Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Getting to Know John Philbin

Walking a full day in someone’s shoes, you get to know a lot about them. And when you have the background that Coach does, there are some interesting nuggets to glean. Here’s a sampling:

– A former decathlete before he was recruited to try, of all sports, bobsled.

– He became a member of the U.S. bobsled team from 1983-’87, and the head coach from ’88-’92.

– He served as an intern under Joe Gibbs at the Washington Redskins while he finished his Masters at the University of Maryland.

– His work has been published many times over, most recently writing “High Intensity Training” in 2005, published by Human Kinetics.

– He serves as the President of the National Strength Professionals Association.


It’s an impressive resume to be sure, and the Nationals staff and players all seem to recognize that they are in very capable hands.


Naturally his background in bobsled caught our attention, and during a lull in the stream of players coming back to the weight room, Coach showed off some of his major battle scars from one of his nastiest bobsled wrecks, including a lengthy incision on his elbow. He says he has to have the bone in that elbow shaved down every five or so years. As painful as that sounds, for a workout fanatic like Coach, the two months rehab can’t be fun, either. He rattled off a laundry list of other injuries suffered in that crash, but said he doesn’t remember it because he was knocked unconscious for 12+ hours.


With his extensive background, crossing so many different and varied sports, we feel inclined to ask which athletes does he think are truly the best. Not surprisingly, it’s a question he’s been asked often, and admits there really is no perfect answer because athletes today are so specialized based on their sports. With tennis highlights on TV in the background, he points out their agility and speed. But do they have the raw power of an Adam Dunn to mash a ball 450+ feet (some foreshadowing to tonight, perhaps?). What about 6’10”, 270 pound basketball players with their athleticism and speed? It’s an interesting debate…what do you think? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll pass your opinions on to Coach.

Don’t ride shotgun

It’s time to head over to the ballpark. Strength and Conditioning Coach John Philbin has recruited us to follow him around for the day, so we meet him, Third Base Coach Pat Listach, and assistant coaches Trent Jewett and Tim Foli to share a cab to the park.


As we’ve previously mentioned, a lot of the down time on a roadtrip is filled with idle chatter, and this cab ride is no different. There’s a little talk about Derek Lowe’s performance the night before or what it’s like having family on a roadtrip. But then the coaches decide to have a little fun with neophytes on this roadtrip, suggesting we should have followed Foli around yesterday instead of Dave Jageler. “Was he doing something interesting or fun?” we asked.


They got a kick out of this predictably gullible response. “He walked to the ballpark, wouldn’t that have been good to cover?” We like cardio as much as the next guy, but we’ll take our workout with Jageler over a 10+ mile walk, any day. To his credit, Foli doesn’t take it personally, and we promise to make it up to him with a walk around the warning track once we arrive to Turner Field.


As we pull up to the visitor’s clubhouse, it quickly becomes apparent why the coaches were so generous in offering us the front seat. We’re not sure if it’s an unwritten baseball rule, or more good-natured ribbing of the newbies, but we’re told that the guy riding shotgun picks up the cab fare. The coaches seemed to get a kick out of this, as well. If nothing else, we aim to be entertaining. At least on this cab ride, it appears we have succeeded.

Up in the Radio Booth

Leading up to the game, it was time to head up to the press box, get situated in the radio booth and of course, feast on some press dining. The first thing you notice when you step out on the press level at Turner Field is its proximity to the field. At Nationals Park, the press box is located above all of the seating areas. At Turner Field, it’s located between the lower level and the upper deck. It certainly provides a different perspective on the action.

Dave and Charlie use this time to connect with the Braves radio team to exchange interesting notes or trends about their respective teams that may be useful during their broadcasts. The various broadcast teams around MLB are a fraternity of sorts, as Dave said this is a regular practice at the start of road trips (or when visiting teams come to Nationals Park).

Before the pregame show goes on the air, it’s time for a quick meal. From what we’ve heard, Turner Field has a good reputation when it comes to press dining, and we’re not disappointed. On day one, we keep it simple and opt for a made-to-order deli sandwich. Other choices include chili, sheppard’s pie, pizza, grilled vegetables and a salad bar. Sure, it’s an eclectic mix, but they try to find something for everyone. Everyone except for Bob Carpenter, apparently. He joins our table with a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in tow. We quickly develop a severe case of sandwich envy, but it’s nothing some soft serve ice cream won’t cure.

