then you don’t get the pie? Do I get a pie with my Gatorade bath? How does that work?
Usually just the player gets the pie. Usually.
Is this in my contract somewhere? In my contract, does it say that I have to get a certain number of Gatorade baths? I would like to know.
Have you already signed it?
I did sign it. I should have asked.
9. What are you most looking forward to this season working with the Nationals?
I am definitely looking forward to meeting the fans the most. That is probably one of my favorite parts of the sport. And I think Nats fans are pretty awesome. From what I know of them, they are fantastic and they love their team. And they have a real reason to cheer for these guys this year. I’m really looking forward to meeting the players and traveling with the team, and again, being with the team the entire season to see what that’s like, really getting to know them as people as well as players.
And I’m really looking forward to a Gatorade bath. Just a couple. Not too many.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the 2013 Washington Nationals Yearbook and for the cover article The Werth Factor, from Issue 3 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
The video below is a supplemental bonus feature for the cover article The Highest Form, from Issue 1 of the 2013 Inside Pitch. Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this one throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch.
The Rule 5 Draft is one of the most intricately constructed of baseball’s many minutiae. It exists to give veteran Minor League players who are not on their team’s 40-man roster a chance to make another team’s Major League roster. However, if the players aren’t able to break camp with their new team, they are given back to their original club. Four Nationals Minor Leaguers were taken by other teams in last offseason’s draft, but two were returned in the final week of Spring Training, including the 50th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Jeff Kobernus.
The UC Berkeley product batted .220/.291/.300 with a pair of triples and three RBI in 50 at-bats this spring for Detroit, and was thought by many to be a fairly strong candidate to make the 25-man roster out of camp as a reserve player. Instead, he rejoined an ever-strengthening Nationals Minor League squad at Triple-A Syracuse.
It is easy to see the tool that stands out the most in Kobernus’ game by looking at his stat line. The speedster has swiped 95 bases while being caught just 19 times over the past two seasons, good for an 83 percent success rate. But he has also maintained his other offensive numbers steadily as he has progressed through the system each year, despite missing time to injury.
“He’s a toolsy player who can run, swing the bat, play second base,” said Nationals Assistant GM Bryan Minniti of Kobernus.
After playing almost entirely at second base throughout his career, the Tigers began trying Kobernus in the outfield this spring. After all, their infield was full, and the 24-year-old’s athleticism and speed seemed to profile well for such a switch. Clearly, the Nationals saw the same in Kobernus when they first selected him back in 2009.
“There are some guys where that’s the only tool they have and that gets them to the big leagues,” Minniti explained of Kobernus’ speed. “Jeff has more than just one tool that can play in the big leagues.”
Kobernus’ ability to take his talents and use them in multiple spots around the field may be key in his advancement. With a Nationals squad fairly deep at most positions, it’s an asset to be a player able to fill in anywhere around the diamond.
“It helps you for when there’s a time that a position needs to be filled,” said Kobernus of his versatility. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be the one position that you play. If you can play multiple, it gives you a better chance of being able to go up there and stay up there.”
Kobernus need only look as far as Steve Lombardozzi to see his theory in action. A second baseman throughout his minor league career, Lombardozzi was able to stick in the majors last year thanks to his versatility, particularly at third base and in left field.
Kobernus has taken full advantage of his current situation, bursting out of the gates to post an absurd .579/.625/.885 slash line with a triple, a home run, eight runs scored, six RBI and three steals in his first five games with the Chiefs. And while he was understandably disappointed not to make a Major League club out of camp just yet, the experience he gained – especially in terms of mental preparation – was invaluable.
“It was really fun seeing all the big-name guys over there, how they work, how they go about their business,” he said. “Not just preparing for a season, but preparing expecting to get to the World Series.”
That experience will no doubt serve him well as he strives to make it to the Major League level on a Nationals squad filled with many of the same expectations.
Most of the time, fans see the intense, serious, NATITUDE-driven photo work we do with our players during Spring Training. So with the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day in the books, relax and enjoy the latest in our digital features, the lighter side behind the scenes with many of your favorite Nationals players.