The Baseball Players Who Invented the High Five

April 16 is a special day in baseball history.  On April 16, 1941 Bob Feller threw the only Opening Day no-hitter.  Also, on this day, people celebrate National High Five Day.  What does National High Five Day have to do with baseball?  Well, the first-ever high five occurred on the field at Dodger Stadium.

On October 2, 1977, Dodgers outfielder Dusty Baker (maybe better known as the recent former Reds manager) hit a home run off of Astros pitcher J.R Richards. It was Baker’s 30th big fly.  When Baker got back to home plate, his teammate Glenn Burke raised his hand up in celebration.  Not knowing what to do, Baker just slapped it, and that became the first ever high five.  It started as a mistake by a Dodgers outfielder, but became a tradition for when celebrating you do something good.

firsthighfiveHere’s a link to a cool story on Grantland about the high five.

(Glenn Burke also has an interesting history as the first and only MLB player to be out as gay.  He faced a lot of bad prejudice and left professional baseball when he was 27).

Baseball high fives are still in the news.  About a month ago, pink eye was spreading around the Milwaukee Brewers spring training facility in Peoria, Arizona.  The team banned high fives so that players wouldn’t catch the contagious disease.  They gave fist bumps instead.

There is still some dispute over who invented the high five. Some people say that it was invented at a University of Louisville Cardinals basketball practice, when Wiley Brown and Derek Smith gave a low five to each other, but quickly changed into a high five. I like to believe that it was invented by Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker.

The “holiday” National High Five Day was started in 2002 at the University of Virginia. A group of students set up shop on the main quad of the campus and gave out high-fives and lemonade.  You can celebrate National High Five Day just by giving out high fives or tweeting with the hashtag #NH5D.

National High Five Day was celebrated by the Washington Nationals Presidents:

I hope that National High Five day is a reminder to the Nats to get back on track and that we see a a lot more of this kind of post-game celebrating this year!DSC_0521

 

 

50 Things I Love About Opening Day

5012 od Baseball fans have been eagerly awaiting the start of baseball season. Opening Day is Monday!  My hometown team, the Washington Nationals will play the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Nats newbie Max Scherzer will take on Bartolo Colon.

 

As is an annual tradition, to celebrate Opening Day, here are my 50 favorite things (not in order) about the start of the baseball season.

1. Um, baseball begins!!!
2. The beginning of MASN HD broadcasts so I can watch real, live games, not Nats Classics
3. The family DVR will stop recording all my parents’ shows
4. Lots of new food options to try at Nationals Park like Virginia Biscuits, gourmet Grilled Cheese and Mac and Cheese, and New York-style Pizza.
5. The sounds of baseball – “crack!” of the bat. “whoomup!” of the ball hitting a glove. “peanuts! cracker jack!” shouting vendors.
6. Rob Manfred, the new MLB commissioner, will throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day
7. The high pop fly getting lost in the starry night of DC
8. Listening to DC Washington (who has a pretty awesome name) sing the Star Spangled Banner
9. Seeing how players deal with the new speed of play rules against stepping out of the batter’s box
10. Welcoming Max Scherzer, Casey Janssen, Yunel Escobar, and Matt den Dekker to the team
11. Waving your caps for the troops in the 3rd inning
12. Quick Pitch is on MLB Network. It is my main source for games I can’t stay up to watch
13. 6-4-3 doubleplays!
14. Scoring the games
15. Inside Pitches
16. Opening of the new team store at Nats Park this season
17. Seeing the train scoreboard in the Norfolk Southern Club in action
18. Replacing the rivalry with the Atlanta Braves with the Marlins or Mets
19. Counting down days until the Jayson Werth Chia Pet giveaway
20. Now that I’m older I get to stay up later to watch more of the night games
21. We’re season ticket holders again!
22. All of the major sports magazines have us winning the NL East – NO JINX
23. Finding out what song will play at Nats Park during the seventh-inning stretch
24. I can’t wait to see what they do at TheNationalsArchive.com this year
25. Sometimes missing school for games
26. Pups in the Park and Nats Pets Calendar
27. Commemorative bobbleheads to collect this year (I can’t wait for the Stras bobblehead!)
28. Lots of new things to write about on MattsBats.com (sometimes it’s very hard thinking of topics for posts during the offseason)
29. Seeing how the 2:05 clock in centerfield for TV commercials actually works (part of the new pace of play rules)
30. Seeing 10th Anniversary commemorative patch on the Nats jerseys
31. Waiting for summer to officially begin
32. Baseball games that actually count
33. Proving that the Nationals have the best rotation in the MLB
34. Seeing Ryan Zimmerman play games at first base
35. Reading articles by some of my favorite reporters like James Wagner and Mark Zuckerman
36. “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack”
37. Bob and FP on TV, and Charlie and Dave on the radio
38. Ryan will hit homers to Zim-bomb-we
39. More posts and podcasts from my favorites like Nationals 101, Red Porch Report, The Nats Blog, The NatsGM Show, and Citizens of Natstown
40. The Nationals outfield spells “WSH” (Werth-Span-Harper) (but only Harper will be playing on Opening Day)
41. Listening to baseball on the radio during car trips and while going to bed
42. Lots and lots of cheering Nats fans at each game
43. The only time I can bug my parents for a soda and actually get it
44. I might get my 1,500th Twitter follower this season
45. Nats Dogs
46. The possibility of MLB announcing the 2018 All-Star Game is coming to DC #DCISREADY
47. Turning eleven!
48. Getting the chance to meet more Matt’s Bats readers and Twitter followers at “tweet-ups”
49. Baseball almost every day until at least September and hopefully October
50. Charlie Slowes saying, “Bang! Zoom! Another Curly W is in the books!”

