Results tagged ‘ Space Coast Stadium ’

Ace for an Ace

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Jordan Zimmermann was dominant against the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers on Monday, setting down the final 18 batters he faced after allowing a leadoff single to begin the game. And as impressive as he was in dismantling one of the best offenses in baseball, he accomplished a feat even more rare off the field just last week.

As they have done each of the last three years, a collection of Nationals players, coaches and staff joined together for a par three scramble challenge on the Doral course near Space Coast Stadium last Monday night. With the off day on Tuesday, the tradition allowed for the group to come together off the field and bond over some friendly competition.

Zimmermann was as stellar on the mound yesterday as he was on the course last Monday night.

Zimmermann was as stellar on the mound yesterday as he was on the course last Monday night.

If you didn’t already know, the Nationals feature a number of very good golfers, mostly members of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Each group of four on the course had a designated A, B, C and D player, based on respective skill. Zimmermann, whose golf score hovers around his fastball – somewhere in the mid-90s, according to the pitcher – was the “C” player on Tyler Clippard’s squad, which began the day on the third hole, just over 100 yards long. And while Clippard may have been the designated “A” player, it didn’t take long for Zimmermann to establish himself as the ringer of the team.

“First swing of the day,” explained Zimmermann. “I pulled my pitching wedge, spun it back, and it went in.”

A hole-in-one on his very first swing, and style points to boot with the backspin.

Along with Clippard, Zimmermann’s team included Syracuse Chiefs hitting coach and “B” player Troy Gingrich, as well as Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, holding down the “D” player spot. Together, they combined to go 11 under par over 18 holes, forcing a playoff.

On the first playoff hole, Zimmermann again stepped up to finish what he had so masterfully started.

“He buried a 20-footer to win,” said Clippard, whose team knocked off the foursome of Drew Storen, Rick Eckstein, Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart and Kurt Suzuki.

It was both Clippard and Zimmermann’s first win in the tournament’s three-year history, but Philbin’s second consecutive win. Simply known as “Coach” to most in the clubhouse, they gave him a hard time for backing into his success again.

“Somehow Coach always finds his way onto the winning team,” said Zimmermann, who certainly earned the right to make the joke.

The par three scramble challenge will no doubt remain an annual tradition, as it is one of the only times all year the entire team is able to convene outside of the ballpark, just relax, and enjoy each other’s company.

“I wish we could do it once a week,” said Clippard of the event.

Of course, winning probably helps.

Weekly Review: National News

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Monday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Racing Presidents arrived at Mt. Rushmore on Presidents Day, concluding “Bill and Teddy’s Executive Adventure.” Washington learned that it will have another member of The District’s Nine represent Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, as Ross Detwiler was invited to join the squad. Meanwhile, back in Viera, we introduced you to a trio of new faces to keep an eye on in camp as Nationals wrapped up the final days of practice before the Grapefruit League schedule began in earnest.

On Saturday, Washington opened its slate on the road in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Stephen Strasburg took a Zen approach to his first two innings of work, and Bryce Harper collected the team’s first hit of the spring. On Sunday, the Nationals hosted their home opener against the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium, a contest that featured the strength of their top prospect, along with a rain delay, an extra inning, and a tie.

Weekly Record: 0-1-1

Overall Record: 0-1-1

Getting to Know: Ross Ohlendorf

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With Spring Training games beginning on Saturday, we’re taking the final few practice days of camp to bring you a closer look at some of the more interesting stories among this year’s Non-Roster Invitees. Today, we learn more about one of the most compelling personalities in the group, pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.

When it comes to the 6-foot-4, 240-pound pitcher with the power sinker, Ross Ohlendorf looks the part of the professional athlete. Born in Austin, Texas, he serves as a ranch-hand on his father’s farm in the offseason, where they raise longhorns. With huge hands and a bullish frame, he fits right into a throwing line of Nationals power pitchers, firing darts across an open expanse of outfield grass along the practice fields behind Space Coast Stadium.

However, Ohlendorf’s story does not end there. Not even close.

Ohlendorf (throwing) taking PFP's with follow Nationals pitchers.

Ohlendorf (throwing) taking PFP’s with follow Nationals pitchers.

