For Spring opening day, the Nats traveled to Port St. Lucie where they beat the Mets 5-4. Then they hosted Atlanta, won 16-15, in what Ian Desmond called a “dolly whopper.” Yesterday they hosted the Marlins and beat them 10-3.
Today the Nationals took a bus Tampa across the state to take on Ivan Nova and the Yankees, a potential World Series matchup.
The Nationals have first ups and are expecting a win. I looked at New York’s lineup and I did not know some of the players. The Nationals starting lineup is Span, Espinosa, Moore, Hairston, Lobaton, Skole, Walters, Rhymes, and Perez. I think that the Nats will pull a win off. However, Ivan Nova is also looking very good, striking out the side in the 2nd. Zach Walters fell victim to Nova, breaking his 1.000 batting average with a strikeout.
The Yankees got on the board first with Kelly Johnson hitting a double off Ross Detwiler in the bottom of the second. Then, Zach Walters threw away an easy out on bad throw and it scored two. Corbin Joseph also just hit an RBI single to make it 4-0 with runners on the corners and no outs. After striking out Brett Gardner and throwing 35 pitcher, Matt Williams pulled Detwiler. Derek Jeter grounded out in a double play off AAA reliever Danny Rosenbaum to end the inning. Hopefully the Nats recover in the later innings.
The third inning is coming up, so I expect most of the starters to be pulled. Detwiler’s afternoon is over. Even with the Nats down early, it’s still a great activity to watch the Nationals-Yankees on MLB Network on a snow day.
When most people think of Babe Ruth, they probably think of his years as a New York Yankee. People who know baseball history may think of the time Babe Ruth spent as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, who suffered an 86 year World Series “Curse of the Bambino” after he was traded to the Yankees at the end of the 1919 season. But if you really, really know baseball history, when you think of Babe Ruth, you should think of the Charm City of Baltimore, Maryland. That’s because George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born in Baltimore, learned to play baseball in Baltimore, and it’s where he played his first professional games. And Baltimore is also where you can see the only museum dedicated to the life of baseball’s greatest: The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.
Located at 216 Emory Street, Babe Ruth’s birthplace is located a short walk from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The museum is great for baseball-loving adults and kids, and should be on everyone’s list of “things to do in Baltimore.” You get to see the very room where Babe Ruth lived when he was really just a “Babe.”
This year, the museum is celebrating two important anniversaries. First, it is the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s rookie season as a Baltimore Oriole, a minor league team in the old International League. Second, it is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. To celebrate the anniversaries, the museum is planning to do some very interesting things, like a tour of some of the important places in Babe Ruth’s life. For example, you will be able to see the very field at St. Mary’s Industrial School (now known as The Cardinal Gibbons School) where Babe Ruth learned the game of baseball. You will be able to see St. Paul’s Church in Ellicot City, where Babe married Helen Woodfard. The museum is also also hoping to have a special night with the Babe’s surviving daughter, 97 year old Julia Ruth Stevens. The museum is also hoping to produce a short film to mark the occasion. If you want to learn more about these events, follow @BabeRuthMuseum on Twitter, or just keep following @MattsBats or MattsBats.com, and I will let you know about what’s coming up when I hear about them.
I got a personal tour of the Babe Ruth house from the museum’s director, Mike Gibbons. After that, I also visited the Sports Legend Museum, a museum that the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation created to commemorate Maryland sports. The first thing I saw on my visit to the museum is the room where Babe Ruth was born and the exhibit called “Babe Batted Here,” which houses some artifacts from his early life, like a his jersey from St. Mary’s and his bat. They also have on display Babe Ruth’s “wrong handed catcher’s mitt,” which Mike Gibbons told me is his favorite artifact in the museum’s collection. Babe Ruth was a lefty, so he caught with his right hand and he threw with his left hand. (Nowadays you would never have a left-handed catcher in the major leagues. Why? Because most players bat righty and they would be in the batter’s box in the way of the catcher’s throw and there would be lots of stolen bases! But do you know another superstar baseball player who grew up as a left-handed catcher? Keep reading to find out.) Babe only had a right-handed catcher’s mitt. He had to do a move like Jim Abbott to quickly throw off the glove and switch hands with the ball. (Jim Abbott was a one-handed major league pitcher who won an Olympic gold medal and pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1993. If you’ve never seen him pitch, check out this video) Gibbons explained, “He carried that glove with him in 1914 for Spring Training with the Orioles. He took it all the way through the season and on to Boston, with the Providence Greys. Babe Ruth gave that glove to a guy who worked at a restaurant in Providence, a guy he befriended. That guy kept the glove and eventually moved to Baltimore and brought the glove to us years and years later.”
There is also a display about the 500 home run club. Babe Ruth was the first player to hit 500 home runs in his career. (He hit 714 home runs in his career). Today, there are 25 members of the 500 home run club, including Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire, and Eddie Murrary. The museum has autographed balls and jerseys and other things from the members of the 500 club. The all-time home run leader is Barry Bonds, with 762 career homers. The museum director, Mike Gibbons, told me that he once got into an argument with Barry Bonds because Bonds said that Babe Ruth wasn’t any good. Can you imagine that?
The museum has some other very valuable items. One of them is Babe Ruth’s rookie card as a Baltimore Oriole in 1914. This card has been declared the most valuable of all sports collectables, even more than the T206 Honus Wagner card. There are only 11 known cards in existence now, and a pristine condition card would be worth $3.2 million, versus a Honus Wagner card right out of the box, which would be worth about $2.8 million. The “good condition” card that the museum owns is worth about $750,000.
The museum also used to have on display a Yankees away jersey that said New York on the front and it had “Ruth” stitched into the back necking. A man bought it at auction for $460,000 and loaned it to the museum for three years. His widow took it away when he died and sold it at auction for $500,000. Then just a year later, a collector paid $4 million for it. The man who bought it is the actor Charlie Sheen. He was the main character in Major League.
