Results tagged ‘ Jerry Blevins ’

Jerry Blevins on his experience in the Japan All-Star Series

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by Jerry Blevins

In November, Jerry Blevins joined other Major League All-Stars in a tour of Japan, the Japan All-Star Series. When he returned from his second visit to Japan, Blevins wanted to offer a first-person account of the remarkable trip. What follows is straight from the mind of the Nationals’ left-hander. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved traveling. Experiencing new cultures — trying new foods, seeing new places, hearing different languages — has filled my dreams since I was a kid. Intriguing me, and captivating my imagination and curiosity.

The truth is, I’m a curious person by nature. That’s why my friends call me ‘Whiskers.’

(No one calls me ‘Whiskers’. I stole that from Will Ferrell. ‘Whiskers’ isn’t something I want to be called even though I’ve definitely been called worse.)

Anyway, back to traveling. Baseball has given me many opportunities to travel while playing the game I love. In 2012, I was a member of the Oakland A’s and we opened the season playing the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo. It was, in short, an amazing trip.

2014 Japan All-Star Series - Game 2:  Samurai Japan v. MLB All-StarsI enjoyed Tokyo so much I had planned on going back on vacation. When I heard that MLB and the MLB Players Association were putting together a team to play in Japan against their national team, Samurai Japan, I couldn’t put my name in the mix fast enough.

Thankfully for me, and my fiancé, Whitney, who came with me, I was selected. And during this trip, we would be playing Samurai Japan in Tokyo, as well as, Osaka, Sapporo, and Okinawa.

Before we even left I knew this was going to be a great trip. Not only did Whitney and I get to travel to these cities, but I got to play baseball with an amazingly talented roster. Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Yasiel Puig and Justin Morneau were just a few of the players. It was a true all-star caliber team.

Plus some guy named Blevins.

***

One of the things I love about travel is seeing the differences in cultures. But one of the things I love about baseball is that it is virtually the same game wherever it is played.

There are subtle differences about how each country chooses to execute the game. But at it’s core, baseball is baseball: nine innings, three strikes, three outs.

Japanese baseball has evolved, along with the game we know in America. Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing baseball in Cooperstown in 1839, but an American teacher named Horace Wilson taught his students in Tokyo the game sometime between 1867 and 1873. From there, Japan adopted baseball as its own country’s favorite sport.

Without question, the level of talent in Japan makes them an integral part of baseball’s international elite. The talent of those players has translated to MLB success as well. Players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Norichika Aoki, Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish, and so on, can not only hold their own in MLB, but are some of the best our game has to offer. Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada even played for our MLB team against Samurai Japan on this trip.

There were some future MLB players on the Samurai Japan team too. Two pitchers to keep an eye on are Kenta Maeda and Shohei Otani.

As I mentioned, part of what makes baseball so great is that it is a game that transcends differences. The game itself is always the same. That said, playing a baseball game in Japan is a different experience than playing in the US.

Giants & Tigers v MLB All Stars - FriendlyInstead of players picking a walkout song, the fans sing a song for that individual player. They bang on drums and blow trumpets and create a tune specific to that player. I found myself, throughout the tournament, humming along with a couple of the more catchy tunes.

Also, there is no heckling. The Japanese fans are always positive in their cheering. Some American players I know might miss the heckling, others wouldn’t. But I found it so interesting that it just isn’t a part of Japanese baseball at all.

Still, even with the differences in my experiences of playing in Japan, like I said before, baseball is baseball. It is one of the many things I love about the game. But I won’t get into the others, that is an entirely different story.

***

Our first exhibition game was held in Osaka. We played at Koshien Stadium, where Babe Ruth played on MLB’s 1934 tour. It is still in really good shape, considering it was built in 1924.

After the exhibition game, we played our first game that counted in the Osaka Dome. When we took batting practice, I couldn’t help but constantly look up at the roof. It made me feel like I was inside a space ship. Very different from any dome I’ve been in before.