Athletes are sometimes thought of simply in terms of the game they play, but a quick look at Ohlendorf’s resume – his degree from Princeton (the same alma mater as the recently signed Chris Young) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering, along with internships in the office of finance at the University of Texas and another with the Department of Agriculture in D.C. – dispels that notion quickly. In fact, after being drafted following his junior year, he penned a 140-page senior thesis while playing his first season of minor league ball. The topic, given his major, had to be rooted in mathematics, statistics or finance. Ohlendorf knew just the thing.

“The (MLB) Draft was really relevant at the time, so that’s what I decided to focus on,” he explained. “A lot of people would talk about how much players were getting paid as a signing bonus and say they were getting paid too much or not paid enough, so I decided to do a study to try to estimate how it’s worked out for teams.”

He analyzed the top 100 picks over a five-year period, then analyzed the return on the initial investment over the next 12 years of the players’ careers. If that sounds like the kind of thing that would make him a prime candidate to follow in the footsteps of players-turned-executives like Billy Beane, perhaps so. But all that talk is a little premature for Ohlendorf. He’s still got plenty of baseball left in his arm.

Bullpen Coach Jim Lett looks on as Ohlendorf throws in the 'pen.

Bullpen Coach Jim Lett looks on as Ohlendorf throws in the ‘pen.

“I’m not sure yet,” he said, laughing, about the prospect of someday moving into the front office for a team. “It’s definitely something that would interest me, but I’m not really thinking that far ahead right now.”

Indeed. For now, Ohlendorf provides some of that starting pitching depth that EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo has been talking about all offseason. Of course, Rizzo was the Director of Scouting for Arizona when the Diamondbacks first selected and signed Ohlendorf in the fourth round of the 2004 First-year Player Draft. If Ohlendorf’s familiarity with Rizzo – as well as former teammates like Tyler Clippard and Micah Owings – wasn’t enough to sell him on Washington, his throwing partner this offseason was fellow NRI Bill Bray.

“That really makes the transition easier,” said Ohlendorf of the familiarity across different levels of the Nationals organization, his sixth. “I’ve really, really enjoyed Spring Training so far. It’s well done, and people really like each other here. It’s such a great environment here.”

Ohlendorf’s internship experience, as well as his five seasons spent pitching in the National League, have also brought him to the Nation’s Capital a number of times. He even lived near Capitol Hill for his 10-week internship with the USDA, which was mornings only, so he could go through his baseball workouts in the afternoon.

“I really liked it,” he said of his stint in Washington. “And I’ve really liked it when I’ve gone to play against the Nationals, too. It’s one of my favorite cities.”

While the positive Spring Training environment and the prospect of pitching in Washington help, perhaps the real reason Ohlendorf projects so much positivity about camp this year is internal. With 108 Major League appearances (73 starts) under his belt, the 30-year-old is happy to be fully healthy and feels particularly good about his physical well-being going into the spring.

Ohlendorf throws live batting practice to Chad Tracy.

Ohlendorf throws live batting practice to Chad Tracy.

“I’m really excited about this season, it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he explained. “I think part of the reason I feel so good, having stayed healthy last year, my arm feels even better this year. My workouts have changed a little bit each offseason and I feel like I’ve improved my diet this year, which I think has helped.”

The more he has focused on his workouts and his nutrition over the years, the less Ohlendorf has paid attention to his own personal numbers. And while discovering more about the statistical intricacies of the game he plays has been an intellectually stimulating project, as a player, Ohlendorf has learned not to overanalyze his own metrics and simply focus on what he can control.

“I do think they have a lot of value,” Ohlendorf said of the figures that formed the basis of his thesis. “But I’ve kind of found, for me as a player, I don’t think it does me much good, and it can do me harm to worry too much about my stats.”

As Crash Davis lectured Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, sometimes it’s better to not think, and just throw. However intricate and complex his intellectual pursuits are off the field, Ohlendorf is content taking that basic game plan into this season.

“Each game I try to pitch as deep into the game as I can and I try to get a win,” he said. “Just keep it simple.”

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Celebrating NatsFest

Happy new baseball season everyone.

As usual, I find myself again counting the days until Spring Training: just 14 more days! Yes, on February 12, our pitchers and catchers will report to Viera to get everything started once more.

I have said it before, perhaps in this blog, but there is nothing quite like Spring Training.

Nearly 8,000 Nats fans young and old turend out for NatsFest last Saturday.

Nearly 8,000 Nats fans young and old turned out for NatsFest last Saturday.

