Results tagged ‘ Bo Porter ’

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Inter-Nationals

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Hello everyone.

Things here in camp could not be better. I think that Spring Training has picked up its pace. Everyone is getting their scheduled innings and at-bats. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson could not be more pleased with what they are seeing.

One National who should be extremely pleased with himself is Ross Detwiler, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings in Team USA’s win-or-go-home victory on Saturday against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Just like last October, with his team’s season in the balance, Ross put forth his finest performance and picked up the first save of his career.

I wonder if Ross’s mental preparation for that game included thoughts about all of the brave U.S. service men and women he met during the USO Tour he took with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and teammate Craig Stammen back in December. It would not surprise me, as Ross is that type of individual.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez left Viera yesterday and joins Ross and his new teammates for the first time today. He’ll get the starting nod tomorrow night as Team USA faces Puerto Rico in Miami (8 p.m. on MLB Network). Gio will be challenged, as the Puerto Rican lineup will likely include the likes of Yadir Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios.

Of course, we are equally as proud of Roger Bernadina (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic), Mike Costanzo (Italy), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada), Adrian Nieto (Spain) and Matt Torra (Italy) for their contributions for their respective WBC teams/countries. I’d say it is fitting that our organization from Nation’s Capital is well represented in this global event.

Two position players that warrant special notice are a new-look Danny Espinosa (.345 batting average) and Anthony Rendon (.296, three doubles, three home runs). Judging by their Grapefruit League performances, I feel confident that both will enjoy productive seasons.

Last week, I was pleased to be able to share dinner with Astros manager Bo Porter. We are so proud of Bo. Honestly, he was made for this job.

As Bo explained, they are in the midst of implementing a new culture there. His club will face some challenges, not the least of which include Houston’s move to the American League and stiff AL West competition from the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers. I wish Bo and his Astros nothing but the best.

Of course, Bo’s departure created a well-deserved opportunity for first base coach/outfield instructor Tony Tarasco in D.C. Tony’s transition has been seamless as he has preexisting relationships with all of our homegrown players from his days as our outfield/baserunning coordinator. I know he is also thrilled to reunite with Davey, for whom he played for in Baltimore.

As always, I have enjoyed the interaction with fans down here at Space Coast Stadium. For so many reasons, there is genuine optimism in the air among our fan base. And the sheer number of our fans down here is up compared to previous springs. I think this bodes well for a busy and boisterous ’13 campaign at Nationals Park.

Speaking of which, with Opening Day just three weeks away, reports are that everything at Nationals Park is rounding into proper shape. Our dedicated staff is putting the finishing touches on various projects and polishing up the place. Everything will be ready for our final exhibition game on Friday, March 29 against the New York Yankees. The cherry blossoms may even be in bloom in left field.

Until we blog again …

Launched Into Orbit

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This year’s Grapefruit League schedule pits the Nationals against the Houston Astros six times, providing a chance for former Washington third base coach and new Astros skipper Bo Porter to reunite and reminisce with his old players. They did just that on Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium, both sides praising one another as details emerged, such as the book club Porter orchestrates that counts over 20 members of the Nationals squad as members.

It’s pleasant to see the mutual professional respect between the coach and his former players, one made easier to show thanks to the exhibition nature of Spring Training. It is also, in all likelihood, the only chance the two will have to see each other this season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

See, the Astros are moving from the National League Central to the American League West this season, giving baseball an even 15 teams per league and five per division. The teams will not square off in the regular season until next year, when the NL East will be slated to face the AL West as part of Interleague Play.

As part of the move, the Astros have changed their uniform scheme to a retro navy and orange look, and have brought back their mascot Orbit, who, according to the team website, “hitched a ride on the space shuttle Discovery to visit his home back in the Grand Slam Galaxy” following the 1999 season. That brings us to the teams’ second meeting on Thursday, for which the furry green space cadet was in attendance.

Following the bottom of the fifth of a scoreless contest on Thursday, Orbit trotted out onto the field to help the promo team toss T-shirts into the crowd, but on his way from the gate by the home dugout onto the grass around home plate, he let his weight get out in front of him and he tripped, stumbling and falling to the turf. Upon gracefully picking himself back up, he was handed the T-shirt air cannon, from which he promptly fired a rolled-up souvenir a clear 20 feet over the roof of Osceola County Stadium and into the parking lot.

