February 2013

Lombo’s Amazing Rookie Season

Some of the Nationals’ best defense and big hits in 2012 came from one man: Steve Lombardozzi, Junior. Lombo was born in Fulton, MD and still lives in Maryland, making him one of the few players to play for their hometown team.

My Steve Lombardozzi baseball card.

Baseball runs in the Lombardozzi family.  His father, Steve Lombardozzi, Senior, was a second baseman for the Twins in the 1980s. I have his baseball card from 1988!

He says that since his father was a second baseman, he learned how to be an infielder from him. It paid off, because  Lombardozzi got drafted by the Nationals in 2008. He was called up to the big league team in at the end of 2011 and played a few games late in the season.  He made the 25 man roster in 2012 and the rookie proved himself.  When SS Ian Desmond got hurt in the middle of the season, Lombo stepped up to the challenge.  He did amazing as a utility player, playing both shortstop and second base.

The Lombardozzi’s with @MattsBats
follower @spoomookie

In the offseason, Lombo also stepped up to the plate again by organizing a collection of food and supplies for people who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.  This shows that he is a very generous person, in addition to being a star athlete.

People who follow Ross Detwiler on Twitter learned that Lombo and Tyler Moore are like best friends in the clubhouse.  This makes sense because they were both rookies who had big years coming off the bench.  They are both great hitters and I hope that they have another good year in 2013.

My Reward: Baseball Cards

This has been a pretty busy week for me.  I had a bunch of appointments with an orthodontist over the past few weeks and this week I got an appliance put in called a palate expander.  I was nervous while they were doing it, but I had earbuds in and was listening to music on my iPhone (it’s not really a phone so it is like an iPod Touch).  The doctor put the expander in just as Thunderstruck by AC/DC came on.  That’s the song they play at the beginning of the Nationals games.  It gave me the confidence I needed.

I am getting used to the expander.  It feels funny in my mouth and it makes it hard to eat and talk for now. 

So how does this relate to baseball?  After I was done at the dentist, my mom took me to Target to get 2013 baseball cards. My 2 first packs of the 2013 cards!  I got…

  1. Wilson Ramos, catcher for the Washington Nationals.
  2. Jordan Pacheco, third baseman for the Colorado Rockies.
  3. Austin Kearns, outfielder for the Miami Marlins.
  4. Scott Feldman, pitcher for the Texas Rangers.
  5. Ian Kennedy, pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks
  6. Henry Rodriguez, second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds
  7. Joey Votto, first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds
  8. Ryan Howard, first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies
  9. Dustin Ackley, second baseman for the Seattle Mariners
  10. Scott Hairston, outfielder for the San Diego Padres
  11. Will Middlebrooks, third baseman for the Boston Red Sox
  12. Sean Doolittle, pitcher for the Oakland Athletics
  13. Mike Olt, third baseman for the Texas Rangers
  14. Alex Gonzalez, shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers.
  15. Felipe Paulino, pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.
  16. Dylan Bundy, pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
  17. Adrian Gonzalez, first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  18. Paul Konerko, first baseman for the Chicago White Sox
  19. Heath Bell, pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks
  20. Ted Lilly, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers
  21. Ryan Vogelsong, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants
  22. Hanley Ramirez, third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers
  23. Felix Hernandez, pitcher for the Seattle Mariners
  24. Trevor Bauer, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians

Other than Wilson Ramos, my favorite cards were #16 Dylan Bundy and #19 Heath Bell.   I am thinking about trying to get autographs on them.  Maybe some of them I will send to them and ask them to sign them, but I am a little nervous about not getting them back or not being able to play with them.

BY THIS TIME NEXT WEEK, Spring Training will officially be underway and I can start reporting news again on Matt’s Bats.

A Hawaii-Born Star

Not many American professional baseball players are born outside of the Continental US, but make an exception for C Kurt Suzuki. The Wailuku-born player is amazing at defending the plate and is an amazing hitter. Go Kurt!

Kurt was born on October 4, 1983 in Wailuku, HI, on the island of Maui. It must have been so cool to grow up on the beach.  But it was probably hard to play a real baseball game on the beach – the last thing people relaxing on the beach want is to be hit in the head with a baseball!

Kurt enrolled at Cal State Fullerton, a college in Fullerton, CA. In 2004, Kurt helped the Cal State Fullerton Titans win the College World Series. Because of this, he earned the nickname “Kurt Klutch”. He probably dreamed of being on a professional baseball field!

