Results tagged ‘ Washington Nationals ’

Highlights from a Grand evening at Nationals Park

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by Amanda Comak

“When you’re put in that situation and the game is on the line, you want to come through for your teammates. I was happy to do that.” – Jayson Werth after his eighth-inning grand slam gave the Nationals a 10-7 victory.

“Knowing Jayson, if a pitcher looks at him wrong, he’ll take that personally. Them blatantly walking (Anthony Rendon) to get to him, you typically don’t walk to get to your 3-hole hitter, especially a veteran guy that’s proven he can get big hits. But they chose to, and it worked out in our favor this time.” – Craig Stammen, who turned in an outstanding 3.1 innings of relief to keep the Nationals in the game, on Werth’s slam.

“I’m just happy it went over the wall and we got three runs out of it.” – Bryce Harper on his majestic three-run home run into the third deck that got the Nationals back into the game.

“Any time you’re down five, it’s tough to come back. But they fought tonight. I’m proud of them for it. They stayed in it. Bryce’s homer helped. Even after they tied the game late, they still fought, which they’re happy with and I’m happy with.” — manager Matt Williams on the Nationals’ comeback.

Nationals place C Wilson Ramos on DL, recall C Sandy Leon

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK – Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to remove a fractured hamate bone from his left hand.

042112-171 wilson ramosRamos, who visited with hand specialist Dr. Kenneth Means on Tuesday, had the operation Wednesday and he will begin his rehab immediately. The team placed him on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 1, before Wednesday’s game, and recalled catcher Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg.

The bulk of the Nationals’ catching responsibilities will now fall to Jose Lobaton, but his ability to handle the daily load of a starting role was a large reason why the team acquired him in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays at the start of Spring Training.

Lobaton caught 100 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, leading their vaunted pitching staff to the fifth-lowest team ERA in the American League, while hitting .249 with 24 extra-base hits.

Leon, long thought to be one of the organization’s best defensive catchers, has proven more than capable in his brief Major League stints. In 2012, appearing in 12 games, Leon was 8-for-30 (.267) with a .389 on-base percentage.  Leon has thrown out 169 of 353 (48%) would-be basestealers the previous four minor-league seasons (2010-13).

The Nationals will no doubt miss Ramos, behind the plate as well as at it, and they’ll be patient as their bedrock catcher works to return from this injury strong and ready to return as their everyday backstop. In the meantime, the team will not be set adrift with the likes of Lobaton and Leon leading them behind the plate.

Get well soon, Wilson.

Must C Curtains: Wilson Ramos homers and drives in five runs after returning from the Disabled List in 2013.

Nationals sign Kevin Frandsen

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals bolstered their bench with a late addition on Wednesday, signing infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen to a Major League contract. Frandsen, who opted to become a free agent on Tuesday after the Philadelphia Phillies outrighted him on Sunday, will join the Nationals in time for Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta BravesFrandsen is a career .259 hitter with 49 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 402 big league contests spanning seven seasons with the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants. Against left-handed pitching, Frandsen is a career .289 hitter with a .343 on-base percentage and .435 slugging percentage, and he is also a versatile defensive addition.

The 31-year-old has appeared defensively at six positions during his career (first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, right field). Manager Matt Williams has said this spring that when it comes to his bench he prefers to have options. Frandsen’s ability to play multiple positions provides that.

Last season, Frandsen paced all of the Major Leagues with 14 pinch hits despite starting 52 games (35 at third base, 13 at second base, four at third base) and being hit by 11 pitches in what was ultimately his final season with Philadelphia.

Over the previous two years with the Phillies, Frandsen hit .280 with a .333 on-base percentage and a .389 slugging percentage and seven home runs. In 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2013, Frandsen hit .311 and he is a career .265 hitter with 17 RBI as a pinch hitter.

A graduate of San Jose State University, Frandsen was a 12th-round selection by the Giants in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

The Nationals currently have 29 players in Major League camp, including right-handed pitcher Erik Davis, who is currently on the 60-Day Disabled List.

