Results tagged ‘ Space Coast Stadium ’

The First Round

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On our second day here in Viera, we snuck over to the minor league complex a few hundred yards north of Space Coast Stadium to catch up with some of the up-and-comers in camp. We spoke with pitchers Alex Meyer and Danny Rosenbaum as well as outfielders Michael Taylor and Destin Hood, then followed up with infielder Anthony Rendon in big league camp. We’ll be providing full prospect watch pieces (as we did with Tyler Moore) on each of them in the weeks and months to come, but in the meantime, we spoke with Rendon about what he’s learned his first couple days in camp.

For those unfamiliar with Rendon, he was the Nationals’ first-round pick last year’s First-Year Player Draft, going sixth overall. Many insiders considered the Rice University junior to have the best bat in the Draft, after he hit 26 home runs and drew 65 walks while striking out just 22 times in his sophomore season. The 21-year-old is experiencing his first Spring Training starting this week and soaking in the experience.


Curly W Live: It’s your first camp. How is it coming in and being a professional for the first time? Do you feel like a professional yet?

Anthony Rendon: Yeah, I guess so, I’m out of college (laughing). It’s a great experience down here, I wasn’t expecting this much, but everybody’s been pretty nice to me. I’ve had a lot of free time, but everything’s been scheduled out pretty good. I’m just happy to get into a routine.

CWL: Who were you most excited to meet and start working with?

Rendon takes a minute to sign for a fan.

AR: I was excited to meet everybody in the Nationals organization as a whole. If I’m going to be part of this organization for a long time, I’ve got to get used to everybody.

CWL: How much anticipation was there for you to get down here and start playing?

AR: I was really excited. I haven’t been playing for a long time. You know, the offseason really kills you. You start getting that itch, once you see the high school kids start to play, then the college kids start to play. You see your old teammates playing and you have to wait another week or so to start playing. So I was really excited to get down here and get started.

CWL: What are you looking to accomplish in your first professional season?

AR: I’m just trying to get used to everything, trying to get into a routine. I want to be out there every day, trying to be an everyday player throughout the whole season. I just want to play 130 games, or however many games I play. Because I know I’ve had a history of missing out, I want to try to leave that in the past and move forward.

CWL: Have any of the veterans tried to help you out at all?

AR: I talked to a couple of the guys, I told (Chad) Tracy and (Adam) LaRoche, “I need tips for the first Spring Training”. They told me to just stay quiet and be observant, just try to take everything in and not try to do too much. Take it easy, don’t try to go out there and showboat, just try to be the first guy out here and get used to it.


Stay tuned through the weekend, as we’ll have coverage of a very special event here at Space Coast Stadium. In advance of the second annual Wounded Warrior Amputee Celebrity Softball Classic (check out highlights from last year’s event here), following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition game at Nationals Park on April 3, the team will join Nats at Spring Training. This Friday and Saturday the team will visit Space Coast Stadium in Viera to work out and meet with Nationals players in preparation for the Celebrity Softball Classic. More on that and everything else happening here at Nationals Spring Training coming up later this week.

Spring Training – Day 1

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Greetings from the unassuming center of the Nationals baseball universe. I say unassuming, as the town that houses Washington’s spring complex is something of a reflection of the team itself heading into the 2012 campaign. For those who have experienced other Spring Training venues before but have never been to Space Coast Stadium, it is a quiet, quaint ballpark on a largely undeveloped strip of land just outside of the sleepy town of Viera.

Baseball has officially begun in 2012.

Smack in the middle of Florida’s east coast, about 10 minutes from the Atlantic, the town of just over 17,000 is unassuming, to say the least. In stark contrast to the history-steeped monuments and cathedrals of Washington, everything is new here. The first developments did not break ground until the ‘90s, and the major commercial development did not arrive until the new millennium. For those used to a standard of city life that may seem boring, but it also means there is plenty of room to grow.

