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Apr
02

"Abundance Of Caution" Scrubs Nats-Mets Opening Series

Remember 2020, the year that life as we knew it was thrown a curveball we coined as COVID-19? When the pandemic was so troublesome that Major League Baseball conducted a 60-game “fake” season?

Well, the virus has not gone away, and it's thrown a wrench into the the gears of the first week of Major League Baseball's regular season.

The Nationals’ opening series against the New York Mets has now been postponed to a later date, out of “an abundance of caution” surrounding confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 within Washington’s organization.

All 30 teams across the league were scheduled to play ball on Thursday. It was going to be the first time in decades that all 30 teams opened their season on the same day, and the Nationals were slated to host the Mets in the primetime ESPN slot. But the pandemic had other ideas, forcing ESPN’s nightcap to be postponed and the Nationals to enter a “Mike Rizzo mandated quarantine”.

The process leading up to the postponement was eventful. The chaos started on Wednesday afternoon, when it was reported that someone within the team had tested positive for the virus. News later broke that the positive test would likely impact the Opening Day roster, and would also force five people (including a staff member) to enter quarantine due to close contact.

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2
Mar
31

Nationals Have A Puncher's Chance At Winning The Division

In 2019, the Washington Nationals brought home a World Series ring.

Last year in a COVID-shortened season, the team didn't make the playoffs, and just went home early.

So where is the 2021 edition of the Nationals going, starting with Opening Day tomorrow?

Although their core remains largely the same, the Nationals have gone through their fair share of roster turnover since the end of last season, not to mention their World Series championship season in 2019. They’ve lost veterans like Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki, Howie Kendrick and Adam Eaton; but also added thumpers like Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, along with a potential Hall of Fame pitcher in Jon Lester. And don’t forget about that savvy veteran who wears No. 11 and played his college ball in Charlottesville! He’s back too, after taking a year off.

The team appears on the surface to be stronger than it was for most of last season. So where should fans’ expectations fall in 2021, and what will be some of the key factors towards how successful the season will be?

State Of The Division

There’s no way around it; the NL East has improved since the Nationals’ title run. The Braves remain a powerhouse of the division, the Phillies and Mets have each added one of the best players at their respective positions (J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Lindor), and the Marlins are very much on the rise, even earning a Wild Card bid last year, thanks in part to rookie flamethrower Sixto Sanchez.

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3
Mar
30

Avoid The Lines: Build A Concession Stand In Your Home

Thursday is opening day for the Washington Nationals, as well as just about every other team in Major League Baseball.

Because of this, I have some investment advice for you.

Let’s face it, going to a major league game and truly enjoying the experience involves a couple of factors. One is obviously good baseball.

But another is the food, as I cannot go to a baseball game without getting a hot dog at the stadium. A hot dog, a cold beverage and a bag of salted in the shell peanuts constitute the holy trinity in the cathedral of baseball, and it is a mandatory purchase, where you can expect to pay at least $20 for those materials at a concession stand at Nats Park.

The hot dog, to truly be a baseball hot dog, has to be cooked a certain way to create its unique taste. At home, you’re probably going to fry it in a pan, boil it if you’re not all that serious about hot dog taste, or microwave it if you’ve given up on life in general. But a true baseball hot dog is cooked on steel rollers, constantly cooking it to maximize the melting of all that fat and other ingredients in there that will probably shorten your life.

You probably see these machines on the counter behind the staff taking your order without ever giving thought to “hey, I should get one of those.”

The other part of the ballpark experience is a steamed bun. Properly stationed in a contraption allowing a low level of steam to soften the bun into a heavenly pillow sliced in the middle to allow this juicy all-beef concoction to rest comfortably, and you have the food of kings.

I invested in these two devices years ago, and it may have been a better investment than Microsoft, Apple or Amazon when it comes to living life to its fullest. When the Nats or Hokies play, I put a few Nathan’s natural casing Coney Island style hot dogs on the rollers, some buns in the steamer, a little chili and sauerkraut in two small crock pots I set on low, then chop up some onions and leave out some condiments. It’s an all-day concession stand in my kitchen without having to pay $8 a hot dog.

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4
Mar
28

This Is One Opening Day I'll Never Be Able To Forget...

Since it is a dark, gray day, and Opening Day is later this week, allow me to share a memory.

