The Nationals Overthrow King Felix

felixindistress The hype going into Felix Hernandez’s start against the Nationals in the DC twitterverse on Friday was unreal.  It was the first time the Nationals were facing King Felix, who is the best right handed pitcher in all of baseball.  The stats were scary.

Like Dave Jageler said:

 

Many fans were hoping for the best and wishing the Nats good luck.

Coming off the 3-game sweep by the Phillies in Philadelphia, there was one thing no one was seriously confident would happen: winning.

Even after Anthony Rendon launched the first pitch he ever saw from Hernandez over the wall in the top of the first, when Seattle scored two runs in the bottom of the inning and Jordan Zimmermann had some control problems, the game may have seemed to be over. But it wasn’t. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Wilson Ramos all connected on home runs off Felix.  The Nats hit 4 home runs off Hernandez, the most he has ever given up in his career.  In fact, he hadn’t given up more than 1 home run this whole season.

That was not it for the Nationals.  Bryce Harper and Ramos joined the party too (off former Nats reliever Joe Beimel) to guide the Nats to a surprise 8-3 victory over the Mighty Mariners.

This was a shocker around the country. I was sure I would wake up to see that the Nationals lost this game. It’s a good thing they won, since Atlanta beat the Mets.  The Nats victory keeps them 6 games ahead in the NL East and lowers the magic number to 23.

We’ve faced the biggest challenge in Seattle, now let me tell you an amazing fact:

Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nationals have played the Mariners 10 times and have won all 10 games.

Tonight, the Nats try to clinch the series by beating Rookie Roenis Elias, and then play Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday.

#SinkTheMariners

Back To School: 10 Lessons from the Nationals 10 Game Homestand

spanwalkoff The Nationals have been on an epic tear. Even after dropping the past two games to the Phillies, the Nats have won 12 of their last 15 contests, with 5 of them being decided by a walk off. The Nats, have now surpassed the O’s , who got swept by the Cubs this weekend for the largest division lead in baseball. As I am writing this, they are 7.5 games up on the Braves in the NL East, so there is comfort going into September and (hopefully) the postseason.

The Nats are on the road now for 9 games, after finishing a 10-game homestand.  We learned a lot of things over that time, as they played 7 games against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona D-Backs, and 3 pivotal games against the Giants.   Here is a recap of some of the lessons the Nats taught us fans over the past couple of weeks and a way to remember these great games.

AUG 15- Nationals 5, Pirates 4 Don’t be so confident with your lead. The Nats jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the 5th inning, but the Pirates made a comeback making it look like Pittsburgh would break the Nats 3 game winning streak.  The Pirates comeback was highlighted by a 2 run home run by Starling Marte off Tanner Roark in the 4th inning and a RBI single by Pedro Alvarez in the 9th with two down to make it a 5-4 game – it looked like the Pirates would make the Nats walk the plank. Luckily, Rafael Soriano got Josh Harrison to pop out to end the game. You can not be comfortable even with a lead playing against a team like the Pirates.

AUG 16- Nationals 4, Pirates 3 Believe in the bottom of the order. Oh sure, he regularly bats 7th or 8th on a daily basis, but never count out the lively bat of Wilson Ramos! The Nats fell behind 3-0 in the 3rd inning, and it stayed that way until the eighth inning, when a Kevin Frandsen RBI single and an Anthony Rendon double play set up a game tying two run home run by Adam LaRoche, and in the 9th, Wilson Ramos laced a RBI double into the bullpen in right field on a bounce to end the game.

AUG 17- Nationals 6, Pirates 5  It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.  When the Nats were down 2-0 on errors by Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond hit an RBI single that closed the gap and made it a 2-1 game. It seems like the Nationals learned from the errors but the Pirates didn’t, because Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez made back-to-back blunders to give the Nats 3 runs and a 4-2 lead. In the 9th, Rafael Soriano threw a wild pitch to make it a 4-3 game, and then Gregory Polanco hit a RBI double off the wall to score two and to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead. The Nats didn’t give up, though.  Luckily, Asdrubal Cabrera came through big time with a RBI single and in the 11th, Scott Hairston walked the Nats off with a sac fly. Sweep!

AUG 18- Nationals 5, D-Backs 4 Don’t get discouraged. Rookie outfielder Jake Lamb started the scoring for the Diamondbacks with a sacrifice fly in the 5th, but Wilson Ramos answered with a two run liner off Vidal Nuno over the 402 sign in centerfield. Didi Gregorius put Arizona on top with a two run home run in the 8th, but the Nats’ Bats answered in the bottom of the inning with a RBI triple by Rendon and a sacrifice fly by Werth to put the Nats ahead 4-3. That lead didn’t last long. David Peralta hit a home run to tie the game, and no one scored until Adam LaRoche unloaded for a walk-off home run on a big, fat curveball by Will Harris.  The Nationals didn’t get discouraged and give up.  Instead, they stayed in it the whole game and walked off the winners.

AUG 19- Nationals 8, D-Backs 1 Extra-innings “free baseball” and walkoffs are fun, but sometimes easy games are more fun.  After Stephen Strasburg battled with David Peralta in the 1st and eventually gave up a solo shot to him, Stras settled down. However, the Nats’ bats didn’t. They scored six in the 3rd, highlighted by a bases clearing double by Asdrubal Cabrera. Ian Desmond added with a 2 run single, and Jerry Blevins K’d Aaron Hill to end the contest.  It was a nice, normal and high scoring game, and it didn’t take 4 hours like the last 2 games.

AUG 20- Nationals 3, D-Backs 2 But walkoffs are fun and exciting too! Wilson Ramos opened up the scoring in the 2nd, beating out a potential double play by Bryce Harper’s takeout slide. In the 6th, Jayson Werth doubled in Asdrubal Cabrera to make it a 2-0 game. However, Ender Inciarte hit a home run to right field to tie the game in the 8th inning off Tyler Clippard. Anthony Rendon singled near the chalk past the diving Cliff Pennington to end the game with a series-clinching walkoff.  Three of the last four games ended with this kind of excitement.

AUG 21- Nationals 1, D-Backs 0  Sometimes you just get lucky.  With all the goose eggs on the board through 9 innings, this game didn’t look like it was going to be as exciting as the last few games. Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez were locked in an epic pitchers’ duel. There was a lot of loading the bases then striking out to leave the runners stranded. In the 9th, Denard Span singled and stole second, then Anthony Rendon grounded a ball to the third baseman Jordan Pacheco, but he threw it away.  Because Span was running on contact, he was in between 2nd and 3rd already. The ball bounced into the camerawell and Span was awarded home.  This proves that there are lots of different ways to walk off, and sometimes you get lucky breaks.