Optimism abounds. And, as the cliché goes, everyone is in first place. Well, at least until the Grapefruit League slate begins on February 23 in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Incidentally, we begin our home schedule one day later, on Sunday, February 24, hosting the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium.

But before I get ahead of myself, I would like to thank all of our fans, players and staff for what was a first class NatsFest last Saturday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

As most of you know, this was our first offseason foray outside of Nationals Park, and honestly, I could not be more pleased. Judging by the crowd of almost 8,000 fans and their enthusiasm, the venue and expanded program were well received. How about our new Racing President William Howard Taft – “Bill” – that we introduced at NatsFest? I see the rivalry between Teddy and Bill picking up where it left off after the election of 1912.

I was delighted to meet and/or reconnect with so many of our wonderful fans. Many of you were longstanding friends. Others were new, having hitched up your wagons during the special 2012 campaign. It was great to rub elbows with such a fantastic group and talk some baseball as we collectively waited out the cold winter.

Incidentally, the players were tremendously excited by the size of the NatsFest turnout. There were too many positive comments to count. I do remember, however, that Denard Span and Dan Haren were both quite impressed. NatsFest gave both gentlemen a perfect opportunity to jump-start their relationships with their new town, fan base and teammates. Rest assured, Denard and Dan are not only terrific ballplayers, but class acts off the field. Our fans will be proud to support both.

Before we can begin our journey in the Sunshine State, we have one more football game to enjoy.

Congratulations to Baltimore Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and the entire Ravens organization on their run to the AFC Championship. Sunday’s Ravens-49ers Super Bowl should, as usual, provide great pageantry and theatre. Go Ravens!

I’d be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate our Washington Redskins on their 2012 NFC East Championship. And best wishes to QB Robert Griffin III on a quick and complete recovery. He is truly an amazing talent and a fine young man.

Please enjoy the Super Bowl everyone and I hope to see many of you down in Viera in the coming weeks.

I am already packed.

To Begin Again from the Beginning

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Spring Training can spoil you, with its temperatures that stay warm through the balmy evenings and its persistent sunshine. It’s perfect beach weather, even if you don’t have the time to actually enjoy the surf and sand. Despite the heavy travel and the general lack of off-days, there is a vacation-like quality about the whole process.

Of course, all of that ends today. Rather, it ended last night, when the team stepped off the charter from Ft. Myers, landing at Dulles at about 7:45pm. The temperature was a mild 60 degrees, but still a dozen degrees colder than the coldest anyone in camp had felt in weeks. It was a solemn but encouraging reminder that we were home, that the real season was about to begin. It will certainly get no warmer in Chicago on Thursday, as the 2012 campaign begins in earnest at the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field.

Here’s a quick timeline of some of the notable events as Spring Training quietly came to its unofficial end (after all, there is one last exhibition game in D.C. Tuesday):

6:57am: We pull into Space Coast Stadium before dawn, as players, coaches and staff are already on the scene loading the moving van and the busses.

7:41am: Wheels rolling, we take off from Viera on our way to Ft. Myers, not to return until next February.

JetBlue Field, spring home of the Red Sox, from in front of the home dugout.

11:22am: After a long ride across the state of Florida, we arrive at beautiful, new JetBlue ballpark, also known as Fenway South, the spring home of the Boston Red Sox.

12:34pm: In Davey Johnson’s pregame press conference, he expresses his confidence in the team in both the near and long term. “I like our on-field product right now,” he said. “And it’s only going to get stronger.”

1:35pm: Aaron Cook throws the first pitch of the final Florida game of 2012 for the Nationals, a ball high to Roger Bernadina.

2:26pm: Danny Espinosa gets the Nationals on the board first with a solo home run, his second of the spring and his second in as many days.

3:46pm: Down in the clubhouse, we run into Chad Durbin. The reliever has just returned to the team after being with his wife, who delivered a healthy baby boy on Friday, and is running on almost no sleep. Regarding his outing, he quips, “I might have made a couple of mistakes. Not that I remember them.”

5:17pm: The game over, the buses have brought us literally across the street from the ballpark to the Southwest Florida International Airport, where we take off on the team charter to return to D.C.

The view from high atop the Green Monster at JetBlue Park, also known as Fenway South.

7:42pm: It’s official, the 2012 Nationals have arrived in the Nation’s Capital for the first time. Well, almost. The charter actually lands at Dulles, where we meet another round of buses to get us home.