What are your favorite things about the start of the baseball season? Leave a comment or tweet me at @MattsBats.

 

My 2015 Predictions

The baseball season is about to begin! And because of that, I have decided to publish my predictions for the season. So with out further adieu, here are the official MattsBats.com previews and predictions for the 2015 season!  (If you want to see my 2014 predictions, click here.  I published them as separate posts, but this one has a link to them all).  Read my predictions for which team will win each Division, plus Post-Season and World Series predictions, and Awards predictions.  Also, at the bottom of the page, I’ve included my 2014 post-season predictions.  Hopefully, my predictions for 2015 are more accurate!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

2013 Preview- NL EastNL EAST

5. Philadelphia Phillies

4. Atlanta Braves

3. Miami Marlins

2. New York Mets

1. Washington Nationals

I think the Nationals have this division locked up because they have a great rotation, unanimously the best in baseball. Their past struggles give them a deep, deep farm system. The Mets and Marlins, with their good pitching and hitting, will be the biggest contenders to the Nats’ division title.  I’m predicting the Nats win 99 games this year.

 

nlcentralonlynonhatsNL CENTRAL

5. Milwaukee Brewers

4. Cincinnati Reds

3. Chicago Cubs

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

                                                                       1 . Saint Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals will take the division again here in 2015, but a late-season run by Pittsburgh puts them in a close second. I’m predicting Kris Bryant will break out for the Cubs. He will start the year in the minors, but I’m predicting he’ll be called up to the delight of the MLBPA and fans early on– like by April 29. I’m also predicting Bryant will come away with a big award (see end).  The Cardinals to do well this season, but I’m saying they will barely come up with the title.  If you like baseball, this is the Division to watch in 2015.

 

2013 Preview- NL WestNL WEST

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. Colorado Rockies

3. San Diego Padres

2. San Francisco Giants

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

In another close battle, I’m predicting the reigning West champs will take it. Even with the new and improved team, A.J. Preller’s Padres will come in third in a tough battle between the Dodgers and Giants. LA, with Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, and Carl Crawford in the outfield and Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Adrian Gonzalez patrolling the infield, has a slight advantage over the Giants.  Again, this is a great Division to watch, even though here on the East Coast we don’t get to see too much West Coast baseball because of the time difference.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

2013 Preview- AL East            AL EAST

            5. Tampa Bay Rays

            4. Baltimore Orioles

            3. New York Yankees

            2. Boston Red Sox

                                                                               1. Toronto Blue Jays

This is a tough division to choose from- it’s either you have Toronto winning the Division and Tampa Bay coming in last, or Tampa Bay winning the Division and Toronto coming in last.  I’m predicting each team in this Division will have a winning record, so it will be very close.  The Tampa Bay roster looks a lot like Toronto’s.  I think you can be pretty confident, however, picking, Boston Red Sox to finish in second. Falling under the radar will be the Orioles, who will fall in fourth after losing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. So I’m asking you, don’t buy anything expensive at Marlo Furniture these next few days (their promotion is that if Nationals play the Orioles in the World Series, everyone gets a refund– I don’t think the O’s are World Series contenders this year).

2013 Preview- AL CentralAL CENTRAL

5. Minnesota Twins

4. Chicago White Sox

3. Kansas City Royals

2. Cleveland Indians

1. Detroit Tigers

Even though the Nats and Red Sox stole their entire rotation (except for Anibal Sanchez) and Justin Verlander is on the DL, I still have Detroit winning this division. Ian Kinsler will go 20/20 for the team this year and finally have his breakout season. Sports Illustrated has the Indians winning the Wild Card, but I don’t (read my AL West prediction below to see who I think gets the WC spot). The rejuvenated White Sox will finish behind the Royals, last year’s runner-ups.