AUG 22- Nationals 3, Giants 10 Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a missed catch on a stolen base attempt by 2B Joe Panik, but he would make up for that. In the 4th inning, Panik lifted one over the centerfield fence for his first MLB home run, scoring three and giving San Francisco the lead. Jayson Werth productively homered on a laser to left field, but the Giants answered with Buster Posey’s 15th homer of the season in the 6th. Travis Ishikawa made it a 6-2 game with a two run double, and Ross Detwiler struggled in the 9th, to give San Francisco a commanding 10-2 lead. Wilson Ramos hit an RBI double in the bottom of the 9th, but pitcher Juan Gutierrez shut the door in the 9th for the Giants, ending the Nats’ ten game winning streak.  This just shows that sometimes you win big, and sometimes you lose big.  Hang in there!

AUG 23- Nationals 6, Giants 2 Never give up on your team. After Hunter Pence tomahawked a 0-2 pitch over the out of town scoreboard in right-center field, the Nats may have seemed to lose confidence. But they tied the game on a double play in the bottom of the first, and tacked on three more runs to make it a 5-2 Nats lead. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit home run number 11 for the season (CLE/WSH). The game remained 6-2, and after Tim Lincecum was pulled, Yusmeiro Petit pitched 5 1/3 innings of perfect ball. He has been shutting down, but Jordan Zimmerman was a tad better, only giving up the Pence home run. In the 9th, Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse singled off Matt Thornton, but he grounded Joe Panik into a double play and got Andrew Susac to fly out with a runner at third to end the game.  It was a nice way to make up for the big loss the day before.

AUG 24- Nationals 14, Giants 6 Did you hear me?  Never give up on your team!  I was at the Sunday matinee game, and it was a great one!  Gregor Blanco led off the game with a home run into section 141, where my family was actually sitting at the time. The Giants added another run on a Travis Ishikawa dinger, and the Giants tacked on three in the 3rd to make it a 5-0 game. That’s about when we decided to get up from our seats and move somewhere else in the stadium for a change of view.  Adam LaRoche and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled in runs in the 4th to make it a 5-2 game, but Hunter Pence hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 in the 6th. It seemed like the game was slipping away, but here is where the excitement started. Ian Desmond crushed a solo shot over the bullpen off Ryan Vogelsong, and Bruce Bochy quickly changed Vogelsong to usually good lefty Jeremy Affeldt. Against Jose Lobaton, Affeldt threw a wild pitch to him AND gave up a RBI single. Scott Hairston doubled to tie the game at 6, and Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche had back-to-back RBI singles to make it a 8-6 game. The Nats actually batted around the order.  Denard Span added on with a RBI single in the 7th. Ian Desmond hit a RBI single in the 8th, followed by home runs from Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa. Rafael Soriano K’d Michael Morse to end the game.  Even when it looked like the Nats would lose the game and the series to the Giants down by 5 in the 3rd inning, they didn’t give up and battled back to a commanding win by over 8 runs in the end.

 Now that most kids are back at school, or will be going back next week, these are some great lessons to take into the last month of the season and the playoffs.  The Nationals lost Monday and Tuesday to the Phillies on the road and have a tough road trip against the Dodgers and Mariners ahead.  Even with a current 7.5 game lead going into the stretch, they play the Braves 6 more times and have a couple of series against other NL East rivals.  If they don’t do as well in the future, we need to keep these lessons in mind, because this may have been the greatest stretch of baseball in Nationals history and it was so much fun for the fans!

Matt’s Bats Chat with Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos

DSC_0178aOn Saturday, August 16, I attended the Wilson Ramos Parent & Child Baseball Experience presented by Washington Celebrity Baseball, Celebrity Sports Camps, and D.C. Elite Baseball.  The Camp was at Shipley Field at the University of Maryland. The camp gave instruction to kids about different baseball skills, like hitting, fielding, and pitching.  After the kids had their turn, a bunch of dads also took BP in the cage.  “We had a lot of really good kids show up today who were eager to play baseball,” said Andrew Lang, who ran the camp.  “The pros that were out here, Wilson Ramos, Mike O’Connor [former Nationals pitcher], and Derek Hacopian [former University of Maryland star and Indians draftee], really put on a great clinic with us.  The weather and the field helped to make it a perfect day.”

The small group of about 30 campers were able to do drills right on the field that Maryland’s baseball team plays on.  Wilson Ramos even got down and coached kids at the catching station on how to play like a major leaguer.  My group started out at infield, and I won a contest for who could throw a baseball the farthest.

Wilson talked with everyone, took pictures, and signed autographs.  At the end, I was able to pull Wilson aside and ask him a few questions.  Here is my Matt’s Bats Chat with Wilson Ramos.

Matt’s Bats – What’s your favorite thing to do on an off-day?

Wilson Ramos – I like to enjoy it with my family.  I have a 10 day old daughter and I like to enjoy it with her and my wife, make a lunch and dinner.  I like to do that.

MB – What’s it like being a baseball player and a dad?

WR – It feels great.  Its an amazing experience.  The first time I saw her, I loved my daughter.  I love to play and everything I do now, I do it for her.  It makes me feel happy and ready to go play hard everyday.

MB – What tips do you have for kids who want to be catchers?

WR – First step is you need to be strong.  Catchers get a lot of hits behind the plate and not too many guys can play that position.  It’s hard.

MB – You have a six game lead over the Braves in the NL East.  What’s the mood in the clubhouse?

WR – Everybody is feeling great.  Everybody feels happy right now that we’re in first place in our Division.  Everybody is doing a great job.  Everybody feels happy with what we are doing.  We’re playing hard right now and trying to get into the playoffs.

I also challenged Wilson to the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS, but he tuned it down.  I don’t blame him, because he didn’t have other clothes to change into.  However, he would later get doused with cold Gatorade in the game that night as he walked off against the Pirates by a score of 4-3!

A few days later, Wilson tweeted that he did the official Ice Bucket Challenge and also challenged Miguel Cabrera.

Wilson was great with his fans, and the camp was a lot of fun.  Follow @Allstars_S2 on Twitter to learn about other camps and sports-related events in the DC area.

Matt’s Bats Does The “Ice Bucket Challenge” and I Challenge…

icebucketFor a couple of weeks, people around the country have been taking the “ice bucket challenge” by dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to raise awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

This past 4th of July was the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” retirement speech, and June 2 was the 73rd anniversary of his death. He died as a young man, not even in his forties yet. He was an amazing baseball player– Hall of Famer, 7 time All Star, 6 time World Series winner, and played most consecutive games until Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record in 1995– and I have heard that he was supposed to be very nice to fans. But how Gehrig died is the most important part of his story.

On July 4, 1939, Gehrig gave a speech to the fans at Yankee Stadium ending his career at the age 35.  Gehrig’s words became known as the Gettysburg Address of baseball, and is probably the most famous speech in sports history. His most famous line is: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Earlier this year MLB first basemen from all around the league made a video to honor the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s speech.