It was a moment of comedy, but also a reminder, in the midst of a fairly quiet and pedestrian game, of just how trivial the results of Spring Training really are.

Yes, Gio Gonzalez got a solid three innings of work in, limited under 50 pitches (he threw 42) based on World Baseball Classic guidelines for those already committed to pitch for the team. He tossed 23 more in the bullpen to get a little more stretched out before heading to Miami next Tuesday for his WBC debut.

But the biggest takeaway thus far from Nationals camp has to be the adage that no news is good news. Aside from the training staff taking a cautious approach with Christian Garcia, whose camp has been slowed by a week or two, it has been a healthy, uneventful spring. And that means we can revel in book clubs and mascot mishaps as we wait the final 24 days for Opening Day to arrive.

Here’s a look at today’s lineup and a list of Spring Training results to date:

Nationals Lineup

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Werth RF

3. Harper CF

4. Zimmerman DH

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Ramos C

9. Tracy 3B

P. Zimmermann

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1

3/5 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3

3/6 @ Houston – L, 4-2

Overall Record: 5-5-2

A Win Is A Win

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It seems that with each and every passing week of this 2012 season, the Washington Nationals are finding increasingly more dramatic and creative ways to win baseball games. There have been late-inning rallies, beginning on the season’s first two days at Wrigley Field. There have been walk-off wins of nearly every variety, from wild pitches (twice), to sacrifice flies, to heart-stopping, come-from-behind home runs. There have been victories of nearly every shade, coming in just about any way the mind can dream up. And then there was Monday night.

Overlooked in last night’s madness was another solid performance from Craig Stammen.

After carving out a 4-1 lead, the Nationals found themselves in extra innings against an Astros team that had won just four its last 34 games. Fortunately for Washington, that Houston squad had yet to win any of its nine extra-inning contests, and the Nats – no stranger to free baseball – were not about to become their first victim. But for all of the timely, clutch hits the team has put together lately and, really, all season long, this game turned on something entirely different.

We will make our best attempt to describe the play on paper, though it deserves to be seen, if you haven’t already watched it. After Roger Bernadina pulled a single through the hole between first and second base to open the top of the 11th, new Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki bluffed at a bunt and took strike one. He squared again on the next pitch, popping the ball in the air in front of first base. Steve Pearce crashed from first, but the ball dropped in front of him, just as pitcher Wilton Lopez closed in to try to make a play of his own. Then, Pearce and Lopez literally crashed – into one another – with the ball glancing off the first baseman. Matt Downs came running in from third just as Pearce made a desperate effort to collect the ball and throw out Suzuki. Downs pulled up at the last second, flailing over Pearce as he dropped his elbow, the throw towards first instead sailing into foul ground and up the right field line.

Meanwhile, Bernadina raced from second to third, where Bo Porter held his hands up to stop the speedy outfielder, a prudent decision with none out in the inning. But the Shark had other plans. He blew right past Porter for the plate, and right fielder Brian Bogesevic’s throw, which seemed destined to make a close play at the plate, airmailed the catcher and went to the screen. When the dust settled, Bernadina had scored and Suzuki stood at third base.

The run would be all the Nationals would need to end a game they no doubt feel they should have won in much less time than the four hours and 15 minutes it took to complete.

Surely, they won’t be happy about the events that led up to the 11th inning on Monday, or that forced extra innings in the first place. The relief corps, which has been one of the most solid in baseball this season, suddenly became allergic to their own fastballs, falling behind hitters with off-speed pitches. After loading the bases in the eighth, Drew Storen escaped with the lead. When Tyler Clippard walked and hit a batter in the ninth, he did not. However, after allowing a game-tying double that left the winning run at third base with just one out, Clippard buckled down to strike out the next two batters, pushing the game to extra innings.

There was another bright spot from the relief corps’ performance, thanks to Craig Stammen. The same hurler who came up with 2.1 innings of clutch relief eight days prior in the Nationals maniacal, 11-10, multi-comeback game in Milwaukee, delivered again with 2.0 innings of hitless relief. No reliever in baseball has pitched at least two frames as often as Stammen, who did so for the 21st time on Monday. And so while the focus will remain, undoubtedly, on “what turned into a three-ring circus,” as Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes put it, the ultimate takeaway from Monday night is this: some way, some how, the Nationals just keep finding ways to win.