AL WEST

5. Houston Astros2013 Preview-AL West

4. Texas Rangers

3. Oakland Athletics

2. Seattle Mariners

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This is going to be a very interesting dogfight come September. I’m predicting the Mariners will have a strong lead, until Mike Trout literally gets plunked by Felix Hernandez in July. Although Trout stays fine, the team makes a huge push to take the Division. I’m guessing they end in a tie– 91-71–and the tiebreaker, in LA, on October 5, ends up in a win for the Angels.  That’s pretty specific, isn’t it?  I’m saying Seattle takes the Wild Card.

POST-SEASON

NL WILD CARD

2nd Place NL West San Francisco Giants

2nd Place NL Central Pittsburgh Pirates

WINNER- Pittsburgh Pirates

AL WILD CARD

2nd Place AL Central Cleveland Indians

2nd Place AL West Seattle Mariners

WINNER- Seattle Mariners

NLDS

Washington Nationals versus Pittsburgh Pirates-WINNER- Washington Nationals

Los Angeles Dodgers versus Saint Louis Cardinals- WINNER- Los Angeles Dodgers

ALDS

Seattle Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers- WINNER- Seattle Mariners

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Los Angeles Angels- WINNER- Los Angeles Angels

NLCS

Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers- WINNER- Washington Nationals

ALCS

Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels- WINNER- Los Angeles Angels

ws16WORLD SERIES

Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Angels- WINNER- WASHINGTON NATIONALS

WE WILL BE PARTYING DOWN PENN THIS NOVEMBER!!

 

 

2015 Award Predictions

NL MVP- Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)

AL MVP- Mike Trout (LAA)

NL ROY- Kris Bryant (CHC)

AL ROY- Andrew Heaney (LAA)

NL Cy Young- Clayton Kershaw (LAD)

AL Cy Young- Felix Hernandez (SEA)

NL Manager of Year- Mike Matheny (STL)

AL Manager of Year – John Gibbons (TOR)

NL Comeback Player of Year- Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)

AL Comeback Player of Year- Evan Longoria (TB)

World Series MVP- Anthony Rendon (WAS)

 

* (2014 Post-Season Predictions)

AL:
West– Texas Rangers
Central– Detroit Tigers
East– Boston Red Sox
WC1– New York Yankees
WC2– Oakland A’s
*But the Tampa Bay Rays are contenders too!
Pennant– Detroit Tigers

NL:
West– Los Angeles Dodgers
Central– St. Louis Cardinals
East– Washington Nationals
WC1– Atlanta Braves
WC2– Cincinnati Reds
Pennant– Washington Nationals

World SeriesWashington Nationals over Detroit Tigers

 

Matt’s Bats Becomes Official Braves Youth Blogger; Welcome #BravesBaby

tedturner

I am happy to announce the exciting news that Mr. Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Enterprises, has invited me to join the Atlanta Braves team as their Official Braves Youth Blogger.  I have enjoyed following the Nationals since 2012 on my Matt’s Bats MLB Pro blog.  I will still be writing my weekly guest blogger column for MASN, but I will only write about how much better the Braves are than the Nationals.

The Braves have also given me the opportunity to announce this MONSTER trade: the Atlanta Braves have traded 1B Freddie Freeman and RP Craig Kimbrel to the Washington Nationals for Younaifred Aguero, a prospect playing for the Gulf Coast League Nationals.  Braves fans everywhere are excited to welcome Younaifred to Atlanta, and they wish Freddie and Craig best of luck in DC.  The team will celebrate Younaifred’s call-up to the big leagues by treating all fans to a celebration of Venezuelan delicacies on Opening Day at Turner Field!  Come hungry for authentic Cobb County, Georgia arepas!

Also, the Braves are giving me the honor of announcing their brand new new official team mascot.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet “Braves Baby!”

bravebaby

The Braves official Twitter account wants to know what you think about the new mascot Braves Baby.  Send a tweet to @Braves and use the official hashtag “#BRAVESBABY”  Let’s get #BravesBaby trending!

Finally, I wanted say this one last thing before I say goodbye to all of the fans in Natstown who have supported me over the years:

APRIL FOOLS!

 

Matt’s Bats Nats News: Trades, Injuries, Podcast, Every Nats Game’s A Story

mattsbatslogo-hiresThere has been a lot of big news in Nationals baseball in the past day.

First, the trades:

  • Backup catcher Sandy Leon was traded to the Boston Red Sox for cash considerations.
  • The Nats signed Reed Johnson to a minor league deal, after he was let go by the Miami Marlins.
  • And the biggest news– the Nationals traded lefty reliever Jerry Blevins to the New York Mets for Outfielder Matt den Dekker.  Keep reading for a little bit of background to get to know den Dekker.