As I checked into the hotel last night, I asked about dinner options in the area. The desk clerks began excitedly rattling off all the new options in town. From Japanese food to Chicago-style pizza, it was true – there was a little bit of everything here. And with all these new options there was an excitement, a hope for what their town was becoming.

Sound familiar? It ought to. The excitement is tangible around camp, as this team comes together for the first time since last year’s inspired September run and an offseason full of exciting new additions. The players have not been shy to admit it, either. Edwin Jackson likened the youth and swagger of this club to what he saw during his time with Tampa Bay in 2008. He won a career-high 14 games that year as part of a young, dynamic pitching staff that led an up-and-coming team all the way to the World Series. For those that have already forgotten – understandable, due to the Rays’ recent success – the franchise had never enjoyed a winning season prior to that year.

Wilson Ramos signs for fans between rounds.

Of course, nobody is running to make proclamations about pennants and World Series appearances. Nothing has been won yet. This is still a team with humble beginning, just now coming into its own. But just like the town that surrounds camp, it is growing up in front of our eyes, and there is plenty to be excited about.

We’ll be chatting more with other members of the team this week as they filter into camp. Many have reported ahead of schedule, though, and are already patrolling the cages, bullpens and practice fields around Space Coast Stadium.

Throughout the spring, we’ll have regular posts from both John Dever, Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations, as well as Principal Owner frequent Curly W Live contributor Mark Lerner.

For now, we’ll leave you with this final thought. Viera means “faith” in Slovak, the native language of the Duda family that first developed the area. It’s hard to think of a more fitting word for this year’s Nationals squad, as preparation begins in earnest this week for a new season.

Tom Gorzelanny gets back on track

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, Nats Town.


It’s a quiet day at Space Coast Stadium, as the Nationals have traveled inland for a matinee tilt against the Astros in Kissimmee. I, personally, did not travel west for the big league game, instead hanging back to watch the three minor-league games being played at our complex.


I love every opportunity I get to watch the minor-league games and see the young prospects we have in our system. Mike Rizzo and his crew have done a terrific job of stocking the system with talented, young players, and the future is bright. There are a lot of names you may not have heard of yet (Eury Perez, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, etc), but you’ll know them soon enough. Trust me.


A few things I wanted to touch on…

* It was great catching up with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk yesterday, as ESPN’s Baseball Tonight bus stopped at Space Coast Stadium to feature the Nationals. For those of you who didn’t catch Baseball Tonight yesterday, Tim and John did a great job assessing our club, even taking the opportunity to sit down with Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg as part of their tour stop.


I had an opportunity to check out the bus. What an impressive vehicle. Although, here’s some insight: they aren’t really traveling around Florida and Arizona on the bus. It’s pretty much just a mobile studio. They have been sleeping in hotels and following the bus in a more-traditional vehicle. Not exactly roughing it.


Tom Gorzelanny 1.JPG* Last night’s game… despite the loss, there were a lot of bright spots in yesterday’s game vs. the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Tom Gorzelanny, acquired from the Cubs this offseason for a trio of minor leaguers, twirled 4.0 solid innings and held the Mets to just a run. Keep an eye on Tom. He was slow out of the gate this spring, hampered by the flu, but could be a key arm in our rotation this year.


Another bright spot yesterday, and really all spring, has been right-hander Brian Broderick. We acquired Brian from the Cardinals via the Rule 5 Draft in December, and he has posted an impressive 1.04 ERA in 5 appearances. What’s most impressive about Brian is his presence and demeanor. At 6-foot-6, he is as cool as a cucumber on the mound. 


* Monday night, I played in the players’ par-3 golf tournament at the Duran Golf Club (about a mile down the street from Space Coast Stadium).  Had a great time, and even won the ‘closest to the pin’ competition. My foursome (with Cole Kimball, Chad Gaudin and Matt Eiden – one of our strength and conditioning guys) finished 5th of 6. Congrats to the winning team of Rick Eckstein, Davey Johnson, Pudge Rodriguez and Scotty Paquin (assistant equipment manager for our minor-league operations).


