Results tagged ‘ Adam LaRoche ’

Opening Day highlights

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — Early Monday morning, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams shrugged his shoulders and issued a platitude about his nervous energy. “Opening Day,” Williams said a few hours before his first game as a Major League manager. “If you can’t get excited about Opening Day, something’s wrong.”

But almost as soon as the game began, excitement likely gave way to anxiety and stress. The Nationals’ first game of the season contained enough drama to fill a week’s worth of games, and while the victory — a 9-7 win in 10 innings over the New York Mets — was sweet, the prospect of at least 161 more ahead was perhaps the day’s most intriguing thought.

Through photos and videos, here are some of the highlights from a beautiful first day of the season:

Adam LaRoche gets the Nationals on the board with this lofty two-run home run.

Anthony Rendon’s first big hit of the day was this RBI-double.

Denard Span was in the thick of things all day, including on this game-tying double.

Anthony Rendon then gave the Nationals their 10th-inning cushion with this big three-run shot.

Here’s how the first Curly W of the season went into the books.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 in six innings of work. 

Opening Day Memories

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — The wait is almost over. In less than 24 hours, Opening Day of the 2014 baseball season will be upon us.

opening weekThis will be the Washington Nationals’ 10th Opening Day since baseball returned to D.C., and there have been plenty of memorable Opening Day moments in that span.

Who could forget Ryan Zimmerman christening Nationals Park with a walk-off on Opening Day in 2008? Or Bryce Harper smashing two home runs on his first Opening Day in the Major Leagues  – becoming the youngest player ever to do so — just last year.

But each player has their own memories of Opening Day, and it’s a special day in the baseball world. Some stand out for obvious reasons. Craig Stammen said the most memorable Opening Day for him was his first, and it also happened to be one President Barack Obama attended at Nationals Park. He shook the President’s hand. That in itself was pretty memorable.

Here are a few others, in their own words:

Adam LaRoche: “It was in Chicago (in 2012). I had like four punch-outs with the bases loaded. Luckily we won or it wouldn’t be real funny. I’ve got to be the first guy to leave like 20 guys on base through one game. I remember thinking after that game ‘Whoa, this might be a rough year.’”

To be fair to LaRoche, he was only 0-for-3 in that game, and he walked to load the bases in the eighth inning which led to the Nationals’ first run. He also went 5-for-9 with two home runs in the final two games of that opening series against the Cubs, and went on to have one of his finest seasons in the Major Leagues. 

Gio Gonzalez: “(My most memorable Opening Day) was at home against Cincinnati (in the 2012 home opener). That was when I got my first Major League hit and when I was warming up, to stretch and go out there, I thought I had plenty of time to just stretch, hear my music, get ready to go. I ended up telling (pitching coach Steve McCatty), ‘I got this. I’m ready to go.’  He said, ‘You know, you’ve got to stretch a little early because of (all the ceremonial events that go on before the game on Opening Day).’

“Next thing you know it was like 12:55 p.m. and the game was at 1 p.m. and I turned to Cat and I was like, ‘Cat, I don’t think I got this.’ I ended up not even long-tossing or throwing just went straight from stretching to the bullpen… Show and go. Sometimes it works.”

Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings that day, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

Doug Fister: “I got called up in 2009. My first Opening Day was in 2010 in Seattle. There were a couple of us who were fairly new and our biggest thing was trying not to trip on the red carpet. They had carpet that ran from center field all the way to the line (that we had to run down during introductions).”

Matt LeCroy (bullpen coach): “My first one (in the Major Leagues). That was my debut. My first at-bat I hit a double and got a standing ovation. We were in Minnesota at the Metrodome. I made the team out of spring. I was 23 or 24 years old. It was awesome. My whole family was there. I’d just gotten married. I don’t remember (the other at-bats). But that first one was pretty cool.”

Daily Wrap: Nationals top Tigers, Strasburg reacts to Opening Day nod & more

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — Thursday afternoon started with a tremendous pitching match-up: Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg vs. reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

It ended with the Nationals taking home an 8-1 victory in which Strasburg continued his stellar spring and the Nationals’ offense rapped out five runs off seven hits against Scherzer — including a long home run to left center field by shortstop Ian Desmond.