 

When Lou Gherig gave his famous farewell speech, he was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  It later became better known from that time on as just ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  ALS is a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It causes things like trouble speaking, swallowing, and breathing.  After Gehrig died, people have been looking for cures for this deadly disease, but after 70+ years of research, no one has been able to find a cure.

To raise money and awareness for the ALS Association, people have been taking the Ice Bucket Challenge and have been tagging their videos with #IceBucketChallenge on Twitter and challenging their friends to do it too.  Famous Nats people to have done it include Bryce Harper and ScreechLots of other MLB’ers have done it too.

Last night, I did it too!  See my video below of me taking the Ice Bucket Challenge.

 

Now that I have done the Ice Bucket Challenge,

I CHALLENGE ALL THE NATIONALS ARCHIVE ARCHIVISTS to do it too!

Archive

(Except for Brendan, who has already done it)

For those of you who don’t know, the Nats Archive is a group of die-hard Washington Nationals fans who make all sorts of funny photoshops and jokes.  Check out their website at www.thenationalsarchive.com and @NatsArchive on Twitter.

I can’t wait to see all your videos!  Let’s see if we can get all the Nats fan base and players in on it.  I challenge everyone who reads this to do the challenge or make a donation to the ALS Association!

Visit www.alsa.org to learn more about ALS and to donate money for a cure.

Visit http://www.alsa.org to learn more about ALS and to donate money for a cure.

Petco Park Is Perfect

DSC_0049This spring and summer, I have traveled to some of America’s newest and oldest baseball ballparks, and I just got back from San Diego’s Petco Park.  Let me tell you: I have a new favorite ballpark!

The stadium was family-friendly and had breathtaking views, like the panoramic view of the city’s skyline.  The concourses were open and pretty.  My mom said it felt like a hotel!  They had a lot of local food options, like the excellent Phil’s BBQ, Filippi’s pizza, and places to get tacos and tri-tip.

I visited Petco Park on July 31, which happened to be Trade Deadline Day.  We arrived at the stadium at around 11 am PST to claim the press passes from the media gate that the Padres left for us and to go into the press box before the game started at 12:40 pm.

The ballpark was filled with lots of other kids because it was camp day at the ballpark, and everyone seemed befuddled when I walked through the media gate. They must have been thinking, “why is this kid walking into the media gate?!?”

Unlike Nationals Park, which has the highest press box in the country, the press box at Petco Park is on level two.

Before the game started, we took a few pictures on the field and watched a little bit of MLB Network because they were talking about all the trades going on.

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While sitting in the press box, we learned that Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia was traded to the Mariners.  We also got a tour of the press box from Patrick, who works in Media Relations for the Padres.  First, he showed me where the print journalists sit, with the wide open view of the field.  All of the journalists were searching on their computers to confirm trade rumors.

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We then went to the broadcasting center. We first met the radio voice of the Padres, Ted Leitner of XPRS 1090 AM. After meeting Ted and talking about how Petco Park’s broadcast booth compared to the booth at Wrigley Field (where the Padres had just played and where I visited in June), Patrick took me to meet Fox TV broadcasters Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg.  We talked with them for a while, and Dick quizzed me about the baseball player Mat Batts.  He was surprised that I knew he was a catcher for the Twins, and he said he remembered when Batts used to play.  I stayed around for a minute while to watch them do their intro for TV, but we didn’t want to disturb them too much.

Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg of Fox TV

Mark Sweeney and Dick Enberg of Fox TV

Patrick then brought out a surprise for me and my brother: a swag bag made up of lots of the promo items that the Padres gave away this year.  The bag included t-shirts, sunglasses, a beach towel, a travel blanket, a gumball machine, a Petco Park 10 year anniversary photo, and my favorite-a fedora.

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We left the press box and then we watched the game. We sat right behind the plate in the upper deck, which, as you can see below, was a fabulous view.  Our section, Section 300, is actually right on top of the press box.  Sitting above the press box is not something you can do at Nationals Park or PNC Park, because the press boxes there at the very top of the stadium.

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The game was good, but not the most exciting.  In the 2nd inning, there were three home runs. Oscar “Minor League Guy” Taveras homered in the top of the inning, to put the Cards on top 2-0. Jedd Gyorko answered in the bottom of the 2nd with a home run to right that cut the Cardinal lead in half.  Will Venable added on with a solo shot of his own. However, the Cards proved victorious at the end of the day, winning 6-2.

After the 7th inning stretch, we went for a walk around the ballpark.  I discovered that Petco Park is a beautiful place with lots to do and many great places to sit, relax and watch the game.  If I go again, I would recommend spending a lot more time in the Park at the Park.

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The Park at the Park is open to the public when there is no game.  You have a view of the outfield and can visit the Tony Gwynn “Mr. Padres” statue.  During the game, you pay only $5 and can sit and watch the game from the grass on a picnic blanket behind center field.

Petco Park also has a little beach area with sand and beach toys for kids and bleachers which is right up against the centerfield wall.  If you go, I’d recommend sitting where we did (section 300), the Bleachers, or a picnic blanket at Park at The Park. I’d also recommend sitting in Section 134, which is literally right next to the stacked home and visitors bullpens.  You have a great view of the bullpens from an open stairway, but you can be even closer to the action all game from Section 134.  Most of the seats are in the sun, except for some of the 200 seats.  I think by the afternoon, the 3rd base side starts to get shady.  This is important because it is so sunny in San Diego.

I love Petco Park, and I hope to go  back.  Take a look at some of the photos we took and some other fun facts about the stadium and the game experience.

  • San Diego is a military town, and  they do a military appreciation between the 1st and 2nd innings, kind of like what the Nationals do to honor service members and their families. Instead of having them all sitting in one place, the Padres ask the military members stand up where they are sitting so that people all over the ballpark can recognize them and clap for them.
  • On the 300 level along the 1st base line, you can see the organist play music.

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  • The bullpens are stacked in left-center field.  You can get a great view of them from one of the stairways and sit right behind the visitors in Section 134.

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  • Park at the Park has a sandbox in centerfield so kids can play while the parents watch the game.  This is such a cool feature.

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  • After a home run, the Padres play a clip of the whistle from the USS Ronald Reagan. At night, they blow the whistle and put on fireworks in straightaway centerfield.
  • The left field foul pole is painted on the side of the Western Metal supply building, as you can see in this photo.

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  • In the outfield by The Park at the Park, there is a mini baseball field for kids to play on dubbed Bumble Bee Stadium.  Kids bring balls and gloves to the game and actually play on it during the Padres games.

