For a couple of weeks, people around the country have been taking the “ice bucket challenge” by dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to raise awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
This past 4th of July was the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” retirement speech, and June 2 was the 73rd anniversary of his death. He died as a young man, not even in his forties yet. He was an amazing baseball player– Hall of Famer, 7 time All Star, 6 time World Series winner, and played most consecutive games until Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record in 1995– and I have heard that he was supposed to be very nice to fans. But how Gehrig died is the most important part of his story.
On July 4, 1939, Gehrig gave a speech to the fans at Yankee Stadium ending his career at the age 35. Gehrig’s words became known as the Gettysburg Address of baseball, and is probably the most famous speech in sports history. His most famous line is: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Earlier this year MLB first basemen from all around the league made a video to honor the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s speech.
When Lou Gherig gave his famous farewell speech, he was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It later became better known from that time on as just ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It causes things like trouble speaking, swallowing, and breathing. After Gehrig died, people have been looking for cures for this deadly disease, but after 70+ years of research, no one has been able to find a cure.
To raise money and awareness for the ALS Association, people have been taking the Ice Bucket Challenge and have been tagging their videos with #IceBucketChallenge on Twitter and challenging their friends to do it too. Famous Nats people to have done it include Bryce Harper and Screech. Lots of other MLB’ers have done it too.
Last night, I did it too! See my video below of me taking the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Now that I have done the Ice Bucket Challenge,
I CHALLENGE ALL THE NATIONALS ARCHIVE ARCHIVISTS to do it too!
(Except for Brendan, who has already done it)
For those of you who don’t know, the Nats Archive is a group of die-hard Washington Nationals fans who make all sorts of funny photoshops and jokes. Check out their website at www.thenationalsarchive.com and @NatsArchive on Twitter.
I can’t wait to see all your videos! Let’s see if we can get all the Nats fan base and players in on it. I challenge everyone who reads this to do the challenge or make a donation to the ALS Association!
The stadium was family-friendly and had breathtaking views, like the panoramic view of the city’s skyline. The concourses were open and pretty. My mom said it felt like a hotel! They had a lot of local food options, like the excellent Phil’s BBQ, Filippi’s pizza, and places to get tacos and tri-tip.
I visited Petco Park on July 31, which happened to be Trade Deadline Day. We arrived at the stadium at around 11 am PST to claim the press passes from the media gate that the Padres left for us and to go into the press box before the game started at 12:40 pm.
The ballpark was filled with lots of other kids because it was camp day at the ballpark, and everyone seemed befuddled when I walked through the media gate. They must have been thinking, “why is this kid walking into the media gate?!?”
Unlike Nationals Park, which has the highest press box in the country, the press box at Petco Park is on level two.
Before the game started, we took a few pictures on the field and watched a little bit of MLB Network because they were talking about all the trades going on.
While sitting in the press box, we learned that Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia was traded to the Mariners. We also got a tour of the press box from Patrick, who works in Media Relations for the Padres. First, he showed me where the print journalists sit, with the wide open view of the field. All of the journalists were searching on their computers to confirm trade rumors.
We then went to the broadcasting center. We first met the radio voice of the Padres, Ted Leitner of XPRS 1090 AM. After meeting Ted and talking about how Petco Park’s broadcast booth compared to the booth at Wrigley Field (where the Padres had just played and where I visited in June), Patrick took me to meet Fox TV broadcasters Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg. We talked with them for a while, and Dick quizzed me about the baseball player Mat Batts. He was surprised that I knew he was a catcher for the Twins, and he said he remembered when Batts used to play. I stayed around for a minute while to watch them do their intro for TV, but we didn’t want to disturb them too much.
Patrick then brought out a surprise for me and my brother: a swag bag made up of lots of the promo items that the Padres gave away this year. The bag included t-shirts, sunglasses, a beach towel, a travel blanket, a gumball machine, a Petco Park 10 year anniversary photo, and my favorite-a fedora.
We left the press box and then we watched the game. We sat right behind the plate in the upper deck, which, as you can see below, was a fabulous view. Our section, Section 300, is actually right on top of the press box. Sitting above the press box is not something you can do at Nationals Park or PNC Park, because the press boxes there at the very top of the stadium.
The game was good, but not the most exciting. In the 2nd inning, there were three home runs. Oscar “Minor League Guy” Taveras homered in the top of the inning, to put the Cards on top 2-0. Jedd Gyorko answered in the bottom of the 2nd with a home run to right that cut the Cardinal lead in half. Will Venable added on with a solo shot of his own. However, the Cards proved victorious at the end of the day, winning 6-2.
After the 7th inning stretch, we went for a walk around the ballpark. I discovered that Petco Park is a beautiful place with lots to do and many great places to sit, relax and watch the game. If I go again, I would recommend spending a lot more time in the Park at the Park.
The Park at the Park is open to the public when there is no game. You have a view of the outfield and can visit the Tony Gwynn “Mr. Padres” statue. During the game, you pay only $5 and can sit and watch the game from the grass on a picnic blanket behind center field.
Petco Park also has a little beach area with sand and beach toys for kids and bleachers which is right up against the centerfield wall. If you go, I’d recommend sitting where we did (section 300), the Bleachers, or a picnic blanket at Park at The Park. I’d also recommend sitting in Section 134, which is literally right next to the stacked home and visitors bullpens. You have a great view of the bullpens from an open stairway, but you can be even closer to the action all game from Section 134. Most of the seats are in the sun, except for some of the 200 seats. I think by the afternoon, the 3rd base side starts to get shady. This is important because it is so sunny in San Diego.
