If you’re on the Tweeter and a Nats fan, the event you’ve been waiting for is coming. On July 3rd when the Nationals host the San Francisco Giants, they will also host their first ever team sponsored Tweetup. All you have to do is tweet to the team account “@Nationals RSVP #IYNT” for “Ignite Your Natitude Tweetup”.
The more fans who RSVP, the better the seat upgrade. I say we overwhelm them and end up in the Prez Club. What say you?
The Nats will reward fans who arrive early with prizes and offer additional pre-game games and activities.
So if you aren’t already following @Nationals, do so now to stay tuned.
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.
I spent much of yesterday trying to put names to new Nats faces and commit them to memory so I wouldn’t goof up any of the photo captions. As you can see, Jason Marquis was quite obliging in that regard! Prior to an autograph signing and photo session at the Prince George’s County Sports & Learning Complex where fans could gawk at Adam Dunn’s quite full winter beard or comment on Josh Willingham’s Capitals “Courage” hat and meet three new off-season signings, the Nationals held a press conference in the town hall room at the back of the impressive complex (seriously, I gawked at the gymnastics gymnasium and wished I had a place like that to go while growing up!).
As anyone who lives in the DMV area is aware, there are many very poor areas in PG County. Honestly, what comes to mind when you hear “PG County”? For those underserved children, they grow up without organized baseball programs teaching them fundamentals or real balls, bats and gloves for those who still attempt to play. The most touching moment came at the end of the press conference when Steven Carter (Chief, Sports, Health & Wellness Division, M-NCPPC*) spoke about learning to play baseball with a sock wrapped in duct tape and the emotion of calling his mom the day he was called up to the big leagues against all odds. He then asked all the Nationals players present and the Forestville Little League players to come up front so the kids could touch an MLB player and remember the moment as they work their way towards success of their own.
Nyjer Morgan and pediatric patient at Children’s National Medical Center
Well, ok, the boys have been in town for several days, but yesterday was the first day of the winter caravan that allowed me to catch up to them on a snowy traffic-halting day. The first stop on the day’s caravan tour was Children’s National Medical Center in DC. What I love most about these types of community relations events is capturing the genuine smiles and joy expressed not only on the players’ faces, but the children whose day is brightened because of the visit. While doctors and nurses can heal the body, visits with their sports heroes sooth and help heal children’s souls, not to mention provide memories to last a lifetime.
A large contingent of Nationals strode into the Atrium of the hospital where children from babies to teens, relatives and attending care providers sat at brightly covered tables ready for the attention lavished upon them. In addition to players Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, John Lannan, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn and Nyjer Morgan were new Nationals Matt Capps, Brian Bruney and Jason Marquis as well as manager Jim Riggleman and tv broadcaster Rob Dibble. Nats owner Mark Lerner was also on hand chatting with Dr. Fran Cogen who heads the Diabetes Program and the Diabetes Care Complex which is an integral part of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation’s mission. Quite the entourage! I think that may be the largest I’ve seen yet.
In addition to the usual conversation, smiles, posing for photographs and handing out of autographed cards, Nationals played card games of UNO with patients and autographed stuffed Screeches. A little boy who had been there five days and was going home was treated to Nats autographs on his ‘autograph pillow’ normally signed by nurses and doctors upon discharge.
The little boy pictured above will be able to show all his friends the proper technique to the fist bump-finger splaying move taught to him by Nyjer Morgan aka Tony Plush! The Nationals’ visit provided a few hours where the IVs, tubes and medical monitoring equipment present in the room were forgotten or went unnoticed, replaced with abundant grins, coloring and memory making .
Amy K. Nelson (ESPN), Mike Hall (NESN), Jeff Pyatt (Real Clear Sports), Jeff Pearlman (SI), Dan Steinberg (WaPo), Bethlehem Shoals (FreeDarko)
Yeah, you know how that line ends and the song keeps sticking in my head as I write a recap of “Blogs With Balls 1.0”. Actually, I don’t have the biggest of them all, clearly. It’s probably a good thing I have none of those dangly somewhat spherical objects at all, as I’ve been straddling a fence (hopefully not picket) over the last couple years; an awkward, fascinating, challenging place to hang out. See, when it comes to this here blog, I don’t really consider myself media – in fact, I’m never quite sure what to consider myself and I’ve given up trying to define my role. I’ve told Kasten I’m not media, yet later, Mr. Chatter pointed out I write, take photographs (some published), appear on TV and radio – in other words, the very definition of media. But I’m not fully credentialed and have fought my way to respectability and limited access. Yet I work in media, if only on the back end where I’m relatively invisible, because I actually love media and aspire to being as good as the rest, whether that’s writing, doing videos, or taking sports photos. To punctuate the whole straddling thing, my nametag had my workplace on it instead of my blog!
I absolutely was not going to pass up attending the first organized sports blogger conference in NYC this past weekend. The event felt rather historic and I wanted to be a part of it. Also, Dan Steinberg was slated to be a panelist in the “Why We Hate You – The Media’s Take” panel and I was curious to hear what that panel would entail from my perspective on both sides of the fence. Finally, I was really looking forward to the networking aspect. Covering a single team in a single sport really tends to leave one hidden from the rest of the sports world. And I am a sports blogger, after all, so I was kind of surprised when the first thing Steinberg asked upon seeing me was, “What are you doing here?” (enter stereotypical interweb-speak LOL) I quickly borrowed a sharpie and corrected my nametag. Continue reading But I’ve Got The Biggest…→