by Doug Fister
Last week, Nationals right-hander Doug Fister took part in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey’s USO Holiday Tour. Below is his first-person account from an incredible week.
After speaking with some of my teammates last year about the USO tour, I started to build some expectations about what we would be doing, where we would be going, and how the servicemen and women we would meet would react to our visit. I started wondering: What were their lives like?
After just a few minutes of being with the whole traveling party – the group of USO tour members and the military, those expectations went out the window.
There is really no way for me to describe my USO tour that would do it justice.
I can’t fully explain the incredible feelings and experiences that I was fortunate enough to have while on tour. From the travel, to the personnel involved, we were constantly soaking in something new. The excitement of ‘What’s around the next corner,’ was very real.
At the USO tour stop we made in the United Kingdom I was taken back to my childhood with my grandfather, who was a Chief Master Sergeant and a mechanic on B-52 bombers and KC-135 refuelers. RAF Mildenhall is the home for one of the KC-135 units, just like the ones my grandfather used to be a part of. To see that aircraft sitting in the hangar, and then to see it in flight, brought me back to him taking me to the flight line to watch them fly in.
It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite moment, because the trip as a whole was just overwhelmingly wonderful. But some of the moments that stand out most would start with the people involved.
The service men and women who make up the Chairman’s travel party were amazing individuals who exuded such great patriotism. They are what true soldiers, airmen, Marines, etc. are supposed to be.
I am most grateful for General Dempsey, and the example he sets for all Americans. He shows the honor, character, valor, loyalty, and way to carry one’s self with the confidence needed to be successful in life. He has surrounded himself with such great individuals, which gives us, as a country, the best chances to succeed in everything we do. Whether that’s on the front lines, or the traveling stage of the USO tour.
Traveling with the Chairman was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. He and his lovely wife are the most incredible and welcoming people. They are the epitome of a military family. Mrs. Dempsey has served her country, not just through supporting her husband, but as a military mother. She was constantly showing her appreciation to the service men and women, as well as to their families. She knows what it feels like to send sons and daughters off to war, as her own children have served. Despite what an unnerving experience that is, she has not only been a rock for them, but to the many families and military officials who have served under the General for all of his 41 years of service.
There was so much to learn from everyone I was on tour with, from those who work with the Chairman, to the “talent,” as they called us while on this USO tour. The patriotism that each of them shows — the way they carry themselves, the sacrifices they made in order to make the Chairman’s USO holiday tour as successful as it was — are just small parts of what we experienced together. The bonds that we created over the week are so tight. They are friendships that I will always be grateful for.
I had the opportunity to fly into Afghanistan with a crew on their C-17, in full garb — kevlar helmet, vest and all. Flying into a war zone doesn’t mean the same thing to me now as it did two weeks ago. Each and every flight that these young men and women take is a huge risk, and leaves them vulnerable to so many enemy opportunities. There we were, sitting on thick sheets of bullet proof metal — the same ones that line the walls of the cabin — all designed to prevent rockets and small arms from compromising our aircraft.
As we made the short four-hour flight from Turkey into Afghanistan, I was able to get to know my new pal, CD. I listened to his stories of where he’s been throughout his life, and learned about his family and how proud he is of his wife and children, who always support him and love him from so far away. He told me some of the many obstacles that he’s gone through, showing his toughness, both physical and mental, and his determination to succeed. It was such an inspiration to me. I will remember him, and our flight together. He and the flight crew treated me as if I was one of them.
To be a small part of that flight, to see what a true crew should be like, and to look over at CD and see the man that he is, made me appreciate the many stories and things he had shared with me earlier in the flight.
It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life.
Going in, I thought that the visit to Afghanistan would be the ultimate stop on the tour. We’ve heard so much for so long about the many missions and activities there. But to go in with the crew and CD, it was so much more. While we could only be there for a short amount of time, we met with many men and women serving there. I look forward to meeting some of those people in the future and to hearing what they’ve gone through.
A few of the best moments of the tour were the times when I was able to sit down and get to know some of the servicemen and women who serve and sacrifice for us.
It’s realizing the immeasurable amount of sacrifice that each of them chooses to give for all of us, whether physical or emotional. These men and women are incredible human beings, fulfilling such great and admirable tasks.
It’s Eric, the true warrior who fought on the battlefields beside his fellow soldiers, was injured by gunfire that nearly killed him, and spent months repairing and rehabilitating himself in order to be battle ready again. He joined us on the flight in order to be dropped back off with his troops. Meeting him and learning his story is something that I will never forget. The courage to go through battle and be attacked the first time is the epitome of sacrifice and giving of yourself for your country. But to be inserted back into the fight and take a helicopter to an unknown location in order to rejoin your troop is defining what it is to be an American Soldier.