I love Petco Park, and I hope to go back. Take a look at some of the photos we took and some other fun facts about the stadium and the game experience.
- San Diego is a military town, and they do a military appreciation between the 1st and 2nd innings, kind of like what the Nationals do to honor service members and their families. Instead of having them all sitting in one place, the Padres ask the military members stand up where they are sitting so that people all over the ballpark can recognize them and clap for them.
- On the 300 level along the 1st base line, you can see the organist play music.
- The bullpens are stacked in left-center field. You can get a great view of them from one of the stairways and sit right behind the visitors in Section 134.
- Park at the Park has a sandbox in centerfield so kids can play while the parents watch the game. This is such a cool feature.
- After a home run, the Padres play a clip of the whistle from the USS Ronald Reagan. At night, they blow the whistle and put on fireworks in straightaway centerfield.
- The left field foul pole is painted on the side of the Western Metal supply building, as you can see in this photo.
- In the outfield by The Park at the Park, there is a mini baseball field for kids to play on dubbed Bumble Bee Stadium. Kids bring balls and gloves to the game and actually play on it during the Padres games.
- The scoreboard not only tells you how fast a pitch was, it also says what pitch was thrown.
- There are player facts shown on the scoreboard when a player–home or visitor–comes up to bat.
- The concourse on the field level is wide open, with lots of flowers and plants, and you have a view of the field from the concourse area. It’s really very pretty. There are lots of different stands to buy souvenirs or food. They also have games like a place where you can see how fast you can pitch.
I have had lots of different baseball experiences this summer, including amazing trips to Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Wrigley Field, and PNC Park. They were all great for different reasons. In terms of which ballpark is the nicest, Petco Park is the winner. It has to be one of the best places to watch a day game anywhere in the country, right up there with AT&T Park in San Francisco and Wrigley Field.
From the time I wrote my first post about Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate leaving the Marlins for LA, I have had a lot of great experiences. In August 2013, MLB Advanced Media asked me to write for MLBlogs as a “Pro.” In all that time, I have had some great experiences, like interviewing Nationals players, visiting ballparks and learning how a baseball game is broadcasted, interviewing Justin Verlander at the Bob Feller Act of Valor Awards, meeting Nats fans, and raising over $11,000 for cancer charity last year. I have had a lot of fun and success and when I have grandkids, I’ll tell them the stories and show them pictures of what I did when I was a child back in “the good old days.”
This Friday, MattsBats.com will turn two years old. For me, these two years have flown by. It has been just amazing how many posts I have written. A lot of people keep telling me that my posts keep getting better and better.
I would like to share some of the posts that are my favorites. It is hard to pick just a few, but these are some of the ones I remember most from the past 2 years. (Also click on the links in the paragraph on top, because those are also some of my favorite posts and experiences).
July 24, 2012- posted 7/25/12
This was my first post ever. I wrote it about the then-recent trade of Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the newly named Marlins to the Dodgers in exchange for now-Fish starter Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. I also posted some “Nats News”where I just listed that Ronny Cedeno singled in a run and that Tyler Clippard K’d former Met Ike Davis looking to end a 5-2 2012 Nats win. It wasn’t, well, a masterpiece but it would do. That was the beginning of Matt’s Bats.
Thanks New Twitter Friends!- posted 1/18/13
I had started tweeting out links to my posts on Twitter on November 20, 2012. On the morning of January 18, 2013, and I had only 37 followers when we checked before we left to go to school. After getting off the school bus, I learned that my Twitter had tripled to 120 followers because @FakeFP #FF’d me. That was before @NatsArchive existed and @JWerthsBeard didn’t even follow and #FF me yet to its 13,000 followers! I’ll never forget the yell of excitement I made when I learned that I had over 100 followers. That scream may have made the other neighbors and the other students and parents think I was a freak. But it was all just awesomeness. It was so exciting in the offseason where there’s not a lot going on. Now, I have almost 1,000 more people following me on Twitter than I did on the night of January 18, 2013.
Behind The Scenes Of My First Ever Live TV Appearance- posted 2/28/13
On the morning of the crisp winter of 2013, I was practicing my butt off in preparation for my first ever live TV interview with Dave Ross on Fox 5 News. It was very exciting because I was going to be on TV live! Everyone watching Fox in the DC metro area and online could see my interview. I didn’t know what questions Dave would ask me. And I was also only eight! That was a big moment in my life, and Dave would ask me to come on his Nats pre-game or post-game show a lot in 2013 before he moved to 120Sports.
A Matt’s Bats Chat With Heather Zimmerman- posted 3/4/13
This is still my most popular post ever! For my first ever Matt’s Bats Chat interview, I talked with Nats star Ryan Zimmerman’s wife about what it is like to be the wife of a baseball player. It is very interesting, and even I go back and read it over and over. I love this post, and I’ll never forget it. Heather has been really nice to me.
Matt’s Bats Turns Pro- posted 8/26/13
This was my final post on the day I debuted as a Pro Blogger on the MLBlogs.com website. I became MLB’s youngest Pro blogger. A couple months later, I was named one of MLB.com’s top 100 blogs, a huge accomplishment for me.
My Amazing Experience At Marlins Park- posted 4/24/14
I went down to Miami to see the Nats take on the Fish, and I went on the field, and I also saw Jose Fernandez, got Giancarlo Stanton’s autograph, interviewed Zach Walters, and took home a bunch of baseballs. I also saw a great game and a Nats road win.
Those were just some of my amazing things I did in the past two years.
But here are some things I’d like to accomplish in a year before Matt’s Bats turns 3:
Matt’s Bats Meets Matt The Bat
I would love to interview Matt Williams. He is a great manager and is leading the Nationals to a run at the NL East title. Who can help me score a Matt’s Bats Chat with Matt The Bat?