Since I won’t be blogging tomorrow, I want to take this opportunity to wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Let’s hope we have the luck of the Irish on our side when we battle the Braves in Orlando.


And, remember, just 15 days until Opening Day at Nationals Park.

Spring Training has arrived

 Greetings from warm–77-79 degrees and near perfect–Viera, Fla.


Today, as you are all likely aware, was the report date for Nationals pitchers and catchers. Really, it is the first day of school for baseball fans… and employees.


My name is John Dever and I will be putting together some miscellaneous items over the course of Spring Training. I am the PR Director of the Nationals’ baseball operation. I will be tying together some of my own observations with various contributions from my trusty sidekicks, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. But really, the three of us are just place holders for Mark Lerner, who will be blogging about his Spring Training experiences starting next week. He began blogging during the ’09 Winter Meetings and, in talking to him, is very excited to share his Grapefruit League observations, most of which will focus on your Nationals.


So, let’s get started…


*Personally, the best sign of the spring is that five of our eight “everyday” players have already reported to camp in excess of a week before their report date. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Moran, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa have been working out–hitting–on the back fields here for nearly a week. Spirits are high and the cohesion is growing between this group.


*I know that Adam Kilgore touched on this in a blog post today, but did you know that Drew Storen has worn eight different uniform numbers since we drafted him just 20 months ago? I know it’s crazy, but here is the rundown thanks to jersey extraordinaire Bill Gluvna–all you uniform aficionados have at it:


#26 – worn at introductory press conference and with Single-A Hagerstown

#20 – 2009 Single-A Potomac and 2009-10 Harrisburg Senators

#21 – 2009-10 Double Harrisburg and 2010 Triple-A Syracuse

#38 – 2009 Nationals Instructional League

#17 – 2009 Arizona Fall League

#58 – 2010 season with the Nationals

#25 – (right) worn at Nationals uniform unveiling held in November 2010.

#22 – 2011 season


*When we were kids, we all had to endure a summer reading list at one time or another. Well, we checked in with our skipper, Jim Riggleman, who told us that the latest additions to his winter reading list included Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny by Marlo Thomas. Next up is Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition


*Hair Report: Ian Desmond is growing his hair out a bit. “If it worked for Werth,” he said. “I am going to give it a try.” Also, Ross Detwiler has cut his hair, it is more indicative of the length when we drafted him back in 2007. Gone is Ross’ shaggy look that was Owen Wilson-esque.


*Jesus Flores is indeed beaming. He’s excited about the competition at catcher with Wilson Ramos and Pudge. What is interesting is you have two catchers who have idolized Pudge for years now vying for playing time with the 14-time All-Star. When you think about it, how many teams have the blend of catching talent and depth that your Nationals possess? And all this without mentioning Derek Norris? By the way, all four of the aforementioned catchers have histories that say they are above average throwers from behind the dish.

Nationals Moving Day

Screech Moving.JPGOn Monday, the Washington Nationals set course for the Club’s Spring Training facility in Viera, Fla., as part of the annual ritual that has come to be known as Moving Day.


 “With Moving Day, we know it’s the beginning of the 2011 season because the offseason is now over,” Nationals Clubhouse Manager Mike Wallace said.


While the players still have some time before reporting to Florida, Monday marked the unofficial start of the season as the Nats loaded up their JK Moving & Storage tractor trailer with 30,000 pounds of equipment for the 800-plus mile trek to Space Coast Stadium. In preparation for the start of Spring Training, Wallace and his staff packed up and loaded a vast assortment of gear, ranging from weight training equipment and medical supplies to player uniforms and apparel.


“As the stuff gets loaded, you keep saying to yourself, ‘please have enough room, please have enough room.’ But it always works out to where we get everything on there and then the truck is on its way,” Wallace said.


