February 2013

Behind the Scenes of My First-Ever Live TV Appearence

Yesterday, February 27, Matt’s Bats was on FOX 5 News Washington D.C. It was so fun going into the studio and sitting the big red chair with the microphone hanging from my Matt’s Bats shirt. What 8 year old  boy or girl doesn’t want to be on TV?!

The night before my big appearance, I wrote to F.P. Santangelo, the Nationals TV color commentator, to ask for his advice.  He wrote back to me and said:

I didn’t know about the Cindy Brady thing, and my parents said I couldn’t watch the video until after my interview.

When I got into the car to drive to the studio, I said “It all starts…RIGHT NOW!” When we drove down Wisconsin Avenue, though, I had the most butterflies in my stomach than ever. I was so nerve-cited (it means nervous and excited at the same time)! I stepped up into the prop room behind the Studio B. Suddenly, I felt so much better! That was because I saw there was a comfortable couch and a TV in the green room so you could watch FOX 5 WTTG while you were waiting.

I had watched Dave Ross earlier on the air. It looked so easy to be interviewed. Also, another cool part of me being in the green room is that I met some of the Redskins cheerleaders. I took a picture with them.

After that, Dave came in to talk with me a little bit.  We talked a little bit about baseball and the Nationals and my website.  A few minutes later, he brought me into the studio.

I posted that I was about to go on the air, and some of the famous Nats people started writing to me to wish me good luck.  Ryan Mattheus retweeted me.  Heather Zimmerman, Ryan’s wife, said that Dave and I were two of her favorite people.  And Ian Desmond said:

 

They asked me to slip a microphone up my shirt and clip it on. It was the commercial break before Dave and I went on the air. I sat down in the big, red, comfy, chair.  The director said on “On in 30!”  It was all happening so fast.  I got nervous for a second and asked “Does that mean we are starting in 30 seconds?”  Dave said, “it’s just you and me in the room.”  The director said “5….4…3….”  Then, the white words on the TV screen under the cameras started moving. Allison Seymour and Tony Perkins talked. They introduced Dave, who started talking about me. I saw myself on TV for the first time and a big, bright smile came on my face that lit up the DC area. Who wouldn’t! I was on live TV!

Dave talked with me for about 2 minutes in the green room before I went on the air, but he didn’t tell me what questions he was going to ask me.  So I had to think of answers off the top of my head.  At one point, he asked me ” How many people subscribe to your blog?” I answered “Only 7” But I MISUNDERSTOOD HIM! I thought he was talking about subscribing by email, which only 7 people do. (If you want to get a daily email, click on the Subscribe tab on the right hand of the homepage).  But hundreds of people follow me on Twitter, and I love all of my fans and followers.  In fact, MattsBats.com has about 15,000 views since I started it in July 2012 and most posts get about 100 views or more a day.  (My most popular post, the NatsFest Recap has about 1,000!).  After the show aired, I went from about 415 followers to about 450.  I am still as excited about that as when I got my first #FFs from the awesome Nats fans on twitter!  (See the video HERE).

Dave also asked me who my favorite player is.  I said Gio Gonzalez because he is both a great pitched (nasty hook, Cy Young contender, and 21 wins, most in MLB last year) and he has a lot of fun on the field and in the clubhouse pouring Gatorade on people.  But I love all the Nats players.  Especially the ones with Matt-itude!

Click HERE to watch the interview:

Here are some photos from the clip on air itself. I love them so much!!

Thats me!  But they spelled “Matt’s Bats” wrong. 😦

The reaction I have been getting from fans on Twitter has been awesome!  Thank you guys so much for your support to help me get to this big day.  I am so ready to go on TV again because next time I won’t be as nervous and I will totally rock my Matt-itude!

2013 Preview- AL Central

Today’s post is about the competitive AL Central Division.  Next up is my preview of the NL West. 

Remember, you can always see my posts on the other Divisions by clicking below:

NL Central 
AL East 
NL East

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5. Minnesota Twins

The Minneapolis team gets Canadian player Justin Morneau and local Saint Paulian Joe Mauer for the whole year, but even rising stars like Cole de Vries, Drew Butera, and Anthony Swarzak will take time to become star players. To make things worse for the Twins, they lost 2 of their biggest players, Denard Span and Ben Revere.  Only Josh Willingham, Silver Slugger winner who I remember and really like from the time he spent on the Nats, remains in their outfield.  The Twins were once to fear in the AL Central in the 1980s, with Kirby Puckett highlighting Minnesota’s lineup. Those days have ended, and Twins fans need to let it roll for a few years while the team rebuilds.