OK, let’s start this game before our full-on food coma kicks in…

Let the Game Begin

Once the game starts, everyone in the booth has a headset on, in constant communication with the producer back in DC. It can get somewhat confusing listening to the actual broadcast while miscellaneous prompts are also coming in simultaneously from the producer. Dave and Charlie have been doing this long enough that they keep everything in order.

Dave serves as the lead play-by-play man during the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, while Charlie handles the rest. The highlight of Dave’s innings tonight was Yunesky Maya’s first career base hit. Unfortunately for the Nats, Braves veteran pitcher Derek Lowe decided to pitch one of his best games of the season Monday night.


dave jageler 1.JPGThe post-game show consists of two main parts. Dave leads the first, which includes a recap of the game and the play of the game. Tonight, this segment was over about 10 minutes after the final out. Once he’s done that, he starts to pack up while Charlie takes over and gives a detailed rundown of the rest of the action happening around baseball. He spends about one minute on each game, covering each of the pitchers, key plays, playoff implications, etc.

From there, it’s time to head down to the post-game bus. Unlike the ride to the park, this bus is almost completely full with players, coaches, staff and broadcasters. It’s understandably quiet, but the Jets-Ravens Monday Night Football game is on the satellite TVs throughout the bus.

When we get back to the hotel, everyone scatters in different directions. We’re headed up to our room to recharge for another day tomorrow, when we’ll be following Strength and Conditioning Coach John Philbin. Special thanks to Dave Jageler for letting us tag along with him today. We hope you enjoyed his unique perspective, and be sure to check back soon for a link to a video blog of all the action.

Time for Turner Field

The Nationals broadcasters and a handful of players meet in the hotel lobby at 3 p.m. to take the team bus over to the ballpark. We settle in amongst Dave, Charlie Slowes, Bob Carpenter, Debbi Taylor and the rest of the Nats broadcast team. It’s amusing to eavesdrop on their back-and-forth banter on the ride to the park. They have all been very welcoming of our humble blog on this roadtrip, and we certainly have a new appreciation for what goes into their jobs.

Once we get to the park, we head straight to the clubhouse. Some players are typing away on laptops or listening to iPods in front of their lockers. Others watch TV or play cards to pass the time before batting practice. There are a few members of the media milling around getting pregame interviews, and Dave strikes up a conversation with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. The two were recounting memories of their first Major League Spring Training. It was an interesting conversation, and yes, after 140-plus games, just about every other story has probably already been covered. Regardless, both players have proven to be extremely accessible and accountable, an especially impressive trait for the young infield duo.

Dave then gets an exclusive sit-down with Manager Jim Riggleman in his office. This will be used for the radio pregame show. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the assembled media is ushered in for the customary pregame Q&A. One media member asks a similar question to one of Dave’s, something along the lines of, “What can the Nationals learn from playing the role of spoiler in these next two series versus Atlanta and Philadelphia?” Riggleman talked about the Nationals needing to raise their game to match the Braves’ and Phillies’ heightened intensity as they battle for postseason berths.

We hunker down for some one-on-one time with pitcher Miguel Batista, still trying to get to the bottom of that mysterious instrument case he carried on the plane last night. Whatever the instrument, he said he has been practicing in his room. We didn’t notice any dirty looks from his teammates, so we’ll assume Miguel has been assigned a room in a remote corner of the hotel.

Post-Work out pizza

After our workout with Dave, it was time for some authentic…California Pizza Kitchen. For those scoffing at the idea of pizza as a post-workout meal, take solace – we ordered our BBQ chicken pie with thin crust. Dave went with the Mediterranean Platter and Spaghetti Bolognese.

While we ate, Dave shared his wisdom on all things Nats. As someone who eats, sleeps and breaths Nationals baseball for seven-plus months out of the year, Dave brings a lot of unique insight to even the most casual of conversations. We talked about the promise of the young core of Nats, some of the unique personalities in the clubhouse, and the finer points of life on the road.