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  • The  scoreboard not only tells you how fast a pitch was, it also says what pitch was thrown.
  • There are player facts shown on the scoreboard when a player–home or visitor–comes up to bat.
  • The concourse on the field level is wide open, with lots of flowers and plants, and you have a view of the field from the concourse area.  It’s really very pretty.  There are lots of different stands to buy souvenirs or food.  They also have games like a place where you can see how fast you can pitch.

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I have had lots of different baseball experiences this summer, including amazing trips to Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Wrigley Field, and PNC Park.   They were all great for different reasons.  In terms of which ballpark is the nicest, Petco Park is the winner.  It has to be one of the best places to watch a day game anywhere in the country, right up there with AT&T Park in San Francisco and Wrigley Field.

Happy Two Year Birthday, Matt’s Bats!

beee9-mattsbatslogo-hiresOn Wednesday, July 25, 2012, my mom and I went into my dad’s office in our house and went online to start a blog for me to write about baseball. That was exactly 2 years ago!

From the time I wrote my first post about Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate leaving the Marlins for LA, I have had a lot of great experiences.  In August 2013, MLB Advanced Media asked me to write for MLBlogs as a “Pro.”  In all that time, I have had some great experiences, like interviewing Nationals players, visiting ballparks and learning how a baseball game is broadcasted, interviewing Justin Verlander at the Bob Feller Act of Valor Awards, meeting Nats fans, and raising over $11,000 for cancer charity last year.   I have had a lot of fun and success and when I have grandkids, I’ll tell them the stories and show them pictures of what I did when I was a  child back in “the good old days.”

This Friday, MattsBats.com will turn two years old. For me, these two years have flown by.  It has been just amazing how many posts I have written. A lot of people keep telling me that my posts keep getting better and better.

I would like to share some of the posts that are my favorites.  It is hard to pick just a few, but these are some of the ones I remember most from the past 2 years.  (Also click on the links in the paragraph on top, because those are also some of my favorite posts and experiences).

July 24, 2012- posted 7/25/12

This was my first post ever. I wrote it about the then-recent trade of Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the newly named Marlins to the Dodgers in exchange for now-Fish starter Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. I also posted some “Nats News”where I just listed that Ronny Cedeno singled in a run and that Tyler Clippard K’d former Met Ike Davis looking to end a 5-2 2012 Nats win. It wasn’t, well, a masterpiece  but it would do. That was the beginning of Matt’s Bats.

Thanks New Twitter Friends!- posted 1/18/13

I had started tweeting out links to my posts on Twitter on November 20, 2012.  On the morning of January 18, 2013, and I had only 37 followers when we checked before we left to go to school. After getting off the school bus, I learned that my Twitter had tripled to 120 followers because @FakeFP #FF’d me. That was before @NatsArchive existed and @JWerthsBeard didn’t even follow and #FF me yet to its 13,000 followers!  I’ll never forget the yell of excitement I made when I learned that I had over 100 followers.  That scream may have made the other neighbors and the other students and parents think I was a freak. But it was all just awesomeness. It was so exciting in the offseason where there’s not a lot going on.  Now, I have almost 1,000 more people following me on Twitter than I did on the night of January 18, 2013.

Behind The Scenes Of My First Ever Live TV Appearance- posted 2/28/13

On the morning of the crisp winter of 2013, I was practicing my butt off  in preparation for my first ever live TV interview with Dave Ross on Fox 5 News. It was very exciting because I was going to be on TV live!  Everyone watching Fox in the DC metro area and online could see my interview. I didn’t know what questions Dave would ask me.  And I was also only eight!  That was a big moment in my life, and Dave would ask me to come on his Nats pre-game or post-game show a lot in 2013 before he moved to 120Sports.

A Matt’s  Bats Chat With Heather Zimmerman- posted 3/4/13

This is still my most popular post ever! For my first ever Matt’s Bats Chat interview, I talked with Nats star Ryan Zimmerman’s wife about what it is like to be the wife of a baseball player. It is very interesting, and even I go back and read it over and over.  I love this post, and I’ll never forget it.  Heather has been really nice to me.

Matt’s Bats Turns Pro- posted 8/26/13

This was my final post on the day I debuted as a Pro Blogger on the MLBlogs.com website.  I became MLB’s youngest Pro blogger.  A couple months later, I was named one of MLB.com’s top 100 blogs, a huge accomplishment for me.

My Amazing Experience At Marlins Park- posted 4/24/14

I went down to Miami to see the Nats take on the Fish, and I went on the field, and I also saw Jose Fernandez, got Giancarlo Stanton’s  autograph, interviewed Zach Walters, and took home a bunch of baseballs. I also saw a great game and a Nats road win.

Those were just some of my amazing things I did in the past two years.

But here are some things I’d like to accomplish in a year before Matt’s Bats turns 3:

Matt’s Bats Meets Matt The Bat

I would love to interview Matt Williams. He is a great manager and is leading the Nationals to a run at the NL East title.  Who can help me score a Matt’s Bats Chat with Matt The Bat?

Get Up To 1,500 Twitter Followers

Currently I have over 1,000 Twitter followers, including some great fans, players and broadcasters.  But wouldn’t it be great to get up to like 1,500?  It would be amazing if I did, and I think that is possible if you keep RT’ing and telling people about my site.

Visit More Ballparks

I’ve been to games at Nationals Park, Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park, Marlins Park, and Wrigley Field.  Soon I’m going to add Petco Park and probably Citizens Bank Park too.  I would love to be able to go to more games (especially Nats games) on the road.

Not only have I gotten so many great experiences, met so many people, and learned so much, I believe the most important part of my blog and the reason I made it to two years is because you guys keep reading and tweeting and encouraging me. Thank you so much for your support and I hope to write more and more posts throughout the year.  Now, Nats Fans:

ShredtheReds#ShredTheReds

 and

#IGNITE YOUR

MattitudeChickenMan(@mimiph)

 

 

 

The Top 5 Nats Surprises From The First Half

fdf20-tyler10122 As the first half of the 2014 MLB season ended on Sunday in a Nats 10-3 victory over the Phillies, Tanner Roark picked up his long awaited 8th victory after two losses against the Cubs back to back. He tied Doug Fister for the Nats team lead in wins. When the season began, who would have thought the #4 and #5 starters would lead the rotation in wins, behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann?

That was 0nly one of the many surprises that came the Nats’ way during the first half of the season. They have overcome injuries, switched players around the diamond and the batting order, and still found a way to end the first half in a tie for a first place. The Nats kept winning even as the Braves won 9 in a row, and the streak, which ended on July 6, only helped the Braves gain a half game on the Nats. Here are some of the surprises that I’ve noticed throughout the first few months.