4. Chicago White Sox

I don’t have high hopes this year for Chicago’s South Siders. Only All Star and Gold Glove winning pitcher Jake Peavy sparks their rotation, and only Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko hit the long bombs.  They play the Nats in interleague play this year at Nationals Park, and maybe President Obama, who is a White Sox fan, will make an appearance.  Maybe if he throws out the first pitch at Nats Park, he will keep the Nats jacket and take off the White Sox hat this time.

3. Cleveland Indians

The Indians made a couple of very big splashes with additions in the offseason, adding big time players Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.  They also added young fireballer Trevor Bauer and former Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs.  Rounding out the acquisitions were Matt Albers, Nick Hagadone, Juan Diaz, and Yan Gomes.  But the northern Ohio team lost a big name to the southern Ohio team. Three words. Shin-Soo Choo. He was acquired by Cincinnati in the trade I wrote about HERE.  Choo is by far one of the best South Korean players in the league, and I have his Indians t-shirt jersey.  Even after acquiring 2 of the best free agent outfielders this offseason, I don’t think that will be enough for the Tribe this year.

2. Kansas City Royals

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! The Royals have one of the best rotations in the MLB with James Shields and Luke Hochevar topping the list. They also have 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas (“the Moose is Loose!”), and veteran RF Jeff Francouer.  The rest of their lineup is not as experienced.  After hosting the 2012 All Star Game, I am picking the Royals to finish above the much-improved Indians.  Still, neither team will top the Division, given the talent of the…

1. Detroit Tigers

Who are the Yankees of the AL Central? The Detroit Tigers! They have the best big hitting duo in the majors, Prince Fielder and AL MVP and triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera.  They have incredible pitchers too, with 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander topping their rotation and backed up by people like Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister.  (Good thing Sanchez is out of the NL East, but too bad the Nats play the Tigers in inter-league in April).  When the Nats play the Tigers in inter-league, this may be a preview of the World Series.  Detroit is not a very nice city from what I am told, but the stadium has face painting and a ginormous Ferris Wheel with cars shaped like baseballs at the entrance. Kids paradise alert! The team has a lot to make fans happy about.

2013 Preview- NL Central

This week we start off with my predictions for the NL Central.  It will be followed by the AL Central. 

In case you missed previous posts, check out:

P.S. I am sorry that the picture has the Astros logo in it. This year the Astros will move from the NL Central to the AL West.  My predictions for the ‘Stros (hint: not good) will appear in the AL West edition.
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5. Chicago Cubs

The lovable losers on the north side of Chicago never seem to have less then 100 losses.   It’s all because of the goat curse. (The legend says that a man brought a goat to a World Series game at Wrigley but was asked to leave.  He put a curse on the Cubs because he was mad they kicked him out.  The Cubbies haven’t gotten to a World Series in almost 90 years!).  My prediction: the curse will not be broken this year. 

4. Milwaukee Brewers

The 2011 NLCS contender had a fairly good 2012, with Ryan Braun (former NL MVP), Martin Maldonado (who hits a lot of grand slams), and Norichika Aoki (a super-fast RF) leading the way. But since pitcher Shawn Marcum headed to the Mets this offseason and they no longer have first baseman Prince Fielder, I predict Brewers fans will not see Bernie the Brewer slide into that pool much after home runs.  In 2013, there isn’t much reason to “Fear the Beer.”  (Thank Goodness!).

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

Andrew McCutchen drops bombs for the “Jolly Rogers” almost every day, and he was so good in 2012 that fans voted him onto the cover to MLB13 The Show.  This offseason they acquired Russell Martin from the Yankees and Starling Marte is a future STARling.  But they lost their premiere closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox.  I predict that Cutch and the rest of the rest of his Pirate crew will have a winning season, but end their pirate journey on the deserted island of third place.

