Results tagged ‘ Mark Lerner ’

The List: 50 things to look forward to in 2011

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Hey NatsTown. Thanks for again stopping by.


Big weekend down here. Two more wins, including Saturday’s 6-5 comeback win over the Yankees in front of a packed house at Space Coast Stadium. We are now 10-5 on the Spring. Only the Braves (11-5) have a better record in the Grapefruit League. Feels good! We lost today’s home matchup with the Tigers, 4-1, but Jason Marquis continued to pitch very well. I think we are beginning to see the “real” Jason Marquis now.


Want to change things up today. Peek just about anywhere on television or at your favorite newsstand and you’ll quickly notice that our society is fixated on lists.

Honestly, who does not appreciate a good list after all? They are fun, thought provoking and stir debate.


With this in mind, I am going to list 50 “things” I am interested in, excited about or intrigued by entering the 2011 season.


This list is in no particular order, but I hope this spurs some dialogue and/or discussion among your fellow Nationals fans and friends.

Please feel free to send along your own admissions.


Let’s get started …


1.      Opening Day. Packed house, a big win over the Braves. I had to list this first, right?

2.      Jordan Zimmermann’s evolution in first complete season since having Tommy John surgery.

3.      The buzz at Nationals Park when Henry Rodriguez hits triple digits on the radar gun.

4.      The number of ways Jim Riggleman can pencil in Zimmerman, Werth, LaRoche in the 3-4-5 slots. Or will it be just one?

5.      Witness day-to-day Pudge’s march toward 3000 hits.

6.      The new food options opening up during the season at Nationals Park. This won’t be a small list.

7.      How much has Screech worked out this offseason? Will he again be svelte Screech?

8.      Our outfield defense. You have to think it will be really strong under almost every alignment Rizzo and Riggleman come up with.

9.      Ian Desmond’s defense. With a year of maturity and experience under his belt, and LaRoche’s vacuum-like glove at first base, how many fewer errors will he make without compromising his elite range.

10.  Will Sean Burnett continue to be as good a left-handed middle reliever as there is in MLB? I bet he will be with continued good health.

11.  Jayson Werth’s professionalism and its affect on our clubhouse. And how his presence in the middle of our lineup will positively affect our run production.

12.  Roger Bernadina or Nyjer Morgan, who will have more bunt hits.

13.  Who will lead the team in hustle hits (aka infield hits)? My bet is on Ian Desmond. But watch out for Danny Espinosa, plus he gets more than half his at-bats from the left side.

14.  When will we see Rick Ankiel’s legendary outfield arm pay dividends for the first time. Cannot wait.

15.  Will Tyler Clippard stick with “Peaches” as his intro song. Hope so.

16.  How will Jim Riggleman use his bench, which is as talented and as deep as we have known here.

17.  How many pinch homers will Matt Stairs hit? How many of those will be game-changers.

18.  Does Michael Morse put it all together? His prospects look good, don’t they?

19.  How noticeable and tangible will our renewed emphasis on baserunning be? Should be really fun seeing a lot of first-to-third, first-to-home on a double, etc.

20.  See Livan throw a ‘Bugs Bunny’ changeup that registers in the low 60s on the radar gun?

21.  Will Ryan Zimmerman win his 3rd straight Silver Slugger?

22.  Can Ryan rightfully reclaim his Gold Glove? I bet “yes.” Having Mr. LaRoche as a target won’t hurt.

23.  Interested to see Wilson Ramos’ arm and, for kicks and giggles, ask Bob Boone how it compares to Pudge’s when he was 23 years-old.

24.  With his new mechanics in mind, watch Ross Detwiler take the next step in his career (so far, so good this spring)

25.  Watch who gets the majority of our saves.

26.  Good weather, maybe highs in the 70s with plenty of sun, for Nats Fest on Wed., March 30.

27.  Want to watch the Mel Antonen, Tom Davis, Dave Johnson and Phil Wood pre pre-game show on MASN from 5-6:30pm weeknights. Also excited about Charlie and Dave on 106.7-WJFK FM. Good to be back on FM again!