Highlights from the Nationals Spring Training home opener

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla — The Washington Nationals topped the Atlanta Braves 16-15 in a wild Spring Training home opener — a game that featured 37 combined hits, six combined errors and 31 total runs.

You can catch up on all the game action here.

It was a beautiful day to open Space Coast Stadium for the Grapefruit League slate, and it started on a high note as the Nationals welcomed Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris to the field to throw out the first pitch.

On March 18, President Barack Obama will present Sgt. Morris with the U.S. military’s highest honor: the Medal of Honor. In 1961 Sergeant Morris was one of the first members of the Army’s elite corp, The Green Beret, and he volunteered twice for deployments during the Vietnam War.  While commanding a strike force on a mission near Chi Lang in South Vietnam, his special forces group came under attack and a fellow commander was killed.  Despite enemy fire, which struck Sgt. Morris three times, he returned to recover the body of his fallen comrade and to retrieve a strategic map which, in enemy hands, would have endangered the lives of his men.

During a recent Army review it was found that many war heroes had been passed over for the Medal of Honor at the time of their bravery because of long-held prejudices. Sgt. Morris is among 24 Army veterans for whom this injustice will soon be corrected. President Obama called Sgt. Morris personally to give him the good news.

The Nationals were honored to welcome Sgt. Morris, a Brevard County resident, and his family, including his grandson Javone, to throw out the first pitch.

“It’s a pretty special day here,” said Nationals Manager Matt Williams. “Local guy to the area. It was nice that the organization honored him and we were happy to be out there for it. You don’t get the chance to shake the hand of a Medal of Honor recipient every day. Pretty special day.”

Here are a few photos from the day:

Wrapping up the final day before the full squad reports

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — Wednesday morning, for the final time this spring, the Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers took to the backfields at the team’s training complex without their position player teammates. The full-squad workouts will be upon them beginning Thursday morning and they wrapped up another pristine day under the Florida sun by welcoming everyone into the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium.

Everyone, including outfielder Bryce Harper, who spent a few minutes with the local media discussing the health of his knee and his readiness for the 2014 season.

“I’m good,” Harper said. “I’m solid. Solid as can be… My knee is completely fine.”

“We worked hard all offseason,” Harper added, telling reporters he is down to 220 pounds after weighing in at 236 in mid-January. “I worked my tail off to get to this point. I feel like I’m where I need to be. I’m excited to start games and feel how I slide and run and hit in games. Just that feel on there will help me pass some things, and I feel good about.”

Harper, along with the other 61 active players in this year’s Major League camp, will be on the fields on Thursday for the first time together as this unit.

Until then, hopefully a few snaps from the past few days of workouts will tide you over:

A Thank You and a Look Ahead

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by Noah Frank

As we begin what promises to be an exciting year, we wanted to take a quick moment to thank you for your continued support of the Nationals, and particularly our writing here at Curly W Live. Thanks to your readership, we rose to No. 8 in the 2013 Top 100 MLBlogs rankings. We try our best both during the season and the offseason to bring you stories and information that we think you’ll appreciate as fans. In that spirit, here are eight of your favorite posts from the past year, which you can reread for fun or check out for the first time if you missed them when they were originally posted:

1.25: Taft Makes Five

2.14: This One’s for the Birds

2.16: Hair Today…

4.14: Guess Your Players’ Pups

8.03: To the Last Man

9.18: Improbabilities and Impossibilities

10.16: Harper Turns 21

12.10: Adam LaRoche and the 2013 USO Holiday Tour

We’re always looking for new and better ways help you connect with the team, so please leave your suggestions in the comments below, and let’s have an even greater 2014!

16 days until NatsFest

35 days until pitchers and catchers report

85 days until the home opener at Nationals Park

Down on the Farm: The Rule 5 Draft

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by Noah Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam LaRoche wraps up unforgettable USO Tour

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by Amanda Comak

As Adam LaRoche curled himself into a corner table at the Occidental Grill Friday night, it was hard for him to figure out exactly what time it was supposed to be. His day started in Germany. And since he’d embarked on the 2013 Chairman’s USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey a week earlier, LaRoche had visited four countries and three different time zones.