Matt den Dekker was born on August 10, 1987, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He played high school baseball at the Westminster Academy, where many baseball players went, including Kevin Chapman, an Astros pitcher (and den Dekker’s cousin) and Nats minor league outfielder, Michael A. Taylor, who happens to be the guy den Dekker is fighting for the Opening Day centerfield position. Interestingly enough, den Dekker and Taylor played together in their high school years.

taylorRT

Den Dekker went to college at the University of Florida. As a sophomore, den Dekker hit .333 and was perfect in stolen bases/stolen base tries. Entering the 2009 draft, Baseball America ranked den Dekker as the #92 best prospect in all of the USA, in a list that included Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Jordan Zimmermann, and others. The Mets drafted him in the 5th round in 2010, and assigned him to the Gulf Coast League Mets. After 5 games down in Port Saint Lucie, he was promoted to the Savannah Sand Gnats (now he’s played for two Nats!). He started 2011 with the St. Lucie Mets, who also play down in Florida, and shared that season with the Binghamton Mets. He played for the Las Vegas 51s in 2013 before getting called up to New York on August 29. He hit his first home run off Ross Ohlendorf on September 1st against the Nats. And now here he is, playing for the Nats throughout the season.

I think we’ll see a breakout year from den Dekker this year. Last year he looked like a volcano ready to explode, and this year it just may happen.

Next the injuries:

  • 3B/2B Anthony Rendon, who has been on the bench with a knee injury, will go see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.  I hope he doesn’t need surgery or a long DL stint!
  • Newly signed reliever Casey Janssen has rotator cuff tendinitis and will not be ready for Opening Day.
  • Drew Storen left a training game early because he had a blister on his toe.

Finally, my interview and article:

I was interviewed over the weekend, along with other Nats and Orioles commentators, for the Nats GM Show podcast.  Check it out here.

My post for the Citizens of Natstown project “Every Nats Game’s a Story” will be up this week too.  Check it out!

Guest Post: Live From Spring Training!

Spring Break fell late this year, so I couldn’t go to Florida for Spring Training. Luckily, a Matt’s Bats reader and professional photographer named  Geoff Chesman took some pictures from the Nationals games on Monday, March 16 in Viera and Wednesday, March 18 in Jupiter. He was also kind enough to give his opinion on what he saw. Since Geoff is an event photographer with ImageLink, I think the pictures are the best part.

This is the first guest post I’ve ever had on MattsBats.com, so here it is!
SpaceCoast

NATS AROUND FLORIDA

Guest Post by GEOFF CHESMAN

 

SpaceCoast2Monday, March 16
Nationals vs. Astros
Space Coast Stadium
Viera, FL
I had a two-hour plus drive to get to Viera from where I was staying in Boynton Beach. Flying solo, I was able to get up and out on the road to arrive early to Space Coast Stadium. The first thing I noticed when walking out to the field were the Green Hats in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. The thing about Spring Training, of course, is that it’s very intimate. The stadium is small, there are no bad seats, and the players are closer than ever.
lineupsstgc1We were all treated to a glimpse into a potential future of the franchise with Michael Taylor starting for the injured Denard Span delivering a lead off triple in the first inning. He scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s sac fly.Scary moment in the third inning when Jordan Zimmermann got smacked with a ball right back at him from the Astros’ Robbie Grossman.  But Zimmermann is a tough pitcher and he bounced right back up and threw to first but it got by Ryan Zimmerman and Grossman reached third on the error. Jordan stayed in the game, eventually giving up a single to the next batter Jonathan Villar for a run.

jzIn the fifth inning, Bryce Harper baited the Astros Left Fielder Alex Presley into trying to stretch a single into a double. Harper gunned him down at second. Lesson learned – Don’t run on Bryce! By the time Clint Robinson tripled home Tony Gwynn, Jr. in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the lead for good, I was comfortably resting on the grass in the shade of the scoreboard in left center. Overall a beautiful day to be at the ballpark and I liked what I saw from Jordan Zimmerman picking up where he left off last year. Nats win 2-1.

Jayson Werth in the green St. Patrick's Day cap.

Jayson Werth in the green St. Patrick’s Day cap.

Food Report – Since this is the 10th anniversary of our beloved Nationals, I had an Italian Sausage in an homage to our tradition at the old RFK vendors. Unfortunately the link was a little overcooked and dry and the fries were uninspiring.