28.  Multiple All-Stars for the Nationals for the first time since 2005 (Livan, Chad Cordero).

29.  With a small lead in hand, see who will pitch the 9th inning on Opening Day against the Braves.

30.  Can Collin Balester clone his Sept. 2010 performance and reproduce it in 2011?

31.  How many home runs will Bryce Harper hit in the minor leagues?

32.  See who Mike Rizzo and his talented network of scouts pluck with the 6th and 23rd-overall selections in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

33.  Excited to experience F.P. Santangelo on MASN 10 times in 10 days during a May road trip.

34.  Time (via a stopwatch) how long it takes our fans to fall in love with Jayson Werth and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Oh, and Todd Coffey and his sprint?

35.  Further good health and prosperity for Jesus Flores, who deserves both.

36.  Fewer trips to the mound for Steve McCatty as our starting pitchers consistently go 7 innings.

37.  Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond become the best and most athletic middle infield tandem in the NL. Heck, why stop there. Let’s say best in MLB.

38.  Adam LaRoche to be named as one of the sneaky-good signings of the 2010-11 offseason.

39.  Perhaps have a young opposing player swing twice when seeing a vintage Tyler Clippard changeup for the first time.

40.  With most of Taiwan watching, have Chien-Ming Wang make the first of his 20+ starts for us in May.

41.  Read about an opposing player like Chipper Jones, Chase Utley or David Wright lauding the consistent hustle and effort of your 2011 Washington Nationals.

42.  Require a calculator to tally the number of errorless games we string together in 2011.

43.  Watch to see how we grow as a franchise through the prism of social media.

44.  See if Nyjer Morgan can regain his 2009 Mojo.

45.  Watch Danny Espinosa homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

46.  Have Livan Hernandez rightfully claim his first Gold Glove.

47.  See Tom Gorzelanny make 30 starts and regain his status as a double digit-game winner.

48.  See winning records and postseason berths in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown, Auburn, Viera and the Dominican Republic.

49.  Be present as Stephen Strasburg pitches in mid-September, a la Jordan Zimmermann in Sept. 2010.

50.  Will Teddy win? I sure hope so! Maybe I’ll ask Todd Coffey if he can work with Teddy on the fine art of sprinting.


Again, please don’t hold back. Send in some of your own ideas.

Thanks so much for your time and continued enthusiasm for the Nationals.

17 more days until the opener…


I will be in touch again soon.


Day 25 in Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates

Good afternoon NatsTown. Time to quickly blog again leading into tonight’s game against the Astros here at Space Coast Stadium. Of course, we are on MASN the next 2 days, so I urge everyone to tune in and gain a glimpse of your 2011 Nationals.

If you can join us at Space Coast Stadium tonight, don’t be late. At 5:57 pm, NASA is launching a Delta 4 – NROL27 Rocket from nearby Cape Canaveral. So, it should be up in the air right around the time the National Anthem is played. Details on this rocket launch can be found here:

The winning ways have largely continued. Since my last entry, your Nationals are 2-1.

An 8-4 win on Wednesday at Florida was quickly followed by a 6-5 home victory over the Mets. Last night in Kissimmee, the Astros scored late to edge us, 6-5.

Let’s start with Wednesday in Jupiter. This really was our best game of the spring. As you might have guessed, the winning vibe began with the starting pitcher. Vintage Jason Marquis. His 4.0 scoreless innings included 3 strikeouts and, more importantly, a ton of ground balls. Marquis was followed by Todd Coffey, who was in control, striking out the side in the 5th inning. He has looked strong this spring. More strikeouts than you’d expect too. The bats matched the arms as we led, 7-0, after 7 innings. Danny Espinosa went 3-for-3 with a double, his second homer of the season and 4 RBI. Michael Morse had 2 more hits and a walk. Not much went wrong in this contest.

Thursday afternoon’s 6-5 victory had a familiar feel, that is until things got a tad hairy in the 9th inning. But no matter, as Tyler Clippard recorded the game’s final 2 outs to push the winning streak to 4. Chad Gaudin turned some heads with his start. In 5.0 scoreless innings, he struck out 6. Our 3-run first inning was highlighted by Adam LaRoche’s bags-loaded 2-run (automatic) double to center field. Adam’s ball would have been a grand slam in most parks, but a fierce cross wind knocked that ball down a bit.