From left to right, Jep Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Willie Robertson and Matt Light at the Occidental Grill on Friday night, after returning from the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour.

From left to right, Jep Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Willie Robertson and Matt Light at the Occidental Grill on Friday night, after returning from the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour.

Flanked by his friends and travel companions, Willie and Jep Robertson from A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, and three-time Super Bowl champion Matt Light, the group shared stories from what they all agreed was an unforgettable experience.

“Every time I look at the flag, and I look at it every night when they play the national anthem, I can’t say I ever really looked at the flag and thought, ‘Somebody paid the price for that,” LaRoche said. “I will now. I hope it’s going to be a lot easier to not take those things for granted like we typically do.”

The USO tour took the four companions to multiple bases and through several hospital visits. They met soldiers all over the world –in Greece, Afghanistan, Italy and Germany – and absorbed as much as they could.

It was an exhausting stretch. Time with Chairman Dempsey is calculated down to the second, and they knew little about what was ahead of them when they left the U.S. on Dec. 6 – they were told to pack for weather ranging from 30 degrees to 80 degrees. But they talked with soldiers who were just 72 hours removed from a firefight, and learned about the challenges the troops face in trying to both eliminate the threat of terrorism while at the same time serving to aid the Afghan people.

Here are a few of the stories the group told Friday night as they rehashed their experience for a handful of local media members:

●●●

Adam LaRoche: “I’m thinking, ‘What could I possibly say to relate to these guys?’ It’s not easy for me, for sure. I feel like, and I told them this, ‘We should be sitting down there [in the audience] and some of you guys, specifically some of the older Sergeants and Generals, you guys should be up here [on stage] talking to us. I don’t need to be up here trying to motivate you.’”

Jep Robertson: “I just think they want to forget for a few minutes what they’re actually doing. Just have a good time and relax and not worry about tomorrow, just have time to laugh.”

ALR: “That’s why [Willie and Jep] are such a big hit, because they go up and do their thing together. It kind of caps the whole show off. They did like 20 minutes and it’s not sitting there bringing back memories and all about what they’re going through. They’re just telling jokes, talking about the show, talking about Uncle Si, so you’re right, that’s probably what they want to do: feel like they’re back home.”

Willie Robertson sings "Hairy Christmas" with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

Willie Robertson sings “Hairy Christmas” with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

Willie Robertson:  “We wanted to give them a piece of America, what they had known from the show. We came up with the [performance] on the flight over, of what we would do. We had no idea what we would do. And as it turns out, with our album out, Duck the Halls, Chairman Dempsey said we should sing a song and I said, ‘Well let’s do “Hairy Christmas.”’ He had no idea what the song was. I gave him the CD, he listened to it and he said, ‘Let’s sing that at the end of the show.’ And then all of the USO talent came up at the end and we all sang it together. It was the perfect ending to the whole show.”

ALR: “Dempsey actually came out in the full beard and a USO bandana headband (like Willie).”

Could you get a sense of what it meant to the troops?

WR: “Oh there was no doubt.”

ALR: “They were blown away. They were so blown away that you’d think nobody’s ever been over there. There have been a lot of USO shows that go through, but I think every time they just appreciate it so much.”

●●●

Jep: “You’ve got to hear about the dog and Matt.”

ALR: “This is good.”

Matt Light: “They’ve got these military dogs cruising around all over the base. They were a little bit intimidating. I was talking to one of the guys about their dogs…They are pretty jacked up about these dogs. They talk about the training they do. I’m looking at this dog and I’m thinking to myself, ‘I hear what you’re saying, you all probably work them pretty good, but it’s a 40-lb or 50-lb dog.’ I’m looking at it thinking, ‘That’s probably not going to hold up against a 300-pound man.’ So I smarted off a few times and the following night they arranged to break out the suit, like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story.

ALR: “It’s like 11 o’clock at night because our schedule was packed.”