Wednesday, March 18RogerDean1
Nationals vs. Marlins
Roger Dean Stadium
Jupiter, Florida
Jupiter was only a 35-minute ride and I liked the ease of parking and the location of the stadium in Jupiter. I arrived early again and got a chance to get up close and personal with pitching coach Steve McCatty and center fielder Michael Taylor.
mtMichael was kind enough to autograph a ball for me too!
It was nice to see former Nationals Jhonatan Solano and one of our favorites, Michael Morse, now playing for the Marlins.Miami starter Mat Latos looked good early while the Marlins mostly starting lineup hit Fister tallying two runs on six hits. Clint Robinson keeps hitting the ball hard with a home run to lead off the fifth inning to stake the Nats to  one run lead. It was nice to see a consummate pro like the 41-year old Ichiro Suzuki, a veteran offseason acquisition for the Marlins with a triple late in the game.

I checked out the Berm in right field which is a great little place to camp out for the game if you get the special Berm tickets.
bermFormer Nats backup catcher Jhonatan Solano singled home his brother Donovan in the eighth inning and the Marlins held on to win 5-4. Another beautiful day at the ballpark when I hear there’s cold rain and snow in the Northeast.

miastlfoodFood report – There were some interesting food options including some creative hot dogs I was not courageous enough to try…I had a Sonny’s Bar-B-Que pulled pork sandwich with Mac and Cheese. Apparently Sonny has been in business since 1968 so he knows a thing or two about Bar-B-Que. The roll was a little thick but the meat was flavorful and tender and had a tasty sweet tangy Bar-B-Que sauce.

Overall, I loved chasing the Nats around Florida for a couple of days and feel lucky to have had the time to make some new memories with my favorite baseball team. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Livan Hernandez tossed out that first pitch at RFK. With a loaded pitching staff and a balanced lineup, this team is full of promise once again heading into the season as paper favorites. Let’s see if we can finally break through this year and deliver on that promise.
Check out Geoff Chesman’s online portfolio at www.geoffchesman.com/portfolio and his ImageLink website at http://imagelinkphoto.com/

I’m Blogging for MASNsports.com This Season!

beee9-mattsbatslogo-hiresIn case you haven’t heard on my Twitter account, I’m excited to announce that I will be guest blogging about the Nationals this season on MASNsports.com.  MASN, as everyone knows, is the TV broadcast station for the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, and is the home of Nationals baseball on the web.

Every Tuesday, tune in to MASNsports.com, where you can read my opinion on what’s happening in Nationals baseball.  I will still be writing my Pro Blog for MLB, MattsBats.com, where I will write about the Nats, other cool stories in baseball, and player interviews and other great experiences.  Right now, I can’t for Opening Day and to start writing for MASN.

Read the MASN announcement HERE.   If you are happy that MASN selected me, send a Tweet to @MattsBats and @MASNnationals to let them know.

Thanks for reading MattsBats.com and following on Twitter @MattsBats, and I hope to keep writing about my love of baseball!

masn

It’s Happening Right “Meow”

The sideline reporter has one of the toughest job in baseball. They have do interviews with baseball stars on live television while running the risk of getting pranked or doused with Gatorade. That is a lot to deal with. If you haven’t seen yet, Gio Gonzalez substituted the word “meow” into an interview with sideline reporter Dan Kolko.

Watching this hysterical video inspired me to go out and find some other funny sideline interviews.  Here’s my list of the funniest interviews conducted by sports reporters and players!

Football Freak

Coy Wire, a former cornerback and safety for the Atlanta Falcons, had a little fun with the Falcons Cam Reporter, Niki Noto. Pretending to become ready for an interview with Roddy White, a Wide Receiver for the team, Wire came out and scared Noto, wearing a creepy Halloween mask that made him look like a ghostly member of Kiss.

Blithe Basketball Bombs

This video is a collection of times basketball players (most notably Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh) videobombed interviews either pregame or postgame in the 2012-13 season. These are all hilarious.  My favorite part is when Lebron James makes a funny face and sound in his photo bomb, around the 17 second mark.

Japanese, Jelly, Juice

This is one you may have seen before, when Blue Jays shortstop Muenori Kawasaki did an interview that was supposed to be with Mark DeRosa. After he says some words in surprisingly good English, he gets pied and doused in Gatorade “Julie Alexandria style.” It’s a funny video.

Funny Fencing

kmWhile Twins legend Bert Blyleven tries to give an interview to the MLB Network, in the background you can see two Twins players fencing with baseball bats. It was so funny it was used for MLBN’s Intentional Talk Irrelevant Video of the Day. I think this one is very funny, and so did Kevin Millar and Chris Rose.

Hilarious Harvey

This clip is really funny. In honor of the 2013 All-Star Game, Jimmy Fallon sent NL Starting Pitcher Matt Harvey across New York to ask what the people thought about Matt Harvey. It was  really funny to see what the people thought about Harvey when they didn’t know that he was standing next to them. It is also funny to see the reactions of the interviewees once he actually revealed his identity.

