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


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!”


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:



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.


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, so here it is!




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 and his ImageLink website at

I’m Blogging for 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  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, where you can read my opinion on what’s happening in Nationals baseball.  I will still be writing my Pro Blog for MLB,, 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 and following on Twitter @MattsBats, and I hope to keep writing about my love of baseball!


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.


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.



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!

Matt’s Bats Chat With MASN Sideline Reporter Dan Kolko

Photo from @masnkolko Twitter

Photo from @masnkolko Twitter

Even though it is February, we are actually very close to the start of Spring Training and the return of baseball from the winter offseason. With baseball returning, we can think of lots of great Nats wins. Almost every great Nats win ends in a Gatorade bath. And almost every Gatorade bath ends up on Dan Kolko, sideline reporter for MASN (the Nationals’ TV broadcast station).

Kolko became the MASN sideline reporter in 2014 and has been hilariously dunked with Cool Blue Gatorade many times in his first year.  Recently, Dan did a Matt’s Bats Chat with me where he gave interesting behind-the-scenes descriptions of his job as a sideline reporter.  I hope you enjoy it.


Matt’s Bats- First of all, can you tell me a bit of your background and how you got into broadcasting?

Dan Kolko- I had a feeling I wanted to do some type of sports broadcasting back in high school, but really learned it was the right path for me in college. I started out at Dickinson College, a small Division-III school in Pennsylvania, and they didn’t have a student TV station there, but I did radio broadcasts of football, basketball and baseball games. I then transferred to the University of Delaware (which I love with all my heart), and got great experience there doing live TV broadcasts of football and men’s and women’s basketball games, both as a play-by-play guy and the color commentator. I also hosted a bi-weekly studio sports show for the student TV station, all of which was a blast. I always tell kids who want to break into the business to do as much as possible while in college.

After college, I started working as a production assistant at Comcast SportsNet in Bethesda, and then was offered a job with MASN’s website, which back then was in its early stages. I did some behind-the-scenes stuff and also got a chance to do some writing, and was quickly given the chance to cover the Baltimore Ravens for the website. I covered the Ravens for four years doing mostly writing with a bit of on-air work, all the while knowing I’d still like to be on the TV side of things.

I then was bumped up to cover the Nats for MASN’s website in 2012, which allowed me more on-air opportunities. Last year, during a Nats-Astros spring training game in Kissimmee, Fla., I got a call from one of my bosses asking if I’d like to be the sideline reporter for our broadcasts. I said, “Heck yes, I would,” slapped myself in the face a couple times to make sure it wasn’t a dream, and went back to work.

MB- When did you become a baseball fan?

DK- I’m convinced I was a baseball fan the instant I was born. My parents tell stories about how as a toddler, I played with every tennis ball, baseball, golf ball, basketball I could find, and eventually, they had to chase them all over the place as I tried to learn how to throw.

MB- Did you play baseball growing up?

DK- I played ball as a kid, playing shortstop and pitching, but lagged behind most kids my age in middle school and early in high school because I was so skinny and always one of the shorter ones. Once I learned I had absolutely no chance of playing sports professionally, I tried to find a way to be around them in another capacity.

MB- Who was your favorite player growing up?

DK- My favorite player growing up – as was the case with most kids my age in the Maryland area – was Cal Ripken, Jr. I idolized the guy.

MB- There’s been a lot of discussion about you coming back next season as the MASN sideline reporter.  Is it official yet?

DK- It is indeed official. I signed the contract last week, and will be back as the on-field reporter for 2015. The only difference this year is that I will no longer be covering the team for Handling two jobs was tough last year and was very time-consuming. This season, I’ll get to focus strictly on the TV side of things, with an occasional blog post possibly appearing on the site from time to time.

MB- What have you done this offseason?

DK- In the offseason, I try to spend as much time as possible doing the activities that I don’t get to do much of from March-September: travel, hang out with friends and family, work out and sleep. I’ve taken a couple trips this winter and spent a good bit of time with the people I care about, which has been great.