Leaving Their Feat

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The Nationals put their athleticism on display twice last night, with both feats coming from surprising sources.

In the top of the sixth inning, Tampa Bay had the tying run at second base with two outs, trailing 3-2. Jose Molina, who had driven a deep home run to left field earlier in the game, flared a ball to shallow left. Steve Lombardozzi – the converted second baseman who had never played in the outfield before this season – understandably took his first step back, as all outfielders are told to do. Then, realizing the ball was coming down in front of him, he broke forward into a run and dove face first to make the snag, preserving the one-run lead in a game that would end without either team scoring again.

The other feat was perhaps even more out of left field, so to speak. Back in the first inning, with Bryce Harper at second base and no outs, Ryan Zimmerman hit a chopper to Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson, who threw towards third to try to nab Harper advancing. The ball skipped away from third baseman Sean Rodriguez, and was heading directly toward Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, who had dropped to his knees to guide Harper to slide. Porter sprung up from the ground, narrowly avoiding the ball, which trickled all the way to the steps of the Rays dugout, eventually falling in. That allowed Zimmerman to go to second base and Harper to advance home and score, neither of which would have happened if Porter hadn’t used every ounce of effort to get out of the way.

So, we leave it up to you, the fan. Vote in the poll below and tell us which of Wednesday night’s acrobatics most impressed you.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: NATITUDE Park

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Hello again Nats fans,

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the season thus far.

I’d like to start with last weekend’s crowds at ‘NATITUDE Park.’ I am very proud to say that over 100,000 were in attendance for the three-game set against the rival Philadelphia Phillies. D.C. baseball fans left little doubt that they take their baseball seriously. Taking two of three from the Phillies is always welcome, but to do so in front of back-to-back-to-back large crowds made the weekend memorable for all.

Bryce Harper has provided an extra spark for the Nats lineup.

Being a part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball was a thrill for all of us. It was our first ESPN Sunday Night game since Nationals Park opened on March 30, 2008. Everything looked fantastic, as usual, in HD and the entire atmosphere was electric.

How about Bryce’s steal of home on Sunday? Not only won’t that moment be forgotten, it’s likely to be talked about with reverence for years to come. I have had friends tell me this week that the swipe was Bryce’s “arrival” on a national stage.

I know that Jayson Werth and Bo Porter both had a hand in educating Bryce on Cole Hamels’ pickoff tendencies. That was a true team effort. All in all, everything about last weekend went perfectly, Sunday’s result and especially Jayson’s wrist injury notwithstanding.

As I write this, the Nationals are caught in a three-game losing streak. The bats have been a tad flat, but that should be temporary, especially with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche now back in the lineup. And Mike Rizzo tells me that Michael Morse and his Beast Mode are progressing quite well. We can really use that jolt in the middle of the lineup.

I’d also like to recognize the strong play of LaRoche thus far. He’s leading the club in the Triple Crown categories: a .316 batting average, five homers and 19 RBI. After an injured left shoulder hindered his play last season, I am glad to he is back this season and playing at the levels he expects for himself. Rizzo calls Adam a two-way player. In my mind, he is a three-way player, as there is also no finer gentleman or community advocate in our clubhouse.

Adam’s homer in the ninth inning on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh was the 1,000th home run hit by the Nationals since arriving in Washington in 2005. I remember being at the Nationals first game in Philadelphia and watching Terrmel Sledge launch our first homer at Citizens Bank Park. Why does that initial game in April of 2005 seem like such a long time ago? And at the same time, why does it seem like yesterday? I suppose that is the nature of this game.

Stephen Strasburg returns to the hill for the Nationals Thursday night.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the continued excellence of Steve McCatty’s starting rotation. Collectively, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler are the best rotation in the game right now. I don’t think anyone can objectively argue this point. Consider, in 16 the last games, the rotation has posted 15 quality starts and allowed one run or less 8 times. That’s sustained dominance.

Tonight, Strasburg takes the mound at PNC Park. Here’s to this three-game slide being temporary!

The NHL playoffs, and the Capitals series with the New York Rangers, also have my attention.

Game 6 was really something last night. I attended the game with Drew Storen as my guest. Drew along with many of his teammates, are really enjoying the Caps and their march through the Eastern Conference. Incidentally, Drew’s elbow is feeling fantastic and he is very anxious to get back on the mound.