Striewski Snags A Slider

Last year, the Boston Red Sox visited Toronto to play the Blue Jays.  Casey Janssen (current Nat!) induced a pop fly to either Edwin Encarnacion or Dioner Navarro. Instead of staying on the field, the ball sailed into the camera-well where reporter Gary Striewski made a nice one-handed catch.  Flashback! Let’s take you back to 2012, where F.P. Santangelo caught a foul ball in the press booth at Fenway Park.

Bro Boogie

While the Houston Astros were in Anaheim, the TV broadcast showed a man dancing. After they got back to David Martinez and Erick Aybar on the field, one of the CSN Houston announcers told Julia Morales, the sideline reporter for the team, that the man in the background was actually Morales’s brother. I think it was a total coincidence, but watch this funny clip and you can decide for yourself.

Summer Sprinkler

Before the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park, Emily Jones did a quick sideline report. A Texas squad featuring Nelson Cruz and Elvis Andrus threw a towel on top of the camera, but Jones had a water sprayer used for the blistering Texas heat. She squirted Cruz and Andrus, and the Rangers took the field, but they must have had a curse of the water, as the Rays won 8-4.

Did you like my selections? If I missed any please comment or tweet me @MattsBats. Go Nats! And just to let you know, there are 24 days until the Nats start playing baseball!

 

My Top Five from the First Five

1 tmo

Tyler Moore has been ripping it up this spring, shown here hitting a home run at Champion Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL

Baseball!  Its been a great five days, listening on the radio and watching on MASN as my favorite team played their first five spring training games.  Its been a pretty good start to spring training so far with a meaningless record of 3-2 but some clear highlights for the Nats.  Even though you can’t judge a team’s regular season performance by how they fare in spring training, its good to see some early positive signs for the Nats.

 

 

1. Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman

The Nats’ Hot Corners appear to be in great shape.  Zim looks very comfortable over at first base. He has started at first for most of the games so far this spring and he has been doing a good job.  He’s picked throws out of the dirt and made some tough plays.  Rendon is picking up where he left off in 2014, looking solid at 3B.  He even made a web gem, diving to save an Alberto Callaspo roller that was headed to the outfield, and shooting it to Zim at 1B, which Zim picked from the dirt.  Zim and Rendon are showing signs of good chemistry.

2. Tyler Moore

Moore, after shining in his debut for the Nats in 2012, had been stuck in a backup role, only coming up to play in the Bigs to replace an injured player. With the early spring training performance he has shown in 2015 so far, I don’t think that he will be that guy anymore. I think he will be on the team as a bench outfielder. His many extra base hits this spring include a towering shot off Alex Wood in Lake Buena Vista, FL, and two doubles in two at-bats against the Mets on Thursday.  I think that if Matt and Mike had to make rosters today, Moore would be in it for sure.   That’s important, because if he doesn’t make the team, he’s out of minor league options and will probably be traded or released, which would be a waste of good talent.

3. Starting Pitching

Coming into spring training, it was pretty clear that the Nats had an amazing pitching rotation – easily the best in the MLB and maybe the best in the history of baseball.  Its good to see so far in spring training that the pitchers are living up to their reputation.  It was great seeing Max Scherzer make his debut in a Nationals uniform.  Having Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister in a rotation almost guarantees success.  Our pitching reserves are better equipped now too – 2 years ago, the Nats used Zach Duke to fill in for an injured player.  Today, the Nats can rely on Tanner Roark, who was a 10+ game winner last season.  Roark looks a little rusty so far this spring training, but I think he will shake it off by opening day.

4. Outfield

The biggest blow to the beginning of the season is that Denard Span will not play Opening Day due to his core muscle surgery.  Add that to the fact that Jayson Werth’s shoulder probably won’t be ready for Opening Day either, and Nate McClouth isn’t likely to be ready either to fill in.  So 2 of the Nats 3 outfielders will be backup players.  On the bright side, though, there are some young Nats who are ready for that opportunity to step up and patrol the outfield.  Best bets are for either Tony Gwynn, Jr. or Michael A. Taylor to get that spot.  Both have shown great baseball so far during Spring Training.  I think the starter will be Taylor just because he has shown the Nats that he can perform at the Major League level.

5. Bullpen

Since the Nationals lost Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A’s and we haven’t seen Drew Storen yet, there are still two open slots in the Nats bullpen. Pitchers like Casey Janssen, Jerry Blevins, and Craig Stammen are locks for the ‘pen, but there are spots open for players like Blake Treinen, Xavier Cedeno, and AJ Cole who may be ready for MLB time. Don’t forget Heath Bell too! It is just that everyone is doing well and it will be hard to find that missing piece.