I also learned a lot about Babe as a person. He was known as a very nice man who gave autographs to anyone who asked, and he would go out of his way to visit sick kids in the hospital 1 hour before a game. There was a whole exhibit about his heroic appearance in a tough time in the nation, which includes his baseball contributions and his well-known kindness.
I asked Mike Gibbons what made Babe Ruth a legend. He answered, “I think that he had an extraordinary skill set. Probably the best of any athlete who has ever lived. His hand-eye coordination was second to none.” When you look at pictures of Babe Ruth from the 1920s, he doesn’t look like a lot of the athletes you see today who are often slim and have big muscles. Gibbons said, “I think if he was playing today, he would train as athletes today train. He was a hard worker, a good baseball player, and really took it very seriously. Babe Ruth, a lot of people think that he was this big fat guy, but he wasn’t until the very end of his career. In his 30s, he started to put on weight and his lifestyle got the best of him. When he was hitting 60 home runs in 1927, he was not a big fat guy. He took care of himself pretty well.” Babe Ruth was special because he was both a great pitcher and a great hitter. He was a four tool player, only lacking speed.
Gibbons probably knows more about the life and career of Babe Ruth than anyone else in the world. There are two questions I asked him about Babe Ruth that I don’t think he or anyone else can really answer for sure. But it was worth asking. First, I asked if he thought Babe Ruth would be as amazing today facing off against pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. “Yes, absolutely. Why not? Its hard to compare, because that was a different time and they played differently. You have to think he would because he’s just an extraordinary athlete, and its more than just muscle memory. [He knew] something about the sport above and beyond the physical ability.” I have to agree. Babe Ruth hit some of his longest home runs off of Walter Johnson, so he should probably be able to hit off today’s hurlers.
We also discussed which player today most compares to Babe Ruth. Gibbons thought probably Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. I pointed out that Cabrera is further along in his career and has not matched all of Babe Ruth’s greatness so far. I suggested Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as five tool players who have only just gotten started. Everyone has been talking about how Bryce Harper ran into an outfield wall last season chasing a fly ball and injured himself. Well, Babe Ruth also once ran into a concrete outfield wall, knocked himself out, but stayed in the game and played the second game of the double-header. And Bryce Harper is the other left-hander who played catcher before he became a major league outfielder! Because we were in Baltimore, of course Manny Machado’s name got thrown in the discussion.
I also asked Gibbon if he thought Babe really called his home run shot in the 1932 World Series. With a 2-2 count, Babe stepped out of the box, pointed, and then stepped back into the box. He chased a pitch low and away that he crushed into centerfield of Wrigley Field. It is still the longest home run ever hit at Wrigley. We talked for a while about whether Babe called the shot, or whether he was gesturing at pitcher Charlie Root or yelling back to the players in the Cubs dugout. Gibbons thinks that Babe Ruth was obviously gesturing and pointing. Maybe instead of pointing in the direction of the outfield, Ruth was telling Root that he shouldn’t get so excited because there were only 2 strikes in the count. He thinks that Babe Ruth probably did not call the home run. Root said in an interview Babe did not call the shot, but Lou Gehrig, the next batter, said he did. Gibbons sent me over to the Sports Legends Museum to watch a short movie about the famous called shot, that also has someone’s home movie from the stands where you can definitely see Babe Ruth pointing at something. It is interesting to ask baseball fans what they think about whether Babe Ruth called his shot or not because there is no definite answer and people have a lot of theories. I agree with Gibbons that “it’s easier to believe, and a lot more fun.”
Even though the museum is kind of small, housed in the Ruth family’s townhouse and 3 other townhouses they bought and joined together, they have a lot of information about Babe Ruth and some of the amazing things he did. It is good to visit for 30 minutes or an hour. It is a great place to see before or after an Orioles game, because it is just a few blocks from Camden Yards. For Nationals fans, the museum is just 45 minutes from Nationals Park. (By the way, do you know where Babe Ruth hit the last home run of his career? At Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators on September 29, 1934). For baseball fans anywhere in the world, it is an amazing opportunity to see “The House that Built Ruth.”
The first Nationals Spring Training game is tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 28) at 1:10 PM Eastern Time. The game will be played at Tradition Field in Port Saint Lucie, FL, Spring Training Home of the Mets. It’ll be broadcast on the radio on WJFK 1580 AM and on TV on MLB Network on delay. Taylor Jordan will start for the Nats.
Luckily for me, tomorrow is a half-day of school tomorrow, so I can be able to listen live or follow on MLB At Bat.
The lineup is McLouth (RF), Espinosa (2B), Zimmerman (3B), LaRoche (1B), Desmond (SS), Ramos (C), Moore (DH), Hairston (LF), Michael Taylor (CF), Jordan (P)
Spring Training is usually not that exciting, but in this game I am excited to see some Nats baseball. I also hope Danny Espinosa makes a nice return and gets some big hits. It will just be nice to see some live baseball for the first time in months.
One of the newest and most exciting additions to the Nationals roster for the 2014 season is pitcher Doug Fister. Fister, a starter acquired from the Tigers, may be the proven veteran in the Nats rotation that Mike Rizzo has been hoping to find for many years. He may also be the missing link in the rotation for taking the Nationals to the playoffs. But where did that start? Let’s go back a few years.
Two hours down the long California freeways from San Francisco, Doug Fister was born in the Northern California town of Merced. Doug grew up the son of Larry, a fire captain and police SWAT team member, and Jan, a homemaker. He grew up interested in baseball, woodworking, and remodeling cars. As a kid,he would take apart his mom’s appliances and then put them back together again, just for fun. Doug grew up a fan of the nearby A’s and Giants. He was also a fan of the “Iron Man” Cal Ripken, Jr.