2. Saint Louis Cardinals

There is something in the Mississippi River water that causes the St. Louis Cardinals to always find their way into the postseason even when it don’t play all year like they deserve it.  Like last year.  And 2011 too.  Even after Albert Pujols flew from flock, they still sure do have a powerful lineup for 2013.  And, as usual, a whole lot of luck (9th inning of Game 5, weird infield fly rule call, 2011 WS Games 6 & 7).  While I don’t think they will win the Division, I think they will face and defeat the Atlanta Braves again in the wild card spot to play Washington in the NLDS. Even picturing the Cardinals back in the post-season and possibly facing the Nats is so hard to say.  

1. Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto comes back for 2013.  Votto is a great defensive and offensive player.  The Reds also have a great 2nd baseman, Brandon Phillips.  The Great American Ballpark is a very friendly ballpark for these hitters, and lots of balls travel out of the park there that wouldn’t make it out of places like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.  The Reds have amazing pitching too– Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman to name a few.  Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine will continue to dominate in 2013.  I am not sure they have a better team than the Nationals, but they are very tough to play, and I am glad we see them twice early in the season and are done with them by the end of April. 

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Next post will look at the AL Central.

I’m looking forward to my appearance on Wednesday on Fox 5 DC.  Watch starting at 8:30 in the morning and remember to IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!

2013 Preview- AL East

Yesterday I wrote about my predictions for the NL East (click HERE in case you missed it).  This is my prediction for the AL East Division. It will be followed by the NL Central. I hope you like it so much!

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5.Tampa Bay Rays

The 2008 AL champions had a disappointing 2012, and probably an even more disappointing year in 2013, due to star B.J. Upton being leaving for the Braves. The dome on Tropicana Field makes it not a good hitter’s park.  On the positive, they signed Evan Longoria to a long-term deal.  I still think this is a very tough division, and the other teams will come out ahead.

4. Baltimore Orioles

It may surprise you that my hometown AL team is not my favorite.  (My favorite AL team is the Oakland A’s).  So I don’t really have any problem saying that I don’t think the O’s will do well this year.  The “Bash of Birdtown” took place in 2012, with them making a surprise appearance in the post-season.  Most people expected them to finish last.  Even with Adam Jones and Manny Machado leading the way in 2013, I do not think the Orioles will not have the bash rerun. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen will dominate hitters across the AL, and Jim Johnson had a terrific year with the best save record in the AL. However, the Sox had a bad year last year and the Yankees had a lot of injuries, which I think let the O’s sneak into the wild card last year.  It probably won’t happen again.

3. Boston Red Sox

The plus about Boston is that they have all-around good players. Jarrod Saltamacchia, David Ortiz, Joel Hanrahan,  Mike Napoli, and Will Middlebrooks, to name a few. The teams seems to not come together early in the season, but they they rally just all of a sudden in September and end up in third.  (Wink, wink to new manager John Farrell). I don’t know why that always happens, but I guess Bostonians have their own way of doing things.  The Sox lost a lot of good players like Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.  That may hurt them this year.

2. New York Yankees

Everyone always expects the Yankees to do well because they have a huge payroll that allows them to buy some of the best talent in the majors.  You can always pretty much guess that the Yankees will enter the post-season as the Division winner or wild card.  This year I’m picking them to come in second.  The Captain, Derek Jeter, suffered an injury during the playoffs and it’s not certain that he will be in best shape, or even come back, this year.  Alex Rodriguez had a very disappointing year in 2012, especially in the post-season.  They also lost Nick Swisher to the Indians, Raul Ibanez to the Mariners and closer Rafael Soriano to the Nationals.  Still, the Yankees have Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Mark Texeira.  I think they will do well enough to get the Wild Card.

1. Toronto Blue Jays 

Jose Bautista is probably sitting in Lakeland, Florida saying to himself “We are going to have a fantastic year!”  I don’t blame him. The Blue Jays acquired stars like R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Melky Cabrera.  They also acquired J.A. Happ, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonofacio, Josh Thole, Brad Lincoln, Esmil Rogers, Henry Blanco, Maicer Izturis, and Mark DeRosa.  Even if they don’t all start, they are good trade bait for future talent.  Since many of these players were acquired from the Marlins and they didn’t play well on the Marlins team, should we expect them to do any better if they are wearing a Blue Jays uniform?  They have enough talent to be #1 in the AL East if they can come together.