So as I conclude my post, I would like to say that the spring season is going steady, with not too many mountains to overcome so far for the Nats (like the Giants have with Hunter Pence or the Phillies have with Cliff Lee) but not too many valleys to climb out from like the Cubs or Brewers (0-5, last in the Cactus League). And we have 28 days until either Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez, or Fister takes the ball on Opening Day in front of the entire world.

Casey at the Bat Experience with Nat’l Symphony AND Matt’s Bats Chat with Glenn Donnellan

IMG_3392 Spring has sprung for baseball fans, with pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training this week, but that doesn’t mean that it is warm outside. In fact, it’s a snowy Saturday as I’m writing this.  I hope you’re also sitting by a fire and reading this.

On Sunday, February 15, the National Symphony Orchestra played a special family concert of other sports-related music at the Kennedy Center, and Nationals TV broadcaster F.P. Santangelo read the famous poem, Casey at the Bat.  I was lucky enough to watch the concert and then go backstage to interview Glenn Donnellan, a member of the National Symphony Orchestra and creator/player of the Electric Slugger, or bat-olin, (an electric violin played on a Louisville Slugger baseball bat).  You may have seen him play him play the National Anthem on the Electric Slugger at a Nationals game.

Before I get to my Matt’s Bats Chat with Glenn, let me tell you a little more about this awesome concert.

We arrived at the Kennedy Center a little early so we could experience the orchestra “petting zoo” that happens before each NSO Family Concert. The petting zoo is where volunteers bring out different orchestra instruments for the children to play.  I tried out the saxophone and violin, which I had never tried before.

Then it was time for the show to start.  Just like at the beginning of a baseball game, the show started with the National Anthem.  Glenn Donnellan came out to play the National Anthem on his Electric Slugger. If you haven’t seen him play before, here is a video of him playing in Atlanta:

The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Reineke, played lots of sports-related music, like the theme from Rocky, the Olympic Fanfare, and a song about Horse Racing.

With conductor Steven Reineke

With conductor Steven Reineke

Then they got to Casey at the Bat.

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Casey is one of baseball’s most storied characters, after he let down Mudville by striking out in the ninth inning to lose a late-game rally. F.P. Santangelo recited the poem with the music in the background. The music really took you to Mudville and the game by doing drumrolls and organists played “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” And I think that F.P. did a really good job reciting the poem in front of all of those people AND a symphony orchestra playing in the background.

Backstage after the performance with F.P. Santangelo

Backstage after the performance with F.P. Santangelo

F.P. is the third Nationals broadcaster to do a performance of Casey at the Bat.  In 2013, radio broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler recorded their versions of the poem for the Library of Congress to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the poem.  Listen to Charlie Slowes HERE and Dave Jageler HERE.

After that, the symphony played Take Me Out To The Ballgame with 4 violinists who acted out a real baseball game. And to conclude the show, they played Stars and Stripes Forever by Sousa.

Everyone was talking about the Electric Slugger on the way out. The people had thought that it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen and were very impressed with their performance. And I was lucky enough to get to go backstage to interview Glenn Donnellan and try out his bat-olin.

donellanHere is my interview with Glenn!

Matt’s Bats – Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself?

Glenn Donnellan – I started violin when I was four years old.  My mom taught public school strings in Washington State, in a small town called Ferndale.  I grew up playing violin in our house and through the school system with my friends.  I went to college to study violin performance at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  I first auditioned at The Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestras and sat as a substitute in their violin pools.  It was great to have two top tier orchestras in the town where I was going to school.  I got to hear them all the time and then I got to play with them, which was a dream come true.

The Minnesota Orchestra is a “major league” orchestra on par with the National Symphony.  We have major league orchestras, like baseball has major league teams.  Then there are other orchestras that are considered “minor league” teams – those are the terms we actually use.  The minor league orchestras are in smaller cities.    After college I won a job with the National Symphony at an audition, which was just a “pinch myself” moment.  I got to play music full time.

MB – Tell me more about the Electric Slugger Bat-olin.

GD – It’s a 34 inch Louisville Slugger, C271 model, 125 wood.  Louisville Slugger and I chose this particular bat for me to turn into the Electric Slugger because it’s the most ubiquitous bat in the Majors.  It’s the Louisville Slugger that you’ll find swung the most often on every Major League team.  They might not be swinging it in a game, but the C271 Louisville Slugger is in their collection of bats.  I thought it would be neat to have the most common one.  Whenever I need a new Electric Slugger, Louisville Slugger will make one and ship it to me.  I then can transform the bat into an Electric Slugger in my garage with my tools.

Louisville Slugger also changes the logo, from “Genuine Louisville Slugger” to “Genuine Electric Slugger” and I get the heat-branded stamp.

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How cool is it that Louisville Slugger put his autograph on the bat?!  