After lunch, Dave heads back to his hotel room to review the latest Braves news, stats, etc. Dave notes that each broadcast team is different, but he and Charlie Slowes pride themselves on the depth of their preparation for each game. It is certainly is evident in the broadcast. We’ll get to see first-hand later tonight.

Don’t mess with the Jageler

Day 1 of the roadtrip officially begins with a workout with Nationals radio broadcaster Dave Jageler. He claims to have made working out on the road as second nature as brushing his teeth. If his pearly whites are any indication, we may be in trouble.

On the elevator down to the hotel’s fitness center, we’re trying to size up Dave and get a feel for what exactly we’re in store for. Is this going to be a couple light miles on the treadmill, or are we going full bore, P-90X? Dave tells us we’ll be doing a three part circuit of running on the treadmill, dumbbell squats and a modified push-up called a Burpee. The goal is to get through all three exercises, three times each, as fast as possible (without injuring yourself, of course) and with as little rest as possible between each set. It’s part of the CrossFit workout program.

Stay tuned for video from our workout, but let’s just say that Dave doesn’t mess around. He completed the full circuit in 37 minutes, and his shirt went from light grey when we started, to dark grey and fully soaked by the time we ended. He added a few miscellaneous exercises to the end, just for good measure. Kudos to Dave on totally shredding that workout.

We, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. Once we started, it was pretty clear we’d bitten off more than we could chew, and it quickly became a matter of survival. Our form went out the window and the prospects of lunch was really the only thing pushing us through.

Ahhh, lunch. That sounds more our speed. With that, it’s time to hit the showers, but we’ll check back in after we’ve got some nourishment. Any recommendations for good spots to eat in Atlanta?

Unpacking at the Park

So that whole part about turning in for the night? Don’t tell that to Wally. His night has only just begun. We last saw him unloading equipment at the airport in Atlanta, but we just traded text messages with him and he’s headed over to Turner Field to start setting up for Monday.

We meet up with him as the Cardinals are departing after their late game. It looks like they have a similar bus-side security procedure as we did in Washington. Once their two buses pull out, our moving truck backs in and it’s time to unload.

John Holland, Atlanta’s Visiting Clubhouse Manager, and his staff help unload bags, boxes and crates of various sizes. Wally already has a handful of washers going in the laundry room, and has placed temporary name placards above each of the lockers in the clubhouse. Our first reaction upon entering the clubhouse? We sure miss the comforts of home.

But Wally and the Braves do a great job of getting everything ready. They unpack each player’s individual bag, hanging caps, socks, belts, pants and warm-up tops in each locker. They unpack all of their shoes, give them a quick shine, and neatly align them in the locker. It quickly becomes very clear why everyone puts a name, number, or both, on every piece of equipment, especially the shoes.

In the visitor’s clubhouse, the coaching staff has its own separate “wing” away from the players, while the manager has his own office as well. There’s a kitchen fully stocked with snacks and candy, and even a freezer full of ice cream. There’s a larger training room with soaking tubs and padded tables for taping ankles.

In a little over an hour, the clubhouse is fully set-up, ready for the guys to come in on Monday and take on the Braves. One of the Braves clubhouse guys kindly gives us a lift back to the team hotel, and as it approaches 2 a.m., our bed is sounding mighty appealing.

 Tomorrow we switch gears and follow one of the voices of the Nationals, radio play-by-play man Dave Jageler. We’re told he’s a gym rat when he’s on the road, and a morning work-out is a must, especially given the facilities at our hotel in Atlanta. So wish us luck, and check back on Monday for more Notes from NatsTown (from Atlanta).

Unpacking at the Hotel

Once we get off the plane, there are two more buses waiting for us on the tarmac–talk about door to door service. Same as before, there’s one for players and one for coaches and staff. On the other side of the plane, Wally is already unloading the equipment, with one of those conveyer belts coming out of the plane and straight into the back of an Atlanta-based moving truck.

The buses load up quickly, and we’re off to the hotel. It’s all of 20 minutes through Atlanta, and it’s an easy trip on a Sunday night.