I was not able to attend last night’s game at Houston, more good pitching from the arms of Collin Balester and Cole Kimball, who tossed 1.0 scoreless inning apiece. At the plate, Jerry Hairston had 3 hits in the loss. Can’t win them all.

I just had our PR official John Dever run the numbers on our starting pitchers through 12 games. In those 12 games to date, our 8 starters have combined on a 2.60 ERA, 12 walks and 32 strikeouts in 38.0 innings. I am quite sure that Mike Rizzo, Jim Riggleman, Steve McCatty, Teddy, Screech and our loyal and ever-growing fan base would gladly take those numbers over 162 games.

We know it is not that simple, but it is hard not to like what we are seeing. I get the feeling we have some pitching depth to work with. Let’s maintain some standard health and I think there is something to work with.

Looking toward next week, we are expecting ESPN and the good folks from Baseball Tonight to bring their bus to Viera and Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday, March 15. I cannot wait to ask Tim Kurkjian what it has been like living the life of John Madden for the last 3 weeks or so. No doubt that Big John put on hundreds of thousands of miles on his Madden Cruiser, but he never had to bunk with John Kruk! It will be good for the ESPN folks to get a first-hand look at our guys (even though we play that evening at the Mets).

As you read various season previews, you should be aware that most of the national baseball writers who choose to write about us do so after watching us play road games. Viera is a bit more isolated than most of the other camps in/around Florida (and Phoenix for that matter). Writers understandably like to cluster their visits. See 6 or 7 camps in a week. They like those types of ratios, as do their employers. This keeps travel costs down.

One of the flaws in this practice is that these writers rarely (if ever) get to see our “A” lineup unless they trek to Viera. At this juncture of the spring (we are nearing the midpoint), you will not see Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Morgan, Pudge, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, etc. playing together on the road. And when you think about it, why would Jim Riggleman exhaust them? It does not make sense. Each of these guys will play in multiple road contests, but these road appearances are staggered for a reason.

So, I offer this info so that you gain some perspective when reading some of the season previews that are readily available all over the internet.

We are expecting a lot of fans and friends to visit us this weekend, mostly from DC. No doubt that Saturday’s Yankees game is a big drawing card. The weather looks good for tomorrow, sunny and in the mid-70s. Cannot wait.

I will be in touch early next week. Please have a great weekend…

Nats keep winning in Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Thanks for stopping by NatsTown. I am writing today from Viera and in a few minutes I am set to take the 112-mile trek south to watch the Nats play the Marlins in Jupiter.


Well, glancing at the Grapefruit League standings, we are right at the top with a 6-3 record. Tied with the Braves (7-4) and Tigers (8-5). What does this mean? Some would say not much. We’ll take it, enjoy it and most importantly keep it in perspective. But it sure beats the alternative, right?

The baseball fan in me senses that the monotony that comes with Spring Training has officially set in. Workouts every morning. Games every day. You might say these are the Dog Days—not of July or August—but of March. Countdown to Opening Day…

But my eyes tell me differently!

Our guys are working hard, every day and seemingly every hour. There is a continued palpable intensity. Hundreds of ground balls courtesy of Dan Radison. Baserunning instruction from Bo Porter. Bullpen sessions with Steve McCatty. Extra-hitting with Rick Eckstein. Teaching moments from Davey Johnson and/or Pat Corrales. It does not end… well except for lunch around 11:15 a.m. or so. Then it is time to reinvigorate, to stretch, to play catch and get ready for the game at 1:05 p.m.

Jim Riggleman firmly believes that this will all pay off, and when you think about it, how can it not? All 58 players in our camp are committed to the pursuit of improved individual play within the scope of team-oriented baseball.

Since my last blog, your Nationals have pulled out a couple of wins: 14-9 over the Astros on Monday and a nicely-played 4-3 victory in 10 innings over the Mets yesterday at St. Lucie.