Some of the men and women serving over there actually ripped patches off their shoulders and chests to hand them over to us as a ‘Thank you for showing you care and that we matter.’ To hear those words and to receive those items are huge tokens of my experience. They serve as reminders of each person and what he or she has sacrificed for me, specifically, and how grateful I am to have received such a gift.
The men and women who fight everyday just want to know that we care, that we remember them, and that we support them, regardless of the details. We are all Americans, and we all have the wonderful freedoms we do because of the things our service members do on a daily basis.
The Chairman USO holiday tour really opened my eyes to the world – and the war. The sacrifice, the threats, the teamwork and chemistry needed between individuals, are just a few of the many things that we were shown throughout this experience.
On the home front, we are always praying and thinking about our troops, knowing that they risk their lives each and every day, not only abroad but also here at home. Having the accessibility to go on to their bases, to actually see some of their installations and tools that they use, put those ideals into a whole new light.
I will never look at the U.S. flag the same way. There has been so much blood, sweat, and many tears given in order for that flag to fly the way it does today.
As a baseball player, I appreciate the experiences that I had getting mentally prepared to head into the war zone. I learned that each flight crew has their own rituals and superstitions when they go into battle. I was honored to take part in those rituals and learn the reasons they did them. This crew showed me what it really is to be brothers and sisters in battle. The way that they worked together, communicating and preparing for what lay ahead, was remarkable. Each member had his or her specific job in order to get the massive aircraft safely on the ground, and each person had just as many backup plans that serve them ‘just in case something happens.’
Of all my experiences while on tour, I will most remember the relationships I built in such a short amount of time.
Whether with the service men and women I had the honor of meeting and talking with, or the men and women that I was joined by on the tour. The talented men and women — actors, comedians, performers, people from all walks of life — joined together to show their patriotism and support for the military.
To see that they feel as I do, having so much pride in calling ourselves Americans, is such a grateful feeling and is such a true honor.
To learn more about the USO and ways you can help our nation’s troops and military families visit www.uso.org.
- It’s been great to be back talking baseball with Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo and his staff as we look forward to 2015 and focus on building our club for another 162-game — and beyond — challenge. That’s not to say that we’ve pushed 2014 out of our minds. I still haven’t recovered from the abrupt end to our season — but it has only served to fuel Mike, manager Matt Williams, and the rest of our organization to put together another great team so we can make another run at a World Series championship next season.
- The task in front of Mike and his staff is not an easy one. As an organization, and with Mike at the helm, we’ve always taken the approach that we must focus on improving our ballclub for the immediate, and long-term, future. That’s never been more important than now, as we enter a new situation for our team with many of our young, talented players having reached the Major Leagues at the same time, and obviously now potentially reaching free agency at the same time. But the way Mike has built the organization the last several years, depth has been of extreme importance and that allows us to be in a position where building our team — for 2015 and beyond — can mean that anything can happen. That’s one thing I always love about the Winter Meetings in particular: the excitement, anticipation and buzz in the air. Everyone is curious to see what each team will do, and where free agents will land.
- For us, the Winter Meetings are also a chance to get our entire baseball operations department together, and especially all of our professional scouts, for really the only time all year. It’s always so great to catch up, meet some of the new people that we’ve brought into the organization, and have so many wonderful baseball minds in the same room. Our front office staff has been working all year to prepare for this week, and it’s exciting when the ideas really start bouncing around the room.
- I’d be remiss if I talked all about the excitement of this week without mentioning NatsFest this Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We are so thrilled to be bringing NatsFest back into the District and back at the Convention Center.This is always one of my favorite events of the offseason. It’s always so wonderful to see all of our players after a few weeks apart, and of course to get a chance to interact with all of you, our great fans. I know, from all of the planning that has gone into it, that this will no doubt be our best NatsFest yet. From the new games and programs they’ve been prepping to the new space that we’ll be utilizing inside the convention center, I just can’t wait to get there on Saturday morning and to enjoy a full day of Nationals spirit with all of you.
I look forward to seeing you all soon and think NatsFest will be the perfect kickoff to the holiday season.
by Doug Fister
Introduction by Nicole Murray
Fister, 30, has pitched on some of baseball’s grandest stages. He has competed against the best and proven himself amongst the game’s elite. And yet he is never more affected than standing on the baseline with his teammates in those few minutes before the first pitch is thrown, listening to the final notes of the national anthem. Every time, he’s right back on that flight line, a boy spending time with his grandfather, now a grown man playing a young boy’s game.