ML: “So I put this suit on.”

ALR: “So now he’s 400 pounds.”

ML: “They had us stand in these DVQs, Designated Visitors Quarters, which were shipping containers stacked on top of each other with a railing on each of them. There was basically room just to turn around and walk back-and-forth inside of it. That’s where you live if you’re in Afghanistan. In front of it on the base, in the rain, and it’s very dark, there’s a guy holding a dog. Basically, they give you instructions. First of all, they say don’t let your arms come out of it – and I’m two sizes too big for this. So it’s just barely snug up towards the end of my arm, you have to suck your hand [up in the sleeve]. They said, ‘You need to go down there and agitate them and then turn and run, and don’t look back.’”

ALR: “People had come from everywhere because they heard that morning that this was going to go on. So the railings were packed.”

ML: “They wanted me to run like 60 yards, and I told them I hadn’t run like 10 yards in a year-and-a-half. So we cut that distance in half and I got about three-quarters of the way down and I think he jumped up and missed me the first time – I mean, small target – but when he did finally latch on, he latched on consistently like right here on my elbow. And the first round I think I had the upper hand, obviously if I wasn’t in the suit I’d be in a world of trouble. He got thrown around a little bit.”

ALR: “This dog had no chance. The dog never touched the ground. It looked like a helicopter.”

ML: “I got this speech from one guy who was telling me what to do, he was like, ‘Here’s the code word,’ and it was some phrase and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to remember that.’ I said, ‘No, ‘cinnamon.’ If I yell cinnamon, come get this dog off me.’ We did it like four more times. They weren’t going to let me out of the suit. The dog had a pretty good bite. That dog was chompin’. We got some good pictures of teeth snarling mid-air. It was a great experience. I had a mini-heart attack and it was a bit of a monsoon inside the suit. It was like hot yoga inside there.”

JR: “It was really cold, but then he was running.”

ML: “It took about an hour-and-a-half to get back to normal.”

ALR: “But that was so late at night because to squeeze something in [that’s how it had to be]. If Willie were to say, ‘Hey, this guy wants me to come by his barracks and come meet his buddy or see something,’ you would run it by a guy and then he would have to run it by the whole team who’d say, ‘OK, Willie needs security here at this time,’ and then they’d have somebody there before he arrives. This isn’t just like they let you run around and do whatever you want. Because they’re getting IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), even on the big bases we were on. It’s not unusual for the sirens to go off because somebody shot an IED into the base. A week or two before they said they lost two guys, who were asleep in the same type of containers we were sleeping in, and an IED went through and killed two of them. You can’t just stroll around. It was a deal for them to get set-up. So this dog thing took a lot of planning.”

●●●

JR: “We went to (Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan) and they said they’d just been in a 72-hour battle. The troops, you could tell they were happy we were there, but they had just come out of a firefight.”

ALR: “There were a couple guys shot, one guy blown up while we were there, but we didn’t see him until this morning in Germany. We saw him in the hospital in Germany.”

WR: “I met that guy in Afghanistan! I met him, took a picture with him, two days later I’m in Germany, he’s in the hospital bed. I walked in and was like, ‘Ah, good to see you again.’ He actually was way better than when I saw him in Afghanistan. He had a full neck brace and was pretty loopy then. Couldn’t hardly talk. In Germany he was like, ‘Hey there!’ He’d already told his family that he had met me, so the second time he had all these questions about the show.”

●●●

ALR: “The troops said the Afghan people are the toughest people in the world, which I never would’ve guessed.”

WR: “When you see the conditions they live in, you have to be tough.”

ALR: “The problem is, you’re trying to get rid of one group of people and make friends with the other group of people. The local Afghanis, the troops are doing everything they can to help them. They’re giving them food and water, training their cops, training their military guys, rebuilding a lot of their hospitals and communities – on top of fighting. So you’re trying to rebuild a country and protect yourselves at the same time.”