When we were done playing in Osaka, Whitney and I joined a large portion of the traveling party in driving to Kyoto on our off-day before heading to our next game in Tokyo.

Kyoto was incredible. If you ever go to Japan, I would highly suggest you plan to go to Kyoto as part of your trip. The city is wonderfully preserved to showcase Japan’s history and culture. The architecture with temples and shrines are wonderful to see. A place where Japanese traditions are still alive today. If you have ever seen a samurai movie, chances are it was filmed in Kyoto.

Blevins2

Courtesy of Jerry Blevins

For our lunch break, all the players, coaches, wives, and staff on the trip got to experience a geisha performance. Geishas danced and sang for us as we ate. Towards the end of our lunch, they had some of us participate in one of their dances. The dance was both an ode to baseball with a take on rock, paper, scissors.

Of course, no one volunteered right away and Whitney pushed me forward to participate. I ended up beating Puig in a rock, paper, scissors battle. It is up for debate who was the better dancer, but I like to think I held my own. Whitney went up as well and won her match against Julianna Zobrist. International Geisha Rock-Paper-Scissors Champions! We never did get our trophy. Must be in the mail.

We took the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. That was great — once we got on it. The adventure began immediately, as we had a small window from when the doors opened on the train to let passengers in to when they closed. It was a concerted effort to get all of us, with our stuff, on the train before they closed the doors and took off. Apparently, on past trips some people were left behind, bags in hand, as the train sped away.

Once on the train, there wasn’t much to it. It was super smooth as it sped towards Tokyo. The highlight of the ride was getting to see Mt. Fuji. That is a sight. Magnificent how it rises above all that surrounds it.

While in Tokyo, the team was invited to visit the US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy. The complex where we were invited was amazing. It is in the heart of Tokyo, surrounded by tall buildings. But on the grounds, there is a huge garden and a huge house where she lives. It is wonderful to walk in the yard and feel serene while you look up and see skyscrapers.

Blevins1

Courtesy of Jerry Blevins

I made sure I took a photo in the same room where Emperor Hirohito and General McArthur took their famous photo together after Japan surrendered in World War II.

One of the highlights of Tokyo was seeing some of the presentations given to our Players Trust and some of our players.

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with an earthquake and tsunami. The damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan. Over 15,000 were killed with tens of thousands more being displaced without homes. I can’t even pretend to be able to do that tragedy justice with a few short sentences as to how much damage was caused.

The Players Trust, our charitable foundation where we support causes that are important to us as a group, donated $1 million to help in the recovery of the earthquake and tsunami. Before one of our games in Tokyo, the players and Players Trust director, Melissa Persaud, got to see five presentations from the five different recipients of our grants.

It was touching and inspiring to see how they were using our donations to better their lives and the lives of those in their community. If you want to know more about it, visit: playerstrust.org.

The morning before we left Tokyo, Whitney and I went to Shibuya Crossing. It is a famous intersection where five streets meet. All the traffic lights turn red at the same time, and then it’s a true scramble. We sat up in a second-story Starbucks to watch it for a while. The Starbucks itself was an adventure — it is one of the busiest in the world. But from there, the view of the crossing is hard to beat. A full sea of people embark to cross at the same time, filling the streets.

From Tokyo, we flew to Sapporo. Sapporo is famous for their beer, of course, but also for their snow. The city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. Luckily for us, there was only a couple of inches on the ground.

We played our game in the Sapporo Dome. This is easily the biggest dome I’ve ever seen. I was told it could hold the Tokyo Dome inside its own dome. The dome is famous for having a retractable surface. The baseball games are held on turf and soccer games are played on grass. The grass surface slides in when some of the bleachers are rotated to accommodate the change. Unfortunately, they opted for fiscal responsibility and didn’t acquiesce to my request to see the switch at work for my own amusement.