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CHECK OUT THE NATIONALS VS. METS ON MLB NETWORK AT 12:00!  And remember to SET YOUR DVRs to FOX 5 DC MORNING NEWS on WEDNESDAY FEB. 27 at 8:30AM TO CATCH MY FIRST EVER LIVE TV INTERVIEW!

2013 Preview- NL East

As the first Spring Training games are about to be played, everyone is thinking about Opening Day.  This post is looking at the post season and will try to predict: “Who will win the Division?”  Today we start with my prediction for the NL East. My next post will look at the AL East. And we’ll go around the country Division by Division.
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MATT’S BATS PREDICTIONS FOR THE 
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST


5. Miami Marlins

The problem with the Miami team is that last year they spent a lot of money buying good players, but they couldn’t pull it together.  They ended up stinking up their brand new stadium with 93 losses. After the All Star Game, they shipped their Face of the Franchise, Hanley Ramirez, to the Dodgers.  (I wrote about this as my first Matt’s Bats post).  In the offseason, they dismantled the team even more by sending Jose Reyes, John Buck, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays.  All they really have left is Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison (both of who were injured last year).  And more, they play half their games in Marlins Park where the fences are a whopping 418 feet from the fish tanks at home plate. It takes a lot of power to hit a homer at Marlins Park.  I feel bad for the poor little fishies living in the tank, because their home could be broken by a ball, and because they have to watch the Marlins every day.

4. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have signed Ben Revere to replace Shane Victorino, as he became a Dodger last year. With Jimmy Rollins at short, Kevin Frandsen at third, Chase Utley at second, and Ryan Howard at first, the Phillies will have a power defense.  They had poor 2012 because they had a lot of injuries.  I think that 2013 will be a recovery year for them.  Their team is also getting older, and they’re not the same team that ran the Division for so many years. 

3. New York Mets

This is a little controversial to pick the Mets to finish ahead of the Phillies, but the trio of Ruben Tejada, Kirk Neiuwenhuis, and David Wright will blow pitchers out of the game.  Jordany Valdispin, who disappointed the Nats a few times last year off the bench, will help the Mets too.  John Buck, who got passed from the Marlins to the Blue Jays to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal, is also a good backstop and will delight Mets pitchers

2. Atlanta Braves

With Martin Prado, Chipper Jones, Tommy Hanson, and Michael Bourn now fleeing from Atlanta, the Braves have little talent despite the rich minor league and the Upton Bros. patrolling the outfield.  In 2013, they’ll specialize in the outfield, and rookie short stop Andrelton Simmons will win the Braves (and maybe even the League) MVP.  They’ll give the Nats a challenge, but my prediction is they won’t lead the NL East this year (maybe a wild card win again, though).  The Braves are still a dangerous opponent.

1. Washington Nationals 

There is really no question here.  The Nats have the best rotation in the bigs, backed up by power offense with the Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Laroche, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa punch. The bullpen is as tough as the starting rotation.  For the 7th, they got Christian Garcia. For the 8th, they got Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen. For the 9th they got former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano. Best defense and offense in the NL East. The addition of Denard Span, Dan Haren and Rafael Soriano put the finishing touches on the team that had the best record in MLB in 2012.  General Manager Mike Rizzo and owner Theodore Lerner have a rich future with the newest franchise.

Innocent Man- No Illegal PEDs for Gio

Multiple sources, like ESPN, report that Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez did not receive performance-enhancing substances from Anthony Bosch, in Coral Gables, FL. Gio was scratched off the list, but Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera (who was already suspended), Bartolo Colon, and Yasmani Grandal are still on MLB’s suspicious list. There is no official word yet that Gio is cleared, but that may happen soon.  Gio said from the beginning that he never took any performing enhancing substances or even met Bosch.

At the same time, the names of 5 other players were reported in the news to be linked to Bosch, including Padres SS Everth Cabrera, A’s pitcher Jordan Norberto, Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez, Padres reliever Fautino De Los Santos, and Mets prospect Cesar Puello.

The players on list face possible suspensions.  The fact that there is no evidence that Gio did anything wrong is so good for the Nationals that I think Ted Lerner wants to throw a ginormous pizza party for all the Nats fans! I feel that the Yankees, Rangers, Giants, A’s, Padres, Astros, and Mets feel jealous because most players who were on Bosch’s list were stars, and teams want their stars in the lineup for the whole season.