Doug went to Golden Valley High School, and played high school ball for the Cougars. He was a pitcher and a utility player, and he hit .425 in his senior year. He was drafted by the nearby Giants as a first baseman, but decided to play baseball in college. After graduating from Golden Valley, he decided to go to Merced Junior College for two years. In those two years, he was a junior college All Star, and struck out 29 players in just 30 innings pitched. He went on to Division I Fresno State and, in 2006, was voted to the ESPN All-District team, with a 3.33 ERA. Doug was also a good student because he had a 3.31 GPA in liberal studies and planned to be an elementary school teacher if he didn’t make it to The Show. The Fresno State Bulldogs, as they were called, went to the NCAA tournament that year, but fell to Cal State Fullerton in the Regional Finals that year.
After watching big names like Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer being picked, Doug Fister was selected with the fifth pick in the seventh round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners. His dream came true as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig introduced Doug Fister as a professional ballplayer.
After rising relatively quickly through the Mariners’ organization, he made his major league debut on August 8, 2009 with one inning of shutout pitching. Three days later, he started his first game against the White Sox, and eventually finished that season 3-4. The next year, he was given the chance to become a regular starter. He got the job, and posted a 6-14 record with a 4.11 E.R.A. Even with those rough numbers, many people saw the potential in the tall kid from Merced.
On the trade deadline of 2011, after a rough 3-12 start, the Mariners shipped Doug Fister away to the Detroit Tigers. After that trade, he went 8-1, and had a 1.71 E.R.A in ten starts as a Tiger. After two playoff wins, things were looking good for Doug Fister and the Tigers. 2012 had potential to be a big year for them.
Although injured for a portion of the beginning of the 2012 season, Fister came back strong, and managed a 10-10 record that year, recorded a shutout and, in all of his playoff games, did not give up more than two runs in any game, in up to seven innings of work. Doug was a large part in the Tigers’ 2013 Division Championship run. Not only did he post a career high in wins, win percentage and strikeouts, but kept the eventual World Series champions, the Red Sox, to one run over six innings in the ALCS.
On the evening of December 3, 2013, a high school senior in Boston, Chris Cotillo, broke the news that Fister was being traded for the second time of his career. In a move that surprised the baseball world, Doug Fister was traded to the Washington Nationals for utility player Steve Lombardozzi, rookie pitcher Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray. For a deal like this, it was hard for Nats fans not to be excited.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 3, 2013
The Nationals are hoping that Doug Fister fills a role in their rotation that they tried unsuccessfully to do with Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren in 2012 and 2013. Fister is a seasoned veteran going on 5 years of major league experience with lots of postseason experience. With his clutch pitching and intimidating height, he could be a force to be reckoned with in the already solid rotation. Most likely, he will slot in as the Nats’ fourth starter, although on most teams he would probably slot higher. Most expect that Nationals starting rotation to go Strasburg (R), Gonzalez (L), Zimmermann (R), Fister (R), and the fifth spot to be decided in Spring Training between Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan or possibly even Christian Garcia. With a lineup that strong, Fister could even go #5 for real right-left, right-left rotation. He could also slot in higher in the rotation to mess with hitters’ timing– while Strasburg can go 95 mph and Gio and J-Zimm also throw heat in the 90s, Fister’s fastball tops out in the high 80s but with major accuracy and a sinker that induces a lot of infield outs. Imagine what it would be like as a batter playing a four game series against the Nats facing Strasburg’s fastball on Monday, Gio’s wicked curve on Tuesday, Zimmerman’s change in velocity on Wednesday, and Fister’s nasty sinker on Thursday.
One big way Doug Fister can help is in the clubhouse. He will be the oldest of the Nationals starting pitchers and can be a great mentor for some of the younger pitchers in the rotation, like Strasburg and Gonzalez. He has a calm personality that will probably make him fit in well with teammates Strasburg and Zimmermann.
However, the biggest reason Doug Fister can make the Nats a championship team, is the simple fact that he is an amazing pitcher. Even while he was pitching in the third most hitter-friendly ballpark in the country, he posted great numbers throughout his tenure as a Tiger. He succeeds by throwing well-placed pitches and getting hitters to swing on top of the sinker that drops like a rock, which means lots of groundballs to guys like Zimmerman, Desmond and Rendon/Espinosa. With Fister’s accuracy, he rarely gives up walks, which is as bad as giving up hits. He studied to be a teacher, and hopefully he can teach the younger guys what has made him excel. Doug Fister has seen a lot of postseason play with the Tigers, but in those high pressure situations he’s posted a 2.98 E.R.A. for an average of six innings a game.
The Nats already had the potential to be a great team, but with the addition of Doug Fister, they may have taken the leap to become a World Series team. Fister told USA Today, he is going to “approach every day trying to get better and trying to make it to October.” Hopefully, we’ll see the Nationals there this Fall.
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Thanks to Will Kubzansky, who collaborated with me on this post. Will writes a blog called sideofnatitude.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @kubzdc.
Are you interested in biographies or profiles of other Nationals players? Check out my pieces on Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Christian Garcia, Bryce Harper, Craig Stammen, and others in the Matt’s Bats Archive.
With pitchers and catchers already reported to Spring Training camp and Opening Day about 6 weeks away, the 2014 baseball season is about to begin. This season is going to be a very special one for fans of the Chicago Cubs. Wrigley Field is turning 100 in 2014. Even though the Cubs haven’t ever won a World Series at Wrigley (the last win was in 1908– 106 years ago), there is definitely going to be some big celebrations in Wrigleyville this year for Chicago’s beloved “Friendly Confines.”
As you also may remember, Fenway Park in Boston, celebrated its 100th birthday a couple of years ago. At 102 years old, Fenway is the oldest standing ballpark in the majors. While Red Sox fans, coming off their 3rd World Series win in 10 years, are probably feeling better about their team than fans of the Cubbies, we can’t forget that Sox fans went 86 years between World Series wins. Fenway Park has gone through hard times, too. The ballpark survived 3 fires, 2 in the 20th century and one in 2012.