Get Up To 1,500 Twitter Followers
Currently I have over 1,000 Twitter followers, including some great fans, players and broadcasters. But wouldn’t it be great to get up to like 1,500? It would be amazing if I did, and I think that is possible if you keep RT’ing and telling people about my site.
Visit More Ballparks
I’ve been to games at Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park, Marlins Park, and Wrigley Field. Soon I’m going to add Petco Park and probably Citizens Bank Park too. I would love to be able to go to more games (especially Nats games) on the road.
Not only have I gotten so many great experiences, met so many people, and learned so much, I believe the most important part of my blog and the reason I made it to two years is because you guys keep reading and tweeting and encouraging me. Thank you so much for your support and I hope to write more and more posts throughout the year. Now, Nats Fans:
As the first half of the 2014 MLB season ended on Sunday in a Nats 10-3 victory over the Phillies, Tanner Roark picked up his long awaited 8th victory after two losses against the Cubs back to back. He tied Doug Fister for the Nats team lead in wins. When the season began, who would have thought the #4 and #5 starters would lead the rotation in wins, behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann?
That was 0nly one of the many surprises that came the Nats’ way during the first half of the season. They have overcome injuries, switched players around the diamond and the batting order, and still found a way to end the first half in a tie for a first place. The Nats kept winning even as the Braves won 9 in a row, and the streak, which ended on July 6, only helped the Braves gain a half game on the Nats. Here are some of the surprises that I’ve noticed throughout the first few months.
Number 1- Anthony Rendon as the young star on the team, not Bryce Harper
When most people hear anything about the Nats’ young talent on the big league squad, chances are that Bryce Harper is the main part of that discussion. But the real star this year has been Anthony Rendon. Sadly missing a well-deserved trip to Minneapolis for the All Star Game, Rendon is hitting .287 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs, compared to Bryce’s .244 average with 2 home runs and 11 ribbies. Harper did go on the DL from April 27 to June 29, a big chunk of time due to a thumb injury. That may have affected his success in the weeks since he came back, with the hurt thumb getting in the way of his swing. Harper did tater on Friday’s contest vs. the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love. But most people were expecting to see a monster junior season from Bryce, but Rendon has a sophomore surge going in to the game on Friday.
Number 2- Tanner Roark and Doug Fister- Tied for Team Lead In Wins
A baseball fan who knew the Nationals rotation would probably say “Strasburg” if asked who they thought who would have the most wins on the team, probably also adding a “duh.” They would be stunned to hear that Nats clutch men Tanner Roark and Doug Fister have had monster seasons. They have been spectacular and they are making headlines. Fister, acquired in a deal with the Tigers for now-AAA Oriole Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and minor leaguer Robbie Ray, has been top-notch. He’s never or scarcely faced most of the opposition hitters, since he changed leagues. Roark, on the other hand, was acquired from the Rangers with minor leaguer Ryan Tatusko in exchange for infielder Cristian Guzman. Roark has had some struggles lately against his hometown Cubs, but he has been a great piece to a ballclub that has been winning, thanks to these two guys.
Number 3- Ryan Zimmerman- First Baseman, Left Fielder, or Third Baseman?
Ryan Zimmerman, since coming off the DL June 3, has been sort of a utility man. Coming back before Bryce Harper, Ryan was asked to play left field- and did very well. He made his first play in left field on a hit by Chase Utley that hung up just enough that Zim could jog over and make a two handed catch. His breakout game was in Milwaukee on June 24 (or 25th because it ended in the middle of the night). Anyway, he homered in the sixteenth inning to break the 2-2 tie at 1:20 AM ET and made a diving catch later that inning to seal the 4-2 win. But on June 15, Zim played a different position- 1st base. In the 5-2 loss against the Cardinals, Zim made his first career start at first, and did pretty well. And since Bryce Harper has returned, Zim is again a 3rd baseman. We will see what position Zimmerman will play if injuries strike again.
Number 4- Bullpen Has Been Awesome
One main factor in the Nats’ success is their bullpen. Everyone has been lights-out. Aaron Barrett is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA, Tyler Clippard is 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA and is an All-Star, Rafael Soriano is 1-0 with a 0.97 ERA and surprisingly did not get a trip to Minneapolis, Craig Stammen has an unconvincing 0-4 record but a nice 3.78 ERA, Drew Storen is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA, and Blake Treinen has been really good in and out between the bullpen and rotation. The bullpen has been so good that all of it should have made it to the Twin Cities. Instead, only one, Clippard, made it.
Number 5- Contending Despite Injuries
My last surprise is that the Nats have been contenders or on top the NL East with somebody hurt since the 7th inning of Opening Day, as Jose Lobaton took over Wilson Ramos’s spot catching. Sandy Leon and Loby did a great job switching off catching in Wilson’s two DL stints. The Nats kept fighting off injuries. The combo of Nate McLouth before Zim came back and Mr. Walkoff himself played the position for a month was very good. McLouth wasn’t as helpful offensively, though. For a while he had one home run and a solo RBI coming on that homer vs. San Diego. Anthony Rendon played stellar 3rd base filling in for Zimmerman while he was hurt and when he was in left field, and a combination of Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen played great 2nd base. Tyler Moore and Greg Dobbs played good 1st base while Adam LaRoche was out, and Taylor Jordan and Blake Treinen proved to be good rotation fillers if a starter was injured.
Like my picks? If you can name anymore surprises, be sure to tweet to me @MattsBats.