Number 1- Anthony Rendon as the young star on the team, not Bryce Harper

anthonyrrrendonno6When most people hear anything about the Nats’ young talent on the big league squad, chances are that Bryce Harper is the main part of that discussion. But the real star this year has been Anthony Rendon. Sadly missing a well-deserved trip to Minneapolis for the All Star Game, Rendon is hitting .287 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs, compared to Bryce’s .244 average with 2 home runs and 11 ribbies. Harper did go on the DL from April 27 to June 29, a big chunk of time due to a thumb injury. That may have affected his success in the weeks since he came back, with the hurt thumb getting in the way of his swing. Harper did tater on Friday’s contest vs. the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love. But most people were expecting to see a monster junior season from Bryce, but Rendon has a sophomore surge going in to the game on Friday.

Number 2- Tanner Roark and Doug Fister- Tied for Team Lead In Wins

FisterA baseball fan who knew the Nationals rotation would probably say “Strasburg” if asked who they thought who would have the most wins on the team, probably also adding a “duh.” They would be stunned to hear that Nats clutch men Tanner Roark and Doug Fister have had monster seasons. They have been spectacular and they are making headlines. Fister, acquired in a deal with the Tigers for now-AAA Oriole Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and minor leaguer Robbie Ray, has been top-notch.  He’s never or scarcely faced most of the opposition hitters, since he changed leagues. Roark, on the other hand, was acquired from the Rangers with minor leaguer Ryan Tatusko in exchange for infielder Cristian Guzman. Roark has had some struggles lately against his hometown Cubs, but he has been a great piece to a ballclub that has been winning, thanks to these two guys.

Number 3- Ryan Zimmerman- First Baseman, Left Fielder, or Third Baseman?

Ryan Zimmerman- Mr. Walkoff (Part 2)  Ryan Zimmerman, since coming off the DL June 3, has been sort of a utility man. Coming back before Bryce Harper, Ryan was asked to play left field- and did very well. He made his first play in left field on a hit by Chase Utley that hung up just enough that Zim could jog over and make a two handed catch. His breakout game was in Milwaukee on June 24 (or 25th because it ended in the middle of the night). Anyway, he homered in the sixteenth inning to break the 2-2 tie at 1:20 AM ET and made a diving catch later that inning to seal the 4-2 win. But on June 15, Zim played a different position- 1st base. In the 5-2 loss against the Cardinals, Zim made his first career start at first, and did pretty well. And since Bryce Harper has returned, Zim is again a 3rd baseman. We will see what position Zimmerman will play if injuries strike again.

Number 4- Bullpen Has Been Awesome

55f1b-storen3 One main factor in the Nats’ success is their bullpen. Everyone has been lights-out. Aaron Barrett is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA, Tyler Clippard is 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA and is an All-Star, Rafael Soriano is 1-0 with a 0.97 ERA and surprisingly did not get a trip to Minneapolis, Craig Stammen has an unconvincing 0-4 record but a nice 3.78 ERA, Drew Storen is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA, and Blake Treinen has been really good in and out between the bullpen and rotation. The bullpen has been so good that all of it should have made it to the Twin Cities. Instead, only one, Clippard, made it.

Number 5- Contending Despite Injuries

RamosMy last surprise is that the Nats have been contenders or on top the NL East with somebody hurt since the 7th inning of Opening Day, as Jose Lobaton took over Wilson Ramos’s spot catching. Sandy Leon and Loby did a great job switching off catching in Wilson’s two DL stints. The Nats kept fighting off injuries. The combo of Nate McLouth before Zim came back and Mr. Walkoff himself played the position for a month was very good. McLouth wasn’t as helpful offensively, though. For a while he had one home run and a solo RBI coming on that homer vs. San Diego. Anthony Rendon played stellar 3rd base filling in for Zimmerman while he was hurt and when he was in left field, and a combination of Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen played great 2nd base. Tyler Moore and Greg Dobbs played good 1st base while Adam LaRoche was out, and Taylor Jordan and Blake Treinen proved to be good rotation fillers if a starter was injured.

Like my picks? If you can name anymore surprises, be sure to tweet to me @MattsBats.

Also, check out some of my favorite posts from the first half of the 2014 season:

 

 

 

 

Who’s Your Favorite Player’s Favorite Player?

Earlier this summer, I had the awesome chance to ask a few of my favorite Nationals players who their favorite player growing up was, and what their favorite ballpark to visit is.  This was a great experience to chat with the players.

Here is what Drew Storen, Ross Detwiler, Denard Span, Wilson Ramos and Livan Hernandez each had to say.

Who Was Your Favorite Player Growing Up?

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Ken Griffey Jr.

Both Drew Storen and Denard Span said that Ken Griffey Jr was their favorite player growing up.  “I remember watching a lot of his highlights as a kid and I just fell in love with him,” Span said.  Storen may have gotten to see Griffey play in person, because his family used to take him on birthday baseball trips, and they went to Seattle once.

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Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez

Wilson Ramos said his favorite player was Pudge Rodriguez because “he was the most popular catcher in the big leagues.  It must have been pretty cool for him to play on the Nationals 2011 team together.

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Randy Johnson

Ross Detwiler really liked watching Randy Johnson.  Johnson played for a lot of teams, including the Expos, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Giants, but he never played for Detwiler’s hometown St. Louis Cardinals.  However, they are both left handed pitchers, so it makes sense that Detwiler would look up to him.

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Livan Hernandez loved Nolan Ryan.  “He threw a lot of innings and worked really hard on the mound.  He is my favorite pitcher of all time.”  Nolan Ryan was known for his fastball and MLB record 7 career no-hitters.  Livan may not have thrown as fast as Nolan Ryan, but Hernandez was a World Series MVP, which is something Nolan Ryan can’t claim.

 

What Is Your Favorite Ballpark to Visit on the Road?

Interestingly, none of the players I talked to had the same favorite ballpark.  I guess there are a lot of great parks out there to visit!

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Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark

Wilson Ramos said his favorite visiting ballpark is Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati because “the ball flies in that stadium and you hit a lot of homers.”  Last year, Ramos hit 2 home runs in one game against the Reds.  The Nationals return to Cincinnati at the end of July.

Ballpark Bash: AT&T Park vs. Nationals Park

San Francisco’s AT&T Park

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Pittsburgh’s PNC Park

Drew Storen has 2 favorite ballparks to visit AT&T Park in San Francisco, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I have visited both and they are beautiful.  Check out my posts about those trips by clicking on the links above.

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Anaheim’s Angels Stadium

Denard Span likes Angel Stadium in Anaheim because it has a nice field.  He played there a lot as a member of the Minnesota Twins, but the Nationals have not played there since Span joined the National League.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit Angels Stadium when I go to California later in July.

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Chicago’s Wrigley Field

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Phoenix’s Chase Field

Livan Hernandez likes both Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. I’ve never been to Arizona, but  I was in Chicago earlier this year to see the Nats play.  Wrigley Field is a historic place to watch baseball.