Proudly wearing the Washington Nationals’ patriotic jersey, featuring a stars and stripes Curly W, Fister is currently traveling the world on the USO Holiday Tour led by the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey.
As General Dempsey wraps up his fourth and final USO tour as Chairman, and his 41-year career comes to a close when he retires this year, Fister is joining him on stage this holiday season, bringing a much needed touch of home to troops and military families stationed overseas.
Visiting five countries in less than a week, Fister has shaken thousands of hands, smiled for countless ‘selfies’ and joined his fellow tour members in a star-studded USO show every night. He can’t tell a joke, like comedian Rob Riggle, or sing, like country music artist Kellie Picker, but he’s bringing America’s favorite pastime to those serving overseas. His favorite moments, though, seem to have been with those outside of the spotlight – listening to stories of service, sacrifice and loved ones back home.
For more on how much of an impact this USO tour has had on Fister, though, why don’t we just let him tell you in his own words?
The places we’ve visited have been beautiful and the troops and military families have been so welcoming. It’s been a true pleasure.
But, more importantly, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with some of the service men and women who are stationed abroad. Truly, the most memorable moments of this USO tour have been when I’ve gotten to listen to their stories and learn how they’ve gotten here, and the relationships they’ve built with one another along the way.
They exude such strong patriotism, setting such a great example to those around them of what it means to be a true American. I am so grateful to be included on such a wonderful USO tour — accompanied by the Chairman himself, General Dempsey; it has been an incredible and honorable experience.
We’re excited to continue our voyage and see just what else is in store for us.
When the Washington Nationals and New York Mets open the 2015 campaign on April 6 at Nationals Park, the occasion will mark the 10th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s return to the nation’s capital.
Throughout the season, the Nationals will commemorate the top moments of the past 10 years — from Livan Hernandez’s historic first pitch in 2005, to the final out recorded in Jordan Zimmermann’s season-ending no-hitter in 2014.
As part of that greater celebration, the Nationals are also honoring their longest-tenured fans — those who have remained loyal to the team from the very beginning. Those fans have cheered along with the entire career of Ryan Zimmerman, witnessed the opening of a state-of-the-art new ballpark, supported the team through a rebuilding process, experienced the thrill of Stephen Strasburg’s debut and danced in the aisles after Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the 2012 NLDS.
Exclusive to 10-year Season Plan Holders, the Nationals are rolling out 10 Moments of Thanks, a series of 10 giveaways and experiences for those who have been with the club since Day One. These Moments include:
- A chance to register for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the 2015 Bridgestone Winter Classic
- An exclusive parade on the warning track prior to a game during the 2015 season
- A special 10 Year Season Plan Holder logo pin
- In-park signage featuring the names of all continuous 10 Year Season Plan Holders
- Authenticated dirt from the field used on Opening Day 2015
- A chance to win one-of-a-kind pregame on-field experiences
- An exclusive opportunity to run the bases after a game during the 2015 season
- A commemorative Opening Day 2005 printed game ticket
- Access to special eCash campaigns featuring exclusive in-game concession and merchandise discounts and offers
- A pregame VIP batting practice viewing from dugout box seats with front office executives and team officials
In addition, the Nationals will provide all fans with a multitude of memorable giveaways, theme nights and unique experiences throughout the home schedule, as the team defends its 2014 National League East Division Championship.
For more information on the 10 Moments of Thanks program, visit nationals.com/10moments.
by Matt Laux
On June 5, 2013, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation celebrated with Children’s National Health System as the ribbon was cut for the Washington Nationals Diabetes Care Complex.
Before Friday’s game, Nationals Manager Matt Williams, All-Star pitcher Tyler Clippard, outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and Screech returned to the world-class pediatric complex to spend time with children living with diabetes.
Williams, who has often discussed his love for cooking, was stationed in the teaching kitchen. While preparing diabetic-friendly snacks, he talked to the kids about the importance of healthy eating. On the menu for the day were gluten-free pigs in a blanket, trail mix and tasty “Quick Pickles.” Each item prepared by Chef Williams was limited in carbohydrates but still allowed the children to enjoy ballpark-type fare.
Down the hall in one of the educational classrooms, Clippard sat down with the patients, discussing the importance of a healthy lifestyle and how it has played a role in his success. Having the unique opportunity to ask anything of a Major League baseball player, many of the kids were eager for advice on how they could become better athletes.
“It’s fun to have the opportunity to motivate them and offer advice that they can hopefully carry forward with them,” Clippard said after the visit.