It looks like the Nationals will have their planned starting rotation of Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Haren and Detwiler for Opening Day.  They were probably making plans to promote a bullpen guy to the starting rotation or to make a deal for another starter (possible Kyle Lohse) just in case, but that doesn’t seem likely now.  And that is a good thing!  The Nats have one of the best starting rotations in the league, and their bullpen is awesome too.

Ryan Zimmerman- Mr. Walkoff (Part 2)

This is the second part in the profile of Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman.  Click HERE to read the first part.  The first part deals with his life before becoming a major league baseball player.  This part deals with his career in Washington from 2006 to now.  Enjoy!
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Ryan Zimmerman made his debut with the Washington Nationals off the bench in late 2005.  In the 2006 season, third baseman Vinny Castilla was traded to the San Diego Padres, and Zimmerman took the permanent position at third base. A few days into the Nats’ 2006 season, Zimmerman hit a homer off a 93 mph pitch by the Mets’ Billy Wagner. It sailed into the second deck of Shea Stadium, and far into it. It was his first Major League career homer! The Nationals won 9-5 in extra innings.

A walkoff home run– where you win the game in the bottom of the 9th (or extra innings) with a home run–is one of the most exciting things in all of sports.  It’s better than a slam dunk or a hole in one.  In the one month period from June 18 to July 18, Zimmerman hit 2 of them. June 18 was the first, and the other was on July 4th, with early fireworks coming off Zimmerman’s bat. He kind of became famous not only for the walkoffs, but for the big hits on holidays.

Late in the season, he hit his 20th home run, which tied the Expos/Nationals franchise record for homers hit by a rookie! This was a major accomplishment because the last person to do it, Brad Wilkerson, did it in 2002 (Later, in 2012, Bryce Harper broke the record with 22 homers).

When you think of the Nats’ 2007 season, you think of the old Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and the last year of playing baseball there. But Ryan would think of it “Walkoff, Walkoff, Walkoff” because, well, he hit a lot of walkoffs. By August 2007, he hit a combined 6 walkoff homeruns between his rookie and sophomore seasons.  This earned him the nickname in Washington of Mr. Walkoff.

And Zimmerman wasn’t just hitting walkoff homers, he started hitting multiple long balls in the same game.  His first was on August 4, 2007, when he hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two run homer in the sixth to help the Nats deck the Cards 12-1. Zimmerman also hit a two out, solo homer in the first inning of the 4th of July game. This Virginian (now a Washingtonian) must be a real Patriot to hit the bombs on the 4th of July!

The new year of 2008 brought a new stadium–Nationals Park. Unlike RFK, the former home of the Washington Redskins and where where the D.C. United played soccer, no other sport would be played at the Nats Park. In the ballpark’s debut, in the bottom of the 9th, Zim took a pitch from the Braves’ Peter Moylan and swung. Swung so hard, in fact, that the ball was able to fly to the Red Porch! It was another walk off for Ryan Zimmerman, marking Opening Day of Nationals Park with a huge bang-zoom.  The Nationals, who didn’t exist 4 years prior, had a new Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman! And he was only 23 years old!

The excellence continued in 2009 and 2010.  In 2009, Zimmerman was honored by baseball fans across the country by being voted into the All Star Game.  He also signed a contract extension through the 2013 season. In 2010, he hit his 100th career homer at Petco Park in San Diego. He also won a Silver Slugger Award for 3rd base.

In 2011, Zimmerman injured his shoulder on April 9 and didn’t play until June 14. But something happened on August 19 that was amazing.  Tied with their biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, with bases loaded, 2 outs and a full count in the bottom of the ninth, Zimmerman took it deep once again.  It was a WALKOFF GRAND SALAMI as the submarine horn sounded and fireworks exploded into the night.  That may have also sounded the end of the Phillies’ dominance in the NL East.