And yes, I did have a Sapporo while in Sapporo. And it was glorious. On the same night I drank their famous beer, I tried a food that wasn’t glorious in any sense.

 

Whitney and I went to dinner with Rob Wooten of the Brewers and his wife, Chris Capuano of the Yankees and his wife, and Randy Choate of the Cardinals and his wife. As we were reading the menus we came across the name “Maguro Shuto.” The translation under the item was as follows: Fish Guts pickled in Salt of the Tuna. As soon as he read this, Rob Wooten yells, “I dare you to eat that!” Wonderful Rob, thanks buddy.

If you follow me on twitter, @JerryBlevins_13, you might have seen the video I posted of me completing this dare. If you happened to miss that gem I’ll help you out. It was not good. I thought something might have been lost in translation. Turns out, the only thing lost was my appetite.

We ended our tour of Japan by flying from the northern city of Sapporo to the southern city of Okinawa.

Courtesy of Jerry Blevins

Courtesy of Jerry Blevins

Okinawa was a great place to end the trip. It was warm and touristy in the best sense. Most of the people we ran into were on vacation; including the Japanese people. Along with the warm weather, Okinawa is home to 32 US military bases. The best thing about playing in Okinawa for myself, and a lot of the other players, was the ability to play in front of a large contingent of US military personnel.

To end the trip playing in front of the wonderful and mixed crowd of Japanese and Americans was perfect.

Japan is really a beautiful country. I love a city with a skyline and Japan has several of them. The skylines of Osaka and Tokyo are true masterpieces. They are right up there on my list with some of my favorite American road stops in San Francisco, Toronto, and Chicago.

If mountains are your thing, Mt. Fuji is beauty in the truest sense. It is breathtaking. There is a reason why so many have featured it in paintings. It’s too bad I only got to see it from the bullet train this visit. During the Opening Series in 2012, I was fortunate enough to take a helicopter ride nearby, and was able to admire it from a better perspective. But even from a speeding train, its beauty is unmistakable.

Japan is also extremely clean. There isn’t any trash on the ground — wherever you look. Some of the other players and I used to search for it in public places, to just point it out to each other. “There it is! Look at it!” I carried an empty bottle I saw on the ground for 20 minutes looking for a trash can while walking through Tokyo before I threw it away in the hotel — not because I’m a great person, but because there aren’t any trash cans on the streets either.

I was also told it’s considered rude to eat and drink while walking in public. They have so much respect for their country, and each other, that they don’t want to soil it. People either consume what they buy where they buy it and throw it away there, or they take the trash home with them and recycle it themselves. Hence, no trash cans on the streets.

Whatever the reason for the cleanliness, it is a great part of their culture and one I wish we would adopt in a more widespread way here in the US.

***

Remember back at the beginning here when I let you all in on my curious nature? I think my curiosity has developed from one basic question that I’ve often asked myself: “What would my career be if I were born _____?”

If I were born in England, would I be a soccer player? Had my parents lived in Canada, would I be playing hockey? Probably not, but curling looks like a blast. My aspirations to understand something or someone that is different from me is what pushes me to travel. I think I’ve always possessed an ability to empathize with others and understand where they are coming from. And learning as much as I can about other places and cultures is an extension of that.

So the question is: what if I were born in Japan? I think that answer is a fun one.

I believe I would still be a professional baseball player. That is where my love and respect for Japan starts. The beautiful country, with beautiful people, keep me talking about it. Hopefully I will be able to visit it again. ​

Jerry Blevins in Japan: Kabuki, ramen & a few innings of work

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by Amanda Comak

The Major League All-Stars tour through Japan is about to hit the home stretch with five of the seven games they’re slated to play already in the books. And Washington Nationals reliever Jerry Blevins has not wasted a minute of his trip.

While he’s been enjoying sightseeing and soaking in the culture, Blevins has also been summoned to pitch three times in the five games. So far, he’s been superb.