Also, check out some of my favorite posts from the first half of the 2014 season:
Earlier this summer, I had the awesome chance to ask a few of my favorite Nationals players who their favorite player growing up was, and what their favorite ballpark to visit is. This was a great experience to chat with the players.
Here is what Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, Denard Span, Wilson Ramos and Livan Hernandez each had to say.
Who Was Your Favorite Player Growing Up?
Both Drew Storen and Denard Span said that Ken Griffey Jr was their favorite player growing up. “I remember watching a lot of his highlights as a kid and I just fell in love with him,” Span said. Storen may have gotten to see Griffey play in person, because his family used to take him on birthday baseball trips, and they went to Seattle once.
Wilson Ramos said his favorite player was Pudge Rodriguez because “he was the most popular catcher in the big leagues. It must have been pretty cool for him to play on the Nationals 2011 team together.
Ross Detwiler really liked watching Randy Johnson. Johnson played for a lot of teams, including the Expos, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Giants, but he never played for Detwiler’s hometown St. Louis Cardinals. However, they are both left handed pitchers, so it makes sense that Detwiler would look up to him.
Livan Hernandez loved Nolan Ryan. “He threw a lot of innings and worked really hard on the mound. He is my favorite pitcher of all time.” Nolan Ryan was known for his fastball and MLB record 7 career no-hitters. Livan may not have thrown as fast as Nolan Ryan, but Hernandez was a World Series MVP, which is something Nolan Ryan can’t claim.
What Is Your Favorite Ballpark to Visit on the Road?
Interestingly, none of the players I talked to had the same favorite ballpark. I guess there are a lot of great parks out there to visit!
Wilson Ramos said his favorite visiting ballpark is Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati because “the ball flies in that stadium and you hit a lot of homers.” Last year, Ramos hit 2 home runs in one game against the Reds. The Nationals return to Cincinnati at the end of July.
Drew Storen has 2 favorite ballparks to visit AT&T Park in San Francisco, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I have visited both and they are beautiful. Check out my posts about those trips by clicking on the links above.
Denard Span likes Angel Stadium in Anaheim because it has a nice field. He played there a lot as a member of the Minnesota Twins, but the Nationals have not played there since Span joined the National League. Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit Angels Stadium when I go to California later in July.
Livan Hernandez likes both Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. I’ve never been to Arizona, but I was in Chicago earlier this year to see the Nats play. Wrigley Field is a historic place to watch baseball.
All of these players came out to support the Bethesda Big Train. The Big Train is a collegiate summer baseball league that plays in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League. They play in Cabin John Regional Park.
They also put on a camp in the summer for kids, including a special Nationals-theme camp. During the day we did drills and played baseball games with the Big Train players as our coaches. My coaches were Wes Rea (1B, Mississippi State University), Cody Brown (OF, Mississippi State University), Bo Logan (P, Florida Atlantic University), Tim Yandel (P, Tulane University), Josh Thorne (P, Stetson University), Tony DiLeo (C, Eastern Michigan University), and Jacob Billingsley (P, Mississippi State University). The best part was that each day a current or former Nats player or mascot came to visit during lunch. Everyone who came to camp was really friendly and signed a lot of autographs for all the kids there. Check out some of my pictures and learn why these players came out to support Big Train– and especially make sure you listen to what Denard Span said.
Wilson Ramos came to camp because he likes encourage kids to play hard if they want to make it in the big leagues. Listen to an excerpt of my interview with Wilson below:
Since Livan has started to work with the Nats this year, he decided to come out and see camp this year. Listen to watch he had to say:
Ross Detwiler liked the camp when he came in 2012, so he came back.
Denard Span and I shared a laugh when he said that the reason he came was for me to interview him. I thought that was hilarious, and so did Denard. Check out the audio below:
The Big Train plays games through the end of July, so there is still a chance to see a game. They are #1 in the CRCBL league, so you see a lot of good talent and they will play through the July playoffs. There are lots of Big Train alumni in the major leagues, like Twins 2B Brian Dozier, who is in Home Run Derby at the 2014 All Star Game.
You can still sign up for the Big Train camp for kids, and there is one next week on July 21-25 at bigtrain.org/summercamp/. Even after baseball season ends, they do a lot of great events like the Big Train Holiday Auction and the Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic.
As many of you know, I spent a recent weekend in the Windy City of Chicago. I spent a lot of time walking around Chicago with my dad and doing touristy things. But the highlight of my trip was going to two baseball games at historic Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on my hometown Washington Nationals. I went to both games of the day-night double header on Saturday, June 28. That was an awesome baseball experience that I want to tell you about.
I have been very lucky to see baseball games at many major league ballparks, including Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and AT&T Park. I have also previously seen my favorite team, the Nats, play in their road grays in Baltimore, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Since I turn ten later in the summer, for my birthday present I got to choose to go with my dad on a father and son trip to any ballpark in the country I wanted to go to. Because I had never been there, and because it is in the middle of its 100th birthday celebration this year, I picked to go Wrigley Field in Chicago. And thanks to the Cubs, who gave me batting practice passes for the game, I had an awesome time.
We had awesome seats for the game. You see, at Wrigley Field, there are no bad seats (except for the few that are actually behind the poles that hold up the upper deck). Unlike the newer ballparks that have 3 of 4 levels, there are only two decks of seating areas. The 200 level seats are basically on the same level as the “00 level” and the “100 level” on the 1st deck, and at most ballparks would be considered lower level. The 400 and 500 level seats are on the 2nd deck are very long and stretch almost onto the concourse. Those seats and the bleachers out in center field are the reason the Cubs can fit 41,159 people but still feel like a Spring Training stadium. Our seats were in Section 126, which was lower level, in the shade, and at Nationals Park would have been almost in the area of the PNC Diamond Club.