Player of the Day: Second baseman Danny Espinosa

Washington Nationals v New York YankeesThere were plenty of candidates for the “Player of the Day” on Thursday. Jayson Werth went 2-for-3 with a double, Ryan Zimmerman smacked a triple and Desmond crushed his third home run of the spring. But the honor goes to second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Espinosa, who went 1-for-3 with a base hit, scored the Nationals’ first run of the day and played stellar defensively.

In the first inning — moments after an uncharacteristic fielding error by Denard Span allowed Ian Kinsler to reach base — Espinosa snared a high feed from Desmond on a Tyler Collins grounder. With Kinsler bearing down on him at second, Espinosa still managed to zip off a strong throw to Adam LaRoche at first to complete the double play.

An inning that opened with a baserunner off Strasburg soon turned into a frame in which the right-hander faced the minimum.

It was a day that continued the positive impression Espinosa has been making on manager Matt Williams this spring.

“(His approach has been) fantastic,” Williams said. “He’s eager to play every day, and it’s really hard to get him out of a ballgame, which is a very good trait to have. The numbers are misleading both ways in Spring Training and I’m encouraged by the way he’s going about it. It’s really good.

“I’m pleased with his approach, I’m pleased with his work ethic every day and the way he’s going about his approach within the game. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t, sometimes you swing and miss. But as long as he’s going about it the right way, I think he’ll be just fine.”

Quote of the Day: Stephen Strasburg on earning his third straight Opening Day start

Williams announced Wednesday night that Strasburg would take the ball for the Nationals on Opening Day in New York. Strasburg was honored by the decision, but admitted he has bigger goals.

050412-197 stephen strasburg“I hope my career isn’t just a reflection of how many Opening Day starts I have,” he said after tossing five scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers to bring his spring ERA to 0.64. “There are a lot of guys in this rotation who deserve it and I’m just the first one out. I think every game is going to be just as important.

“The biggest goal as a team is that we’re playing in the playoffs, and I want to focus on trying to make starts in the playoffs more so than just an Opening Day start.”

Video highlights: Did you miss any of the Nationals’ feature on MLB Network’s 30 clubs in 30 days? Catch up with all of the highlights right here.

Notables:

The Nationals trimmed their roster to 36 players in Major League camp on Thursday, optioning right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, catcher Jhonatan Solano, infielder Zach Walters and right-hander Christian Garcia to Triple-A Syracuse, along with reassigning right-hander Manny Delcarmen, first baseman Brock Peterson and infielder Will Rhymes to Minor League camp… The Nationals have just two games left at Space Coast Stadium this spring, playing Saturday against the Miami Marlins and Tuesday against the New York Mets… The team will finish the Grapefruit League slate with two road games, in Jupiter, Fla., and St. Lucie, Fla., against the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets, respectively, before heading north to face the Tigers in an exhibition game at Nationals Park on March 29.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Checking in from Spring Training

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Hello, everyone.

Let me start by stating that things could not be better here in Viera. The weather is wonderful, the workouts are crisp and the results have been encouraging. Yes, a team’s Grapefruit League winning percentage can, at times, be misleading, but winning games is always better than the alternative.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Seven wins, four losses and a tie. But what is most encouraging is how Manager Matt Williams has them playing the game. I love the aggressive base running. Taking an extra base. How fantastic was it to see Danny Espinosa score from second base on Saturday on a dribbler back to the pitcher? This brand of baseball really is infectious.

Fifteen home runs in 12 games. Only five allowed. That’s a good ratio.

Strong offensive starts from stalwarts like Ian Desmond (.286, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Adam LaRoche (2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (.474, HR, 10 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.389, HR, 2 RBI) among others.

And many of our young players are making their marks. Zach Walters is hitting .615 with four extra-base hits and five RBI. He is as hot as anyone. Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor have each made memorable catches in the outfield. Matt Skole hit .357 and four of his five hits went for extra bases before he was assigned to Minor League camp earlier this week so that he can get additional at-bats.

  • I have not even mentioned the pitching. There truly are too many to name, but I’ll risk mentioning three standouts: Taylor Jordan (team-leading 11 strikeouts), Jerry Blevins (3.2 hitless innings) and A.J. Cole (6.2 scoreless innings).

