Cross-posted at CSNwashington.com. Many thanks to Michelle Scalise for the fantastic video work again!
Saturday, June 19, 2010 6:38pm
By Miss Chatter
If given a chance to walk on the springy outfield grass of an MLB ballpark, shag flies and grounders, try your best changeup or fastball in the bullpen and swing at soft-toss pitching, would you take it? For me, the answer is “Heck yes!!” even if it means getting critiqued by those at the top. In fact, I crave the professional advice. After being canceled last year, the rebranded Baseball 101, Nats U: Baseball For Women, took place on the field and in the blissfully somewhat air conditioned batting cages at Nationals Park. The event, probably one of my favorites the ballclub ever holds, is “hands-on” with proceeds benefitting the Nationals Dream Foundation. About 70 women set their alarms on a Saturday and showed up for the unique experience of receiving instruction from real bonafide MLB experts as they practiced throwing, fielding, pitching and hitting under the guidance of Nationals coaches. This out of shape blogger has still got game, as did many impressive women at the ballpark early this morning!
This year, the Nats tried something a little different, splitting the women into beginner and advanced groups after a breakfast complete with mimosas available to purchase. The questions asked of the panel of analyst and former pitcher Rob Dibble, manager Jim Riggleman, analyst and former player/manager Ray Knight, director of minor league operations Mark Scialabba, and assistant general manager Bryan Minniti showed impressive knowledge of the game and the team by the advanced women who are clearly paying attention.
I did learn something new when they discussed the ground rules of each ballpark. Many of the ballparks have quirky features, and yes, even Nationals Park does. The yellow line in the corner of left field does a little jog. If the ball lands in one spot, the hit is a double; in the other a home run. That I knew, but what I didn’t know was that the manager of the home team discusses these quirks, or ground rules, with the umpires at home plate before a game. In the event a ball hits one of these quirks, the umps are apprised of the rules and can call the play correctly. The manager also sets the ground rules.
If you ever get the chance, I highly suggest getting hitting coach Rick Eckstein to perform his batting stance guy routine! Participants received a glimpse of it during the batting cage portion of the on-field instruction before getting to to take a few whacks themselves, either off a tee or from a live soft-tosser. Apparently I make a better pitcher than hitter as I kept skimming the top of the ball.
Rick Eckstein, Nats hitting coach
Nats U presents a truly amazing and unique opportunity for fans to experience how MLB players prep for games by fielding, hitting, and bullpen tossing while coaches give tips. No matter what level of experience, all the women seemed to be having a great time. The t-shirts this year thankfully only contained hints of pink and are styled after university shirts. Attending the event included tickets to the night’s game against the White Sox (which sadly looks like is about to be a complete game shutout for opposing pitcher Jake Peavy as I finish writing this). No scoring clinic was held, but the packet handed out included some examples of scoring a game. Hopefully baseball picked up a few new fans who came to just try it out! I suspect, however, most are already fans as I saw many familiar faces.
Nats U group photo. Yes, that’s Dibble in front