There’s no doubt that a lot of work goes into coordinating the big move, but according to Wallace, it’s all worth it–if only for one reason in particular.


“I’m looking forward to being in a place where I don’t have to worry about the ice and snow,” he said.


Florida is a good place to start.




Nationals Spring Training headquarters………Space Coast Stadium (Viera, Fla.)*

Official moving company…………………………JK Moving & Storage

Moving truck size …………………………………53-foot trailer

Estimated trip mileage ………………………….. 869

Estimated weight of equipment……………….. 30,000 lbs.

Approximate number of baseball bats ordered for Spring Training…………. 600

Approximate number of baseballs ordered for Spring Training………………  14,400

Nationals-Yankees Grapefruit League contest cancelled due to rain

The rain continues to fall in Viera but after the 2009 season which saw 22 games affected by rain… it doesn’t really come as a surprise that a Nationals Spring Training game has been cancelled for the second straight day. Today’s 1:05 p.m. Nationals-Yankees Grapefruit League contest at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL has been cancelled due to rain.

If you are holding tickets for either March 11 vs. Houston or March 12 vs. New York (AL)–both games were cancelled by rain–you can exchange those tickets for any other Nationals 2010 or 2011 Spring Training contest, subject to availability.

Nationals Spring Training season ticket holders will be notified in the coming days as to policies affecting their tickets for both March 11 and 12.

The Nationals’ next home game is Sunday, March 14 vs. St. Louis. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

First Ladies walk with a purpose

Ashley Balester.jpgBefore the Washington Nationals took the field for their Spring Training home opener in Viera against the New York Mets, the Nationals First Ladies and the Central & North Florida Alzheimer’s Association teamed up for the Space Coast Memory Walk, that took place on Saturday.


For those not familiar with the First Ladies, the group consists of the wives, girlfriends and fiancés of Nationals players and coaches and they help out with different community events throughout the year.


Ashley Balester, wife of Nats reliever Collin Balester, is very involved with the First Ladies and helped coordinate the Space Coast Memory Walk with the Alzheimer’s Association.


“I think it’s just good for us to be able to say on behalf of the Nationals, to the fans around here to say, ‘Come with us and walk with us at the stadium,’ to kind of get the community involved with the Nationals more,” Balester said.


Last year’s walk took place at Erna Nixon Park in Melbourne and in order to increase awareness and visibility in the community, the event was moved to Space Coast Stadium.


“The support we received from the Washington Nationals First Ladies last year made us feel that Space Coast Stadium would be the perfect 2010 home for [the] Memory Walk,” said Joan Giovanni, Events and Community Relations Coordinator of the Central & North Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.


The First Ladies have gotten the word out to friends, family and the community to pledge money to their team for the walk and they have already doubled their total donation from last year.


“I think we raised just over $2,000 last year and this year we are already at $4,000,” Balester said. “It’s been really good.”


The money raised helps those affected by the disease locally and funds research grants nationally. The Alzheimer’s Association also lobbies to Congress to increase funding nationally, to assist caregivers and those diagnosed with the disease.


The First Ladies have multiple programs to benefit the community in the Washington, DC area, but are now looking to increase their impact on the community during their time in Brevard County, as they plan on coordinating other fund raising efforts as well.


“I want to organize a bake sale, to benefit Share Our Strength, which is a national organization to fight childhood hunger,” Balester said. “I want to do that and we are getting involved to collect non-perishable food donations for a local organization in Melbourne.


“I am always open and available to do anything in the community, if anyone ever wants our help for anything.”


Friday Photo Day

Sunday is officially photo day but there isn’t a better way to celebrate Friday than with a few photos from today’s first full squad practice. It was the first chance for pitchers to pitch to live batters that didn’t swing. Pitchers and corner infielders focused on fielding bunts but the highlight of today’s workout was watching Adam Dunn practice bunting. I think it is safe to say he will never bunt in a game.