WR: “But the terrorists are like thugs. No different than big American cities where you have drug guys and it’s hard to go in there and extract that one person without condemning the whole neighborhood. Most of the people are good and they’re trying to raise their families but you’ve got a couple people who are bullies. I saw it as similar to that.”

ALR: “They said, ‘This is just a street fight. They come out, they hit, they run, they hide…But the troops, they do surgery for a lot of the locals. They bring them in. Fix ‘em up.”

WR: “I was shocked at how much the American troops care about these people and are trying to make them better. I was amazed.”

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche meets U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche meets U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

ALR: “What we were told is that our guys are never going out looking for Taliban. The majority of our guys are going out to villages every day to keep training them (the Afghanis).”

WR: “The whole goal is for them to sustain their country to fight off terrorism.”

ML: “Our troops are legitimately invested in their mission, not to go over there and wipe out a people. They’re there to really try to help those people. And they don’t really care what’s going on over here. I think one of the biggest reasons to go over there, especially listening to these knuckleheads in Washington all day every day, you don’t get a sense. They’re not telling the story of any of these young men and women who, each and every day, are waking up and putting themselves in danger. Seeing a little Afghani kid, and 10 minutes later that kid is gone. They’re not looking for trouble. They’re trying to help. They truly care about these people. None of them talk about what we hear over here. They don’t give a damn about that. They literally just want to do their job.”

●●●

ALR: “I was probably most shocked by the fact that there’s like 20–25,000 troops on one base.”

JR: “They had a TGI Fridays.”

WR: “Sadly, my brother was most impressed by the TGI Fridays.”

ALR: “You have no idea how many people are sitting at computers doing stuff, and how many mechanics, and cooks and the guys who sweep the rooms, that’s the majority of the guys – the ones who don’t get recognized, who are behind the scenes, who make the whole thing work.”

WR: “There are a lot of civilians, too.”

ALR: “There are contractors there. Full time electricians, plumbers, so there are civilians staying on base too. They’re building stuff, taking stuff down, sending a lot of stuff home right now.”

The group posed with Marines before leaving Camp Leatherneck.

The group posed with Marines before leaving Camp Leatherneck.

WR: “I was impressed by the amount of organization by the U.S. military to be able to run an operation like that. They build cities that are bases. Airports. Lodging for 30,000 people. That’s what impressed me. How do you come into this country, build things, fight for your life, run troops and in and out? It was unbelievable. It just blew me away. And the spirit of the troops was super impressive, their dedication to it. The general said it best. It’s built on trust. These guys trust each other with their lives.”

ML: “I think one of the big things, too, is you say: what do you do now that you’ve had this experience? What’s next? I think you can really start spreading the word to everybody around. I told the troops, ‘I can at least tell your story and get [people back home] talking about it. I can let them know the things you are doing and what you do go through.’ To some degree, don’t we all owe it to our service men and women to do something? Not if you’re a celebrity, or whatever. If you’re some dude on the street. I think we all should at least take the time to think about that more than just on Veterans Day or something else. Maybe it’s just a mindset or a perception, get people to stop and realize.”

●●●

For more on LaRoche’s time on the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour, you can catch up on the dispatches he sent back while he was overseas here and here, and check out a photo gallery here.

You can also take a look at some of the coverage by local media:

nationals.com

MASNsports.com

CSNWashington.com

The Washington Post

Nationals Sign OF Nate McLouth to Two-Year Contract

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals bolstered their outfield depth on Thursday, announcing the signing of outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year deal.

McLouth, who most recently played for the Baltimore Orioles, is a nine-year Major League veteran who has a career .250 average with a .334 on-base percentage and .418 slugging percentage. He registered the fourth double-digit homer effort of his career in 2013, hitting 12 home runs with 31 doubles in 146 games for the Orioles.

A left-handed-hitting option for Manager Matt Williams off the bench, McLouth also brings speed into the equation. He stole a career-high 30 bases in 2013 and he’s averaged 22 stolen bases per season over the course of his career.

“We felt that it was a good time to really invest in a player who could really help us off the bench, and is multi-faceted,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “This guy’s got some pop off the bench, he can play above-average defense at three outfield positions and he can steal you a base. He brings some speed and athleticism and some power off the bench. So that’s one aspect of it.