All of these players came out to support the Bethesda Big Train.  The Big Train is a collegiate summer baseball league that plays in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League. They play in Cabin John Regional Park.

They also put on a camp in the summer for kids, including a special Nationals-theme camp.  During the day we did drills and played baseball games with the Big Train players as our coaches.  My coaches were Wes Rea (1B, Mississippi State University),  Cody Brown (OF, Mississippi State University), Bo Logan (P, Florida Atlantic University), Tim Yandel (P, Tulane University), Josh Thorne (P, Stetson University), Tony DiLeo (C, Eastern Michigan University), and Jacob Billingsley (P, Mississippi State University).  The best part was that each day a current or former Nats player or mascot came to visit during lunch. Everyone who came to camp was really friendly and signed a lot of autographs for all the kids there. Check out some of my pictures and learn why these players came out to support Big Train– and especially make sure you listen to what Denard Span said.

 

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Wilson Ramos came to camp because he likes encourage kids to play hard if they want to make it in the big leagues.  Listen to an excerpt of my interview with Wilson below:

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Since Livan has started to work with the Nats this year, he decided to come out and see camp this year.  Listen to watch he had to say:

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Ross Detwiler liked the camp when he came in 2012, so he came back.

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Denard Span and I shared a laugh when he said that the reason he came was for me to interview him. I thought that was hilarious, and so did Denard.  Check out the audio below:

The Big Train plays games through the end of July, so there is still a chance to see a game.  They are #1 in the CRCBL league, so you see a lot of good talent and they will play through the July playoffs.  There are lots of Big Train alumni in the major leagues, like Twins 2B Brian Dozier, who is in Home Run Derby at the 2014 All Star Game.

You can still sign up for the Big Train camp for kids, and there is one next week on July 21-25 at bigtrain.org/summercamp/.  Even after baseball season ends, they do a lot of great events like the Big Train Holiday Auction and the Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic.

 

 

Celebrating My 10th During Wrigley Field’s 100th

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IMG_2736As many of you know, I spent a recent weekend in the Windy City of Chicago.  I spent a lot of time walking around Chicago with my dad and doing touristy things. But the highlight of my trip was going to two baseball games at historic Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on my hometown Washington Nationals.  I went to both games of the day-night double header on Saturday, June 28.  That was an awesome baseball experience that I want to tell you about.

I have been very lucky to see baseball games at many major league ballparks, including Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and AT&T Park.  I have also previously seen my favorite team, the Nats, play in their road grays in Baltimore, Miami, and Pittsburgh.  Since I turn ten later in the summer, for my birthday present I got to choose to go with my dad on a father and son trip to any ballpark in the country I wanted to go to. Because I had never been there, and because it is in the middle of its 100th birthday celebration this year, I picked to go Wrigley Field in Chicago. And thanks to the Cubs, who gave me batting practice passes for the game, I had an awesome time.

 

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We had awesome seats for the game. You see, at Wrigley Field, there are no bad seats (except for the few that are actually behind the poles that hold up the upper deck).  Unlike the newer ballparks that have 3 of 4 levels, there are only two decks of seating areas. The 200 level seats are basically on the same level as the “00 level” and the “100 level” on the 1st deck, and at most ballparks would be considered lower level.  The 400 and 500 level seats are on the 2nd deck are very long and stretch almost onto the concourse. Those seats and the bleachers out in center field are the reason the Cubs can fit 41,159 people but still feel like a Spring Training stadium.  Our seats were in Section 126, which was lower level, in the shade, and at Nationals Park would have been almost in the area of the PNC Diamond Club.

Since the 1st game and the game I went on the field was at 12:05 CDT, we got there at 9:30 local time to have enough time to walk around the ballpark, get souvenirs and meet the people from the Cubs who were taking us onto the field. We hopped on the train at Chicago-Red L train at 9 am and very soon we were at the Addison station.  At precisely 9:57 AM, even before the gates opened to the fans, we went through the Executive Entrance and met Brittany, who took us onto the field.

We didn’t go into the behind the scenes tunnels that some of the ballparks I’ve visited have.  We walked on the concourse, out to the field level seating area and then right up to the field.   I had an open expression on my face basically stating “Wow!” I stepped on the field– the same field where Babe Ruth called his shot in the 1932 World Series.  I took a few pretend practice swings because I was actually standing on Wrigley Field!

I was staring at the ivy on the wall and the rooftops out on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues.  You see, there were houses behind the stadium but the people converted their houses’ roofs into extra seating spaces. It must be awesome to sit up there. We were there for what seemed like only 20 minutes but was really an hour and 20 minutes.  The Cubs took BP, but not the Nationals, and I joked that you needed a “C” on your hat to get player to throw you a ball. The Nats were warming up in the field and taking BP in the inside batting cage which is behind a secret door built into brick wall in right field.  You can see it in this picture.

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Most teams don’t let you wear the opposing team’s logo when you go on the field.  After a while, I couldn’t take it any more and hat to put on a Nats hat.  One adult asked me after I tried to get Denard Span’s attention “Why would you want to get the Nats’ attention?” I replied “Because I am a Nats fan!” and I pointed to the big, white curly “W” on my hat.

Cubs Dugout

Cubs Dugout

When I was down on the field I noticed something very interesting: the benches in the Cubs dugout is padded with cushions and straight, while the visitors dugout is curved and has a regular bench with no cushion.  Also, the Cubs’ dugout is on the third base side because since they had no night games when Wrigley Field was built.  During the day, the sun would be shining on the 1st base side. That would put the sun in their eyes, so they made the first base side for the visitors.

After we left the field, but before the game started, I walked down to the Nationals dugout to maybe get autographs, but I was getting fried like a chicken so I decided to go back to our seats in the shade.  The Cubs’ Communications Manager, Kevin Saghy, came by to say hi and he brought me a really cool book called “A Century of Wrigley Field” as a birthday present.  He was surprised that we changed into Nats jerseys because he thought we would be changed into Cubs fans!IMG_2768

 

The game started to go by very quickly. Dallas Beeler, a righty hailing from Tulsa, made his MLB debut, and he did not disappoint. His first MLB pitch was a two seam fastball at 89 mph low and away ball 1 to Denard Span. He later struck out Ryan Zimmerman for his 1st MLB K and they threw the ball into the dugout for him.  The same thing happened after he got his first major league hit off Gio Gonzalez.  Gio was equally good that day. In the bottom of the fourth, Justin Ruggiano killed a 2-0 fastball for what looked like a home run, but Denard Span leaped and made a sensational catch.  Two batters later he turned an 8-3 double play to put the cherry on top. Finally, in the 6th, after striking out Gio and picking off Denard Span from 1st, Anthony Rendon, who doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, scored on a Beeler changeup that got away. In the eighth, Rendon tripled home Denard Span and scored on a Zimmerman sacrifice fly. The Nats’ bullpen relieved Gio’s outstanding performance, and the Nats blanked the Cubs 3-0. It was a tough luck loss for Beeler, who pitched so well until that one ball got away. The bullpen allowed the other two runs.  The Nationals took game 1 of the double header.