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

  • Forgive me if I think it is 2005 all over again watching Jamey Carroll and Luis Ayala perform admirably as they battle for roster spots. Jamey’s approach at the plate (.333 OBP), base running and defensive versatility are all a real plus. Meanwhile, Luis can throw a strike whenever he needs to. He has that same veteran savvy gene our friend Livan Hernandez had during his playing days.
  • And Matt Williams? What’s not to like? Crisp, precise and purposeful baseball usually yields wins. I love what Matt brings to our dugout and clubhouse. I especially like how our team has taken to his aggressive nature.
  • I was pleased to see President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo sign Michael Gonzalez to a Minor League deal last weekend. Gonzalez was a big part of our bullpen’s success in 2012 and there are very few southpaw relievers who can match his experience in tight situations. Welcome back Michael!
  • I just counted. Only three of the club’s 18 errors have been committed by players who were “regulars” in Washington last season. And one of those miscues was charged to Mr. Perfect, Denard Span! Remember, Denard did not commit an error last season. As I have said before, he should have won a Gold Glove!
  • I’d like to thank all of our fans in Central Florida, but especially those from our local area on the Space Coast (Viera, Melbourne and Rockledge). The crowds for the Cardinals and Yankees games in the last week were the two largest we have ever enjoyed hosting.
  • As for our fans from back home, I’ve had quite a few friends remark upon arrival in Viera about the significant pockets of Nationals fans on their flights from DC to Orlando. It’s hard to ignore all the smiles and Curly W shirts, sweaters and hats. It is great to see so many of our fans catching on to just how special Spring Training is.

Until next time …

Mark

Tyler Clippard wins Nationals Fan Choice Bobblehead Vote

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by Amanda Comak

The votes are in.

After almost five full days of voting — via Twitter, Facebook and text — we have a winner for the seventh and final bobblehead giveaway of the season.

Right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard will be immortalized in bobblehead form and will be honored with a bobblehead night on Sept. 27 when the Nationals play the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. The first 25,000 fans will receive Clippard’s bobblehead, so make sure you’re in attendance to nab one: www.nationals.com/tickets

Thanks to all the fans who participated — with special kudos going to David Salzberg and Jeanne Henderson, who were two of our contest winners. We counted up every single vote and you propelled Clippard over first baseman Adam LaRoche and manager Matt Williams with 65 percent of the votes.

Clippard’s response to winning was pretty simple: “It’s happening!”

Without further ado, a thank you from the bobblehead winner himself:

Need help deciding who to vote for in the Fan Choice Bobblehead contest?

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — On Monday, the Washington Nationals announced three finalists for their Fan Choice Bobblehead contest: right-hander Tyler Clippard, first baseman Adam LaRoche and manager Matt Williams. The winner will receive the honor of a bobblehead night on Sept. 27 when the Nationals play the Miami Marlins, and the first 25,000 fans will receive the winning bobblehead.

And you, the fans, have a chance to impact who that winner will be. Unlimited voting runs through Friday, Feb. 28, and the winning bobblehead will be announced on Monday, March 3. All of the information on voting, along with some of the fantastic prizes you’ll be entered to win just for casting your vote, can be found here: nationals.com/bobblevote.

But just in case you were having a little trouble deciding which of the worthy candidates to vote for, we’ve got a few videos to help make the candidates’ cases. Check ‘em out!

#ClippardBobble

#LaRocheBobble

#WilliamsBobble

Everyone who votes will be entered to win prize packages featuring the winning bobblehead, game tickets or an on-field batting practice viewing experience. You have three different ways to cast your vote for pitcher Tyler Clippard, first baseman Adam LaRoche or manager Matt Williams.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Hello from Viera

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Hello, everyone.

Greetings from sunny Space Coast Stadium, where the weather started so-so, but spring suddenly arrived on Sunday. We are currently enjoying a gentle breeze and temperatures in the high 70’s. Perfect. I am also glad to read that things are warming up back in DC after a prolonged spate of snowy and cold weather. Sounds like spring is genuinely in the air!

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Bryce Harper in the batting cage. (Photo credit: Donald Miralle)

Matt Williams’ first spring camp is already well underway. Pitchers have already been through two or three bullpen sessions and, yes, everyone looks great. I’ll get to that in a moment.