He got his chance when he was drafted in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft by the Oakland Athletics. He didn’t have much time to celebrate in Wailuku, because he went straight to the Single-A Vancouver Canadians and played like he was at the Double-A level. He still played really well with the Stockton Posts in California and the Midland RockHounds in Texas. The Sacramento River Cats was his last stop in the minor leagues. He made his MLB debut on June 12, 2007 for Oakland as a pinch hitter. They were playing Houston.  In Oakland, he played with his future Nats teammate Gio Gonzalez.

In 2012, Kurt got traded to the Nats for David Freitas. He was added to the team late in the season, after Wilson Ramos got hurt.  The Nats had other options behind the plate, but Mike Rizzo thought he could find a better player.

The next step in Kurt Suzuki’s career began last August with the Nats announcer saying “Introducing…NUMBER TWENTY FOUR, KURT SUZUKI!!!!!!!!!!!”


Purple Wins the Pigskin. Bring on BASEBALL!

I stayed up to watch the whole Super Bowl. The winner was the Baltimore Ravens, and they played the San Francisco 49ers. In a battle between the coach brothers, Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and John Harbaugh (Ravens), this game was a thriller.  But it didn’t look like it would be a close game until the third quarter.
In the first quarter, Anquan Boldin sparked the game for Baltimore when Joe Flacco threw a pass to him in the end zone and made it 6-0. When kicker Justin Tucker got the extra point, the Ravens were leading 7-0. The 49ers, however, made a field goal that quarter to drop the lead to 4. The 49ers got no touchdowns in the first quarter.  Disappointed San Francisco fans watched the Beyonce half time show thinking they were going to lose the game.

The Ravens managed to get two touchdowns in the 2nd quarter, one from postseason hero Jacoby Jones. The other one was a short pass from Flacco to Dennis Pitta. That was the quarter when most music fans got ready for the halftime show with Beyonce. A funny commercial came on during the break between the 2nd quarter and the Halftime show, but I’ll talk about it later.

Beyonce used a lot of fire to cover the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during her halftime show presented by Pepsi. She was also very high-tech. The CBS camera was literally shaking when it covered the fans on the field. Beyonce is very popular in New Orleans, I guess.

The only entertainment the spectators at the Superdome didn’t see was the famous Super Bowl commercials. However, I was very disappointed that the commercials weren’t as funny as past years. My favorite five were the wedding dress Doritos, the Hyundai one with the fat guy on the motorcycle, the Doritos-eating goat, the Cracking Gangnam Style, and the Despicable Me 2 Football kicker.

I loved the suspense and the silliness of the 3rd quarter. It started with the 109 yard kickoff return touchdown by the hero Jacoby Jones. IT WAS THE LONGEST KICKOFF RETURN TD IN NFL HISTORY!! 15 minutes later, half the power at the Superdome flicked out for 34 minutes. It seemed like the Superdome had Pepco!  Entergy New Orleans, the real power company for the Superdome, raced to get the power back on. I thought that the power would not return and Super Bowl XLVII would never come back. Finally the power came back on and nobody was hurt. Except for the Ravens.  San Francisco scored 17 points very quickly. It started looking like the 49ers would pull off an upset and bring both the Lombardi trophy and the World Series trophy to the city by the bay.

At the beginning of the 2012 season, did anyone expect the Super Bowl to be between the 49ers and the Ravens?  Yesterday’s match was an underdog match, and the Ravens ended up defeating the 49ers 34-31.

But the best new of all– football season is officially over and it is time for baseball season!