8:37pm: Just blocks from the ballpark, we pull off of 395 onto South Capitol Street, swinging around the elbow-shaped off ramp. To our right, in the dark, a lit-up field at the Randall Recreation Center is buzzing with activity. Two teams are playing baseball, adorned in their simple, slightly mismatched uniforms at a park with an all-dirt infield. The only spectators are a handful of parents and coaches; there are no grandstands, no electronic scoreboards, no walk-up music.

This is the game in its purest form, a humble reminder of the joy that can sometimes be lost in the grind of the Major League calendar. It is also a reminder that on fields big and small everywhere, baseball is ready to be played once more.

8:41pm: After a long day of travel and a longer month of preparation and anticipation, we’re finally home.

Lombo Support

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The Nationals are enjoying a number of new luxuries this Spring Training that the organization has never experienced to this point in its existence. The young, talented rotation may be the main component lending to heightened expectations, but there is a subtler, more under-the-radar quality to this team that may prove crucial over the course of the 162-game regular season grind: depth. There is veteran depth in the bullpen, thanks to the addition of Brad Lidge, and in the lineup with the versatile Mark DeRosa. But another player in the DeRosa mold, one with great versatility and a solid bat, who could make a big difference for the 2012 Nationals, is infielder Steve Lombardozzi.

Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond give the Nationals solid, everyday players at both positions up the middle. But Lombardozzi’s ability to play defensively at each spot (and even spell Ryan Zimmerman at third on the occasional day off) makes him a viable option in that third middle infielder role. The Nationals have had a handful of players fill that role over the past few years (Alex Cora, Alberto Gonzalez, Felipe Lopez), but none have brought the offensive promise that Lombardozzi has displayed lately.

Lombardozzi tags out Dee Gordon in a game at Nationals Park last year.

After a slow start, Lombardozzi’s bat has heated up as of late, and he put together his most impressive performance of the spring on Friday, going 3-for-3 with a solo shot off CC Sabathia in Washington’s contest against the Yankees in Tampa. He is now batting .333 in the Grapefruit League, a notable improvement off the .194 he batted in his first 31 Major League at-bats last season.

“It’s not just my on-base percentage, I need to do everything well,” explained Lombardozzi. “But I take pride in getting on base and getting things going as a table-setter.”

Of course, for those who have followed Lombardozzi’s Minor League career, his recent success should come as no surprise. The son of the former big league infielder of the same name, he has batted .298 with a .369 on-base percentage over his four-year Minor League career. He’s coming off a 2011 year that saw him set career highs in batting average (.309) and home runs (eight), and set a new high with 30 stolen bases while being caught just eight times (78.9% success rate). With the Nationals looking for high on-base percentage players in front of the powerful bats in the middle of the lineup, Lombardozzi’s ability to do just that could earn him one of the final spots on the 25-man roster.

Lombardozzi won't forget that his line in Friday's box score any time soon.

“I’m very excited to be in big league camp and try to win a job out of spring,” he said. “I think the future of this team is real bright.”

As for the game today, Gio Gonzalez looked solid again, allowing his first run of the spring, but fanning six in just 3.1 innings of work, leaving with a 3-1 lead. The Yankees would eventually win in 10 innings, but not before Sean Burnett, Ryan Perry and Tyler Clippard each contributed a scoreless inning of relief. Washington returns home to Space Coast Stadium for a pair of games this weekend, beginning with the Marlins on Saturday.

Here are the Nationals results to date:

vs. Georgetown (exhibition) – W, 3-0

@ Houston – L, 3-1

vs. Houston – L, 10-2

@ New York (NL) – W, 3-1

@ Atlanta – W, 5-2

vs. St. Louis – T, 3-3

vs. Houston – W, 8-0

@ Miami – L, 3-0

vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-2

@ Detroit – T, 5-5

@ St. Louis – Canceled (rain)

vs. St. Louis – W, 8-4

vs. Detroit – L, 6-3

@ Atlanta – L, 6-5

vs. New York (AL) – L, 8-5

@ New York (AL) – L, 4-3 (10)

Overall Record: 5-7-2

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Bags in Hand

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Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2012 Grapefruit League Season from Viera, bringing his own unique perspective of the goings-on at Nats Spring Training.

Bags in hand, my wife Judy and I arrived yesterday evening in Florida.