What has impressed me the most is just how many position players reported for duty early. With few exceptions, we have enjoyed full position-player batting practice sessions each of the last three days. So many that we have had to split the BP session over two fields.

Ryan Zimmerman in the cage. Adam LaRoche scooping balls at first base. Ian Desmond working the pivot with Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa, Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot. Nate McLouth working on his jumps in the outfield. All sights to behold.

  • Camp Williams is crisp, precise, upbeat and full of hustle. With that said, there have been a good number of competitive moments built in that have seized the pitchers’ attention. For example, every team has pitcher-bunting drills. However, here in Viera, pitchers and fans alike have enjoyed a competitive tweak as the pitcher attempt to bunt balls into a pair of strategically-placed ball bags. These competitive drills have resulted in good-natured hooting, hollering and trash talking. But they also demand concentration that at least partially mimics a real game.
  • Sunday morning's first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers...

    Sunday morning’s first bullpen session featured two decent right-handers.

    Nothing new here, but Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann all look fantastic. And I have a suspicion that Doug Fister is really going to have a positive influence on the others. First of all, Fister is an accomplished pitcher in his own right. He won 32 games in two-plus seasons with the Tigers. And, he’s been a part of another vaunted pitching staff. Doug has pitched in a World Series. He watched the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer win Cy Young awards. There is value in that, and I doubt that it is a coincidence that his locker is located next to/near Stephen, Gio and Jordan.

  • Lots of emphasis on defense and defensive fundamentals. It was also interesting to see that Matt has some of his pitchers moonlighting at different positions during some bunt plays. There is a belief that the multi-position perspective will help fine tune the execution. At the very least, it’ll give our pitcher’s some perspective they may not have experienced since their days playing prep baseball.
  • Incidentally, Livan Hernandez used to work out almost daily at shortstop and he was the best fielding pitcher I have ever seen. I cannot express how fantastic it is to have Livan on hand as a coach. The players are really enjoying his presence and he is a heck of a teacher. Livan is a true gem who has a fantastic feel for our fans and for baseball in DC.
  • I was talking to some of our player development folks and there is great enthusiasm for the projected rosters/lineups/rotations in Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. It is too early to know where various players will be assigned, but there are very real layers of talent in the upper reaches of our system that will be inevitably be called upon as the season progresses. The Opening Day 25 is important, but it is really only a fleeting glimpse of the talent assembled.
  • There are ex-Expos everywhere you look around camp: Luis Ayala, Jamey Carroll, Ian Desmond (last player left who was drafted by the Expos), Randy Knorr and Bob Henley. Ayala and Carroll were inaugural-season Nationals.
  • Matt Williams’ coaching staff is filled with a lot of former catchers, which is never a bad thing. Randy Knorr, Bob Henley and Matt LeCroy. Those catchers understand the game from all angles.
  • Rafael Soriano looks good. And so do his pitches. I think there is a certain comfort that comes with a second season.
  • The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC media has descended upon Viera this week. (Photo credit: Kyle Brostowitz)

    The local DC television media has descended upon Viera, so be sure to tune into all the local channels for in-depth interviews with Matt Williams and all of your favorite Nationals. Earlier today, we hosted ESPN and the Baseball Tonight Bus at Space Coast Stadium. Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian were on hand. Both are great ambassadors for their network and the game of baseball. Matt Williams and Bryce Harper were their main guests, so you will be seeing both on SportsCenter tonight.

  • Little more than a week until our Grapefruit League opener (Fri., Feb. 28 at Mets) and our Grapefruit League home opener (Sat., March 1 vs.  Braves). There is still plenty of time to plan a great family trip for Spring Training baseball in Viera. At the risk of dating myself, I still remember childhood trips to Pompano Beach to see the likes of Mike Epstein, Frank Howard, Eddie Brinkman and all of the old Senators. Great memories.
  • If you do make it down to Space Coast Stadium for a visit, please don’t hesitate to stop me and say ‘Hello.’ Our fans’ enthusiasm and spirit are infectious and I am always impressed with everyone’s knowledge of not only the Nationals, but baseball in general. Isn’t this the best time of year? Well, outside of a busy October I suppose.