Saw plenty of power in yesterday’s win over the Mets as Michael Morse, Jerry Hairston and Brian Bixler all went deep. Saw plenty of rock-solid pitching from Jordan Zimmermann (3.0 scoreless innings, threw 93-94 mph), Brian Broderick (one run, 3.0 innings), Sean Burnett (1.0 scoreless inning) and Adam Carr (2.0 scoreless innings).

But what will I take away from St. Lucie yesterday? My first peek at one of our top prospects, Eury Perez!  The young guy (21 years-old) has a lot going for him.  He led off the 10th inning with an opposite-field single, then he swiped second with ease. Two batters later, Laynce Nix sent him home with the decisive run via a double. One of our pr guys, John Dever chatted with Ian Desmond, who told him that Eury is the “fastest player he had seen” since he became a pro. High praise indeed.

I am told Eury is a heck of an outfielder, he can hit (batted .345 in Dominican Winter League, .299 for Hagerstown last year) and he can run all day long (84 stolen bags in 2010 per my PR guys). I will keep an eye on his boxscores this summer via

Ryan Zimmerman Spring Training.JPGMonday’s win featured a trademark homer to right-center off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman and later a 9-run 8th inning that included two doubles from Bryce Harper. Don’t look now, Bryce is hitting .308 (4-for-13). He’s really holding his own against pitchers with 5 and sometimes 10 years of professional experience at their disposal. It sure is fun to dream about what is coming, isn’t it?

A lot has been made of our error total to date. Please note that only 7 have come from players who are seemingly certain to make the Opening Day roster. We are going to be much improved this summer defensively. Remember, the hard work has not stopped, won’t stop and will pay off. 

Tomorrow we have our lone split squad action of the spring. Afternoon game against the Mets in Viera followed by a night game in Kissimmee against the Astros. I am told that we will face A.J. Burnett on Saturday when the Yankees visit Viera. Challenges abound.

Thanks for your time and continued interest in the ballclub. Only 22 more days until Opening Day!

I’ll be in touch again soon …

Day 21 in Viera: Starting pitchers continue to roll

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Good afternoon NatsTown. Yet another picturesque morning in Viera. Looking forward to hosting the Astros today at Space Coast Stadium.

Before we delve into baseball talk, many of our fans who have made the trip down to Spring Training have been stopping by before and after games to say “hello.”

Please know, we love seeing you all and want to impress on everyone just how much we appreciate your never-ending support of the Nationals. It does not go unnoticed.

Thank you!

We are just coming off a big Grapefruit League weekend, including Sat.’s 10-8 victory in a slugfest over the Yankees. It is always interesting to play the Yankees, always fun to beat the Yankees. With 27 World Championships, they are the standard against which teams measure themselves. Sure, we know Saturday’s win came in a Grapefruit League contest and we did not face some of their star players.

But our lineup fared well against C.C. Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain, two mainstays of their rotation and bullpen, respectively. Ryan Zimmerman (2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Ian Desmond (2 hits, RBI) both appeared to be in midseason form. And what a thrill for Jeff Frazier, who grew up in New Jersey, to homer against his hometown Bronx Bombers. And with family and friends in the stands? Great story for Jeff.

Despite some daunting skies in the late morning, we hosted a huge and boisterous crowd of 6,250 on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium. That made for a fun atmosphere reminiscent of a regular-season game. Kenny G. performed a rendition of the National Anthem that culminated with a 60-second note near the end of the tune. Everyone was simply wowed by the performance. I won’t forget it.

Although our bats stalled against the Braves, I think it is fair to say that Ross Detwiler’s superb outing is the key performance going forward. Ross looked very strong as he struck out 5 in 3.0 scoreless innings. And this was a Braves lineup that featured the vast majority of their big names (Heyward, Chipper, Uggla, Prado). I know Steve McCatty was beaming afterwards about the outing.