Souza Jr., who played in a rehab game with Single-A Hagerstown the night before, joined the children in a circuit of fun and fitness. The exercise rotation was designed to keep kids fit and active while still monitoring their blood sugar levels. The highlight of the session came when Souza Jr. was defeated in a competitive game of Wii Baseball when Emma, a patient at the complex, hit a walk-off home run. When asked later if she was feeling well, Emma responded emphatically, “Of course! I just beat a pro baseball player!”
The Washington Nationals Diabetes Care Complex provides patients with the highest quality diabetes care through state-of-the-art equipment and a focus on developing lifestyles that includes proper nutrition and physical activity.
“The Washington Nationals Diabetes Care Complex offers a multi-disciplinary approach to supporting children with diabetes that helps us further our mission of helping kids and their health,” said Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, one of the Nationals Principal Owners and Chair of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. “The whole family approach and the one-on-one attention of the dedicated staff is truly inspirational.”
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation is committed to community partnerships that improve the lives of children and families with the core focus on children’s education, health and recreation.
Want to try one of the recipes at home? Here’s the rundown for “Quick Pickles.”
4 kirby cucumbers, cut into 1-inch slices on an angle
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 rounded teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove cracked garlic
1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves, chopped or snipped
1 bay leaf
Heat small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt and garlic to the pan and cook until it begins to simmer and sugar dissolves. Toss the dill, bay leaf and sliced cucumbers together in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the simmering liquid over the cucumbers and stir to evenly coat. Allow to cool to room temperature or chill before serving.
The following is an excerpt from the August/September issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The August/September issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.
by Mike Feigen
In a game built upon one-on-one confrontations set at a methodical pace, Nationals starter Doug Fister has made an up-tempo style the centerpiece of his attack on the pitcher’s mound.
Doug Fister bounded off the mound toward the Nationals’ first base dugout, his work complete after eight masterful innings. The Nationals Park crowd of 40,677 roared in approval, standing to applaud its newest difference-making right-hander. Fister let the cheers wash over him, doffing his cap to the masses before receiving a hero’s welcome from this teammates.
It may have been just one game in the course of a long, 162-game season, but the 3-0 shutout of the rival Atlanta Braves on June 21 offered a breath of fresh air. The Nationals needed no reminder that they entered that night struggling against their divisional counterparts, but on this night, their 6-foot-8 sinkerballer breezed through a lineup that had given them fits in recent months.
The victory gave the Merced, Calif. native a perfect 4-0 record in his first four home starts with his new club, including wins over the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies in late May and early June. Fister’s early success energized the team, justifying the move Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made to fortify the rotation with a veteran starter who had past postseason success.
Before he made his Nationals debut in early May, following a minor back ailment, Fister used the first six weeks of the season to assimilate himself into the Nationals’ clubhouse. He brought with him an impressive resume, with three straight division titles and three postseason victories to his name — one more than the entire Nationals franchise can boast in its brief nine-plus years of existence.
“So far, everything’s been good,” Fister said in late June. “The biggest thing for me is just being a teammate — the baseball side will take care of itself. I feel like I’m one of the 25 guys here, and it’s a great place to be.”
To continue reading “Rapid Fire” on Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.
Game No. 125: Washington Nationals (71-53) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (53-73) | 7:05 p.m. ET | Nationals Park
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Tanner Roark (12-7, 2.93 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (3-8, 4.68)
Washington Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark is 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA in five career games (four starts) against NL West competition, including seven one-run (unearned) innings against the Diamondbacks in the 2013 season ﬁnale.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM and also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: Today’s game will be televised on MASN
Live Stats: nationals.com
The Nationals have won a season-high eight consecutive games, the longest current winning streak in the Major Leagues. Of their eight straight wins, five have been of the one-run variety, five were comeback victories, and three were walk-oﬀ wins. Only one winning streak in Nationals history has lasted longer than their current eight-game stretch, a 10-game run from June 2-12, 2005.
Here are the lineups for today’s match-up:
2 Denard Span (L) CF
3 Asdrubal Cabrera (S) 2B
28 Jayson Werth RF
25 Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
20 Ian Desmond SS
34 Bryce Harper (L) LF
40 Wilson Ramos C
19 Kevin Frandsen 3B
57 Tanner Roark RHP
5 Ender Inciarte (L) CF
4 Cliff Pennington (S) 3B
6 David Peralta (L) RF
15 Mark Trumbo LF
26 Miguel Montero (L) C
2 Aaron Hill 2B
17 Alfredo Marte LF
1 Didi Gregorious (L) SS
35 Trevor Cahill RHP
Here are today’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!