Until next time …

Mark

A Thank You and a Look Ahead

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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

9.18: Improbabilities and Impossibilities

10.16: Harper Turns 21

12.10: Adam LaRoche and the 2013 USO Holiday Tour

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

A Wonderful Week of Giving

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Last week, volunteers from across the Washington Nationals organization participated in #NatsWeekOfGiving, an initiative to give back in our community during the holiday season, while encouraging our fans to do the same.

Adam LaRoche kicked things off by joining the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on a USO Holiday Tour overseas. Denard Span and Ross Detwiler did their part here in D.C.,  visiting with scholar-athletes from the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, joining the Washington Redskins at the Darrell Green Foundation’s annual Christmas party and partnering with the Hope for Henry Foundation on a Winter Wonderland Holiday party for pediatric patients at The Lombardi Cancer Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Nationals employees teamed up with 106.7 The Fan personalities for the remainder of the week. The team worked with John “Cakes” Auville, John-Paul “JP” Flaim and Danny Rouhier to distribute toys to military families for Project USO Elf,  and welcomed Holden Kushner to their group to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery with Wreaths Across America.

Thanks to all who helped make this week a great success!

Adam LaRoche wraps up unforgettable USO Tour

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by Amanda Comak

As Adam LaRoche curled himself into a corner table at the Occidental Grill Friday night, it was hard for him to figure out exactly what time it was supposed to be. His day started in Germany. And since he’d embarked on the 2013 Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey a week earlier, LaRoche had visited four countries and three different time zones.

From left to right, Jep Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Willie Robertson and Matt Light at the Occidental Grill on Friday night, after returning from the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour.

From left to right, Jep Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Willie Robertson and Matt Light at the Occidental Grill on Friday night, after returning from the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour.

Flanked by his friends and travel companions, Willie and Jep Robertson from A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, and three-time Super Bowl champion Matt Light, the group shared stories from what they all agreed was an unforgettable experience.

“Every time I look at the flag, and I look at it every night when they play the national anthem, I can’t say I ever really looked at the flag and thought, ‘Somebody paid the price for that,” LaRoche said. “I will now. I hope it’s going to be a lot easier to not take those things for granted like we typically do.”

The USO tour took the four companions to multiple bases and through several hospital visits. They met soldiers all over the world –in Greece, Afghanistan, Italy and Germany – and absorbed as much as they could.

It was an exhausting stretch. Time with Chairman Dempsey is calculated down to the second, and they knew little about what was ahead of them when they left the U.S. on Dec. 6 – they were told to pack for weather ranging from 30 degrees to 80 degrees. But they talked with soldiers who were just 72 hours removed from a firefight, and learned about the challenges the troops face in trying to both eliminate the threat of terrorism while at the same time serving to aid the Afghan people.

Here are a few of the stories the group told Friday night as they rehashed their experience for a handful of local media members:

●●●

Adam LaRoche: “I’m thinking, ‘What could I possibly say to relate to these guys?’ It’s not easy for me, for sure. I feel like, and I told them this, ‘We should be sitting down there [in the audience] and some of you guys, specifically some of the older Sergeants and Generals, you guys should be up here [on stage] talking to us. I don’t need to be up here trying to motivate you.’”

Jep Robertson: “I just think they want to forget for a few minutes what they’re actually doing. Just have a good time and relax and not worry about tomorrow, just have time to laugh.”

ALR: “That’s why [Willie and Jep] are such a big hit, because they go up and do their thing together. It kind of caps the whole show off. They did like 20 minutes and it’s not sitting there bringing back memories and all about what they’re going through. They’re just telling jokes, talking about the show, talking about Uncle Si, so you’re right, that’s probably what they want to do: feel like they’re back home.”

Willie Robertson sings "Hairy Christmas" with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

Willie Robertson sings “Hairy Christmas” with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

Willie Robertson:  “We wanted to give them a piece of America, what they had known from the show. We came up with the [performance] on the flight over, of what we would do. We had no idea what we would do. And as it turns out, with our album out, Duck the Halls, Chairman Dempsey said we should sing a song and I said, ‘Well let’s do “Hairy Christmas.”’ He had no idea what the song was. I gave him the CD, he listened to it and he said, ‘Let’s sing that at the end of the show.’ And then all of the USO talent came up at the end and we all sang it together. It was the perfect ending to the whole show.”