MB- Tell me about the life you lead during the season.  What is a normal day for you like?

DK- Last season, I would write up a morning blog post on the site by 9:30 a.m., do some prep work for the game, get to the stadium around 2:30 p.m., conduct pregame interviews, meet with our in-game producer to discuss what reports I have for that night, prepare my pregame show material and my in-game material, do a segment (called a “hit” in the business) on Nats Xtra, then scarf down some dinner and do the game broadcast. Afterwards, it’s back into the clubhouse for postgame interviews, then I would head up to the press box to transcribe and write a postgame story. It made for fun days, but long days. This season, not writing means I’ll have my mornings to myself, which I hope will allow for trips to the gym and some added prep time.

MB- What do you do during the game?  Are you always in the camera well next to the dugout, or do you go up to the press box or into the clubhouse?

DK- I’m in the camera well most of the game, but also pop up to the press box from time to time. I prepare a number of reports for each game, but they could become relevant at any time, so I have to be ready to go on-air if a certain report fits in that moment. I coordinate with our producer and the guys in our production truck throughout the game, and we decide when it makes sense to put me on. We try to get me in at some point in the first three innings. I come up with most topics myself, but sometimes one of my producers or F.P. will make a good suggestion.

MB- How do you do all that avoid being hit by screaming line drive?

DK- I had a few close calls last season, but survived unscathed. You’ve got to really pay attention down there in the camera well, or else you can get smoked.

MB- How do you handle all the travel you do with the team as they play 81 road games?

DK- Traveling so frequently definitely wears on you as the season goes on, and it’s tough feeling like you’re never really settled, even when you’re at home. I have suits and shirts and ties everywhere, dry cleaning and laundry all over the place. But our travel itself is made much easier by the fantastic team staffers. You miss out on beach trips and time with family and friends, which can be tough, but you get to be around baseball every day, which is great.

MB- Do you become friends with the players or the other broadcasters or staff?

DK- You do become friends with the other broadcasters and crew members, because you’re around each other so often. I’m friendly with players, but I still try and keep a professional balance, because I’m there to do a job, and sometimes that could mean asking tough questions of players and coaches.

MB- How would you describe your job?  Do you try to report just the facts like a journalist or be more of an entertainer or color commentator?

DK- I see my job description as providing important information on news surrounding the team (injuries, updates from the manager, specific things a player might be working on, etc.) while also adding a bit of color to the broadcast. Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo work hard to call the action on the field, and my role is to bring information from the clubhouse that can provide context or enhance the broadcast in some way.

I work hard at that, but also pride myself on not taking myself too seriously, and so I’m willing to go down Bernie Brewer’s slide in Milwaukee or do a hit from above Tal’s Hill in Houston if it shows off something cool or adds to our broadcast. We’ll see about the whole kayak thing in San Francisco this year. I know I let a lot of people down by not making that happen last season.

MB- What’s it like to be given a Gatorade bath after a win? Who pays for the cleaning?

DK- The Gatorade baths are fun for the players and the fans. Less fun for my dry cleaning bill, which I take care of myself. No, they’re a blast, and it’s a nice way to top off a walk-off win.

MB- Do you have a favorite color to be doused with?  Do you have a change of clothes?

I prefer a blue Gatorade bath – by far my favorite flavor to drink – but am good with anything but red, which stains easily. Gotta watch out for the suits, shirts and shoes. For one pregame hit last year, I chatted with Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen about the art of the Gatorade bath (, which was a cool segment.

MB- Tell me about the clubhouse after the clinch in Atlanta– it looked crazy.

DK- The clinch was a great night. The guys were really enjoying themselves, and I tried to work through all the beer and Champagne so that everyone back home could hear from all the players and staffers. I’m glad fans seemed to enjoy it.

MB- A few one-word questions: Apple or Android?

DK- Apple, for sure

MB- Chocolate or Vanilla?