During the 2012 offseason, Zimmerman signed a mega extension, guaranteeing to keep him a National through 2019 and giving him the option to earn as much as $150 million dollars. That’s a lot of money for playing a game you love! In late April, though, he was placed on the 15-day DL after he hurt his shoulder again when he was diving into home. He got back on May 6th, but wasn’t doing the best job ever, so he got a cortisone injection on June 24 to help him feel better. He suddenly he was the player of the week!  He was back to being the old Zim hitting for power in clutch situations and playing amazing defense.  It was like he had dustbusters attached to his arms, because he would suck up hard grounders and line drives off the line.  But his throwing looked a little off all season, and he made an unusual number of wild throws.  Thankfully, Adam LaRoche was on first and was able to pick a lot of them, but something was still a little off.  Zim kept playing through the regular season and into the postseason, which was his first appearance in the postseason.  No one could keep the Nats’ first-ever first-round draft pick off the field for the NLDS, even if his throwing wasn’t 100%.

After the season ended, Zim had surgery on his shoulder to clean up the injury.  He’s rehabbing now into Spring Training and hopefully will be better than new on Opening Day, April 1, 2013.

Ryan Zimmerman earned his title of Mr. Walkoff due to his 8 career walkoff homers. He is the captain of the Nationals team, and will always be the Face of the Franchise as the first-ever Nats player drafted.  I think he will stay a National his entire career. I can’t wait to keep watching him play until they retire Number 11 in centerfield. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Young Talent (Part 1)

This is the first in a 2-part series about Nationals All-Star 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman. This part focuses on his life and career before the major leagues.  The second part (hopefully tomorrow) will talk about his major league career.  I hope you like it Nats fans!
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Every team has its own star.  But there is something extra special about the Nationals’ Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman.  He has always been a Washington National!  So many players move around from team to team, even the star players who could be the face of those franchises– Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder are some recent examples.   But no matter what, Ryan Zimmerman has always been and probably always be a National.  He has played for the Nats his whole career and last year signed an extension which may keep him a Nat for the rest of his career.  And even when he retires from playing baseball, he’ll always be rooting for the Nats, because it’s his hometown team.  So let’s learn a little bit about how he became a National.

Zimmerman was born on September 28, 1985, in Washington.  No, not Washington, D.C., but Washington, N.C.  He grew up in Virginia Beach, and played on the same little league team as B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, David Wright and Mark Reynolds. That team had so much talent!

In 1995, when Ryan was 10, his mom, Cheryl, got the disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and she had to use a wheelchair since 2000. It must’ve been hard for him because his mom couldn’t do things all the other kids’ moms could. I bet he had a lot of play dates so his mom could relax.  He started a charity called ziMS to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. You can learn more about it HERE.   This shows he can step up to the plate, wherever and whenever he needs to.

He enrolled at the University of Virginia and was a starting shortstop for the Virginia Cavaliers. He was not the third baseman because his former little league teammate Mark Reynolds already took that position. In 2004, he helped win the World University Baseball Championship in Tainan City, Taiwan for team USA.  Next year, he did get something better than gold…. He was the first draft pick for the…Washington Nationals!

“Who are the Nationals?” you may have thought when Zimmerman got drafted in 2005. That was the year the Expos moved from Montreal to Washington and became the Nationals.  He was the first player ever drafted by the Nationals franchise. Later that year, he got his start on the Savannah Sand Gnats, then the Nats A-ball team (it’s now affiliated with the Mets), and quickly moved to the Harrisburg Senators. He got called up late in the season in 2005 and wore jersey number 25.  (Most people think Zim always wore number 11, but not in 2005!)  In his first MLB at-bat, he hit a double.  Zimmerman did not start at 3B that year, but he did the next year. 

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Tomorrow, I’ll write more about Zim’s rookie season and how he became the Nats’ “Mr. Walkoff” and “Face of the Franchise.”  But first, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about Ryan’s personal life.

Heather, Ryan and Miley Zimmerman from Heather’s twitter.

He recently got married to a girl named Heather and went on a safari in Africa for his honeymoon.  Their dog is named Miley probably after Miley Cyrus.

Heather also raises money for charity, which shows that they are both generous.  Click HERE for her website for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  I donated a little bit of money to help with her goals. It’s good to raise money for cancer because scientists are looking for a way to help people not get cancer anymore.  My grandfather passed away in 2008 from cancer, and so I raise money for lung cancer research every November.

Picture of Ryan Zimmerman on his honeymoon by Allan Peterson (@ambp77)

I follow Heather on Twitter and she follows me, but Ryan is not on Twitter.  I think most Nats fans on Twitter think he should join, too. Some of his teammates like Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and others should convince him because there are lots of fun things to read about and interact with fans and players. 