Dunn bunting.jpg

Dunn batting.jpg

Zimmerman Batting.jpg

Riggleman coaching.jpg

Pudge and Flores.jpg

Dukes kneeing.jpg

Local school visits Nats Spring Training

Bobby Henley.jpg

Baseball has always been a game that can be shared with both parents and children alike and a perfect example of that took place in Viera on Thursday morning.


Parents and kids from Viera Children’s Academy, ranging from the age of four and up, were given a tour of the Nationals Spring Training facilities.


They took in the view of Space Coast Stadium from a 42-person suite and got a chance to walk around the field that the Nats will be playing games on in March.


Then the group from Viera Children’s Academy got a chance to see the pros in action over at the training complex, as they toured that facility during a morning workout of pitchers and catchers.


A chance to see Big Leaguers in action was the favorite part of the tour for student Evan Wiseman.


“I liked watching the baseball players,” Wiseman said.


Nationals spring instructor Bob Henley then spoke to the kids, took part in a Q & A session and posed for a group picture.


The experience was memorable for the children and their parents.


“I think they really enjoyed it,” said Doug Masterson, a parent who took the tour. “It’s something to open their eyes up to. The experience has been really great for them and the staff here is fantastic.”

Don’t mess with the mustache

Collin Balester mustache.jpgNeil Armstrong walked on the moon. Al Gore invented the internet. Joe Dirt made the mullet fashionable and Collin Balester created the molestache.

The always talkative, video game guru, tweeting machine–aka Collin Balester–redefined what it means to have a manly mustache. It is still debatable if the overgrown, food snatching, bushy, brown mustache should be classified as a mustache or squirrels nest.

He has been called Jeff Foxworthy, Cornel Mustard and Jeff Kent. At the same time, this isn’t your Dad’s mustache. People with a mustache as dense as the rain forest typically mean business. This mustache is the reason why parents tell their kids not to accept candy from strangers. Granted there is nothing inherently evil about a mustache, but there is something the players find eerie about it.

Collin Balester mustache upclose.jpg“Everyone loves it,” Balester said. “They think it’s funny… it just lightens the mood. Of course, we are all serious and it isn’t going to change the way we go about doing our business.”

He is the same pitcher he always was–trying just to make an impression with his pitches not his antics–he just happens to have a big stache and an even larger number.

Last year, Balester spent the majority of the 2009 season with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He went 7-10 with a 4.44 ERA (53 ER/ 107.1 IP) and 71 strikeouts. He made a brief stint with the Nats in July and August and started seven games going 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA.

Those types of numbers don’t typically provide job security let alone number security. When the Nats signed Chien-Mien Wang on Friday, Balester was forced to surrender the No. 40.

He had the choice between the numbers 29 and 70. That’s like asking someone what soap opera do you want to watch, Young and the Restless or Days of our Lives-bad or worse. Can I just watch paint dry? As far as the number hierarchy is concerned, those two numbers might sit at the bottom unless you are a starting running back and left tackle.

Collin Balester mustache sitting down.jpgBalester tried to wear the No. 99 last year but the Nats said no. After he was given the option between the two numbers, he texted the equipment manger and asked if he could wear the always available No. 99. His persistence paid off.

“It keeps people guessing,” Balester said.  “When they look at the number on my back they’ll think, ‘That guy had no shot. He is wearing No. 99.'”

You might think of 99 on a baseball uniform the same way you think of 65 on a wide receiver but Manny Ramirez is 99 for the Dodgers. And let’s not forget no one has kept 99 more groovy than Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn… then again Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky admirably wore 99 too.

And we are back to square one with what Shakespeare famously said, “What’s in a number?”… or was it a name?

“It doesn’t matter what number you get or what you look like,” Balester said. “It just matters if you get it done.”

Balester has proved he can get it done when it comes to growing a mustache. The only question remaining is can he get it done on the field and earn a roster spot out of Spring Training?