The Kid…

When you get into the Major Leagues it’s a major accomplishment like hitting a walkoff grand slam. That’s what happened to outfielder Bryce Harper when he got drafted by the Nationals in 2010. He was only 17 years old and drafted into the Nationals’ farm system! Most kids that age would be focusing on college and riding skateboards across their neighborhood, but Bryce was in Woodbridge, Virginia as a professional baseball player.  As he stepped into the batter’s box as the youngest professional player, baseball fans all over the country and the world were waiting for the his legacy to begin. 
Bryce Aron Max Harper was born on October 16, 1992. From what I know, there wasn’t much to do if you’re 6-7 years old and you live in in Las Vegas.  So the neighborhood streets and parks are  perfect for a little pickup game or scrimmage. It turned out that Bryce was a great player in the games, and everyone probably wanted him on their team for the elementary or middle school kickball or baseball team. But high school is where people started to notice he had something special.  Bryce joined the baseball team at his high school, Las Vegas High School.  Most people don’t know this, but he was a catcher, not an outfielder.  He loved baseball so much that he would even sleep with his baseball bat.
When everyone was deciding about what to do after high school and going to college, Bryce was trying to get into the Major League draft. Bryce was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine at only age 16!  Bryce’s parents, and brother and sister knew that he Bryce had something else exciting waiting.
The day was June 4, 2010. The place was Secaucus, NJ. The price: priceless. That was the 2010 MLB first-year player draft. Bryce watched and waited. At 7:00 pm, it began. Fifteen minutes later, Bryce Harper was a Washington National, drafted first overall!  A month later, he was wearing the Potomac Nationals uniform. He was already a star.  He rose quickly to the Hagerstown Suns.  Then he went on to the Syracuse Chiefs, which are the Nationals’ triple-A affiliate from upper New York state near Buffalo.  Bryce Harper was only 19 years old when he joined the Chiefs.  People expected him to do well and eventually become a major leaguer, but only 23 days later it came true. 
Early the Nationals suffered a bunch of injuries and they needed Bryce’s help.  Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson made the call on April 28: he was in the lineup the next day against the Dodgers. He had to fly from Syracuse to Los Angeles, but it was totally worth it. He played hard, and he got a double, and a sac fly. However, Matt Kemp hit a walkoff home run that day. 
When he debuted at Nationals Park he got a huge ovation.  A few games later he turned up the heat.  Phillies Pitcher Cole Hamels intentionally plunked him with a ball, which was not nice.  But Bryce stole home off him off a pickoff attempt.  This was on national TV, so everyone in America got to see the way he plays ball.  Like FP Santangelo says, Bryce plays “run til they tag you,” which means play like you do when you play with your friends and just have fun.  That is what makes the fans excited.
He’s the best and youngest in the MLB.  He was voted into the All Star Game as the youngest position ever.  He also won the National League Rookie of the Year called the Jackie Robinson Award. Bryce Harper is giving the Nationals fans major energy and fans all over the world love him.  BRYCE IS THE KID! 
Bryce talks about his family and the support they give him.  He has a brother who is also a pro baseball player in the Nats organization.  He also got a puppy last year named Swag. I got to meet Bryce at his baseball camp.  He talked to the kids and taught us how to play better.  One funny thing is that when the Red Porch Report published my interview, they called it Move Over Bryce, There’s a New Kid in Natstown.  I can’t wait for the season to start to see what the Kid does next.

A Call to the Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus

Not many baseball fanatics ever make it into the major leagues. In Ryan Mattheus’s case, it actually came true.  Mattheus is a reliever for the Washington Nationals who specializes in the sinkerball.

One fine November day in 1983, Ryan Mattheus was born in Galt, California. As he got older, on the weekends he’d probably go to the Chabolla Park in downtown and play ball on one of their sandlots.  I don’t know if that is where he actually played, but I saw it on Google Maps and it looked nice.

As he stepped onto the mound in Union Stadium at the Sacramento City College, about 10 years after his sandlot days, he hoped he would have the stuff make it to The Show. Then, with a lot of hard work, it actually happened.

June 4, 2003 was no ordinary day for the Mattheus family. Ryan got drafted by the Colorado Rockies. He got on the Casper Ghosts in Casper, Wyoming and had a 3-3 record with a 4.94 ERA. With the Class A affiliate in Asheville, NC, the Tourists, and he had a 7-6 record with a 5.92 ERA. When he made the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, his career with the Rockies looked like it was about to begin.  But it wasn’t.  And that was a good thing for Nationals fans.

Joe Beimel was a pitcher on the Washington Nationals since they were the Montreal Expos. In 2009, Beimel was traded to the Rockies for pitcher Robinson Fabian and Mattheus. It wasn’t until 2011 that Mattheus got called up to the MLB by the Nats.

Mattheus made his major league debut on June 14, 2011 against the Cardinals at Nationals Park.  It was an exciting come-from-behind win for the Nats.  Watch the recap HERE.  Mattheus came in to replace starter Yunesky Maya in the fifth as the Nats were down 6-1. The Nats got six runs in the 7th and won 8-6.

Mattheus is becoming very popular with Nats fans.  People like his walk-up song, Firework by Katy Perry.  They also like the way he wears his hat low over his eyes.

As I discussed in another POST, I got Mattheus to sign an autograph on the program for me at NatsFest and I caught his hat.  He now also follows me on Twitter.  He said that he has a nephew who is 8 who is also a Nats fan.  Maybe if Uncle Ryan teaches him how to throw a killer sinker, he can teach me too.