Also, I know why they call Wrigley Field “the Friendly Confines.”  It’s because the Cubs fans who go to games there are so friendly.  Even when we were wearing our Nats gear, people only joked with us in a friendly way.  Can you imagine what would happen if you wore the opponent’s jersey to Yankee Stadium or Citizens Bank Park?  The Cubs fans we met were all really, really nice.  One of them even gave us his tickets for the night game of the double header because he knew that we were visiting and it was my birthday trip.  We only planned to go to one game, but we got to go to two because of the great fans.

After the game we trekked to the left field gate and out to the Ernie Banks statue to meet up with Nats fans who were also in Chicago to watch the series.  IMG_2740We found our way down Clark Street until we found a little place to have “dunch” (dinner/lunch).  We stopped into another store to get some souvenirs before hearing back into Wrigley Field. As we walked in, we bought a scorecard and a pencil for me to score the game. I also got a certificate that said “My first Wrigley Field game.”

We got there right when the gates open so there was no line.  We watched the pregame festivities.  Cubs ace Jeff Samardzjia took the hill at 6:15  Central time, and unlike game 1, the action took off almost immediately. Samardzjia and Blake Treinen, who got the call for the Nats, both pitched 1-2-3 1st innings, but that would change in the top of the 2nd. Adam LaRoche connected on a 2-2 pitch for a solo shot, the 2nd by LaRoche  that series and the 2nd the entire 4 game series. The next inning, Rendon sac flied home Nate McLouth, who was taking Denard Span’s role in CF for that game. In the bottom of the 4th, Luis Valbuena hit a line drive that usually would have bounced off the wall, but due to the massive winds it sailed to Sheffield Avenue for a souvenir for a ballhawk. It started getting very windy and dark clouds moved in very fast.  It started to drizzle.  Later that inning, after a 87 mph changeup dealt by Treinen to Nate Schierholtz, home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called the Nats off the field and for the tarp to be placed on the historic field. We waited through a 55-minute rain delay, highlighted by a person who was “swimming,” as in doing freestyle stroke on top of the Budweiser Bleachers in pouring rain. That was entertaining to the half that did not rush to the concourse during the delay.

The game resumed at 8:10 CDT, with a foul ball by Schierholtz. Treinen later struck him out. To lead off the 5th, Wilson Ramos got a fastball and drove it out of the park to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. After that the offense exploded, with three other runners coming home and some sloppy defense by Anthony Rizzo at first with some balls that should’ve ended the inning but instead brought more and more runners home. The offense settled down after that, Nate McLouth hitting a double off the glove of Rizzo. In the bottom half of that inning, Rizzo skied a deep fly ball that again looked like it would be a home run, but McLouth jumped and like Denard Span earlier, he made a sensational jumping catch.

After the Cubs got out of the Top of the 7th, the WGN 720 AM radio team sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”  Below is a picture from the day game.  If you look closely, you can see F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter and then Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler two boxes over.

7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley Field.

7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley Field.

The Nats ended up winning the second game of the double-header too, and split the series with the Cubs 2-2.  It was awesome to celebrate my birthday in Chicago and actually go on Wrigley Field.  How many kids my age can say they “called their shot” there? I am really thankful that the Cubs organization made this trip so special for me.

I was really lucky to visit Wrigley Field on its 100th birthday.  In the future, I am going to write a review of the awesome book Kevin gave me.  If you and your kids can’t wait, I also wrote about the history of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in these books for kids.

I really recommend a visit to Wrigley Field.  It is historic and there are great views of the game.  The fans are also so nice.

Keep reading to see some other pictures we took at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

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Between-innings entertainment at Wrigley Field. There are no t-shirt cannons and no games.

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Thanks to Kevin Saghy and the Cubs for the great birthday present!

 

The MattsBats.com Picks for the 2014 MLB All Star Game

2014_Twins_All-Star_Game_LogoThe All Star Game is being held on Tuesday, July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis, home of the Twins. The voting for the All Star Game is coming to a close today.  Make sure you cast your votes here.

Usually I am a big Washington Nationals fan.  I cast a lot of votes for my favorite Nats players. That seems to be pretty normal.  A lot of people vote for their favorite hometown players, which is how popular players who haven’t had great seasons or who are injured are still getting lots of votes.

But I also am just a fan of the game, so I filled out some ballots for the people I think most deserve to be named to the All Star Team.  Here is an unbiased list of players who got my vote for the All Star Game! (By the time you read this, some of the stats may be a little out of date, but they should be close).

 

The MattsBats.com Picks for the 2014 MLB All Star Game

National League Picks

1B- Paul Goldschmidt- Arizona

There are a lot of good first basemen in the National League.  This is a race featuring a lot of players who could be considered All Stars, especially Justin Morneau, Freddie Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez, and even Matt Adams, Anthony Rizzo,and  Adam LaRoche.  That makes this race close. But in the power stats, Paul Goldschmidt is carrying the last-place D-Backs to a hopeful way out of the hole. Paul has a .300 average with 15 homers and 53 RBIs. The lack of fan support may not get him a starting spot, but he deserves a ticket.

2B- Anthony Rendon- Washington

Because Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker is on the DL, Anthony Rendon deserves a spot in his sophomore season. Usual beasts Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips haven’t been doing very well.  Phillips is a fan favorite, and since the Phillies’ fan base is so big, Utley probably has the start at 2B right now. But Anthony Rendon is flying under the radar with a .272 average with 11 homers and 42 RBIs as of 6/24 before the game. He also has the same amount of homers as Walker, and more RBIs. Walker has a better average by 8 little points, though.  He has played most of his games at third filling in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman, but Rendon started off the season on a tear.  He won’t earn the starting spot, but he may deserve it most.

SS- Troy Tulowitzki- Colorado

Stalwart candidate Tulo has been a starting shortstop for the NL for a while now, and nothing about his 18 homers or .355 average says that this year will be another year for Troy. Tulowitzki was also named the captain of the Home Run Derby NL team, which basically guarantees you a spot in the starting 9 in Minneapolis. He is slightly better than 2nd best NL shortstop, Ian Desmond. Desmond has been in a little bit of a slump recently, which probably means he was a better All Star candidate last year than this year.  But the #DesiIn13 Twitter vote last year was fun.  Hopefully we can make a miracle happen by voting Desi in the final vote, which he’s been included in the past 2 years.