DK- Chocolate, for sure

MB- Window or aisle seat?

DK- Window seat, for sure. (But I get an aisle seat on the team charter flight.)

MB- Beach vacation or ski vacation?

DK- Beach, without a doubt. Love the beach.

MB- Favorite ballpark?

DK- On the road, I love AT&T Park in San Francisco, Safeco Field in Seattle, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Tough for me to pick just one.

MB- Favorite food to order at a game?

DK- I’ve always loved nachos, but there’s something about a ballpark hot dog for me.

MB- Favorite TV show?

DK- I’ll give two TV shows I absolutely love: The Wire and Seinfeld.

MB- Is there a wrong pipe?

DK- We all know the answer to this one, right?

Thanks to Dan Kolko for this really great interview.  It’s a great way to celebrate the fact that there are only 10 days until Pitchers and Catchers report!  Max the dog is happy about that!

Report To The Principal’s Office- When Baseball Players Fib To Win

tombarday Recently, controversy surrounded Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots after they supposedly deflated their footballs in the AFC Title Game.  The deflated footballs gave the Patriots an advantage because they were easier to catch and throw.  Whether you believe the Patriots really cheated or not, we have to remember that lying and cheating to win is not a good thing and ruins the character of the game.  But the pressure to win (and cheat) isn’t only found in football. Baseball also has had cheaters every once in a while. Here are some of the most notorious cheaters in baseball (that were caught) and their punishments. (Roger Goodell, if you are reading this, take note. You may get some ideas at the end.)

New York Giants, 1951, Huge But Sly

In the same year that Russ Hodges made his famous call “The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants win the pennant!,” the orange and black may have earned their win in a sneaky way. Several Giants players later admitted that they were stealing signs from opposing teams during their National League Pennant-winning season in ’51.  This gave them a clear advantage because the hitters knew which pitch they were going to get.  Even though the Giants lost to the Yankees in the World Series that year, the team still played really well all season.  The stealing signs story was confirmed 50 years after their Pennant winning season, but the team was never punished.

Baltimore Orioles, 1996, The Bird PED

One of Baltimore’s most controversial sports figures was Rafael Palmeiro.  After MLB instituted their new drug policy in 2004, which included random testing and mandated sentences for steroid use, Palmeiro was the first major baseball player to be caught by the rules in August 2005.  He was suspended for 10 days for his first offense.  Although in public hearings and in newspaper reports Palmeiro strongly denies that he actually did take them, his former Rangers teammate Jose Canseco said in his 2005 book Juiced that Canseco personally injected Palmeiro with PEDs.  Its hard to know who is telling the truth, but the fact remains that Palmeiro tested positive for illegal substances.

Chicago White Sox, 1919, Nine Men Out

During the early 1900s, baseball was huge. The World Series, a brand new thing, was as popular as the Super Bowl is now, and young American children looked up to stars like Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson. That’s why this scandal was so disappointing to many Americans.  In the 1919 World Series, the White Sox played against Cincinnati, and Cincy won the Series.  It was later revealed that 8 of the White Sox players purposely played poorly to lose their games.  They threw the games to get money from gamblers.  After the bet was figured out, nine men were kicked out of baseball for life, 8 White Sox and 1 St. Louis Brown. They were: Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, “Shoeless”Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, George “Buck” Weaver, Claude “Lefty” Williams for Chicago, and Joe Gedeon for the Browns.

Cincinnati Reds, 1989, He’s Wagering, But Not Playing Jeopardy!

The Pete Rose situation is what most people think of when thinking about cheating in baseball. Pete Rose is one of the all-time best baseball players.  He is the all-time leader in hits and games played, among other titles.  He won 3 World Series rings, 3 batting titles, 1 MVP Award, 2 Golden Gloves, and Rookie of the Year in 1963.  However, his reputation was ruined when it was discovered that he had bet on baseball games while he played for and managed the Reds in the mid-late 1980s.  Pete Rose was permanently banned from baseball in 1989.  Because of his ban from baseball, Rose is not allowed to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This is one of the most controversial subjects in baseball history.