This morning, I pulled into Space Coast Stadium very early. I was struck by the obviously warmer-than-DC temps, but honestly it was the optimism in the air that set this arrival apart from all my other spring visits.

Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson’s work began here almost two weeks ago. They officially put the pitchers and catchers through their paces for the first time on Feb. 21st. But, from all the reports I received from the ground, the vast majority of players reported to camp early and in great shape. It is obvious that their 2012 preparations had begun months earlier.

Games begin today at Space Coast Stadium, with an exhibition against Georgetown University.

Today at Noon, we host Georgetown University at Space Coast Stadium for the second time. What a great opportunity for the young Hoyas. I bet the memories of today’s contest last a lifetime. When this opportunity was raised to host the Hoyas, we accepted immediately. It was the perfect chance to give back and help grow, in our own small way, the game of baseball at the college level in the DC area.

As a baseball nut, I have always noticed some of the MLB-NCAA matchups at the beginning of the spring. Through the years, the Red Sox have often hosted Boston College and the same with the Marlins and the Miami Hurricanes.

I’m also excited that I’ll get to see Matt Purke pitch for the first time. For those of you who do not know, Matt was our fourth overall selection in last year’s Draft. A left-handed pitcher, Purke was a first-round pick the season prior by Texas, but chose to return to TCU for his sophomore season. I am anxious to see him in action, because he is quite talented, from what I understand.

Then on Saturday, the official Grapefruit League season begins with a road game against the Astros. In a true twist of fate, we will face Livan Hernandez, who signed with Houston in late January. I wanted to make sure that I crossed paths with Livan this spring. Not only is he an obvious favorite of mine to watch perform (it’s that changeup!), but I want to find him and thank him for his two terms of service with the Nationals. I don’t think any true Nationals fan will ever forget him. Livan threw our first pitch. He won more games than anyone in team history. And he did it with flair, charisma and most importantly, a smile on his face. I will truly miss him as a member of the Nats.

Until we next blog …

Weekly Review (2/27)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday morning of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day storylines, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Spring Training began as Nationals pitchers and catchers reported to Viera. Although the official position player report date was not until midweek, most players were in camp several days early. Senior Director of Media Relations John Dever began his (almost) daily musings on the notable events each day in Spring Training. Anthony Rendon stopped by to showcase his sweet swing and chat for a few minutes about his first big league camp.

We enjoyed a visit from ESPN on campus at Space Coast Stadium, and were even able to snag an interview with Tim Kurkjian about his outlook on the team. Also, a rocket launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center.

The Nationals proudly hosted the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team for a couple days of practice in advance of their April 3 game at Nationals Park (following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition).

The franchise’s first-ever draft pick and everyday third baseman since the end of the 2005 season, Ryan Zimmerman signed an extension that will keep him in a Nationals uniform through at least the 2019 season, with an option for 2020. Both Dever and Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner opined their perspectives of the signing.

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner – Extending Thanks

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Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2012 Grapefruit League Season from Viera, bringing his own unique perspective of the goings-on at Nats Spring Training.

Good afternoon Nats Fans,

I’m packing my bags today to head down to Viera and Space Coast Stadium in a few days for what I think will be one of the most competitive and interesting training camps in baseball over the next few weeks. Honestly, I wish I left a week ago to get down there. I am ready for some baseball.

Zimmerman's teammates were on-hand to watch him sign his extension.

The competition to make the 25-man roster, the starting lineup, and especially the five-man rotation will be exciting. The fact that just about everyone showed up early this spring is a good indication of how eager they all are to impress Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson. I’ll also be interested to see the smaller, more condensed and personalized camp, which includes 54 players.

I’m also looking forward to congratulating Ryan Zimmerman face-to-face on his contract extension.  He is a special person, a fan favorite, and certainly a guy for whom I have great respect. Ryan and I traded text messages early Sunday morning after Mike Rizzo told me the negotiations were completed late Saturday night. I told him how excited I was personally that he has the chance to wear his hometown Washington Nationals jersey for – what all Nats fans would love to see – the rest of his career.

I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall when Ryan made a call to his mom and dad telling them the contract negotiations had been finalized. I know he has always hoped that he could continue to play in front of his family and friends, and I know his parents, Keith and Cheryl, are thrilled.

Zimmerman and Rizzo make it official with a handshake.