Upon arrival at the hotel, there’s a table of envelopes in the lobby, one for each member of the traveling party. What are the chances that Nationals Director of Team Travel Rob McDonald hand-wrote everyone’s name in the fancy calligraphy on each envelope? He is a man of many talents, so I wouldn’t put it past him.

Anyway, inside was our room key and some brief information for our stay. The players’ personal luggage will arrive shortly and be brought to their rooms. Again, it’s quite impressive how simplified they make things on the road. No long lines for individual check-in at the hotel, no fumbling for credit cards or hotel loyalty numbers.

And as a bonus–there’s another drink and cookie station by the elevators before you head to your room to turn in for the night. Life on the road is good indeed.

Planes, Trains and buses

It is amazing the convenience of chartering a flight. No long check-in or security lines. You literally step off the bus and climb the stairs to the plane. This is clearly a huge advantage for the Nationals, or any professional sports team that spends this much time on the road. Minimize distractions and down time and allow the guys to recharge for the few hours they’re away from the park.

There’s only one team plane, so the players, staff and media are all together now. Many of the football scores that they were checking in the clubhouse have now gone final, and with fantasy implications aplenty, talk tends to focus on the surprise performances from week one, or the upcoming Redskins game later that night. Just from overhearing some of the guys’ conversations, it’s clear they are sports fans–not just baseball fans–in the truest sense.

On your way to your seat, you pass a number of coolers with Gatorade and waters, or snack baskets with assorted chips. One member of the traveling party noted that this is the best time to load up on snacks and drinks for the entire trip. We’re clearly underprepared to reap the full benefits of this bounty–for our next road trip, we’ll be sure to bring a bigger carry-on.

Speaking of carry-on luggage, pitcher Miguel Batista seems to be toting something other than the customary backpack or laptop case. It looks like a musical instrument case, but it’s not entirely clear what instrument. We’ll try to get to the bottom of it by the end of this trip.

Now for the good stuff:  They actually provide a choice of meals on the flight, and not those dinky snack boxes you get on some airlines these days. We’re talking rotisserie chicken, chicken Caesar salad or crab cakes. Against our better judgment (again, we’re biased based on our prior experiences with standard airline fare), we opted for the crab cakes, and were pleasantly surprised. A round of cookies followed–the chocolate chip earns full marks. We were told there’d be parfaits and candy too, but, out to the right side of the plane – there’s the Atlanta skyline which means it’s time to land. Maybe the candy and parfait will be parting gifts when we de-plane.

Strasburg to DL and Lineups

In a move that seemed inevitable, the Nationals placed right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the 15-Day DL with right shoulder inflammation, retroactive to July 22–the day after his last start.


“They’re taking every precaution with me,” Strasburg said. “It’s doing great already, making big strides, so I’ll just keep getting better, keep getting stronger and when the time comes, I’m going to be ready to go.”


The move made room for Scott Olsen who will take the hill for the Nats in his first start since May 21. Olsen has been out with shoulder stiffness.


Olsen missed the last 59 games after he was placed on the DL on May 22 with left shoulder tightness. The 26-year-old went 0-0 with a 3.21 ERA (5 ER/14.0 IP) in four rehab starts. Olsen is 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in eight starts with the Nationals this season. In the six starts prior to his DL stint, he went 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA.


Braves (58-42):

1.    Martin Prado – 2B

2.    Jason Heyward – RF

3.    Chipper Jones – 3B

4.    Troy Glaus – 1B

5.    Matt Diaz – LF

6.    Omar Infante – SS

7.    David Ross – C

8.    Melky Cabrera – CF

9.    Derek Lowe – SP (10-8, 4.48 ERA)

 Nationals (43-58):

1.      Nyjer Morgan – CF

2.      Adam Kennedy – 2B

3.      Ryan Zimmerman – 3B

4.      Adam Dunn – 1B

5.      Josh Willingham – LF 

6.      Michael Morse – RF

7.      Ian Desmond – SS

8.      Wil Nieves – C

9.      Scott Olsen – SP (2-2, 3.77 ERA)