Most of the ballparks in the majors are less than 20 years old. After Wrigley and Fenway, the next oldest is Dodger Stadium, is only about half as old as these two. Can you imagine a world without TV and computers? Obviously, those weren’t invented until way, way after Wrigley Field was built. Can you imagine eating a hamburger without a bun? Well, you would have had to if you ordered a hamburger at one of Wrigley Field’s first games because hamburger buns weren’t invented in 1914. In fact, you couldn’t even go to a supermarket in 1914 because those weren’t created until after Wrigley Field was built.
One of the things that’s hardest to believe is that the Cubs only played day games at Wrigley Field until 1988, because there weren’t any lights at the ballpark. The first night game at Wrigley, however, was the All-American Girls Professional League All-Star Game in the forties. Today, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park still have manual scoreboards. The original manual scoreboard at Wrigley has been there since 1937. The scoreboard is so deep in center field that no batter has ever hit it.
You may be asking yourself why I’m writing about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Well, it’s because I just red two great books about these old ballparks: F is for Fenway and W is for Wrigley. These are great books for kids my age who are interested in the history of baseball. You can find them HERE and HERE. I really recommend these books. In this post I will tell you more about the history of the Fenway Park (the “Baseball Cathedral”) and Wrigley Park (the “Friendly Confines”).
Fenway Park: James E. McLaughlin, a builder from Boston, Massachusetts, got a plot of land in between Ipswich and Lansdowne streets in downtown Boston. Construction of the ballpark began in 1911 and finished in 1912. 102 years later, Fenway Park is one of the most popular spaces in Boston.
The Yawkey family, who owned the Red Sox, named their new ballpark after the section of Boston in which it is built.
The Red Sox won the World Series in the first year they played at Fenway Park. Strangely, it wasn’t the baseball team that drew the largest crowd to Fenway Park . The largest crowds came to Fenway in 1914 to watch three elephants parade though the streets on their way to the Franklin Park Zoo! Almost 37,500 fans watched the Sox win the World Series in 2013, but 50,000 people watched the elephants in 1914!
One of the most unique parts of Fenway Park is the Green Monster, the highest wall in a MLB ballpark. It is 37 feet tall and 240 feet long and looms over left field. The Green Monster holds the only ladder on a field of play and a manual scoreboard.
Also, the Yawkey family hid their initials in Morse Code on the manual scoreboard.
Fans at Fenway Park are also very charitable. The official charity of the Red Sox, The Jimmy Fund, collects more than $1 million each week through fundraisers and collections in the red boxes all around the ballpark. The Jimmy Fund started when a radio station surprised a young hospital patient with signed balls, tickets, and caps from his favorite team, the Boston Braves.
Boston fans went through some rough years in Fenway Park. Boston was shocked when struggling P/OF George Herman “Babe” Ruth was traded to the Yankees in 1919 and then grew into the probably the best player in baseball history. “The Curse of the Bambino” had begun, and it would be another 48 years until the team made it to the World Series again. It would be 67 years until they actually had a shot at the championship, but we all know what happened in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Of course, it would be 86 years until they actually won the World Series in 2004 (the year I was born!). And now the Red Sox have won the World Series three times in my lifetime.
Wrigley Park: Zachary Taylor Davis was an architect from Chicago who got a piece of land and built a stadium at the intersection 0f Clark and Addison streets. Davis also built Comiskey Park, former home to the cross-town rival White Sox.
The stadium Davis built, called Weeghman Park, became the home to the Chicago Whales. The Whales were part of the Federal League, which existed in 1914 and 1915. The Whales and Cubs merged in 1916. When William Wrigley took over ownership in 1921, he changed the name of field after his company. Welcome to the beginning of the sports stadium marketing era! Nice job.
The Chicago football Tigers and Bears also called Wrigley their home for a while. There was a soccer team in the 1970s and 1980s called the Sting that also played at Wrigley Field.
The layout of the Wrigley Park field is a little unusual for modern ballparks. First, the bullpens are in foul territory, not behind the outfield walls, as in most ballparks. (A few other ballparks still have this, like AT&T Park and Tropicana Field).
Another unique thing about the park is that there is ivy growing on the outfield wall. Bill Veeck, the team’s general manager in 1937, got the ivy idea because he saw Perry Stadium in Indianapolis. Wrigley is the only professional ballpark with ivy covered walls. If a ball hit into the ivy gets lost, it is an automatic ground rule double.
The weather in the Windy City is an important factor at Wrigley Field. Depending on the direction of the winds coming from Lake Michigan, the park can give up a lot of home runs or keep long fly balls in play. That’s why it’s important to note the flags around the top rim of the park to see whether the wind is blowing in or out.
Speaking of flags, when the home team wins, a white flag with a blue “W” in flown. If the team loses, a blue flag with a white “L” is displayed. That way fans can keep up with how the team is doing from wherever they are in the city.
Wrigley Park also has some fun traditions, like how Cubs fans throw back home run balls hit by the opposing team.
The Cubs haven’t been in a World Series since 1945 when tavern owner Billy Sianis got ejected from the stadium because he brought a goat inside. It is believed he cursed the team for being thrown out of the game. It is now known as the “Curse of the Billy Goat” that haunts the Cubs. Here’s the good news for Cubs fans: the team’s farm system is one of the best in the big leagues and they have one of the best general managers in the game. My prediction is the Cubs are going to win a lot more championships at Wrigley in the second 100 years than the first 100 years, and probably could be contenders for a Series very, very soon.
Again, I really liked the books F is for Fenway and W is for Wrigley. The author of W is for Wrigley also wrote a book called H is for Home Run, which is also very good. Even though they are “alphabet books,” these aren’t books for little kids. They’re probably best for kids in grades 3-9, but even younger kids and older kids (and adults) would like them too. I bet you, no matter how old you are, you will learn some new things by reading any of them.