Cleveland Indians, 1994, You Have To Work To Take The Cork

Albert Belle was a slugger for the Indians back in the 1990’s. On July 15, 1994, the Indians were playing the White Sox at Comiskey Park. In the first inning, Sox manager Gene Lamont got a tip that Belle was using a corked bat.  Lamont then challenged Belle’s bat and it was sent to the Umpire’s Dressing Room. The Indians knew that Belle’s bat was corked so they sent reliever Jason Grimsley to get the illegal bat and swap it with a legal one.  In a scene straight from a movie, Grimsley tunneled, with a flashlight in his mouth, through a false ceiling to get into the Umpire’s Dressing Room.  He was able to make the switch.  The team was caught, though, when the umpires noticed that the bats were different and saw pieces of ceiling on the floor.  MLB gave Belle a 10 game suspension for using the corked bat.  Grimsley’s part in the story wasn’t revealed until 1999.

Seattle Mariners, 1982, Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News

After the spitball was banned in 1920, there was a nice long period of time where pitchers relied on fastballs, breakers, and changeups. That changed when Gaylord Perry came around. Perry used Vaseline to doctor his baseballs.  The real mystery is that he didn’t get ejected for doctoring a baseball until his 21st season of playing baseball in 1982. Either he was really sneaky or the umpires didn’t care.


After that, it’s time for a question. Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl? Answer this poll to give me your take. I have to say, Seahawks all the way!

Matt’s Bats Chat with Washington Post’s James Wagner

Until the past couple of weeks, it had been a quiet offseason for the Washington Nationals.  1 jwwpThen, they made a couple of big splashes with the Tyler Clippard-for-Yunel Escobar deal and the Max Scherzer signing. That also meant a lot of work for the newspaper writers on the Nationals beat–although not as much as once the season starts in and they start writing about the games every night.

Before these two big headlines broke, I got a chance to speak with James Wagner, the head beat writer for the Washington Post about how he thought the Nationals’ offseason had been going.  He also shared a little bit about how he came to the Post and what it’s like covering a professional baseball team for 162 games.  This was another chance to go behind the scenes to see how baseball works off the field.

So, here is my Matt’s Bats Chat with the Washington Post’s own James Wagner.

Matt’s Bats: Tell me a little bit more about yourself and how you got to be the Washington Post’s Nationals reporter?

James Wagner: I grew up in Northern Virginia, but my dad used to work for the State Department so we moved around a lot when I was growing up. I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, lived in Springfield, Virginia, and then moved to the Philippines, Venezuela, Peru, Belgium and then back to the States. I finished high school at Lake Braddock. I went to the University of Virginia and studied Sociology.

During college I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I worked at the school paper and had internships in news and sports. My first job was with the LA Times and I worked there for a few months before getting laid off. Then I worked for a small local newspaper in Los Angeles County for a year covering local news. I then moved to the Washington Post and covered high school sports for two years. I moved to cover the Nats in 2012 and I’ve been covering them ever since.

MB: You spent a lot of time growing up overseas, how did you get interested in baseball? Was it the influence of Latin American sports?

JW: The two most popular sports in Latin America are baseball and soccer. My mom is from Nicaragua, which is a baseball playing country, so I had that baseball influence from my grandfather. Baseball was also always a connection to home for me. Living overseas I was exposed a lot to baseball, but I would feel American when I watched and read about baseball, the NFL, and college sports. Naturally I think I gravitated more to baseball because I played Little League overseas and back home and it was supported by my family and my culture.  I speak Spanish, which helps a lot when covering baseball.

MB: So you played Little League and I notice your Twitter picture is of you in a uniform? Did you play for a lot of teams?

JW: I played little league. I wouldn’t write home about it, but I played third base, caught, a little bit of outfield. Overseas it could be a little tougher to find leagues to play in, but every time I moved back to the United States in elementary school I would find a league to play in. I played little league and in high school. I even played for my high school team in Belgium, which played other international schools. I don’t think I was that good and I only had one career high school home run. But it was fun to play overseas.