Don’t look now, but Detwiler, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Yunesky Maya and Jordan Zimmermann have combined to allow just one earned run in 16.0 innings this spring. These performances are in stark contrast to last spring, when the majority of our pitching staff struggled in Florida. So, things appear to be trending in the right direction on the pitching front. Oh, and those numbers do not include 4.0 businesslike innings out of Livan in a Minor League game yesterday. I could watch Livan pitch anywhere, anytime. After his start yesterday, Livan told me that he was pleased, especially compared with his first start, during which he did not feel like he was in synch.

Scary moment Sunday when Wilson Ramos was struck by a foul tip. He is alright, but it gave us all pause for a minute or so there as he was being tended to by our athletic training staff. Wilson is a special talent who is going to help our pitchers, our lineup and our defense. He can really throw and he has some power in that bat. And he is still learning. There is not much that Wilson cannot do on the baseball field.

I took a few calls late yesterday from family and friends in DC and the F. P. Santangelo reviews were all positive. We are happy to have F.P. and his family on board for 2011 and beyond. It is great to have all our broadcasters—Bob Carpenter, Charlie Slowes, Dave Jageler, Debbi Taylor—on the ground with us here in Viera.

Quick reminder that MASN will telecast two games next weekend, Friday vs. Houston (6:00 pm) and Saturday vs. NY Yankees (1:00 pm).

I am also pleased to say that Saturday’s game against the Yankees is sold out. Should be fun. I will be in touch again soon.

Day 18 in Viera: Happy Friday

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Hello NatsTown. I am writing to you from sunny and warm Viera, Fla. Today is very windy and comfortable.


Since my last blog, your Nationals have topped the Mets (5-3 on Wednesday at home) and lost a 7-5 decision to the Cardinals on Thursday in Jupiter. So, we stand 3-1 and host the Braves today here at Space Coast Stadium.


Today’s 1:05 p.m. contest will likely be a bit strange without Bobby Cox guiding the Braves. Bobby is going to be missed. He is the ultimate ambassador, for not only the Braves, but the game of baseball. I wish him all the best in his retirement, but I bet we run into him at a ballpark or two over the next few years. Bobby’s never going to leave the game entirely. At least I hope not.


I took in a 2-inning Minor League contest down the street at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. The game was set up for Tom Gorzelanny, Chien-Ming Wang and Ryan Mattheus to ease themselves into game conditions in a controlled setting. Wang pitched well during his 15-pitch inning, during which he threw in the mid-80s and induced 3 outs (one out was negated by a fielding error). Tom Gorzelanny looked good too. He recorded 5 outs in 30 pitches (a pair of 15-pitch innings). Tom retired the side in order during his 2nd inning. Lastly, righthander Ryan Mattheus struck out 2 in a scoreless inning. He is the pitcher Mike Rizzo acquired from the Rockies in July of 2009 in exchange for Joe Beimel. He is returning from July 2009 Tommy John surgery and is essentially on the same time line as Jordan Zimmermann.


Speaking of Zimmermann, his performance yesterday in Jupiter was especially pleasing. 3.0 scoreless innings against the Cards lineup that featured Albert Pujols. I’ll take that in a heartbeat, especially in a Grapefruit League debut. I see Jordan as a silent-killer type. He is a quiet and polite guy when you meet him, but the coaches tell me that he is as fierce a competitor as we have on the pitching staff. Like Marquis, I can hope for nothing more than full health for Jordan, because that is all he’ll need to succeed. His arm is electric and other teams know it.     


This morning, Rizzo, Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty reassigned Shairon Martis, Matt Chico and Joe Bisenius to Minor League camp. Hopefully this move affords the trio more innings, but I think it also speaks to our ever-increasing pitching depth. McCatty has a lot of good arms to look at in a relatively short amount of time. It is going to be tougher than ever to earn a spot on this pitching staff. We are getting there.


I am very excited to see our guys face the Yankees tomorrow. As previously disclosed here, we will face C.C. Sabathia, but word came out yesterday that Joba Chamberlain is also likely to pitch for the Yanks. Should be fun.


I was anxious to see Jason Marquis’ spring debut today. The wait was worth it, as he allowed just one hit in 3.0 scoreless innings (he just finished up a moment ago, score still tied 0-0 after 3 innings). Jason struggled with injuries last year, but everyone knows he is better than that with full health. We saw a good number of ground balls today (6 outs on the ground). That’s a good clue that Jason is on track for an improved performance in 2011.