As for the game, Ovechkin’s early goal really set the stage for loud evening at the Verizon Center. In between the pipes, Braden Holtby played with a grace and poise well beyond his years. He’s been just fantastic.

After further review, I just noted that the Nationals play in Cincinnati on Sat. at 7:05 p.m. And the Caps play Game 7 that same night at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m.

Nearly simultaneous starts, again? That’s two straight weekends! Not that I am counting!

We will start at our homestand Monday night against the San Diego Padres. Please come out and support the team. They are playing great ball and as we all know they are fun to watch.

Let’s go Caps!

Let’s go Nats!

Please enjoy the weekend and Happy Mother’s Day!

A New York Welcome

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We were back at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie for our second evening affair with the Mets on Tuesday, where we received some true New York hospitality. Right in the middle of the Nationals batting practice, the sprinklers went off around the infield, spraying everything in sight. Most of the players and coaches didn’t bat an eye, and just kept on with their routine, waiting for the water to subside. Only it didn’t stop. Not for a solid five minutes, at which point third base coach Bo Porter, who was on the rail of the dugout, began jokingly chiding anyone and everyone around.

The sprinklers went off during Nationals batting practice in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday.

“What, did the grounds crew take the day off?” he started, then spread the playful blame to his fellow coaches. “Davey, isn’t this your job? I thought you ran things around here.”

Finally, the water stopped, allowing the players to get back to business without getting soaked. We knew unexpected, five-minute showers were commonplace in Florida, but this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. All kidding aside, it’s a telling sign of the attitude of the players and coaches, the way they handled the situation. Nobody complained or got too bent out of shape, and everyone just went on about their business.

As for the game, the lineup gave Nats fans a good look at how deep this club is up the middle of the diamond. With Steve Lombardozzi and Mark DeRosa playing the corners on the infield and Brett Carroll and Roger Bernadina behind them in left and right, you could argue that Washington was fielding an up-the-middle player at every position Tuesday night. Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond were in their regular spots at catcher, second base and shortstop, respectively, with Rick Ankiel manning center field behind Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, the Mets shut down the Nats, posting a 2-0 win behind starter Dillon Gee.

Strasburg looked as sharp as he’s been this spring, starting at 93-95 on the stadium gun and moving up to 96-97 by the second inning. He struck 97 for the first time as he painted a called third strike on the outside black against Lucas Duda for his first K of the night. Two batters later, he sawed off Josh Thole with a 96 mile-per-hour heater and narrowly avoided the barrel of the bat as it bounced past the pitcher’s mound on a comebacker. In the end, Strasburg allowed a single run on just two hits, walking one and fanning three in five full innings of work, extending his pitch count to 85.

Stephen Strasburg squares off against the Mets in at Digital Domain Park.

One last thought on Digital Domain Park – we couldn’t really put our fingers on it last time we were here, but there’s something funny about the acoustics here. Perhaps it’s the way the seating area is shaped, or the concrete canopy that encompasses the bowl from third to first base, but every ball has that special pop off the bat. It’s a sound that sportswriters are trained to recognize, the one of a ball well struck, that pulls the head away from the computer screen if one is otherwise occupied. As it turned out, there was a lot of head-snapping for what proved to be nothing more than routine fly balls Tuesday night, as neither team recorded a hit until the third inning, when Strasburg hit a one-hop rocket that ate up Daniel Murphy at second base for an infield single. While it takes some time to get used to, it actually makes for an entertaining game experience.

Washington is back at home Wednesday to host the Braves. Here are the team’s results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

vs. Miami – T, 1-1

vs. Detroit – L, 11-7

@ New York (NL) – L, 2-0

vs. Atlanta – Wednesday, 1:05pm

Overall Record: 5-9-3

Worldwide Leader In Viera

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John Dever is the Senior Director of Media Relations for the Washington Nationals. As a team employee in close contact with the players, coaches and front office throughout Spring Training, he will bring an inside look at the happenings in Viera in Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary throughout February and March.

Well, it started out gray and misty here on Thursday, but by the time workouts started (10am) and ended (Noon-ish), we were all enjoying partly cloudy skies and temps approaching 80 degrees. No complaints from here.