MB: So you’ve been covering the Nats since 2012 after covering high school sports before that. How did you get up to speed on the team and the issues they were facing?

JW: While I was covering high school sports at the Post, I would always read up on the Nats and I watched games. I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I am now, but I had a general sense of what was going on. Sometimes while I was covering high school sports they would send me over to Nats Park to help out, maybe Opening Day or help out when someone took some days off. I would also sometimes get sent over to Nats Park to speak to a Spanish speaking player. So I was a little familiar with the team when I was added to the Nats beat with the great Adam Kilgore mid-way through the 2012 season. It’s not easy getting up to speed on a team, but if you ask questions people can help you out. It also helps to be around it every day.

MB: Chelsea Janes, the new Nats reporter, also covered high school sports before joining the Nats beat. Is that something reporters need to do before they go to the Nats?

JW: That’s a good observation. No, I don’t think you have to start out covering high school sports, but many people in the sports journalism world start there. It’s just the way you move your way up. You start somewhere, show your talent and ability and then move your way up. You don’t have to do it, but I bet most sports reporters started covering high school sports at the beginning of their careers.

MB: What’s the hardest part of your job, being the beat reporter for the Nationals?

JW: It’s hard to have enough time for the job – it’s a lot of work. It’s a huge time commitment, 162 games and 30 spring training games, plus the playoffs.   Baseball is a grind and everyone knows it, for the players, the coaches, and the people around it every day. No other pro sports team has that many games. On a personal level, it’s tough to manage the stress, but that’s the nature of the job. There’s a lot of things that happen during the baseball season, you try to make sure you don’t get beat on a story, you make sure you write something well. You get pulled in a lot of different directions and there’s a lot to keep track of. As you get more experience you learn how to deal with it better, but there’s a lot to keep track of. But that’s the beauty of the sport: the everyday nature of baseball.

MB: Can you explain your normal day as a reporter during the season?

JW: During a normal regular season, 7pm game, I try to get to the stadium at 2:30pm to see the lineup go up, catch up on what I’m going to write for the day, get interviews, talk about what’s going well or not going so well with the team. Then I go down to the clubhouse and talk to the players for 30 or 40 minutes. We talk to Matt Williams around 4pm for his press conference – he talks to reporters before every game except on Sundays. Then we go to the field to watch batting practice and talk to some players there and watch the guys hit. There we talk to team officials. I then go up to the press box around 5:30pm to write the pre-game post. After that I watch and cover the game. I write the game story as it’s going on, so I can send it in to my editor right when the game ends, obviously without any quotes or anything. Then I go back down to the clubhouse and talk to the players and get some quotes. Then after that, it might be 11pm or midnight, I write a morning post too. The next morning I work on the longer feature story ideas, maybe transcribe interviews or work on some other longer form stories. I also take advantage of the mornings to keep in touch with the wide range of baseball contacts, everyone from agents to other people affiliated with the team, and things going on with other teams. Some days are really long, especially when we are traveling from city to city.

MB: Now that you’ve visited all of the NL ballparks and most of the AL ballparks, what is your favorite press box to work in and why?

JW: I haven’t been to all of the ballparks, but I’ve been to most. Citizens Bank Park in Philly has a pretty great press box to work in. Nats Park is really comfortable too, but the only complaint most people say is that you’re pretty high up in the air and its tough to see the game and specific pitches some times. I like AT&T Park in San Francisco, even though the space is a little tight. Coors Field and Marlins Park are also pretty nice.

MB: The hitting in the postseason wasn’t great, other than Harper and Rendon. Have you talked to Matt Williams about why he didn’t move Harper up in the lineup to, like, where Adam LaRoche was hitting, and what do you think he’ll do this season?