We got to the convention center at around 9 am to wait for the doors to open for season ticket holders at 10:00. To our surprise, they let us in early at 9:30, but even waiting for 30 minutes seemed like a billion years because I was so excited.
While we walked in, a guy from WTOP radio interviewed me on the radio. I forgot what I said, but it’s always cool to be interviewed.
As we walked in, there was a humongous sign that said Welcome to NatsFest 2014, Washington Nationals fans and had pictures of Span, Rendon, Harper, and Gio on it’s sides.
Last year, NatsFest was at the Convention Center in DC. You can read all about 2013 Nats Fest in this post. This year, the Washington Auto Show was at the Convention Center, so the Nats decided to move their event to the Gaylord. One thing that was very good about having NatsFest at National Harbor was that it was all in one room on one floor, so you didn’t have to go upstairs and downstairs all the time. It was also so much bigger, but I still liked how last year’s event felt being in a smaller space. Also, the room had a rock-solid floor and you could see the pipes on the ceiling. It kind of looked like an oversized school gym. Last year’s Nats Fest was in the ballroom with carpeted floors and a dark ceiling so you couldn’t see any pipes, if there were any. It just looked better and the lights were not as bright.
The first thing I did was go get a photo taken at the bobblehead photo booth. They put your face on the 2013 Gio Gonzalez bobblehead.
Next, I got a picture taken with Anthony Rendon and new reliever Jerry Blevins. I had never met Blevins, so it was really cool meeting him for the first time. He seemed like a giant to me!
While my mom and I were off doing these things, my brother got his face painted, played some of the kids games and waited in line for autographs. Originally, the sign on the table at the autograph station said Stephen Strasburg was signing and they were so excited. But then it turned out that it was Sammy Solis and Ross Ohlendorf who were signing. Getting to meet the Nationals’ Ace would have been amazing, but it’s OK that they met Solis and Ohlendorf, because we never got Solis or Ohlendorf autographs before.
Then, I did some other activities like the batting cage, radar gun beware: I throw 35 mph and the stealing home challenge. There was a huge strip of fake grass made to look like the third base line.
I also played in the MASN trivia, and I thought I did pretty well, but I didn’t win.
During the day, I met some fans who read my blog.
— Angie Wanner (@angielynn10) January 25, 2014
— Tammy F. (@tammyf4_nats) January 26, 2014
— Ryan Sullivan (@NatsGMdotcom) January 25, 2014
— Jakob Lang (@jakeNATS24) January 26, 2014
— Tiago Bezerra (@tdbJD) January 25, 2014
Last year, it seemed like the Nats lost most of the games I attended (please don’t think I carry a #MattsBatsJinx), but at NatsFest, I totally lucked out. I got to get Craig Stammen and Doug Fister’s autograph. It was great to welcome Doug to the team. I told him about MattsBats.com, and that I was doing a Matt’s Bats Chat with Chris Cotillo, who broke the news of his trade.
During lunch, I met Zach Walters and Ross Ohlendorf, who changed out of their jerseys and were just walking the event. You had to pay a lot of attention, because if you didn’t you might not recognize you were just standing next to one of the players you had come to see! Last year, when I least expected it, Bryce Harper just walked right by me. This year, when I saw Ross and Zach I went up to them and introduced myself to them and told them about this blog that I write.
Next, I watched the Name That Nat game. The game was hosted by my friend FP Santangelo. In Name That Nat, the players had to guess the players by their walk up song like Name That Tune. Jayson Werth, Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus played, and Ryan Mattheus won.
As the day wound down, I went to another autograph session. It was Ryan Mattheus and Scott Hairston. This might have been the highlight of Nats Fest for me. When I went up to get Ryan’s autograph, he recognized me instantly, because I’ve met him a couple of times and said, “Hey, Matt!” It was pretty cool that he did, because not many kids get this experience. He asked if I was going to Spring Training again this year, but unfortunately I’m not. I talked to him for a minute or two, and than I went on to see Scott Hairston. Ryan Mattheus is a very great guy, and later hung out with fans at the after party. I hope that he is fully healed this season and he gets that ball to sink.
For the second year in a row, I didn’t get to go to the kids press conference because we were just so busy. But at least two crazy things happened that I heard about. First, a kid asked Jayson Werth and Drew Storen how many home runs they were going to hit. That’s a little silly because Storen is a late innings reliever and almost never even gets a plate appearance. But Drew mentioned that he is actually a switch hitter! I knew that, but Jayson didn’t believe it until someone showed him one of Drew’s baseball cards. The funny thing is, Drew’s baseball card has an error on it about his postseason record, which I pointed out to Drew in November. Click below to hear that conversation with Drew Storen and HERE to read the full interview.
Jayson Werth of all people should have been able to point out the error because he hit the walk off home run that gave Drew the NLDS Game 4 win!
Another kid asked Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg how many girlfriends they have. Watch the video below.
The event ended with a game called Fields of Fortune, which was really Wheel of Fortune, hosted by my friend Dave Jageler. Bryce Harper won by a landslide against Strasburg and Tyler Clippard. My brother was actually able to answer one of the puzzles correctly– “Four Score and Seventh Inning Stretch”– before anyone else. That is because he is an expert on presidents as well as baseball.
When the event was over, I went to the National Pastime restaurant for the after party. The party was as good as last year. I talked with people I knew from Twitter and ate chicken fingers again (this may be a Nats Fest after party tradition). I also saw FP and Charlie Slowes, and, of course, most of the Nats Archive archivists and all the other #InternetWeirdos.
NatsFest was awesome in 2014. Check out a few more pictures people took having fun. And just to let you know, there are only 16 days until Pitchers And Catchers report!
If you read my blog all the time, you already know there are lots of kids doing interesting things in the world of baseball. There’s 16 year old Meggie Zahneis, MLB’s official Youth Reporter, 14 year old Matt Nadel from Baseball With Matt, 10 year old Frankie the Cub Reporter from Miami, and 12 year old Haley Smilow (interview coming soon). But today, I’m bringing you an interview with Chris Cotillo from MLB Daily Dish.