*Our third base coach, Bo Porter, is fantastic in every sense of the word. He is a great person. Engaging. He’s passionate. And he eats better than all of us. How do I know? He walked into Davey Johnson’s meeting this morning at around 8 a.m. with a plate of (are you ready for this?) … broccoli. Yes, I said breakfast. I gawked. I was stunned. So, later in the day, I asked him about it. He confirmed that when at all possible, he eats broccoli during breakfast AND asparagus for dinner. I got the idea this is most days. Remarkable! This made me realize that I might be playing from behind even with my bowl of Special K in the mornings.

The folks from ESPN are in Viera today.

*Today, we welcome Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk to Viera as the ESPN Spring Training Bus rolls through town. So look for updates tomorrow on ESPN’s various platforms. On the way to work today, I heard “Timmmay” being interviewed as part of ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show. Tim was reporting from Mets camp, but when Mike Greenberg asked Tim about the competitive and improving NL East, he mentioned only the Phillies, Braves and Marlins. Tim began his answer with a gentle reminder that (paraphrasing) the Nationals have improved quite a bit too…”

*ESPN’s aforementioned Bus Tour arrival also reminds me that in 2010, as part of the same Tour, Tim became the first national journalist to conduct a one-on-one interview with Stephen Strasburg. I remember it vividly, as both Mike Rizzo and I surmised that that Tim was the perfect person to help usher Strasburg into this portion of his profession. I hope to remind both Tim and Stephen about this later today.

*Speaking of Strasburg, as yesterday’s P+C workout was coming to its conclusion, I could not help but notice that #37 was leading the charge during a significant portion of our conditioning drills, especially the pole runs, which take place as the pitchers run (at a brisk pace) from foul pole to foul pole along the warning track (130-150 yards?). They do this same drill 3-4 times. There are many other agility type drills, but as a runner myself, I always like to see which pitchers stand out at that distance.

*You have to love baseball lingo. On multiple occasions today when talking to the press, Johnson referred to Gio Gonzalez’s curveball as a “Snapdragon.” Or is it “Snap Dragon?” Either way, it just sounded good and folksy coming from Davey. This note also serves as a forewarning, as Gio’s “Snap Dragon” is a true weapon. It’ll be interesting to see how he uses that pitch against the fleet of NL hitters who have never seen him before. Should be fun to watch.

Oh, later in the same media session, Davey, when speaking to Gio’s strong build, said he “looks relatively normal for a lefthander.” I bet that was Davey’s bias as a former position player coming through.

*Did a little research last week and I noticed something that amazed me. And fans of Danny Espinosa (now No. 8) should take note: No switch-hitter representing the Nation’s Capital (AL Nationals, Senators, expansion Senators or NL Nationals) has ever hit a homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.  It is about time this ends! I say that 2012 is the year.

*The following local stations are in town now and I bet they are capturing the positive vibe that continues to permeate Nationals camp: Comcast SportsNet, WJLA (Tuesday), WRC-4 and WTTG-Fox. WUSA is scheduled to be in town next week, and Channel 7 will return next week too.

Washington Nationals Miracle Field opens in Montgomery County

With the help of the Washington Nationals, kids with special needs throughout the Washington Metropolitan area will now have a place to play baseball! On Monday, August 1, the ballclub celebrated the opening of the Washington Nationals Miracle Field in Montgomery County with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Nationals pitchers Sean Burnett and Jordan Zimmermann, manager Davey Johnson, third base coach Bo Porter and Principal Owners Mark D. Lerner and Judy L. Lerner were all in attendance to help open the field.

Photo Gallery >>

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation partnered with various civic and community organizations from Montgomery County to construct the Miracle Field, which was built to provide children with disabilities a place to play baseball safely. Located in South Germantown Recreation Park, the field is made up of a cushioned synthetic turf that allows children using wheelchairs and walkers to “run” the bases without fear of injury.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, more than 30 children were given their first opportunity to play on the field, a sight Nationals manager Davey Johnson was particularly thrilled to see.

“I’ve raised a few children who had special needs,” Johnson explained. “This warms my heart seeing these kids running around, having this facility to play on. I’m actually more proud to be a part of this than the World Championship teams I’ve been with.”

The Washington Nationals Miracle Field is the first of its kind in the D.C. region and in the state of Maryland, and it will serve as the new home for the Miracle League of Montgomery County. Currently, there are 240 Miracle League organizations across the country that provide opportunities for more than 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities.
 