Blevins has thrown three innings, allowing just one run (and no earned runs), off three hits and two walks with one strikeout.

He appeared on Sunday, Nov. 16, in a 6-1 MLB victory, on Friday, Nov. 14, in an 8-4 loss, and on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in an 8-7 MLB win.

Blevins has been keeping fans in the loop on his Asian adventure via his Twitter feed (which was listed by Sports Illustrated as one of the 100 must-follows).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kabuki-3Over the weekend, Blevins and Los Angeles Angels left-hander Hector Santiago visited a Kabuki Theater in Tokyo — and they got to take part in a bit of the performance.

Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama performed in a highly stylized manner — from the dancing to the costumes and the makeup. It has been a significant theatrical form in Japan for almost four hundred years. And it looks like Blevins and Santiago were naturals.

The MLB All-Stars have two games left in Japan and they will return to the states following their finale on Nov. 20.

Jerry Blevins heads to Japan for MLB All-Star Series

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by Amanda Comak

Jerry Blevins had been to Japan before. Back in 2012, when he was a member of the Oakland Athletics, the lefty traveled to the country as part of their season-opening series vs. the Seattle Mariners. He’d seen some of the iconic sights and had some unique experiences – like putting on a clinic for soldiers’ children at an army base and getting a chance to fly around that base in a helicopter.

He soaked in as much as he could in the week or so that the A’s were there.

And when the Major League Baseball Players Association put out an inquiry during the 2014 season for players interested in participating in the 2014 Japan All-Star Series, Blevins didn’t hesitate to throw his name into the ring.

Then he waited, and hoped.

“I put my name in a long time ago,” Blevins said last week as he packed for the trip that would take him to Los Angeles for two days, and then to Japan through Nov. 20. “As you can tell from the talent on the roster, there are a lot of guys who wanted to do this. I’m just so honored my name was picked.”

Team Photo  Ben Platt/MLB.comThe Nationals’ versatile lefty spoke excitedly of what was ahead of him: a chance to play with former teammates again and an opportunity to meet new ones, to soak in another international experience and sightsee while representing MLB, and to go through it all with his fiancée, Whitney.

“For the most part, I’m just excited to be in Japan and experience that culture from a different standpoint,” Blevins said. “(Whitney) has never been, and we’re really excited to go. I’ve been almost more excited for her to go over there, and have her share that experience with me, than I am for myself, really.”

The Japan All-Star Series will begin Wednesday and run through Nov. 18, but the MLB All-Stars will play an exhibition game on Tuesday (4 a.m. ET), and on Nov. 20. MLBNetwork will broadcast all seven games.

Here’s a breakdown of the schedule:

  • Tuesday:Exhibition game vs. Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium, Osaka (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
    • Wednesday: Game No. 1 at Kyocera Dome, Osaka (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
    • Thursday: Travel day
    • Friday, Nov. 14: Game No. 2 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
    • Saturday, Nov. 15: Game No. 3 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
    • Sunday, Nov. 16: Game No. 4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
    • Monday, Nov. 17: Travel day
    • Tuesday, Nov. 18: Game No. 5 at Sapporo Dome, Sapporo (7 p.m. JT/5 a.m. ET)
    • Wednesday, Nov. 19: Travel day
    • Thursday, Nov. 20: Exhibition game vs. Samurai Japan, Okinawa Cellular Stadium, Okinawa (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)

Before Blevins left for Japan, we caught up with him about a host of topics. Here’s some of what the affable lefty had to say:

What do you know about the Japanese style of baseball?

They’re very business-like, in a good sense of the phrase. They go about batting practice and make sure they’re trying to get better with every swing. They take the game very seriously, but they also have fun playing it and they play it in a positive manner. You can see that with a lot of the Japanese players who come over.