Since the 1st game and the game I went on the field was at 12:05 CDT, we got there at 9:30 local time to have enough time to walk around the ballpark, get souvenirs and meet the people from the Cubs who were taking us onto the field. We hopped on the train at Chicago-Red L train at 9 am and very soon we were at the Addison station. At precisely 9:57 AM, even before the gates opened to the fans, we went through the Executive Entrance and met Brittany, who took us onto the field.
We didn’t go into the behind the scenes tunnels that some of the ballparks I’ve visited have. We walked on the concourse, out to the field level seating area and then right up to the field. I had an open expression on my face basically stating “Wow!” I stepped on the field– the same field where Babe Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series. I took a few pretend practice swings because I was actually standing on Wrigley Field!
I was staring at the ivy on the wall and the rooftops out on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. You see, there were houses behind the stadium but the people converted their houses’ roofs into extra seating spaces. It must be awesome to sit up there. We were there for what seemed like only 20 minutes but was really an hour and 20 minutes. The Cubs took BP, but not the Nationals, and I joked that you needed a “C” on your hat to get player to throw you a ball. The Nats were warming up in the field and taking BP in the inside batting cage which is behind a secret door built into brick wall in right field. You can see it in this picture.
Most teams don’t let you wear the opposing team’s logo when you go on the field. After a while, I couldn’t take it any more and hat to put on a Nats hat. One adult asked me after I tried to get Denard Span’s attention “Why would you want to get the Nats’ attention?” I replied “Because I am a Nats fan!” and I pointed to the big, white curly “W” on my hat.
When I was down on the field I noticed something very interesting: the benches in the Cubs dugout is padded with cushions and straight, while the visitors dugout is curved and has a regular bench with no cushion. Also, the Cubs’ dugout is on the third base side because since they had no night games when Wrigley Field was built. During the day, the sun would be shining on the 1st base side. That would put the sun in their eyes, so they made the first base side for the visitors.
After we left the field, but before the game started, I walked down to the Nationals dugout to maybe get autographs, but I was getting fried like a chicken so I decided to go back to our seats in the shade. The Cubs’ Communications Manager, Kevin Saghy, came by to say hi and he brought me a really cool book called “A Century of Wrigley Field” as a birthday present. He was surprised that we changed into Nats jerseys because he thought we would be changed into Cubs fans!
The game started to go by very quickly. Dallas Beeler, a righty hailing from Tulsa, made his MLB debut, and he did not disappoint. His first MLB pitch was a two seam fastball at 89 mph low and away ball 1 to Denard Span. He later struck out Ryan Zimmerman for his 1st MLB K and they threw the ball into the dugout for him. The same thing happened after he got his first major league hit off Gio Gonzalez. Gio was equally good that day. In the bottom of the fourth, Justin Ruggiano killed a 2-0 fastball for what looked like a home run, but Denard Span leaped and made a sensational catch. Two batters later he turned an 8-3 double play to put the cherry on top. Finally, in the 6th, after striking out Gio and picking off Denard Span from 1st, Anthony Rendon, who doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, scored on a Beeler changeup that got away. In the eighth, Rendon tripled home Denard Span and scored on a Zimmerman sacrifice fly. The Nats’ bullpen relieved Gio’s outstanding performance, and the Nats blanked the Cubs 3-0. It was a tough luck loss for Beeler, who pitched so well until that one ball got away. The bullpen allowed the other two runs. The Nationals took game 1 of the double header.
Also, I know why they call Wrigley Field “the Friendly Confines.” It’s because the Cubs fans who go to games there are so friendly. Even when we were wearing our Nats gear, people only joked with us in a friendly way. Can you imagine what would happen if you wore the opponent’s jersey to Yankee Stadium or Citizens Bank Park? The Cubs fans we met were all really, really nice. One of them even gave us his tickets for the night game of the double header because he knew that we were visiting and it was my birthday trip. We only planned to go to one game, but we got to go to two because of the great fans.
After the game we trekked to the left field gate and out to the Ernie Banks statue to meet up with Nats fans who were also in Chicago to watch the series. We found our way down Clark Street until we found a little place to have “dunch” (dinner/lunch). We stopped into another store to get some souvenirs before hearing back into Wrigley Field. As we walked in, we bought a scorecard and a pencil for me to score the game. I also got a certificate that said “My first Wrigley Field game.”
We got there right when the gates open so there was no line. We watched the pregame festivities. Cubs ace Jeff Samardzjia took the hill at 6:15 Central time, and unlike game 1, the action took off almost immediately. Samardzjia and Blake Treinen, who got the call for the Nats, both pitched 1-2-3 1st innings, but that would change in the top of the 2nd. Adam LaRoche connected on a 2-2 pitch for a solo shot, the 2nd by LaRoche that series and the 2nd the entire 4 game series. The next inning, Rendon sac flied home Nate McLouth, who was taking Denard Span’s role in CF for that game. In the bottom of the 4th, Luis Valbuena hit a line drive that usually would have bounced off the wall, but due to the massive winds it sailed to Sheffield Avenue for a souvenir for a ballhawk. It started getting very windy and dark clouds moved in very fast. It started to drizzle. Later that inning, after a 87 mph changeup dealt by Treinen to Nate Schierholtz, home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called the Nats off the field and for the tarp to be placed on the historic field. We waited through a 55-minute rain delay, highlighted by a person who was “swimming,” as in doing freestyle stroke on top of the Budweiser Bleachers in pouring rain. That was entertaining to the half that did not rush to the concourse during the delay.