I can tell you from behind the scenes that Ryan’s first priority in extending his contract was the ability to see his job through. He has been the cornerstone of our building plan in Washington, and we believe will be an even more important one in the team’s leap to being a contender. In the next few years, we should see our planning begin to pay off, and Ryan’s leadership and performance will be critical to it.

Hats off to Ryan, his family, his agent, to Mike Rizzo and his staff, and to Nationals fans everywhere.

Ryan’s extended contract means we will all see him in the Nationals lineup, where he belongs, for a very long time.

The Face Of The Franchise

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John Dever is the Senior Director of Media Relations for the Washington Nationals. As a team employee in close contact with the players, coaches and front office throughout Spring Training, he will bring an inside look at the happenings in Viera in Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary throughout February and March.

*Yesterday’s contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman really was a benchmark moment for your young franchise. I am not going to delve into the financial specifics, that is not my duty or intention here. But what I can tell you that there is not a player in this game more deserving than Ryan Zimmerman. He endured a list of mental and physical challenges these last seven seasons that would. But through thick and thin, Ryan’s demeanor and professionalism never wavered. He’s a rock.

Zimmerman at his extension press conference.

Ryan is also adamant about seeing this project through. He wants to create magical moments, win big games and end DC’s October baseball drought, which dates to 1933. I think he knows that the toughest times have been weathered and to leave after 2013 would have been silly for all parties involved. The bottom line is that the Face of Our Franchise is here for a LONG, LONG, LONG time. A hearty CONGRATS to him, and to our fans too!

And there is more good news: Ryan is “only” 27 years-old. I think we lose perspective that this is one of MLB’s finest young players for two very good reasons:

  1. He came to us in Sept of 2005. In this world of ours, which is predicated on the immediate, that was a long time ago. Did Facebook even exist then? (answer: yes it did, but one could only join if of high school or college age)
  2. Upon joining our ballclub at the age of 20, Ryan was instantaneously the most mature player in the clubhouse. I think his maturity quotient is that of an average 50 year-old. He is just unflappable. I think that is why, when the moment is right, he’s the guy every Nationals fan wants at the plate.

*One last thought on the extension. I don’t think there is any important person in the current equation that does not want to see Ryan finish his career as a Washington National. And by that I mean Ownership, Baseball Operations, Ryan, his family, his representatives and most importantly the Nationals ever-expanding Fan Base. Everyone understands that baseball in Washington is best served with Ryan Zimmerman manning the Hot Corner. Enough said.

Bryce Harper took batting practice yesterday for the first time in camp.

*On Sat., Davey was asked if he had watched Bryce Harper take his first official batting practice of the spring. Davey scoffed and said that was not on his “to-do” list. Well, Davey was subsequently asked, what was on that to-do list? Davey’s reply was that he wanted to spend some time with Tony Beasley, who will serves has Triple-A Syracuse’s manager this season (and was Double-A Harrisburg’s skipper in ’10). Davey then opined about the mutual trust and understanding that must flow between a big league manager and his Triple-A equal. I thought that Davey offering was quite insightful.

*Look for Mark DeRosa to focus on 1B, 2B and 3B this spring. And oh-by-the-way, judging by Sat.’s BP session, Mark’s wrist is healthy. Rockets galore.

*Not a shocker, but upon being asked what Davey expects from Chien-Ming Wang this spring, his answer was “to be in our rotation.” Short and sweet from the skipper.

*I may have talked about this last spring, and if I did, please forgive me. But as I watch Bryce Harper make his way, I often wonder who can best relate to him right now? Some might say LeBron, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others might offer Stephen Strasburg and they have a legit point. But Stephen was a three-year college pitcher who played for a Hall-of-Famer in college. Lots of similarities, but different nonetheless.

In my mind, there is another former phenom in this Space Coast Stadium clubhouse who weathered similar ups and downs as an extremely young professional. Remember Rick Ankiel? Our center fielder for much of 2011 and vying for a similar role in 2012. Well, grab your nearest time machine and let’s jet back to 1998. That summer, he led all minor league hurlers with 222 strikeouts. In a 2-year span from ’98-99, he was named the best pitcher in both the Midwest, Carolina, Texas and Pacific Coast leagues by Baseball America. Then in 2000, he won 11 games and posted a 3.50 ERA in 31 games/30 starts for the Cardinals as a 20 year-old rookie. Yep, Ankiel can empathize with Harper’s current plight.

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