Chris is an 18 year old high school student from Boston. Chris became kind of famous this offseason for breaking lots of big trade news. People in the DC area know him for breaking the news of the Doug Fister trade. (The Tigers traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals for utility man Steve Lombardozzi, reliever Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray). Chris also broke the Ricky Nolasco contract with the Twins. He attended the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, where he appeared on MLB Network’s Hot Stove.
He has become friends with players and professional baseball journalists and is already kind of a celebrity himself. He is on his way to being a big-time baseball insider. Get ready for this Matt’s Bats Chat with Chris Cotillo.
Matt’s Bats: When and how did you get interested in baseball?
Chris Cotillo: I have always been interested in the game, and would track transactions and rumors in notebooks/Excel spreadsheets for as long as I can remember. I started a Twitter account to keep track of what was going on a couple of years ago, and it gained some followers pretty quickly. I joined MLBDailyDish in May, by reaching out to my current boss and telling him I was looking for a bigger audience. I have loved being with MLBDD since then, and really think the entire SB Nation platform is going to be one of the best sports media outlets online for decades to come.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 3, 2013
MB: You got famous for breaking the Doug Fister trade. I cover the Nats and almost everyone loved the trade and thought the Nationals got the better deal. What are your thoughts about the trade?
CC: I agree that the Nats did very well, on paper. They got a very good starter for a group of players who weren’t considered top prospects, which is always interesting. [Tigers GM Dave] Dombrowski knows what he’s doing in Detroit though, so he probably felt that the three he acquired were good fits for the Tigers’ organization. I expect them to thrive with Detroit just like I expect Fister to do well with the Nats.
MB: How do you go from just a regular kid to a real insider?
CC: Time and patience. Show baseball fans that you really love doing this and want to make a career out of it, and they’ll respect it and start following.
MB: What is it like becoming a celebrity quickly and at a young age?
CC: I wouldn’t really consider myself a celebrity, I just get to do what I love doing and enjoy every second of it. This gig would be enjoyable for me even if people weren’t noticing, so it’s an added bonus that people have really taken interest to my work in the last couple of months.
I feel the same way as Chris. I would still like writing my blog even if I didn’t have as many readers. But I am lucky too that so many people give me good feedback.
MB: Who has helped you get to where you are?
CC: Everyone around the game has been extremely helpful (sources, other reporters), and of course my terrific support system at home (parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, teachers, principal).
MB: Is there anyone you met who you were really starstruck to meet?
CC: I am always really starstruck by members of the 2004 Red Sox team. Those guys wrote the story of one of the greatest memories of my childhood. I’ve gotten to meet most of them recently, and I’ve loved those opportunities.
MB: When you were at the Winter Meetings, did you get to be at the player introduction press conferences? What other cool things have you gotten to do?
CC: Yeah, I saw both Granderson and Saltalamacchia get introduced in addition to the Halladay retirement presser. Before that, I got to cover the World Series and ALCS at Fenway in October, which was also a tremendous experience.
MB: What are your 2014 postseason predictions before Spring Training starts?
CC: Honestly, it’s too early to tell for me. There are so many key players out there (Tanaka, Santana, Garza, Jimenez, Cruz) and a whole undeveloped trade market, so I will wait to see how the rest of the offseason pans out to make my predictions.
MB: Which team had the best offseason this year, in your opinion?
CC: Again, maybe too early to tell on that. There is still a ways to go. So far, I really like what the Rangers have done. Choo and Fielder will definitely make a difference for them next year, and they’re likely to add a starter as well.
MB: Being from Boston, are you a Red Sox fan, or now that you are a journalist are you just a fan of the game?
CC: I’m a fan of the game at this point. I try to root for people in the game who I know personally, and wish them the best if they have helped me out with my reporting. I was happy to see the Sox win the World Series last year because I’m still a fan of the city of Boston, and it was cool to see the entire city rally around something positive in October after what we went through in April.
MB: What do you like to do when not covering baseball?
CC: I really live the normal teenager’s life–homework, going to sporting events, eating, sleeping, hanging with friends, etc. I’m awake for like 19-20 hours a day, so there’s time to do a lot.
Chris is really getting a lot of respect as a baseball reporter. Using the internet, he found a way to be one of the best kid reporters in the country and also one of the most knowledgeable best baseball reporters period. He is a great role model for kids like me who love baseball and want to make a living writing when they grow up.
If you have know someone who would be interested in talking to me for a future interview, go to mattsbats.com/contact to send me a message. Check out this list of people who I have already interviewed.
NatsFest is January 25, 2014 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. I am so excited for it! I have been waiting all year for the 2014 NatsFest until they FINALLY announced it, and now it is just a few days away! In 2013, NatsFest was completely awesome. I went to almost everything, met a lot of people, and had a lot of fun at the after party. READ ALL ABOUT NATSFEST HERE.Here is my preview of the cool things you can do at 2014 NatsFest.
First of all, here is a map of the event. They have a lot of the same things as last year, but this year everything is on the same floor.
I am most looking forward to the autographs. We got some autograph vouchers, but they are already sold out, so I hope you already got yours. I also want to do the batting cages and player photo stations. We’ll look at the bobbleheads and the Clubhouse Store and Authentics, but probably won’t buy anything. I’m going to stop by the @Nationals booth.
There are also special events happening all day. Check out the Schedule.
There will be things going on from 10:00 until 3:00. The doors open early at 10:00 for season ticket holders and 11:00 for everyone else.
They haven’t announced which players are going to be at the photo stations, who will be signing autographs, and who will be doing player story times. I think that is a game day decision. I am definitely going to try to go to the Kids Press Conference at 1:45, but I think I have the 1:30 autograph session. There’s also a Player Instructional this year that could be interesting.
