Results tagged ‘ Bryce Harper ’
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!
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.
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.
- Be sure to follow the Nationals (@nationals) and Amanda Comak on Twitter. She has done a fantastic job sharing the sights and sounds of Nationals’ 2014 Spring Training on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis. Last week, Amanda shared some of the unique images that were captured by our quadcopter, which was equipped with a tiny high-resolution camera, on our various social-media platforms. For 24-48 hours there, the quadcopter was the talk of camp.
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 …
There were more than 8,400 Nationals fans who packed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.
And because of them, it was an unforgettable day.
We can’t say “Thank you” enough to those of you who were able to join us, and share in our excitement for the 2014 season.
Here is a small glimpse into the day that was, and with just 17 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report, hopefully this will warm your baseball-loving souls for just a little bit longer.
I hope everyone is dealing well with this cold and wintry week here in the Nation’s Capital. When it gets cold like this, I usually calculate the days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (21 days!). This week is a bit different as we are just hours away from NatsFest.
- Just as a reminder, NatsFest is on Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. New venue. We hope you can join us. I am so excited to welcome Matt Williams and an impressive roster of players to DC. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, et al. Come early, stay warm, talk baseball.
- We are also expecting a special visit from arguably our most beloved Nationals alum, … Livan Hernandez. Livan, who threw the first pitch in the history of the Nationals, completed his 17-year big league career in 2012 with 178 wins, 44 of which came as a member of the Nationals. It will be fantastic to sit down and catch up with Livan.
- Speaking of Livan, it will be fun to have another inaugural-season National in camp with us upon arrival in Viera. In case you missed it, we signed infielder Jamey Carroll earlier this month and he’ll be competing for a spot on Matt Williams’ bench. Jamey also played for the Expos, so he should have some interesting perspective on how far this organization has come as we enter our 10th season in Washington.
- As we reach the late stages of the offseason, I think it is worth remembering that most of Mike Rizzo’s key moves came quite early: Doug Fister, Nate McLouth, Jerry Blevins. Mike and his crew are still hard at work searching for the right fits. Always looking to improve.
- We recently signed four-year Player Development Contracts with both Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. Through the years, we have really valued our relationships with the Chiefs, Senators and their respective fan bases. There is a sense of organizational satisfaction in being able to establish roots in both Syracuse and Harrisburg.
- I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Frank Ceresi, who passed away recently. For those that are not aware, Frank played an integral role in developing the art program that we collectively enjoy at Nationals Park. He was an enormous baseball/Nationals fan and he will be sorely missed.
I hope to see everyone on Saturday at NatsFest.
At Curly W Live, we put our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format by asking nine questions to players, coaches, broadcasters, front office members, prospects and other Nationals personalities. This is a special “Week of Thanks” edition of District 9, featuring Nationals radio voice Charlie Slowes.
1. When you look back at 2013, what is your biggest takeaway?
The 2013 Nationals season proves that old baseball adage, “You never know!” I think everyone had those words “expect” and “anticipate” in their heads, with the thinking the Nationals would duplicate or surpass their 2012 regular season accomplishments. Some of the experts had the Nats winning 105 games or more. But no two seasons are the same. You can’t predict injuries, fall-off in performance or different types of adversity. Things happen that you can’t predict. The Nationals late season run was how we all expected them to play all year, certainly leaving a lot of positives for next year. I think this team has overcome a lot and that the struggles of this year will benefit them going forward.
2. Describe your favorite on-the-field moment from the 2013 season.
I never have just one favorite moment. I always love Opening Day. I loved the opening ceremonies, the unveiling of the NL East Champion banner and the crowd was unbelievable. Then Bryce hit two home runs, Stephen Strasburg threw seven shutout innings and the Nats shut out the Marlins. Ryan Zimmerman’s three-homer game in Baltimore and ninth-career walk off homer against the Mets are on my list, and so is Denard Span’s diving, game-saving, game-ending catch against the Giants.
3. What was your favorite off-the-field moment?
My best off-the-field moments are often times interactions with other Nationals fans. The best day for that actually was on the field, getting to play in the Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic. Playing on the Nationals Park field with so many people staying for the game and cheering for us was a blast. It’s always an honor to be with and support those who serve and protect our country.
4. What did you learn about Jayson Werth during the 2013 season?
I learned that Jayson has the ability to lead a club, to put the team on his back and carry it when they needed it most. He said all the right things and never let this club stop fighting or give up. He has been a great teammate in the clubhouse.
5. Did you learn anything about Bryce Harper this year?
We’ve learned that at 20 years old (now 21), even though he is so impressive, I think we haven’t even scratched the surface where Bryce is concerned. He has a strong desire to play, succeed and win.
6. How do you view Davey Johnson’s legacy in D.C.?
His legacy will be attached to winning on the field, to getting the team to the postseason and helping to instill the confidence to play winning baseball, every day. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.
7. What are your impressions of the Matt Williams hire?
I was very impressed with how Matt handled himself the day of his introductory press conference and his plans going forward. He is spending time getting to know his coaches and players, making for a smooth transition come Spring Training. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s ready for this. It will be interesting to see what might be different come spring and how he puts his stamp on this club.
8. We’re about to enter our 10th season of Washington Nationals baseball here in our nation’s capital. What does that milestone mean to you?
I think 10 years means the Nationals now have a history to draw from and to refer back to. The Nationals are now a household name in Washington, providing a winning club on the field to root for with an established fan base. You see Nationals gear around the city now, no matter the time of year. The Nationals have also become an organization that has and will continue to give back to the community through the Dream Foundation and its initiatives. I am very excited to see the Youth Baseball Academy running at full speed very soon.
9. What are you most thankful for this holiday season?
First, I am thankful for the health of my family and good friends. It all starts there. Everything else is gravy on the turkey. I am also very fortunate in my role with the Nationals; being able to do something that I love with a great partner and for the great support received from the organization and of course, our listeners.