The game resumed at 8:10 CDT, with a foul ball by Schierholtz. Treinen later struck him out. To lead off the 5th, Wilson Ramos got a fastball and drove it out of the park to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. After that the offense exploded, with three other runners coming home and some sloppy defense by Anthony Rizzo at first with some balls that should’ve ended the inning but instead brought more and more runners home. The offense settled down after that, Nate McLouth hitting a double off the glove of Rizzo. In the bottom half of that inning, Rizzo skied a deep fly ball that again looked like it would be a home run, but McLouth jumped and like Denard Span earlier, he made a sensational jumping catch.
After the Cubs got out of the Top of the 7th, the WGN 720 AM radio team sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Below is a picture from the day game. If you look closely, you can see F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter and then Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler two boxes over.
The Nats ended up winning the second game of the double-header too, and split the series with the Cubs 2-2. It was awesome to celebrate my birthday in Chicago and actually go on Wrigley Field. How many kids my age can say they “called their shot” there? I am really thankful that the Cubs organization made this trip so special for me.
I was really lucky to visit Wrigley Field on its 100th birthday. In the future, I am going to write a review of the awesome book Kevin gave me. If you and your kids can’t wait, I also wrote about the history of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in these books for kids.
I really recommend a visit to Wrigley Field. It is historic and there are great views of the game. The fans are also so nice.
Keep reading to see some other pictures we took at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The All Star Game is being held on Tuesday, July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, home of the Twins. The voting for the All Star Game is coming to a close today. Make sure you cast your votes here.
Usually I am a big Washington Nationals fan. I cast a lot of votes for my favorite Nats players. That seems to be pretty normal. A lot of people vote for their favorite hometown players, which is how popular players who haven’t had great seasons or who are injured are still getting lots of votes.
But I also am just a fan of the game, so I filled out some ballots for the people I think most deserve to be named to the All Star Team. Here is an unbiased list of players who got my vote for the All Star Game! (By the time you read this, some of the stats may be a little out of date, but they should be close).
The MattsBats.com Picks for the 2014 MLB All Star Game
National League Picks
1B- Paul Goldschmidt- Arizona
There are a lot of good first basemen in the National League. This is a race featuring a lot of players who could be considered All Stars, especially Justin Morneau, Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez, and even Matt Adams, Anthony Rizzo,and Adam LaRoche. That makes this race close. But in the power stats, Paul Goldschmidt is carrying the last-place D-Backs to a hopeful way out of the hole. Paul has a .300 average with 15 homers and 53 RBIs. The lack of fan support may not get him a starting spot, but he deserves a ticket.
2B- Anthony Rendon- Washington
Because Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker is on the DL, Anthony Rendon deserves a spot in his sophomore season. Usual beasts Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips haven’t been doing very well. Phillips is a fan favorite, and since the Phillies’ fan base is so big, Utley probably has the start at 2B right now. But Anthony Rendon is flying under the radar with a .272 average with 11 homers and 42 RBIs as of 6/24 before the game. He also has the same amount of homers as Walker, and more RBIs. Walker has a better average by 8 little points, though. He has played most of his games at third filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman, but Rendon started off the season on a tear. He won’t earn the starting spot, but he may deserve it most.
SS- Troy Tulowitzki- Colorado
Stalwart candidate Tulo has been a starting shortstop for the NL for a while now, and nothing about his 18 homers or .355 average says that this year will be another year for Troy. Tulowitzki was also named the captain of the Home Run Derby NL team, which basically guarantees you a spot in the starting 9 in Minneapolis. He is slightly better than 2nd best NL shortstop, Ian Desmond. Desmond has been in a little bit of a slump recently, which probably means he was a better All Star candidate last year than this year. But the #DesiIn13 Twitter vote last year was fun. Hopefully we can make a miracle happen by voting Desi in the final vote, which he’s been included in the past 2 years.
3B- Todd Frazier- Cincinnati
Not to be biased on my fantasy baseball team, but Todd Frazier (yes, I came up with the idea to get him) was a great pickup for us. He has hit .280 with 17 homers and 45 runs batted in and has been a key offensive piece for the Reds. Without the success of the Brewers and Cardinals, the NL Central would be a very close race, highlighted by the Reds and homer hitter Frazier. He plays in one of the smallest ballparks in the country out in Cincy, which may be why Frazier has had so much success this year. Other likely candidates to start are Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez, and David Wright, but I think Frazier has been the best 3B in the National League so far.
C- Evan Gattis- Atlanta
Unless you follow the NL East, Gattis may be flying under the radar. Stat-wise, Gattis is my vote for the starting catcher hands-down. He was phenomenal last year in his rookie season, and he has added 16 homers and 39 RBIs this year. Now, Gattis is currently on the DL with back issues, so he might not play even if he got selected. In that case, my vote would be for Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. But who do I think will be named catcher? Yadier Molina. The Cardinals fans love him and everyone knows his name. So even casual baseball fans will see him on the ballot and instantly click “vote” because people know his name. My vote, though, is for Evan Gattis.
OF- Khris Davis- Milwaukee, Billy Hamilton- Cincinnati, Giancarlo Stanton- Miami
Nothing about Khris says All Star “starter,” but Milwaukee has a secret slugger in Davis. Just like the other MLB player who bears the name “Chris Davis,” he slugs longballs so frequently it’s scary. In only his second career at bat against Stephen Strasburg, he drove a center-cut first pitch fastball over the left field wall for a solo shot to put the Crew on top 5-2. He drove in 2 more as the Brewers won 9-2.