“The other aspect of it is if one of your main guys goes down, McLouth has been an everyday player for [the] last year, and with the combination of [Scott] Hairston from the right side and Nate from the left side, we feel that we’ve got ourselves a good platoon system in the event that one of our main three guys goes down.”

McLouth, 32, can play all three outfield positions, making him a versatile complement to Hairston. But he’s started more than twice as many games in center field (510) than in left and right field combined (248). He is also a .321 (9-for-28) career hitter in nine postseason games (Orioles in 2012, Braves in ’10).

In 2008, McLouth represented the Pirates in the All-Star Game and won a Rawlings Gold Glove. That same season, he led the National League with 46 doubles.

To make room on the 40-man roster for McLouth, the Nationals designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment. Brown hit .254 (99-for-389) with 26 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs, 56 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 57 runs scored in 107 games for Triple-A Syracuse this season. He appeared in 14 September games for the Nationals, hitting .167 (2-for-12) with one double, one homer and one RBI.

Adam LaRoche Checks In from 2013 USO Holiday Tour – Entry 2

(L-R) Jep Robertson, Willie Robertson, Matt Light and Adam LaRoche listen to a presentation of the USS Stout by U. S. Navy Chief Peter Wilkinson, Jr.from Fairfield, CT on December 7. The group is in the region as part of a seven-day, four-country USO holday tour being led by General Martin Dempsey. The is the first USO experience for all four men. (Mike Clifton/USO)

(L-R) Jep Robertson, Willie Robertson, Matt Light and Adam LaRoche listen to a presentation of the USS Stout by U. S. Navy Chief Peter Wilkinson, Jr.from Fairfield, CT on December 7. The group is in the region as part of a seven-day, four-country USO holday tour being led by General Martin Dempsey. The is the first USO experience for all four men. (Mike Clifton/USO)

The 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour rolled on this week, and Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche continued to soak in the experience. While the internet connections aren’t always frequent for the group, when LaRoche has gotten a chance to send a dispatch back to D.C., it’s always been filled with excitement.

“Just lifted off from Afghanistan on a C-17 transport plane,” he wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday morning. “We spent the last couple of days here bouncing from base to base. It’s been incredible, to say the least.”

Prior to visiting Afghanistan, the 2013 USO Holiday Tour entertained troops in Greece.

“I’ve never been around so many people who genuinely appreciate us being here,” he added. “We continue to try to make it clear with our troops that we’re getting more out of this than we think they are.”

The 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour, led by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, includes not only LaRoche, but Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Bridget Kelly, former New England Patriots offensive tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion Matt Light, actor/comedian Thomas “Nephew Tommy” Miles, stars of A&E’s hit reality show “Duck Dynasty” Jep and Willie Robertson, and former correspondent on NBC’s “The Voice” Alison Haislip.

Over the course of the seven-day USO tour, the group will visit four countries and several military venues.

For LaRoche, who has spent a good deal of his time in D.C. visiting soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and working with non-profit organizations that support the troops, like the USO, the experience is extremely meaningful.

“You would never understand the purpose and depth of this war without coming over and seeing it firsthand,” LaRoche wrote. “We’ve made time to meet with the lowest-ranking foot soldier to the highest-ranking generals. They all have the same goals: to make this a safe place for the Afghan people.”

The experience has been a humbling one for all of the celebrities on tour, and while there have been some light moments – “I’m rooming with Matt Light in a cargo container and he takes up half of it,” LaRoche quipped – it has also made a significant impact on him.

“We visited some (Forward Operating Bases) via Chinook, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters,” he said. “It has been a great pleasure to speak with a couple thousand troops every night.

“We spent most of one morning in a base hospital, where they save almost 99 percent of the wounded soldiers who come in. It is truly amazing.”

For more updates from LaRoche and his experiences on the 2013 Chairman USO Holiday Tour as they become available, check back right here on Curly W Live.

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