The “Pro Blemish” bat you see above, means that there was some kind of mishap or imperfection with that bat when they were manufacturing for the pros. Lots of college and minor league players go to the Louisville Slugger factory in Louisville, Kentucky, when they play the UK or Louisville Bats teams to try out the Pro Blemish bats to see which one that they like the most.

MB – How were you inspired to make it?

GD – I played an electric violin in a young person’s concert that the National Symphony does from time to time during the school year.  One of the concerts focused on “Music and Science.”  Every piece the orchestra played that day had some kind of scientific aspect to it.  The Horns section talked about condensation in the instrument and how it affects the sound.  Then we wanted to show how an instrument sounds electrified and amplified, so I played the electric violin.  I thought it sounded really cool so I decided to make one myself, and I ended up with the Electric Slugger.

MB – How many times have you played the National Anthem at a baseball game?

GD – Over a dozen, but I’ve lost count.  But I need to go back and look, because I know I’ve got a winning record, the games that I play at the home team tends to win more often than not.

MB – What does it feel like playing in a professional sports venue in front of 40,000 people?

GD – Its really cool.  I try to make sure I don’t hear the music or noise from the stadium speakers because the echo and delay can be very distracting.  So I bring a small amp to the field that I stick in front of me and put a microphone in front of the amp.  This is what guitar players do in rock concerts.  I turn the amp up enough in front of me so I don’t hear the echo or delay coming from the stadium speakers and I can hear my music in real time.  But the sound has an echo decay that makes the music sound really big and full in the stadium, which is really cool.  I get to stand in the middle of this huge sound picture.

MB – What other ballparks have you played in?

GD – I played on a pink Louisville Slugger bat on Mother’s Day at Citi Field for the Mets to help promote Komen for the Cure.  I’ve also played for the Atlanta Braves one time at Turner Field.  I also play for the Orioles every year at Camden Yards.

Here’s an MLB video of his Camden Yards performance.

MB – So, are you a baseball fan?

GD – Growing up, the Mariners were my home team, but I lived about two hours north of Seattle and never actually got to a baseball game when I was a kid.  My first game was with the Minnesota Twins when I was in college.  My cousin, a big Twins fan, took me.  Kirby Pucket was the big player there at the time, so I became a Kirby Pucket fan.  I still enjoy following the Mariners and the Twins, but now my favorite team is the Nationals, who have also been amazing to me and actively developed an incredible playing relationship.  I’ve even started playing with their NatsTown organist, Matthew Van Hoose!

MB – Do you have any interesting stories about when you have played the National Anthem at baseball games?

GD – I’ve learned some cool things about playing in stadiums.  The trick about using the personal amplifier when I perform came from the sound techs at Citi Field.

My favorite moment was when I was playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch up on the dugout at Nats Park.  Angel Hernandez, the home plate ump for that game, walked up to me and threw me a game ball after I finished playing.

Then Joe West, another umpire, called me back to the Umpire Room, where no one gets to go unless they’ve been asked by the umpires.  I brought my bat and speaker into the room, thinking they wanted to see the instrument.  When I got into the room, Joe West looked at the bat and then handed me $500 and said “Make me one of those.”  Turns out that Joe West plays fiddle and guitar and he actually has a couple country western albums out.  That story is what started my two year odyssey to get the licensing agreement with Louisville Slugger, so I could make Joe West his bat-olin.  That’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve had at the ballpark.

MB – Have you met any players?

GD – I’ve met a few players, but I try to stay out of the way when I’m playing at games.  I need to stay professional.  Sometimes players do come over to talk to me, but its just a random thing.

MB – What helps you prepare for a performance? Are you superstitious?

GD – I don’t have any superstitions.  I just get myself into the right mental zone, where I’ll be able to focus and just let it happen.    I remember Davey Johnson telling the guys on the Nats to just relax and let it go and you natural abilities will come out.  When he used to talk about that, I felt that’s what we try to do as musicians too.  We train and practice over and over again, so when its time to perform, we just let it go and let it happen.

donnellanscreechMB – Will you be playing at Nats Park again this year?

GD – I will be playing at Nats Park this season, but they haven’t set any dates yet.  I hope to get 3 or 4 games this year, but you never know!

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did going to the Kennedy Center concert and interviewing Glenn. The NSO hosts family and child concerts pretty regularly, the next being The Magic Horn on March 29. Also, you can see Glenn spotlighted on April 11-12 with his wife Jan Chong at a NSO Teddy Bear Concert. He will also be at an NSO Kinderclassic event called Beethoven at the Ballpark on May 9 with the Nats Park organist Matthew Van Hoose. These concerts are great ways to get kids into music and the arts (I definitely like music more after going to the concert) and they have different concepts that can be very intriguing to go see.

 Only 42 days, or 3, 628,800 seconds, until Opening Day!

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