“We’re serving a great need: to break down a lot of the barriers that are out there that separate kids who don’t have special needs with those who do,” Montgomery County councilmember Craig Rice said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids with special needs and developmental disabilities to get outside.”

Brian, a 17-year old who suffered a brain injury as a child and is now in a wheelchair, was one of the many Miracle League athletes in attendance at Monday’s event. His mother Debbie extolled the virtues of the new Miracle Field. 

“I think it’s very important,” she said. “There are a lot of recreational activities for children who do not have severe disabilities, but it’s very limited for children who can’t walk. This is amazing. It’s going to help a lot of the children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in team sports.”

Children with disabilities often struggle to participate in recreational activities because of physical barriers, but the new field will help minimize these obstacles and make playing baseball a possibility.

“This means so much to these kids because they get to be a part of something that they hadn’t been a part of before,” Councilmember Rice added. “They get to be outside, and play and enjoy a team sport. We know that builds character; that’s why we encourage sports as a part of our daily lives as kids grow. I think we need to continue to do that, especially for our children with special needs.”

The highlight of the day for all involved was seeing the pure joy that the new field provided to all of the children in attendance.

“It just touches your heart,” Johnson said. “You learn so much from these children. It’s just special; I can hardly put it in words. It’s just wonderful.”

2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics at Nationals Park

Last Saturday, the Nationals launched the 2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics, a series of monthly clinics held at Nationals Park as part of the team’s efforts to increase participation in youth baseball and softball programs in the National Capital region.

Approximately 150 youth baseball and softball athletes from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia as well as local military children will be invited to take part in the free clinics, which feature hands-on instruction from Nationals coaches. In addition to taking part in drills on the field, in the batting cages and in the bullpen, participants will also enjoy Q&A sessions with the coaches in the Nationals dugout.

Saturday’s clinic was made available to children ranging from ages 5 to 12 from Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County. Participants could also sign up for the clinic through Chevy Motors.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the children in attendance were ready and willing to learn from the pros. The kids began their morning under the direction of assistant trainer Mike McGowan, who taught them how to properly stretch their muscles and offered tips on injury prevention.

The children were then divided into groups and rotated between stations led by coaches Pat Corrales, Rick Eckstein, Steve McCatty and Bo Porter.

In the batting cages, Eckstein offered tips on how to properly get into a hitting position and taught the same drills he uses with the Nationals. He stressed that baseball is a hard game.

“Hitting is arguably one of the toughest skills to do in all of sports and failure comes with that,” he said. “It’s learning to handle that failure so you can be successful. You can’t put your head down, you can’t pout, you can’t throw your helmet around.”

Byron Thompson, the sports coordinator for Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County, was excited to bring kids from his jurisdiction out to Nationals Park.

“These clinics give our kids realistic goals that they can see, hear, touch and smell. They get to see what a Major League Baseball player, coach, stadium and experience is all about,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids, who get time to interact with some players and maybe learn something their coaches didn’t get a chance to talk about at their level.”

Once the clinic wrapped up, the kids were treated to lunch in the Family Picnic Area, followed by a visit from Nationals All-Star pitcher Tyler Clippard, who signed autographs and posed for photos with clinic participants.

“It’s important to get these kids out here, to teach them various skills and get them involved in the game of baseball,” Clippard said. “I started playing at a young age and that’s what happened to me. It’s a great social environment that encourages team building, and hopefully many of these kids will grow to love the game as a result of these clinics.”

Nats name third base coach

It didn’t take the Nationals much time to find a replacement for Pat Listach who accepted a job with the Chicago Cubs as their bench coach.

 

Former player and coach Bo Porter will be the new third base coach. Porter spent the 2010 campaign on Arizona’s coaching staff, first as third base coach before he was elevated to bench coach when Kirk Gibson was named the Diamondbacks manager on July 3. Porter returns to the NL East, where he served as the Marlins’ third base coach and outfield/base running instructor from 2007-09. While in Florida, Porter worked extensively with current Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham. Porter played portions of three Big League season with the Cubs, Athletics and Rangers from 1999-2001.

 

The Nats also announced that Bench Coach John McLaren, Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, First Base Coach Dan Radison and Bullpen Coach Jim Lett–everyone else–will return next season. Last month, the Nationals announced that Riggleman would return in 2011 for a third season as Nationals field manager.

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