ALR: “Dempsey actually came out in the full beard and a USO bandana headband (like Willie).”

Could you get a sense of what it meant to the troops?

WR: “Oh there was no doubt.”

ALR: “They were blown away. They were so blown away that you’d think nobody’s ever been over there. There have been a lot of USO shows that go through, but I think every time they just appreciate it so much.”

●●●

Jep: “You’ve got to hear about the dog and Matt.”

ALR: “This is good.”

Matt Light: “They’ve got these military dogs cruising around all over the base. They were a little bit intimidating. I was talking to one of the guys about their dogs…They are pretty jacked up about these dogs. They talk about the training they do. I’m looking at this dog and I’m thinking to myself, ‘I hear what you’re saying, you all probably work them pretty good, but it’s a 40-lb or 50-lb dog.’ I’m looking at it thinking, ‘That’s probably not going to hold up against a 300-pound man.’ So I smarted off a few times and the following night they arranged to break out the suit, like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story.

ALR: “It’s like 11 o’clock at night because our schedule was packed.”

ML: “So I put this suit on.”

ALR: “So now he’s 400 pounds.”

ML: “They had us stand in these DVQs, Designated Visitors Quarters, which were shipping containers stacked on top of each other with a railing on each of them. There was basically room just to turn around and walk back-and-forth inside of it. That’s where you live if you’re in Afghanistan. In front of it on the base, in the rain, and it’s very dark, there’s a guy holding a dog. Basically, they give you instructions. First of all, they say don’t let your arms come out of it – and I’m two sizes too big for this. So it’s just barely snug up towards the end of my arm, you have to suck your hand [up in the sleeve]. They said, ‘You need to go down there and agitate them and then turn and run, and don’t look back.’”

ALR: “People had come from everywhere because they heard that morning that this was going to go on. So the railings were packed.”

ML: “They wanted me to run like 60 yards, and I told them I hadn’t run like 10 yards in a year-and-a-half. So we cut that distance in half and I got about three-quarters of the way down and I think he jumped up and missed me the first time – I mean, small target – but when he did finally latch on, he latched on consistently like right here on my elbow. And the first round I think I had the upper hand, obviously if I wasn’t in the suit I’d be in a world of trouble. He got thrown around a little bit.”

ALR: “This dog had no chance. The dog never touched the ground. It looked like a helicopter.”

ML: “I got this speech from one guy who was telling me what to do, he was like, ‘Here’s the code word,’ and it was some phrase and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to remember that.’ I said, ‘No, ‘cinnamon.’ If I yell cinnamon, come get this dog off me.’ We did it like four more times. They weren’t going to let me out of the suit. The dog had a pretty good bite. That dog was chompin’. We got some good pictures of teeth snarling mid-air. It was a great experience. I had a mini-heart attack and it was a bit of a monsoon inside the suit. It was like hot yoga inside there.”

JR: “It was really cold, but then he was running.”

ML: “It took about an hour-and-a-half to get back to normal.”

ALR: “But that was so late at night because to squeeze something in [that’s how it had to be]. If Willie were to say, ‘Hey, this guy wants me to come by his barracks and come meet his buddy or see something,’ you would run it by a guy and then he would have to run it by the whole team who’d say, ‘OK, Willie needs security here at this time,’ and then they’d have somebody there before he arrives. This isn’t just like they let you run around and do whatever you want. Because they’re getting IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), even on the big bases we were on. It’s not unusual for the sirens to go off because somebody shot an IED into the base. A week or two before they said they lost two guys, who were asleep in the same type of containers we were sleeping in, and an IED went through and killed two of them. You can’t just stroll around. It was a deal for them to get set-up. So this dog thing took a lot of planning.”

●●●

JR: “We went to (Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan) and they said they’d just been in a 72-hour battle. The troops, you could tell they were happy we were there, but they had just come out of a firefight.”

ALR: “There were a couple guys shot, one guy blown up while we were there, but we didn’t see him until this morning in Germany. We saw him in the hospital in Germany.”