I don’t know for sure, but the Nats may also do a Wheel of Fortune-style game near the end because there’s something called “Fields of Fortune.” Last year the final game was Nationals Jeopardy! where three Nationals players answered Nats-related questions. It was one of the best things of the event.
Here are the players who are going to be at NatsFest according to the Nationals.com website:
- Jerry Blevins, LHP
- Tyler Clippard, RHP
- Ross Detwiler, LHP
- Danny Espinosa, 2B
- Doug Fister, RHP
- Gio Gonzalez, LHP
- Scott Hairston, Goon Squad
- Bryce Harper, OF
- Ryan Mattheus, RHP
- Tyler Moore, Goon Squad/1B/OF
- Ross Ohlendorf, RHP
- Anthony Rendon, 2B
- Tanner Roark, RHP
- Sammy Solis, LHP
- Steven Souza, OF
- Denard Span, OF
- Craig Stammen, RHP
- Drew Storen, RHP
- Stephen Strasburg, RHP
- Zach Walters, SS
- Jayson Werth, OF
- Matt Williams, MGR
Sadly, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche aren’t going to be there. I wished Desi was there because he is always a fan favorite. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche weren’t there last year either. I’m really hoping Ryan Zimmerman comes next year because he is one of the few players I have never gotten an autograph from. I also hope I get to meet some players I haven’t met before like Jerry Blevins, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark, and Ross Ohlendorf, and a few others. I also want to meet the OTHER “Matt the Bat,” Matt Williams (who also wears #9).
There was a story on Sunday that the National are looking to sign free agent closer Grant Balfour and possibly trade Drew Storen. Balfour would be a good addition, but I hope Storen doesn’t leave (Click here to read my interview with him from November). Fans would also like him. Nats fans loved singing “Take On Me” for Michael Morse’s at bats and would love to do the Rage when Balfour comes on to close. Anyway, I hope BOTH Storen and Balfour are at NatsFest.
I am also really looking forward to seeing some of the people who I have gotten to know online and at other events. I hope to tweet live from the event, so you should follow @MattsBats on Twitter. I’ll be wearing my white Nationals home jersey with “Matts Bats 9” on the back. See you later this week!
I love going to baseball games. It just brightens up my summer. When the season is over, there’s one thing that helps me remember my summer of baseball games: my collection of baseball memorabilia and giveaways from games.
Many of the things in my collection were given away as promotional items at games. The ball park giveaways make great souvenirs. I know that the giveaways are really a huge advertisement and a way to sell more game tickets, but they are still cool to get and collect.
At every stadium in the country, there are always fireworks, post-game concerts, hats, and t-shirts. A lot of promos are for adults only (especially, for some reason, in Baltimore), but sometimes there are kid-specific giveaways that only fans under 12 get. It’s a great way for teams to attract families to the game. The baseball teams want kids to become passionate fans of their home team, kind of like how I am about the Nationals.
Many teams have already announced their 2014 promotions and giveaways, including the Pirates, A’s, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, Rockies, Braves, Phillies, Reds, Twins, Red Sox, and Cardinals. The Nationals haven’t announced their promo items for 2014 yet, but I bet it’s coming soon. So I’m going to give my opinion about the promotions they should give out and list some of my faves from the other teams that have already announced their 2014 ballpark promotions.
First, the most popular giveaways at Nationals Park are the bobblehead days. I think there is a good argument that the bobbleheads in 2014 should feature Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Matt Williams. I think Werth should get a bobblehead because he really turned it on at the end of last year. Plus, it would be cool to see his beard on a bobblehead. Desi should get a bobblehead this year because he was a Silver Slugger for the second year in a row. However, Werth and Desmond were featured on bobbleheads in 2011. And maybe Matt Williams should get one to honor his first season as manager, but the Nationals just gave away Davey Johnson bobbleheads last year. So my guess for who will be on the 2014 Nationals bobbleheads are: Jordan Zimmermann (for his amazing pitching the past 2 seasons), Denard Span (for his error-less season and MLB-leading hit streak) and Tyler Clippard (for his clutch bullpen performances the past 2 years and because it would look cool with the goggles). My dad thinks Wilson Ramos will get one this year.
I like bobbleheads best when they present the players in their uniform, in action poses. Check out this dual Homer Bailey bobblehead the Reds are giving out to celebrate his 2 no-hitters. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a double bobblehead before!
I saw that the Angels are giving away Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver and Mike Trout gnomes instead of bobbleheads.
The Angels have great promotions, like this Mike Trout hat from last year.
I took at look around the MLB at which baseball teams have announced their 2014 giveaways, and here are my favorite promotions other teams are giving out:
2. Sergio Romo Superhero Socks (SFG)
3. NL Champions Ring (STL)
4. Hawaiian shirt (LAA)
5: Babe Ruth Bobblehead (LAD)
6: Fleece Blanket (LAD)
7: Replica ’64 WS Ring (STL)
8: ”Autographed” Baseball (LAD)
9: Yasiel Puig Fathead (LAD)
10: Homer Bailey Dual No-Hitter bobblehead (CIN)
I saw some other promotions from around the league that are kind of lame. The Mets are giving away Rainbow Loom rubber bands in Mets colors at one game. The Dodgers are giving away Hello Kitty mini bobbles and the Giants are giving away a Hello Kitty doll; although my three year old sister would probably like that. The Dodgers, however, have some of the best promos this year of any team, even though they are giving away a kind of stupid inflatable chair. It’s hard to get excited about a chair.
Here are some suggestions for promo items the Nats should give away.:
Lots of teams give away jerseys, and the Nats should give out a replica jersey for all fans with Harper’s name and number on the back.
They should also give water bottles. They did that a couple of years ago. They were very popular and we still use ours almost every day.
Maybe on June 17 (closest home game to Father’s Day), they should give away a tie.
It would be great to get a lunch box or cooler bag. I take my lunch to school in a Buster Posey cooler bag that the Giants sold at Safeway in the Bay Area
Some of the games early in the year and late in the year get cold, so they can giveaway fleece blankets.