Their hitters put the ball in play. They put pressure on the defense. They’re not always trying to swing for power. There’s a lot of finesse in their game. Facing Ichiro Suzuki, like I have a lot in my career, that guy can put the ball in play from any different angle. He basically could, where I could throw a ball and hit a spot in the outfield right behind shortstop, he could do that with a bat. It’s just something that they take pride in, being able to have that kind of control.

Do you know any Japanese?

No, not really. I know ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye.’ In 2011, Hideki Matsui was on my team and whenever we were on the road our lockers would be really close.  His translator, Roger, had the locker right next to mine so I talked to him all the time.

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person who learns well – but the Japanese language did not come easily to me. I got frustrated and gave up early, even with him trying to help me out. It’s very complex. There’s a lot of pitch and tone and inflection. If there was an alphabet for me to learn off of, that would be easier but they don’t have that.

What has the process been like to get ready to pitch in a competitive situation in November? Did you have to look at your shut down period after the season differently? What have you been doing to prepare your body for that and are you concerned it will affect your offseason routine?

I’m not worried at all that it’s going to affect my preparation for next season, but I did have to make some adjustments because after our season ended — prematurely, in my eyes — there was a gap between when I knew I was going to be on this team or whether I was still in limbo because they were finalizing the roster. So I had to keep throwing just in case. Nothing super intense, but if I had to ramp it up, I could.

When they decided I was going to be on the team I talked to the pitching coach about what my role was going to be and what I need to be prepared for. So, because I had planned on pitching through October with the Nationals, that was easy for me. My body was in shape to do that and my arm is pretty resilient just throwing year round. Being from a cold-weather place, I throw more in the offseason than most guys do anyway, I’ve come to find out. So, this will not affect me for next year in my preparation, but I did have to adjust and be ready for this.

Is there anyone going who you’re excited to play with again or get to play with?

I played with Evan Longoria with Team USA after the season in 2007, we went to Taiwan. I’m excited to be his teammate again. There’s just a full roster of guys who I’ve admired in baseball who I get to play with. It should be fun.

Are you bringing the amazing CATS sweater (purchased at the Mall of America) to Japan with you?

I will not be bringing it to Japan… It’s a purchase that I’m proud of and I break it out probably once a year. The back of it has little paw prints so it’s pretty nice. I don’t know if you can tell, there are yarn balls the little cats are playing it. The string that connects that is an actual string.

Was it cool for you to find yourself listed on Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100?

Yeah, so cool! Completely shocked by that because I do tweet, but I don’t tweet a ton. But I admire the Twitter world,and to be mentioned by Sports Illustrated was very cool. I think there were only three ballplayers on there, so I’m pretty honored to be a part of that.

A little pressure going forward. But, no, that’s what I love about Twitter. There’s no pressure to perform. It’s just your personality. If people don’t like it they can unfollow me. That’s what’s great. That’s what I love about it. I’m glad the people over at SI understood my sense of humor and get what I do with it.

Blevins will be sharing glimpses of his trip on that very Twitter account so be sure to give it a follow. You won’t want to miss out. Here’s a sampling of @JerryBlevins_13‘s previous tweets:

Nationals and Harris Teeter host annual food drive

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by Matt Laux

harristeeter01The Washington Nationals and Harris Teeter teamed up to host their annual Food Drive at Nationals Park on Aug. 2 and 3, benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB). Over the two-day span, the Food Drive collected a record total of 8,331 lbs. of food for the CAFB, which assists roughly 500,000 children, seniors and families struggling with hunger in the Washington metro area each year.

The first day of the Food Drive began extra early as the team accepted donations prior to the Nationals Season Plan Holder Event. As volunteers opened for business, they eagerly anticipated the possibility of surpassing last year’s 3,854-pound first-day total. The exceptional turnout aided in the 4,879 pounds donated. The event’s success continued on Day Two, as the Nationals and Harris Teeter received another 3,452 pounds in donations.