WR: “I met that guy in Afghanistan! I met him, took a picture with him, two days later I’m in Germany, he’s in the hospital bed. I walked in and was like, ‘Ah, good to see you again.’ He actually was way better than when I saw him in Afghanistan. He had a full neck brace and was pretty loopy then. Couldn’t hardly talk. In Germany he was like, ‘Hey there!’ He’d already told his family that he had met me, so the second time he had all these questions about the show.”

●●●

ALR: “The troops said the Afghan people are the toughest people in the world, which I never would’ve guessed.”

WR: “When you see the conditions they live in, you have to be tough.”

ALR: “The problem is, you’re trying to get rid of one group of people and make friends with the other group of people. The local Afghanis, the troops are doing everything they can to help them. They’re giving them food and water, training their cops, training their military guys, rebuilding a lot of their hospitals and communities – on top of fighting. So you’re trying to rebuild a country and protect yourselves at the same time.”

WR: “But the terrorists are like thugs. No different than big American cities where you have drug guys and it’s hard to go in there and extract that one person without condemning the whole neighborhood. Most of the people are good and they’re trying to raise their families but you’ve got a couple people who are bullies. I saw it as similar to that.”

ALR: “They said, ‘This is just a street fight. They come out, they hit, they run, they hide…But the troops, they do surgery for a lot of the locals. They bring them in. Fix ‘em up.”

WR: “I was shocked at how much the American troops care about these people and are trying to make them better. I was amazed.”

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche meets U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche meets U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

ALR: “What we were told is that our guys are never going out looking for Taliban. The majority of our guys are going out to villages every day to keep training them (the Afghanis).”

WR: “The whole goal is for them to sustain their country to fight off terrorism.”

ML: “Our troops are legitimately invested in their mission, not to go over there and wipe out a people. They’re there to really try to help those people. And they don’t really care what’s going on over here. I think one of the biggest reasons to go over there, especially listening to these knuckleheads in Washington all day every day, you don’t get a sense. They’re not telling the story of any of these young men and women who, each and every day, are waking up and putting themselves in danger. Seeing a little Afghani kid, and 10 minutes later that kid is gone. They’re not looking for trouble. They’re trying to help. They truly care about these people. None of them talk about what we hear over here. They don’t give a damn about that. They literally just want to do their job.”

●●●

ALR: “I was probably most shocked by the fact that there’s like 20–25,000 troops on one base.”

JR: “They had a TGI Fridays.”

WR: “Sadly, my brother was most impressed by the TGI Fridays.”

ALR: “You have no idea how many people are sitting at computers doing stuff, and how many mechanics, and cooks and the guys who sweep the rooms, that’s the majority of the guys – the ones who don’t get recognized, who are behind the scenes, who make the whole thing work.”

WR: “There are a lot of civilians, too.”

ALR: “There are contractors there. Full time electricians, plumbers, so there are civilians staying on base too. They’re building stuff, taking stuff down, sending a lot of stuff home right now.”

The group posed with Marines before leaving Camp Leatherneck.

The group posed with Marines before leaving Camp Leatherneck.

WR: “I was impressed by the amount of organization by the U.S. military to be able to run an operation like that. They build cities that are bases. Airports. Lodging for 30,000 people. That’s what impressed me. How do you come into this country, build things, fight for your life, run troops and in and out? It was unbelievable. It just blew me away. And the spirit of the troops was super impressive, their dedication to it. The general said it best. It’s built on trust. These guys trust each other with their lives.”

ML: “I think one of the big things, too, is you say: what do you do now that you’ve had this experience? What’s next? I think you can really start spreading the word to everybody around. I told the troops, ‘I can at least tell your story and get [people back home] talking about it. I can let them know the things you are doing and what you do go through.’ To some degree, don’t we all owe it to our service men and women to do something? Not if you’re a celebrity, or whatever. If you’re some dude on the street. I think we all should at least take the time to think about that more than just on Veterans Day or something else. Maybe it’s just a mindset or a perception, get people to stop and realize.”

●●●

For more on LaRoche’s time on the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour, you can catch up on the dispatches he sent back while he was overseas here and here, and check out a photo gallery here.

You can also take a look at some of the coverage by local media:

nationals.com

MASNsports.com

CSNWashington.com

The Washington Post

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