Billy Hamilton, the speedy rookie in Cincinnati, hasn’t been hitting the baseball out of the park in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, but has been a quality lead off guy. Most people judge their all-star ballot on the power stats, but Billy is a guy who will get on base and will steal bags constantly.
The final spot? OK, guys, let’s get real. It has to be Giancarlo Stanton! He has a .308 average with 20 homers and 58 RBIs. That basically says it all about this slugger.
There are other players who could also deserve a starting outfield spot, like Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Blackmon (for how he started the season), Ryan Braun, and even Yasiel Puig and just-off-the-DL Bryce Harper for how much excitement they bring. But you heard my picks, even though maybe 2 of them might not be what you expected.
American League Picks
1B- Jose Abreu- Chicago
Adios pelota! is what the Chicago White Sox’ spanish radio announcer would say after another Abreu homer. The Cuban phenom has been crushing the ball to all fields. Abreu sent his 23rd homer packing against the Orioles, in a game where home run title competitor, Nelson Cruz, hit a grand slam and the O’s won on a wild pitch. But Abreu needs to be the picked for this division. If he keeps it up, he’ll also probably be AL Rookie of the Year.
2B- Brian Dozier- Minnesota
This player from the host city doesn’t need a ticket to get to Minneapolis. Because the Twins are in Denver before the break, he may just need to fly home on one of his home run balls. He has been a breakout player this season. Even though Dozier is only hitting .232 due to recent struggles, he has 15 longballs and 38 RBIs. Dozier would make the home crowd go nuts in Minneapolis but is losing to a guy who has a bigger name but a quieter bat this season, Robinson Cano. Jose Altuve is another quality second baseman who may deserve your vote too.
SS- Derek Jeter- New York
And as quick as that, the Yankees’ “Core Four” has been dismantled, with Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitite, Mariano Rivera, and now Derek Jeter all retiring in recent years. Though he has posted a .272 average with only 2 home runs this season, just like Mo, he should be honored for his amazing career. I mean, shouldn’t a guy get an All-Star spot with a career .311 batting average in his final season? There is no doubt that Jeter is no longer the best short stop in baseball. Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar, and Alexei Ramirez are all much, much better this year. But this is The Captain’s last year, so you can vote for one of those other guys next year.
3B- Josh Donaldson- Oakland
Donaldson, who missed the cut in the All-Star Game last season although playing killer defense, should be rewarded for his talents. Although he had some words with another contender, Manny Machado, earlier in the season, he has been much better than every other third baseman in the American League. Josh’s 18 home runs and whopping 61 RBIs so far win him my vote.
OF- Mike Trout- LAA, Yoenis Cespedes- OAK, and Steve Pearce- BAL
Trout and Cespedes both have good home run and batting average totals, Cespedes posting a .272 average with 14 big flys, and Trout is hitting .315 with 19 home runs. Just because of who they are and how much fun they are to watch, Trout and Cespedes will get my vote.
Now, some of my NL outfielder picks may have been a little controversial, so I will make another controversial pick for the AL. My third vote is going to Steve Pearce. Pearce is really heating up Baltimore. He has 10 homers and 27 RBIs. That’s 3 more homers than Jayson Werth! He has only played in 46 games and had 150 at bats, the exact total he needs to go on the totals for the league leaders. He is a true underdog, and I know he will not be a starter. Still, I’m picking Steve Pearce over people like Jose Bautista (although maybe you should vote for Bautista anyway. Do you remember how annoying he was on Twitter last year asking people to vote for him?), the other more-famous Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury, Melky Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and other big swingers who have had good seasons and are much more likely to win a spot.
C- Brian McCann- New York
Well, if Matt Wieters wasn’t out for the season, he would have my vote. So I have to pick again, and I am going with Brian McCann. Last year, McCann “stood up” to, aka was a total jerk, to guys like Jose Fernandez, Carlos Gomez and Bryce Harper. Now that Brian has shifted to the Yankees, he has been a total beast and deserves to be (man, this is hard to say) in his eighth All Star Game. He has 10 home runs and 39 runs batted in. His .224 average isn’t very convincing, but he always seems to find that clutch hit at that clutch time to do it.
DH- Nelson Cruz- Baltimore
Cruz has always been that clutch guy, but he has been killing the ball across the AL in his inaugural season with Baltimore. A humongous factor in the O’s success, Cruz has totaled 26 homeruns and 68 RBIs. Edwin Encarnacion has also been killing the baseball too, and is also a good choice for the spot. My vote is for Nelson Cruz as DH over Edwin Encarnacion for the starting job.
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I didn’t name starting pitchers, because the managers select pitchers, not the fans. If I had a vote, I would say Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers for the National League, and Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees for the American League.
Make sure you go online and cast your vote for the All Star Team. Click HERE to vote.
Did you know you also have a chance to vote for the participants in the Home Run Derby.
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Like my picks? If not or you think I should add people to my list, be sure to tweet to me @MattsBats or comment at the end of this post. Now, I’d like you to answer a question:
The Nats road trip was not bad! The Nats finished 4-3 in that 7 game stint in the midwestern towns of Milwaukee and Chicago. The Nats’ bats took off in the first two in Milwaukee, with Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman producing some timely home runs to eventually win the games. The Brewers jumped on Stephen Strasburg in game 3, and then the hitters just couldn’t touch Chicago pitching in the first two games against the Cubs.
