Results tagged ‘ Matt LeCroy ’

Opening Day Memories

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — The wait is almost over. In less than 24 hours, Opening Day of the 2014 baseball season will be upon us.

opening weekThis will be the Washington Nationals’ 10th Opening Day since baseball returned to D.C., and there have been plenty of memorable Opening Day moments in that span.

Who could forget Ryan Zimmerman christening Nationals Park with a walk-off on Opening Day in 2008? Or Bryce Harper smashing two home runs on his first Opening Day in the Major Leagues  – becoming the youngest player ever to do so — just last year.

But each player has their own memories of Opening Day, and it’s a special day in the baseball world. Some stand out for obvious reasons. Craig Stammen said the most memorable Opening Day for him was his first, and it also happened to be one President Barack Obama attended at Nationals Park. He shook the President’s hand. That in itself was pretty memorable.

Here are a few others, in their own words:

Adam LaRoche: “It was in Chicago (in 2012). I had like four punch-outs with the bases loaded. Luckily we won or it wouldn’t be real funny. I’ve got to be the first guy to leave like 20 guys on base through one game. I remember thinking after that game ‘Whoa, this might be a rough year.’”

To be fair to LaRoche, he was only 0-for-3 in that game, and he walked to load the bases in the eighth inning which led to the Nationals’ first run. He also went 5-for-9 with two home runs in the final two games of that opening series against the Cubs, and went on to have one of his finest seasons in the Major Leagues. 

Gio Gonzalez: “(My most memorable Opening Day) was at home against Cincinnati (in the 2012 home opener). That was when I got my first Major League hit and when I was warming up, to stretch and go out there, I thought I had plenty of time to just stretch, hear my music, get ready to go. I ended up telling (pitching coach Steve McCatty), ‘I got this. I’m ready to go.’  He said, ‘You know, you’ve got to stretch a little early because of (all the ceremonial events that go on before the game on Opening Day).’

“Next thing you know it was like 12:55 p.m. and the game was at 1 p.m. and I turned to Cat and I was like, ‘Cat, I don’t think I got this.’ I ended up not even long-tossing or throwing just went straight from stretching to the bullpen… Show and go. Sometimes it works.”

Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings that day, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

Doug Fister: “I got called up in 2009. My first Opening Day was in 2010 in Seattle. There were a couple of us who were fairly new and our biggest thing was trying not to trip on the red carpet. They had carpet that ran from center field all the way to the line (that we had to run down during introductions).”

Matt LeCroy (bullpen coach): “My first one (in the Major Leagues). That was my debut. My first at-bat I hit a double and got a standing ovation. We were in Minnesota at the Metrodome. I made the team out of spring. I was 23 or 24 years old. It was awesome. My whole family was there. I’d just gotten married. I don’t remember (the other at-bats). But that first one was pretty cool.”

District 9: Ian Krol

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We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then bringing you their responses in written and video form. This Q&A originally appeared in Volume 6, Issue 9 of Inside Pitch.

1. What was your experience growing up near Chicago and visiting Wrigley Field?

I had a really good experience. I played Little League, but I didn’t really start pitching until travel ball, when I was 12 or 13. Growing up, I was a Cubs fan, so I went to a lot of Cubs games. My family, they’re all Cubs fans. I have a lot of support around that area.

2. Do you have a baseball role model who you looked up?

My two role models in my life are my mother and my father. They do everything for me, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done. If I had to pick two people to look up to, it would be them.

3. Did your mom or dad have a strong influence on your interest in baseball?

They just encouraged me to do what I wanted to, and to excel at everything I did. There wasn’t a decision about what I should do or what sport I should play. They were just happy for me if I was happy.

4. What was it like to pitch so close to home in Single-A (Kane County)?

It was awesome. It was my first full year as a rookie in the Minor Leagues. To live at home, it rarely ever happens for anybody. I had family and friends come out all the time to support me. It made it a lot easier for them to see me.

5. How have you adjusted to pitching in a new organization?

There are a couple of guys from Oakland who play for Washington now, which made it a lot easier. Also, the coaching staff here is great. Everybody who works for the Nationals is really helpful and supportive with everything. The biggest thing is having Paul Menhart and Matt LeCroy as my first coaches in this organization. They really helped out with everything and did a great job of getting me ready to go to the big leagues. They made me feel welcome.

6. Was there a chip on your shoulder after being labeled as the “player to be named later” in the trade with the Athletics?

Not really. I just really kind of took it and ran with it. I came over to the Nationals and just played baseball. I didn’t worry about a thing. The only chip I have is from all the struggles I’ve been through. It makes it so much sweeter to make it up here after all of that.

7. Can you believe that you’re sitting in a big league dugout just four years out of high school?

My mom and dad tell me all the time, “Don’t ever wake up. Take every moment in and enjoy it, don’t get ahead of yourself, just soak it all in.” But sometimes I have to take a step back and look at where I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish so far. It’s pretty sweet.

8. What was your first Major League memory after you were called up?

Probably when I stepped into the clubhouse for the first time. I’ve never been in anything like that. I stepped in and my locker was all set up for me. That’s when it first really hit me, like, ‘Wow, I’m in a big league clubhouse, I get to put on a big league jersey, and go out and play big league baseball.’ It was unreal, so surreal. It’s everything I could ask for.

9. What’s the story behind your Twitter handle, @IanKrolTKB?

It’s kind of a funny joke just between me and my friends. They used to call me “King” back in Oakland, because that’s what my last name means (in Polish). I was off Twitter for a while, so when I came back I used “TKB” in my handle: The King is Back.

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