Ryan and Heather live near Washington all year round, which is unusual because most players have a house in Florida or Arizona or California or wherever they’re from in the offseason.  They recently went to a Washington Capitals game and sometimes go out for dinner in DC.  I’ve never seen them just out in DC, but it would be a great surprise to run into them at CVS or something.

About a month ago, when I was interviewed by the Red Porch Report (click HERE to read it), they asked me which of the Nationals players I would like to have as a teacher.  My answer was Ryan Zimmerman because:

he seems patient and trustworthy.   He takes his job very seriously.  He is a good leader.  A good teacher can also laugh and make jokes.  I’ve seen him be funny sometimes when he throws bubble gum or sunflower seeds at the other players.  A good teacher would be proud when the kids get a hard answer right, and that’s kind of like what Ryan Zimmerman does when he high fives his teammates after a home run.  Zimmerman also went to a good college, UVA.

 
I think a lot of people agree with that.

I have only met Ryan Zimmerman once.  It was during the Nats winter caravan in 2010.  It was really snowing that day and the bus was late.  I got autographs from Tyler Clippard, Nyjer Morgan, Matt Capps, Jason Marquis and Craig Stammen.  And I got my picture taken with Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman.  I just had stitches and I remember that everyone thought it was cool that I got stitches. 

For a while, I brought the picture to every game to try to get Josh and Ryan to sign it.  I finally got Josh Willingham’s autograph, but I was never able to get Ryan Zimmerman’s autograph because I think he doesn’t like to sign autographs because too many people would crowd around him and try to get one too.  He is one of the few current players on the Nationals whose autograph I have never gotten (Werth, Span, Suzuki, LaRoche are a few others I can think of).

Now you have an introduction to Ryan Zimmerman’s pre-MLB career and personal life.  Tomorrow, you can read about his superstar MLB career.  Stay tuned and remember to IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!

Heat and Outs- Christian Garcia

As pitcher Christian Garcia took the mound on September 4, 2012, in Washington, he was about to make his major league debut, with  thousands of fans waiting for him to get the batter to whiff.  He didn’t get a strikeout, but Garcia did get Wellington Castillo of the Cubs to pop out to Adam LaRoche to end the inning.

On August 24, 1985, Christian was born in Miami, Florida, a city where lots of MLB players are born. He grew up rooting for the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins when the Marlins formed in 1993. Garcia attended high school at Gulliver Preparatory School in Coral Gables, FL. After that, he enrolled into the University of South Carolina, on a baseball scholarship, and pitched for the South Carolina Gamecocks. As well as pitcher, Garcia was a switch-hitting catcher.

In the 2004 draft, Christian was selected by the New York Yankees in the third round. He quickly got on the Gulf Coast League Yankees. He did such a good job at Rookie-A, he got promoted to the Single-A Charleston River Dogs. Later, the Trenton Thunder became his team, and Garcia took the same mound that Tyler Clippard was on when Clippard threw a no-hitter on 2 years ago. I think the Garcia family saw him as a Yankee. But when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in 2010, he couldn’t play for New York despite him being on the 40-man roster.

The Washington Nationals grabbed Garcia in late 2011, and started playing for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators and later, the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He was promoted to the Show in early September (September 3rd) and debuted the next day. The first batter was Wellington Castillo, sure enough, and induced a pop out. He later pitched the 6 and 7th innings of the rain delay game against the Marlins that brought us the famous Jayson Werth home run in the 9th and Corey Brown walk-off in the 10th.  I actually saw that game! He was a good reliever who kept the game close in the 7th inning.

There is some concern or guessing about whether the Nats will have their full 5 man rotation if the Gio PED issue does not go the way we hope.  If Gio is not able to play the full season (and I don’t think that will happen), the rotation could go Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Haren, Garcia because there is talk about Davey wanting to make him a starter in 2013. GO NATS!

BASEBALL!!!


The pictures say it all… SPRING TRAINING STARTS TODAY!! Baseball is back in action today as the Nationals’ pitchers and catchers report to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. Injured players report today, too, not only the pitchers and catchers.
The rest of the squad reports on February 15, but several position players are already in camp.
AND THE OFF SEASON IS OFFICIALLY OVER!!
Baseball is back, and there will be major league ball played almost every day until November.

GO NATIONALS!
IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!