Fans who contributed three or more non-perishable food items earned two tickets to one of two future Nationals games, while supplies lasted. Additionally, the first 1,000 fans to donate three or more Harris Teeter Private Label canned goods each day of the drive were rewarded with $5 in Nats Bucks.

The campaign began in earnest on July 8, when relief pitchers Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen worked with the Jubilee Housing Teen Renaissance at CAFB’s Kid’s Cafe. Blevins, Stammen and the children made “1-2-3 Salsa,” a healthy, budget-friendly snack, while raising awareness for the August Food Drive.

harristeeter02The annual Food Drive is just one of the many contributions Harris Teeter makes to the local community.

On top of the Food Drive, fans were able to donate at their local Harris Teeter stores. While this year’s total is still being counted, Harris Teeter raised an additional 2,145 pounds last year. Harris Teeter is also a proud supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as the Together In Education program.

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

Recapping the first two days of Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

The first two days of Spring Training 2014 have gone off without a hitch. And as more and more position players roll into camp, the pitchers and catchers continue on their head start toward the season. Here are a few snaps from the first two days of workouts here in Viera, Fla., along with some live video below.

Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann all worked in the bullpen during Sunday morning’s first session:

Craig Stammen, Gabriel Alfaro and Blake Treinen followed in the second group:

Tyler Clippard, Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen rolled in with the third group:

Back at Space Coast Stadium, where a few of the early-reporting position players worked out, Nate McLouth, Matt Skole and Anthony Rendon took a little batting practice:

Manager Matt Williams even got in on the fun, hitting grounders to the infielders and, as seen here, throwing some batting practice of his own to Jamey Carroll:

State of the Nationals

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The Washington Nationals’ Baseball Operations staff is about to descend upon Viera, Fla., next week as another Spring Training gets underway.

With the bulk of his offseason work done, Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo has a personal message for fans on the State of the Nationals entering a promising 2014 season.

Take a look:

A NatsFest Thank You

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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.

Enjoy!

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Gearing Up For NatsFest

Hello, everybody.

Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

One of the Washington Nationals’ Principal Owners,  Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

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.

Mark

Down on the Farm: The Rule 5 Draft

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by Noah Frank

One of the most confusing and misunderstood of all of baseball’s annual traditions took place last week at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. The Rule 5 Draft, the unofficial closing to baseball’s Winter Meetings, is a function of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement that helps give players a chance with a new club if they meet certain eligibility requirements. Unlike the Rule 4 Draft (more commonly known as the First-Year Player Draft, which takes place each June), players are picked from other organizations in both a Major League and Minor League phase. You can learn more about the intricacies and minutiae of the proceedings in this handy FAQ.

farm graphicThe Nationals’ 40-man roster was already full heading into the draft, so they did not procure anyone in the Major League phase (though they saw catcher Adrian Nieto taken by the White Sox). They did, however, make a couple of acquisitions in the Minor League portion of the event, selecting outfielder Theodis (Theo) Bowe from the Cincinnati Reds and right-handed pitcher Martires Arias from the New York Mets.

Aside from his terrific name, Bowe brings both speed and defense as a center fielder. In essence, he helps replace Billy Burns, recently traded to Oakland for left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins. Bowe is one season removed from a 70-steal campaign, and at just 23 years of age, Nationals Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba hopes to get a look at what he might provide moving forward.

“Bowe is still a young, left-handed outfielder that possesses two plus tools in his speed and defense,” explained Scialabba. “We had good information on his makeup, skill set and the way he played the game. He will compete for a spot at Double-A Harrisburg.”

Finding Arias is a credit to Nationals Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, who scouted him in the Dominican Republic earlier this year and recommended him for the Rule 5 Draft. Also 23 years old, the 6-foot-7 hurler reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, giving Scialabba and the Nationals’ staff another pitcher in the mold of many the organization has drafted in recent years.

“He’s another tall, power arm that we can add to our inventory and take on as a project,” Scialabba said. “We would like to see if we can make some adjustments to maximize his ability.”

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