3B- Todd Frazier- Cincinnati

Not to be biased on my fantasy baseball team, but Todd Frazier (yes, I came up with the idea to get him) was a great pickup for us. He has hit .280 with 17 homers and 45 runs batted in and has been a key offensive piece for the Reds. Without the success of the Brewers and Cardinals, the NL Central would be a very close race, highlighted by the Reds and homer hitter Frazier. He plays in one of the smallest ballparks in the country out in Cincy, which may be why Frazier has had so much success this year.  Other likely candidates to start are Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez, and David Wright, but I think Frazier has been the best 3B in the National League so far.

C- Evan Gattis- Atlanta

Unless you follow the NL East, Gattis may be flying under the radar. Stat-wise, Gattis is my vote for the starting catcher hands-down.  He was phenomenal last year in his rookie season, and he has added 16 homers and 39 RBIs this year.  Now, Gattis is currently on the DL with back issues, so he might not play even if he got selected.  In that case, my vote would be for Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.  But who do I think will be named catcher?  Yadier Molina.  The Cardinals fans love him and everyone knows his name.  So even casual baseball fans will see him on the ballot and instantly click “vote” because people know his name.  My vote, though, is for Evan Gattis.

OF- Khris Davis- Milwaukee, Billy Hamilton- Cincinnati, Giancarlo Stanton- Miami

Nothing about Khris says All Star “starter,” but Milwaukee has a secret slugger in Davis. Just like the other MLB player who bears the name “Chris Davis,” he slugs longballs so frequently it’s scary. In only his second career at bat against Stephen Strasburg, he drove a center-cut first pitch fastball over the left field wall for a solo shot to put the Crew on top 5-2. He drove in 2 more as the Brewers won 9-2.

Billy Hamilton, the speedy rookie in Cincinnati, hasn’t been hitting the baseball out of the park in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, but has been a quality lead off guy. Most people judge their all-star ballot on the power stats, but Billy is a guy who will get on base and will steal bags constantly.

The final spot?  OK, guys, let’s get real. It has to be Giancarlo Stanton!  He has a .308 average with 20 homers and 58 RBIs.  That basically says it all about this slugger.

There are other players who could also deserve a starting outfield spot, like Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Blackmon (for how he started the season), Ryan Braun, and even Yasiel Puig and just-off-the-DL Bryce Harper for how much excitement they bring.  But you heard my picks, even though maybe 2 of them might not be what you expected.

 

American League Picks

1B- Jose Abreu- Chicago

Adios pelota! is what the Chicago White Sox’ spanish radio announcer would say after another Abreu homer. The Cuban phenom has been crushing the ball to all fields. Abreu sent his 23rd homer packing against the Orioles, in a game where home run title competitor, Nelson Cruz, hit a grand slam and the O’s won on a wild pitch. But Abreu needs to be the picked for this division.  If he keeps it up, he’ll also probably be AL Rookie of the Year.

2B- Brian Dozier- Minnesota

This player from the host city doesn’t need a ticket to get to Minneapolis.  Because the Twins are in Denver before the break, he may just need to fly home on one of his home run balls. He has been a breakout player this season. Even though Dozier is only hitting .232 due to recent struggles, he has 15 longballs and 38 RBIs. Dozier would make the home crowd go nuts in Minneapolis but is losing to a guy who has a bigger name but a quieter bat this season, Robinson Cano.  Jose Altuve is another quality second baseman who may deserve your vote too.

SS- Derek Jeter- New York

And as quick as that, the Yankees’ “Core Four” has been dismantled, with Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitite, Mariano Rivera, and now Derek Jeter all retiring in recent years. Though he has posted a .272 average with only 2 home runs this season, just like Mo, he should be honored for his amazing career. I mean, shouldn’t a guy get an All-Star spot with a career .311 batting average in his final season?  There is no doubt that Jeter is no longer the best short stop in baseball.  Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar, and Alexei Ramirez are all much, much better this year.  But this is The Captain’s last year, so you can vote for one of those other guys next year.

3B- Josh Donaldson- Oakland

Donaldson, who missed the cut in the All-Star Game last season although playing killer defense, should be rewarded for his talents. Although he had some words with another contender, Manny Machado, earlier in the season, he has been much better than every other third baseman in the American League. Josh’s 18 home runs and whopping 61 RBIs so far win him my vote.

OF- Mike Trout- LAA, Yoenis Cespedes- OAK, and Steve Pearce- BAL

Trout and Cespedes both have good home run and batting average totals, Cespedes posting a .272 average with 14 big flys, and Trout is hitting .315 with 19 home runs.  Just because of who they are and how much fun they are to watch, Trout and Cespedes will get my vote.

Now, some of my NL outfielder picks may have been a little controversial, so I will make another controversial pick for the AL.  My third vote is going to Steve Pearce.  Pearce is really heating up Baltimore. He has 10 homers and 27 RBIs. That’s 3 more homers than Jayson Werth!  He has only played in 46 games and had 150 at bats, the exact total he needs to go on the totals for the league leaders. He is a true underdog, and I know he will not be a starter.  Still, I’m picking Steve Pearce over people like Jose Bautista (although maybe you should vote for Bautista anyway.  Do you remember how annoying he was on Twitter last year asking people to vote for him?), the other more-famous Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury, Melky Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and other big swingers who have had good seasons and are much more likely to win a spot.

C- Brian McCann- New York

Well, if Matt Wieters wasn’t out for the season, he would have my vote.  So I have to pick again, and I am going with Brian McCann.  Last year, McCann “stood up” to, aka was a total jerk, to guys like Jose Fernandez, Carlos Gomez and Bryce Harper. Now that Brian has shifted to the Yankees, he has been a total beast and deserves to be (man, this is hard to say) in his eighth All Star Game.  He has 10 home runs and 39 runs batted in. His .224 average isn’t very convincing, but he always seems to find that clutch hit at that clutch time to do it.

DH- Nelson Cruz- Baltimore

Cruz has always been that clutch guy, but he has been killing the ball across the AL in his inaugural season with Baltimore. A humongous factor in the O’s success, Cruz has totaled 26 homeruns and 68 RBIs. Edwin Encarnacion has also been killing the baseball too, and is also a good choice for the spot.  My vote is for Nelson Cruz as DH over Edwin Encarnacion for the starting job.

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I didn’t name starting pitchers, because the managers select pitchers, not the fans.  If I had a vote, I would say Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers for the National League, and Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees for the American League.

Make sure you go online and cast your vote for the All Star Team.  Click HERE to vote.

Did you know you also have a chance to vote for the participants in the Home Run Derby.

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Like my picks? If not or you think I should add people to my list, be sure to tweet to me @MattsBats or comment at the end of this post. Now, I’d like you to answer a question:

 

 

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