JW: Based on what Matt Williams has said, I think you will see Harper this season hitting probably 3, 4, or 5, but it depends on which pitcher they are facing. Guys on the team said they felt Harper turned the corner during the playoff series, even though it was only a couple of games. It was a good jumping off point for next season.

Matt said that the reason Harper was hitting so low in the order, which was puzzling to some people, was that Harper was injured and struggling at the plate and it made more sense to put him in a lower pressure situation. You can argue with that or not, but I think that in time, based on what Matt has said, that Harper will move back up next season.

MB: The Nats traded Zach Walters, a possible second base candidate, for Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline last season, but now since Cabrera signed with the Rays, the Nats don’t have anything left from the deal except playoff losses. Do you think the Nats would have been better off trading Ryan Mattheus or Ross Detwiler?

JW: That’s one that in hindsight the team might be thinking “shoot, we’d like to have Walters back.” They had a chance to play Walters at second, a position that wasn’t that familiar to him, but the team didn’t play him there too much. Zach was really bounced around. He played some second base at Syracuse. At one point the Nats even played Walters in left. Walters had a really strong arm, but he made a fair number of defensive errors when he was playing the middle infield in the minors. Zach’s strengths are a really strong throwing arm, power bat, and a physical player. The team gambled that at the trade deadline they needed a veteran contact hitter more than Walters in that moment. When you’re in the heat of the pennant race and you have a hole in your lineup and a need for someone to fill a position, you kind of have to make the move and then worry about the consequences later. At the time the Nats needed someone to solidify the infield with Zimmerman’s hamstring injury, especially with the playoffs looming. That trade was probably one of Mike Rizzo’s most “win now” moves. He traded for a guy for two months, where most of the time Rizzo trades for guys under control for more than just that season. In the moment you can’t really worry about it, you need someone now to win. In hindsight, the team didn’t get past the first round in the playoffs and you almost wish you still had the prospect. But at the time, that’s what you needed to do.

MB: Have you heard about any extensions of Jordan Zimmermann or Ian Desmond?

JW: Last I checked in it didn’t sound like anything was really brewing. Jordan Zimmermann’s agent and Mike Rizzo talked during the Winter Meetings, but it was more just to catch up and see where things stand, rather than working on a deal. So it doesn’t sound like anything is happening there. With Desmond it doesn’t sound like anything is happening on that front either. Reports keep mentioning Desmond’s name in trade rumors and possibilities and it’s kind of hard to imagine that extension talks are going on at the same time as they are engaging other teams in potential trades for him. It seems like there was more going on last offseason to extend Desmond than this off season.

MB: What are you expectations for the Nationals in 2015? Do you think they will win the NL East and get past the divisional series in the playoffs? {This was before the Scherzer signing}

JW: That’s tough. The playoffs are so hard to predict. And I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it really is a crapshoot, you don’t know where it’s going to go, especially in the short series first round of the playoffs. You play 162 games and then the season comes down to 5 games. The talent that got you through 162 games might not always come up in 5 games. Look at last year’s offense – they did better all season than they did during the 4 games against the Giants since it’s such a small sample size. You can’t really predict how you’re going to do in the playoffs. You need a plan, and then just hope you can get there. Once you get to the playoffs, you hope that your stars, the guys with the really stand out talent like Jordan Zimmermann and Bryce Harper, shine. You’d think the Nats are the favorite to repeat the NL East title, but nothing is a given. The Marlins are a better team. The Mets, you can be unsure about their offense, but their pitching is good. The Braves and the Phillies haven’t really gotten any better. You think the Nats have a good chance at repeating in the division but beyond that, who knows. The Cardinals got better in the off-season, with Jason Heyward. You have to think with the window they have to win, the Nats are really going to go for the World Series and try to win with this group.

Thank you again to James Wagner who spent his time during the bustling offseason to do this Matt’s Bats chat. I can’t wait to read what he and rookie Chelsea Janes have to say this season in the Washington Post about the Nats. The good news is we have less than three weeks to wait for Spring Training baseball to start!



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