Two things I would love to see, which some teams give out, are team baseball card sets (like the Blue Jays are doing) and Fatheads (like the Dodgers). How cool would it be to get an Ian Desmond Fathead?
Finally, Instead of the scarf they gave out last year, in 2014 the Nationals should end the season with a knit hat with a Jayson Werth beard attached to it, like the Mariners gave away last season. That’d keep your chin warm in January 2015!
Let’s keep an eye out for the 2014 Nationals Promotion Schedule. Share your ideas with me on Twitter @MattsBats, and I will tweet out some of the good ideas I hear from you!
A few weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down and talk to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. You probably have seen him reporting on Sports Center or Baseball Tonight, or live from games or at other baseball events.
When I met Tim, we talked for a long time. He was interesting to talk to and he gave some really good answers to my questions. For example, I asked him what is the craziest thing he’s ever seen happen in a game, and believe me: it is crazy! He’s seen maybe thousands of baseball games, so keep reading to see what Tim Kurkjian thinks is the craziest thing he has ever seen at a game.
He’s also a really nice person and knows more about baseball than almost anybody else in the country.
I’m really excited to share with you this Matt’s Bats Chat with Tim Kurkjian. Take it away, Tim!
Matt’s Bats: How did you get into journalism?
Tim Kurkjian: I got into journalism when I started writing for my high school paper, The Pitch, at Walter Johnson High School (in Bethesda, MD). Then I went to the University of Maryland and majored in Journalism. After that, I went to the Washington Star, then I went to Dallas Morning News, then I went to the Baltimore Sun, then I went to Sports Illustrated, and 17 years ago I went to ESPN. So, journalism is something that I’ve been really interested in for the last 40 years when I turned about 15 years old.
MB: What’s your favorite ballparks to visit?
TK: I have covered a game now in 58 different Major League stadiums and my favorite is still Fenway Park, just because it’s the oldest one. I love the history of the game. I love the tradition of the game. And the fact that that’s where Ted Williams played and that’s where Babe Ruth used to pitch – that stuff really means something to me. So I love all the new ballparks, including Camden Yards, but Fenway Park is my favorite.
MB: Who was your favorite player when you were my age?
TK: When I was your age, I had two favorite players. Eddie Brinkman was my favorite player on the Washington Senators because he was a little short stop who could really play defense and that was what I really liked to do when I was a kid. And my other favorite player when I was your age was Willie Mays. And even though he played for the San Francisco Giants and was 3000 miles away from me, he was the best player in the game. He was this iconic star. He’s the guy that I kind of hooked along with because I figured he’s the best player ever and I need to get closer to him.
MB: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen fans or players do during a game?
TK: I saw Bo Jackson one night in Baltimore. I watched him run to try and catch a fly ball. And he caught it and he didn’t have time to stop himself from running into the fence. So he kind of ran up the fence and around the fence. It’s a famous ESPN highlight now. But he almost looked like a race car going around a curved and ramped track. He kind of ran up the fence and down without ever touching it. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
MB: What kinds of lessons can the game of baseball teach kids?
TK: Baseball can teach a very important life lesson about teamwork. There’s nothing better than being on a team. And that’s what Major League Baseball teaches us, that’s what Little League baseball teaches us, that’s what high school baseball teaches us. You have teammates that you have to look after. You have teammates that you have to take care of no matter what. The winning and the losing of the game is really important, but the loyalty to your teammates is what this is all about, whether its on the Major League level or anywhere else. Teamwork expands well beyond baseball. When you go to work, you have teammates there, too, and you have to look after each other.
MB: What do you expect in 2014 in baseball?
Listen to Tim’s answer:
TK: I expect a bunch of surprises, just like this year. I didn’t expect the Red Sox to win the pennant or win the World Series. I thought they would come in last place. I thought the Nationals would win the World Series and they didn’t even finish in the playoffs. So 2014 is going to be filled with surprises but I think the Nationals are going to play the Tigers in the World Series in 2014. If I’m right, that will probably be the first time I’ve ever been right this far in advance.
[Tim gave this answer before the Nationals acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers, and before the Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. On Dec. 31, Kurkjian said on ESPN that he still predicted the Nationals would win the World Series and that Bryce Harper would win the Triple Crown. FINGERS CROSSED!]
MB: What’s your favorite baseball-related memory?
TK: My favorite memory is the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. That was more than a baseball story, that was a story about commitment. It was a story about loyalty. It was a story about love of a team and a neighborhood and a state. It was about a player that went out there and tried as hard, and played every single day for 15 years in a row. That’s what made that so special. I’ve covered over 3000 Major League games, but that was probably the most special night that I’ve ever spent in a Major League ballpark.
MB: What are your favorite things to do in DC?
TK: Number one is to go to the Nationals games, since I love baseball and I love going to the ballpark. I love to go to the Orioles games, which is in Baltimore, but its still the DC area. Sometimes I like to go watch the Wizards play or the University of Maryland play because I’m a big basketball fan also. But beyond all that, I still love going to the museums and the landmarks in DC, whether it’s the Lincoln Memorial or the Air and Space Museum, whatever it is, that’s where I like to go.
MB: Tell me something about yourself that’s not baseball related?
TK: I really, really love basketball. I still like to play even though I’m 56 years old. I still love to go to watch high school basketball games. And I mostly love now to go to Syracuse University, where my son goes and my daughter used to go. And when I go there I love to watch the Syracuse basketball team because, other than the University of Maryland where I went to school, that’s my new home basketball team. Everybody knows that I cover baseball for a living, but basketball is my second love and I really like being around that and that’s my hobby in the offseason – watching and playing basketball.
That’s all I have for now of my interview of Tim Kurkjian. I really want to thank him for talking to me and all of you for reading this. If you know other interesting people who’d be interested in talking to me, send me an email.