Please, everyone have a good weekend! Oh, don’t forget to tune into Sunday’s game against the Braves on MASN and/or on our new flagship radio station, 106.7 WJFK-FM.

I will be in touch again soon.

Day 16 in sunny Viera

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.


Good afternoon NatsTown from Viera!


As you might expect, optimism is high after recording 9-3 and 5-3 wins over the Mets the last two days. Both games were remarkably well-pitched and the defense was strong. Just two errors and two walks! Usually you don’t see such cleanly-played games until a week or so into the Grapefruit League schedule. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa combined on a 4-6-3 double play on Monday against the Mets that I am not sure many other tandems would have finished off.


Yesterday, I was impressed by Ross Detwiler, who struck out three in 2.0 strong innings. It was good to see Ross’ velocity back up after he endured that hip injury last spring. He has a heck of a slider too. Very encouraging signs from our former first-rounder.


And after Detwiler left the game, I was taken aback by the power of both Cole Kimball and Collin Balester. Both guys are BIG and regularly throw in the mid-90s. I sat behind the dugout yesterday at Space Coast Stadium and let me tell you, you can feel the velocity from both Cole and Collin. Mets hitters did not look too thrilled to be facing either of those two power arms.


At the plate, it is hard not to be impressed with Michael Morse and his .714 batting average. He is 5-for-7. And his 2-homer effort in Monday’s opener at St. Lucie was really special in that his first homer was crushed to left field (500 feet? Seemed close to that) and his second was an opposite-field shot. That’s good hitting in February, March or… August.


The weather for Tuesday’s opener was a tad disappointing, as it rained for most of the morning. But by noon, the system pushed off shore and we were ready for baseball. So it was dry. It was great to host representatives from each branch of the military yesterday, the majority of which are stationed at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, which is only about 10-12 miles from Space Coast Stadium.


The good news is that the ideal weather is back today. Look for lots of sunny skies and temps ranging from 77-81 the next week or so.  Great baseball weather for players and fans alike.


I found out yesterday that the Nationals will face lefthander C.C. Sabathia on Saturday in Tampa. Should be a fun test as he is on a short list of the best the game has to offer.


Also, we have a Henry Rodriguez sighting! He arrived in Viera late last night and reported to camp this morning. Pitching Coach Steve McCatty told me that Rodriguez’s bullpen sessions were very impressive. This is another legit power arm and you certainly cannot have enough of those.


I ran into Bob Carpenter this morning. He is in town with F. P. Santangelo and Debbi Taylor to address the ballclub this morning. Bob’s spirits are very high for the 2011 season. He also told me that F.P. is a great addition to MASN’s stable of TV talent. They are anxious to get going.


I then enjoyed meeting F.P. later in the morning. He is thrilled to be here with us, especially after driving across the country last week! F.P. certainly has studied up on the Nationals. He knows the roster inside and out, and is already well aware of the tangible momentum we have going within our organization.


One correction from Monday’s blog, MASN’s initial telecast of the spring is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. as the Nationals host the Braves at Space Coast Stadium. So please tune in and take a peek at what the 2011 season might have to offer.


2-0 and looking forward to today’s contest against the Marlins. John Lannan is on the mound. Let’s hope our winning ways will continue…

Curly W Live Welcomes Owner Mark D. Lerner

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training home in Viera, Fla. Check back often for the latest updates.

Greetings NatsTown from sunny and warm Viera, Fla., the Spring Training home of the Washington Nationals.

It would be impossible to describe the feeling you experience when you first arrive at Spring Training each February… the smell of the fresh-cut grass, the sound of a bat striking a baseball, the buzz you feel in the air as fans of all ages assemble to watch Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper driving balls over the fence during batting practice. Nothing compares to Spring Training, especially after a long, cold winter in Washington, DC.

Today, the Nationals open their Spring Training schedule with a matinee against the New York Mets. Just a quick trip down I-95 to Port St. Lucie, then we’ll get to hear the first “play ball” of the 2011 spring season. I am really looking forward to it.