It is of an Opening Day 9 years ago that had me filled with excitement. It later turned to one of my darkest memories, and something I think about every year. In light of what’s been going on with younger people during this year-plus of being out of school and staying at home due to COVID, I think about it even more this year.

I’ve been blessed with friends who are baseball fanatics. I like baseball, don’t get me wrong, but these friends absolutely love it. One friend, whose name was Paul, insisted that I always go with him to Opening Day. From the first year the Nationals came to DC until 2012, he never asked whether I wanted to go. He just said he’d gotten the tickets and what time he was coming by the house.

He was that way with the last game of the season, too. Missing either in a season was like a religious person missing church on Easter Sunday. It was important to him, and you had to be there.

Every year on the drive to at first RFK, then Nats Park, the conversation was the same. We’d ask each other if this year would be the season the Nationals finally broke through and made the playoffs, and despite evidence to the contrary, would convince ourselves the answer was “yes.”. We’d endured the beginning of some bad 100-loss seasons in the past, but we always rationalized about the next season and how changes made in the offseason would somehow mean this coming season was OUR year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 was no different. We convinced ourselves this would be the year the Nats made the postseason, and like every year, we believed it. Because of traffic that day, we’d spend 7 hours together between riding in the car to the stadium and watching the game while debating all this.

It ended up being a very good game. Paul was not a fan of Jayson Werth, and after riding him all day every time he came to the plate, Werth repaid the criticism with a single in the bottom of the 10th to move Ryan Zimmerman to second. A ground out moved both over a base, and with two outs, Zimmerman would then score the winning run on a wild pitch.

We all went home happy.

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6
Feb
28

How Only A Few Words Can Brighten A Rainy, Dreary Day

There aren’t many words that can immediately make me think of bright sunshine on a dreary, rainy Sunday morning.

But there they were on the schedule of today's sporting events:  “Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, FL, 1:05 PM.”

That's the site of the Washington Nationals’ first spring training game of the year today against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was only two years ago in a world that feels like it's now thousands of miles away that my cell phone rang. “Hey,” said the voice of my oldest friend Doug from the high temps and humidity of Southern Mississippi, “have you ever wanted to go to spring training?”

Of course I did, as every kid who has ever thrown a baseball or swung a bat wanted to back in the day. But on the spur of the moment, you drive to a fast food joint or head to the grocery store. You don’t just pack up one day and head to West Palm Beach.

But Doug was ready. “I’ve booked the hotel, I’ve gotten a rental car and I’ve got a plane reservation in front of me from Dulles to Charlotte where we can meet, then we’ll fly the rest of the way together,” he said. “All you have to do is say yes.”

He had, in the words of The Godfather, made me an offer I could not refuse.

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5
Feb
16

Baltimore Apparently Has No Chance; You Hate To See It :)

It’s been a busy day, as I’ve been running around to grocery stores to stock up, since the local weather people are saying Thursday we could have anywhere between 2 and 103 inches of snow and ice.

Nice job of nailing that forecast down with precision, guys.

So as I'm catching up on what I’ve missed this afternoon, I came across a graphic from the good people at Fangraphs rating every Major League Baseball team’s postseason odds. At this time of the year, common wisdom has said, everyone has a chance. Everyone’s 0-0. Hope springs eternal.

Except if you’re a fan of the Baltimore Orioles.

Their chances are listed at 0.0 percent. Senator John Blutarsky’s GPA in Animal House. The membership fees on a Discover Card. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. You know that meme that says “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” They’re not. They are saying you have NO chance.

This may have brought a smile to my face. You see, if you don’t live up here in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area, you may not be aware of the “special” relationship between fans of Washington and Baltimore professional teams. It’s a nice way of saying Baltimore fans can be one colossal pain in the backside to Washington fans, never just being happy with their own success. They’ve got to make sure you know about it, whether you want to or not.

Over the years if I post something good about how the artists formerly know as the Washington Redskins are doing, I can count on at least two fans from Baltimore telling me how much better the Ravens are doing. When the Nationals won the World Series, they jumped in my feeds to make sure you knew that all Nationals fans were at one time Orioles fans and were just front runners without any real character who abandoned the O’s for the Nats.

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2
Nov
16

Wake Up Maggie, I Think I've Got Something To Say To You....

Back in early September, it seemed like some magic was starting to happen to the Washington Nationals.

Turns out that magic went a little farther than baseball, at least for me.