Then, I was lucky enough to go on the field for batting practice before the first game of Saturday’s double header in Chicago (I will explain all of that in a future post). The Nats salvaged the road trip with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, and for the first time in Nats history, there was no game on Sunday during the regular season. Now the Nats fly back to our Nation’s Capital, and they play a team who has had success against the Nats but is on a losing streak- the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies also just came back from Milwaukee, and were haunted by the Brewers’ miracle men who just get the right hits at the right time. The Rockies aren’t playing very well right now, so this could be a golden opportunity to gain ground on the Braves, who are playing the Mets. However, the Braves are 393-325 in their history against the Metropolitans, and if the Rockies’ squad turns it up against the Nats, the Braves may gain ground in first place. So Mets, can you please #BashTheBraves and #ChopTheChop?
I think the Nats will sweep Denver. Other than Tulo and Morneau, there is not too much star power in this Rockies lineup able to do serious damage. Keep an eye on Bryce Harper on his return from the DL on his bobblehead night. I hope he hits a tater on the return from the DL just like he did exactly 364 days ago. So lets go get a Curly “W” or 3!
June 30- Yohan Flande (0-0, 7.20 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (5-4, 2.95 ERA)
July 1- Christian Friedrich (0-2, 8.10 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (6-6, 3.70 ERA)
July 2- Jeff Matzek (1-2, 4.24 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (6-2, 2.83 ERA)
#RALLYMATTSBATS (I’ll be there on Tuesday!)
The Nats played extremely well against the Brewers. I got my prediction right for the first time since the San Diego series, and there was timely hitting in the first two games. I thought that the Nats would clobber the Crew in game 3, but Marco Estrada held the Nats’ bats to two hits and the Milwaukee bullpen paid the Nats back by holding them hitless.
The Nats now take the drive down to the Windy City to face the Cubs. In recent years, the Cubs have put up some competition against the Nats, but the Nats usually win. I think that will be the same this series.
The most interesting game for me will be the Saturday day game. I AM GOING TO THAT GAME, and I expect them to win. Saturday is a double-header, after the game that was originally scheduled for Sunday will be played on Saturday night instead. The Nats are facing off in game 1 of the day-night doubleheader on Saturday against Dallas Beeler. Who?, you may ask. Beeler is being called up from Triple-A Iowa for the 26-man roster for the doubleheader, when you can get one extra player. The Nats are calling up Blake Treinen.
I think the Nats will win 3 out of 4. They will probably beat Travis Wood tonight, and lose to Jason Hammel on Friday. I’m predicting that they beat Beeler in the first game of the doubleheader, and beat Samardjia again at night due to the lack of run support he gets. Best news of all for Nats fans is that Wilson Ramos comes off the DL in time for Thursday’s game. I hope that the Nats win, though the competition may be hard during the Nationals’ only visit to historic Wrigley Field on its 100th anniversary.
You are NOT going to want to miss some of the pictures and things I will be tweeting from my Wrigley Field experience. I will be writing another post about my Chicago trip, which I am so excited for.
Stay tuned on Twitter @MattsBats.
June 26- 8:05 PM ET- Doug Fister (6-2, 2.65 ERA) vs. Travis Wood (7-6, 4.55 ERA)
June 27- 4:05 PM ET- Tanner Roark (7-4, 2.79 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (6-5, 2.99 ERA)
June 28- 1:05 PM ET- Gio Gonzalez (4-4, 4.38 ERA) vs. Dallas Beeler (MLB Debut, 5-3 4.03 ERA at AAA Iowa)
June 28- 7:15 PM ET- Blake Treinen (0-3, 2.08 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 2.53 ERA)
The Nats had a life saving series this weekend against the Atlanta Braves. This is the first time they split or won a series against the Braves September 2013. By winning 2 games in the series, they stay in first place in the NL East and the Braves are 1.5 games behind.
The Nationals had outstanding pitching on Thursday by Jordan Zimmermann, who held Atlanta to 2 runs in 7 strong innings, but received a tough loss 3-0; Saturday by Doug Fister who had 8 scoreless innings in a very important win 3-0; and on Sunday by Tanner Roark and the Nats bullpen. Tanner threw 5 1/3 1-run innings and then Craig Stammen pitched 1 2/3rds of perfect baseball – Chris Johnson got so frustrated that he was ejected after a check-swing appeal. Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano had 2 perfect innings combined, 3 K’s, and 1 Justin Upton ejection. The only pitcher who did not have a great game was Stephen Strasburg on Friday, but Anthony Rendon hit a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 9th off Craig Kimbrel to make the game very exciting. The game went 13 inning, which means there were 2 Presidents Races. Ultimately, the Nats lost that game.
The Nats pulled ahead in first place, but as the lucky braves go south and west to Houston, the Nats go to the land of cheese to face the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers may be the surprise of the year. I predicted them to be in 4th in their division, but so far they are in 1st. The last time they were close to being contenders was in 2011 when they lost to the eventual world series champion Cardinals in the NLCS. The Brewers have also been tough for the Nats to beat in the past. Last year, they tied the season series, where the home team lost the first two and salvaged the last game. That was then and now the Brewers lead the Cardinals by 5.5 games and have the best record in the National League. When the Nats were in San Fran, the Giants had the best record in the National League, but our guys had no trouble against them. Hopefully the Nats can be the same “NL Best” spoiler again.
That leads me to my conclusion. The Nats will probably lose tonight in Gio Gonzalez’s 2nd start since his return from the DL. Jordan Zimmermann is always motivated by his home crowd, as Jordan is from Auburndale, WI, which is 2 hours 45 minutes from Miller Park. The Nats face an easy pitcher on Wednesday in Marco Estrada, and I think the Nats will take 2 out of 3 in America’s Dairyland.
After Milwaukee, the Nats drive down to Chicago, where I will be seeing them live at Wrigley Field. Stay tuned on MattsBats.com and Twitter @MattsBats for updates from my Chicago adventure.