For Nationals fans who weren’t able to escape to Florida to catch the opener, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along on Our spring broadcasts on TV and radio begin next week (speaking of radio… check this morning for an exciting announcement that will positively impact our radio listeners beginning in 2011). Our first game on MASN is this Saturday against the New York Yankees in Tampa.

Since my wife, Judy, and I arrived in town on Saturday, I have had the opportunity to watch a few workouts and catch up with many of our players. I’ll share my initial impressions below:

* We were in town just a matter of minutes on Saturday afternoon, before we encountered three of our neighbors — Bryce Harper, Doug Slaten and Sean Burnett — at the apartment complex we will call home for the next few weeks.

Doug and Sean are two of the nicest guys in the game, and we are fortunate to have that pair of reliable southpaws in our bullpen.

Bryce also has a great personality and is mature beyond his years. I hadn’t seen him since he participated in the Florida Instructional League in October, and let me tell you… he has worked extremely hard over the last number of months to prepare for his first pro season. It looks as though he has gained significant muscle, which will surely help him as he navigates through his first professional baseball season. It is hard to believe he is just 18 years old. 

* I caught up yesterday morning with our General Manager Mike Rizzo over breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel (where else!) near Space Coast Stadium. He is very pleased with the way the first two weeks of camp have gone, noting a renewed spirit, work ethic and professionalism at workouts. And, he remarked that several of the veteran players he acquired this offseason are making an immediate impact in the clubhouse and on the field. We just have a great batch of players that Mike has imported and they seem so much more dedicated to playing the game right, working hard and enjoying themselves as a team or unit.

It does bode well for 2011…

* The first guy I run into as I pulled into the park was Stephen Strasburg. He looks terrific and it’s evident that he has been dedicated to his rehab and conditioning. He was long tossing 75 feet yesterday at practice.

* A very large crowd greeted the team at practice today. I ran into many of our fans who have come down from DC.  I love connecting with our fans, and this blog is one outlet that will afford me that opportunity. I encourage any fans that are planning a trip to Viera to catch some spring action, please stop by to say hello as we cheer on the Nats together.

*Sad news yesterday for all baseball fans,  as we heard about the passing of Hall of Famer and Dodger legend Duke Snider. The Nationals family send their deepest condolences to the Snider family.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks, as I plan to blog periodically (three-four times each week) to share my Spring Training experiences and thoughts with our dedicated fans in NatsTown.

A Special visit to The Lab School of Washington

Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2011 Grapefruit League Season, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on at the Nats Spring Training in Viera. Check back often for the latest updates.

Hi Nats fans–I’m pleased to return to the Curly W Live blog for the first time since baseball’s Winter Meetings. It’s been an exciting couple of months for the entire Nationals organization especially for Mike Rizzo and his able staff. All of their hard work will soon take shape when pitchers and catchers report Tuesday, and Spring Training starts in earnest shortly thereafter.


But before the focus shifts to Viera, Florida and Spring Training, my wife Judy and I had a special opportunity to visit The Lab School of Washington Friday morning. We’re long-time friends with one of the teachers parents, Ms. Charlotte Lefkowitz, and were invited to meet with her class of nine and 10year-olds. The school boasts a truly unique educational environment and has a wonderful reputation. Charlotte and the kids were exceptionally welcoming and had a number of engaging questions for us about both baseball and the importance of getting an education.


It certainly helps to be able to point to some of our own players, including pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, as real world examples of young men who value and excel in both aspects of their lives. Over the winter, they both went back to school to continue their education. But the highlight of the visit came when we read the kids “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, the famous baseball poem originally published in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3,1888 – so there was a bit of a history lesson in our visit as well!


All in all, we were honored by the invitation to meet such a special group of students. We left them with a number of gifts from the Nationals and it was clear they are as eager as any fans in the area for Opening Day to arrive.


But in the meantime, it’s off to Viera for Spring Training for me next week, where I’ll be sure to check in regularly with the latest news and notes as we continue to build the foundation for what should be an exciting season of Nationals baseball.