The Nationals, as everyone knows by now, caught fire, went on a run through the playoffs and won the World Series. At the same time, it turns out, there was a tiny beagle puppy born somewhere in rural South Carolina.

If you’ve never spent any time out in the country, this can sometimes not be the best of things for a puppy. Out in the country, not all dogs are spayed or neutered. A litter of puppies can be born, and with not many people living nearby, nobody may want them.

In the case of this little pup, it wandered off and ended up in a shelter. A place, it turns out, that was considered a high-kill shelter. It was only 8 weeks old, but it needed to be wanted soon or it may not get to celebrate a birthday.

Meanwhile here in Ashburn, we had lost our two dogs of 15-plus years over the previous 9 months. My wife and I were crushed by all this, but we agreed we should wait some before thinking about a new dog. I thought we had agreed we’d at least wait until next spring.

Apparently “let’s wait until next spring” to my wife meant “start looking now.” For the last two months she’s been sending me emails daily with suggestions of dogs to be adopted. Not just one a day, either. At times there would be 4 or 5 emails, with links to 4 or 5 more dogs in each email.

We were having, as a famous line in a movie once conveyed, a failure to communicate.

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2
Nov
01

Another Day, Another Video, Another Batch Of Memories...

As you've been warned earlier, I'm posting every video I see that brings back any great memories of the past season for the Washington Nationals. So here's another.

This one not only captures the video highlights of key plays, it also includes some of my favorite lines by broadcasters this season, including (but not limited to):

"That wasn't a baseball game. That was an exorcism."

"And now...we clinch."

"(That's the) first time I've seen the nationals team actually look like they have tremendous joy and one heartbeat."

"If you walked out of this ballpark, YOU BLEW IT."

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1
Nov
01

We Are The Champions, We Are The Champions...

We're now at that point in the World Series after-party where the videos are being made and being posted online. The Washington Capitals set the bar pretty high with some of their video work after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, so it will be interesting to see what the Nationals came come up with.

This one is now making the rounds, and it has all the key elements: The song "We Are The Champions" (although I'm partial to hearing drunk hockey players in the fountains of Washington, DC sing it acapella), highlights of key moments, video showing everyone celebrating on the field, and spraying of champagne like it was coming out of a fire hose.

And of course, a tagline at the end with some version of "Finish The Fight."

I've only watched it a dozen times today. So that alone makes it worthy of being posted here.

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1
Nov
01

Remember Where You Are So You'll Remember Where You Are

Remember Where You Are Remember Where You Are....

Every significant memory of a big event in the history of the Washington Nationals usually involves a signature play call by Nationals radio play-by-play man Charlie Slowes. His call of Jason Werth's home run in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS is still on my phone so in case I'm having a bad day and need something to make me smile, I can listen to it.

It always works too.

When the Nats made the playoffs for the first time, Charlie's signature call included "Remember where you are, so you'll remember where you were," something I've chuckled about ever since. So of course when the Nationals finally won the World Series, it was only fitting that after screaming in delight that the Nationals had won, he added almost those same words, instead saying "remember where you are so you'll remember where you are."

If you didn't hear the call, here it is:

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1
Nov
01

Sometimes, Lightning Does Strike Twice If You Wait Long Enough

It is wonderfully fitting for me this weekend that Virginia Tech travels to Notre Dame only a few days after the Washington Nationals won the World Series.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become less and less a fan of watching sporting events live. Part of it may be I was a sportswriter for a decade when I got out of college, so those hundreds and hundreds of days/nights in a press box or on a sideline may have fulfilled my lifetime quota. The other is the advancement of big screen HD televisions – of which I own far too many – that make it so much easier to see the action.

My wife would say the overriding factor is that I’m also cheap. At home, the food and beverage are far more reasonable.

She does have a point.

But back in college, I was ready to go anywhere at any time to see a live game. Promises were made to friends that if a certain event ever happened way out in the future, we’d go no matter how old we were. One involved the World Series with my friend Tim, which I mentioned yesterday.

The other was made when I was a freshman at Virginia Tech in 1974 and involved Notre Dame. The Hokies were in their first year under Jimmy Sharpe, and football at Virginia Tech was about as far away from the big time as the Nats were from the World Series when they were 19-31. Notre Dame dominated the airways of pre-cable television, and after one particularly festive and ambitious moment, my friends Rick and Doug and I proclaimed if the Hokies ever played Notre Dame, we were going to South Bend.

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