2013 was a great year for me. My website, Matt’s Bats, went from a small blog that I wrote for myself, family and friends, to a MLB Pro Blog that’s been viewed by tens of thousands of people. This year has been stressful because I have hard long division homework and I still try to keep up with baseball news and write at the same time.
Since I moved to MLBlogs, I have been in the Top 50 Pro blogs every month. People from 42 countries have visited my website this year, from places like:
My blog turned 1 year old on July 25, 2013, the same day that the Nats were fortunate enough to walk-off on a home run by Bryce Harper in a 9-7 victory against the Pirates.
I want to thank everyone who helped me have such a great year by reading my website and tweeting to me, re-tweeting me, or #FF’ing me on Twitter. I liked meeting so many readers at games and events. This year I got to meet or interview a bunch of people I admire like F.P. Santangelo, Dave Jageler, Charlie Slowes, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen, Justin Verlander, Tim Kurkjian, Wilson Ramos, Taylor Jordan, Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Ryan Mattheus, Bob Carpenter, Anthony Rendon, Ross Detwiler, and others.
But this post focuses on my favorite Matt’s Bats moments and my top posts I wrote this year.
TOP TEN MATTSBATS.COM STORIES:
I loved writing this post because I got to research the 2013 draftees and I discovered that some of them have famous family members in MLB. For example, I never knew that Red Sox draftee Jordan Sheffield’s dad was former Mets 1B Gary Sheffield, and that the elder Sheffield’s uncle was Dwight “Doc” Gooden who helped the Mets win the ’86 WS vs. the Red Sox. This was a cool post to research and write.
This year I announced that MLB Advanced Media invited me to become a Pro Blogger on the MLB.com/MLBlogs platform. I hope to do more cool stuff with them someday and one day I can write for them as a columnist.
This post was the post that told about my experience at Opening Day at Nationals Park. It was so awesome seeing Bryce hit two bombs to start the New Year.
I took a tour of Nats Park on an off day in May, and I saw all the sights. I went into the locker room, the clubhouse, the field, and the Presidents’ seats. I loved writing this one because I got to see all the things you usually don’t get to see when you go to a baseball game.
I loved writing this post in memory of my grandpa who passed away in March 2008 from cancer. Readers of this post helped me raise over $11,000 for charity. It also tells about a Stan Musial baseball card I got from my dad’s friend, because my grandpa reminded him of Stan Musial. I got rewarded with a special surprise at the charity event on the National Mall.
I was invited by the Bethesda Big Train to cover their holiday auction. I thought it was cool because I got to hang out with Drew Storen, and interview him and Tim Kurkjian. I also covered the Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic this year, which was the first time I was given a media pass to cover an event. I interviewed a bunch of football players and other athletes and journalists at the event.
Adm. Michael Jabaey invited me to attend the Bob Feller Navy Act Of Valor Award ceremony, that honored people who served our country. This year’s winners were Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, All-Star/MVP/Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, and Navy Chief Petty Officer Garth Sinclair. I got to interview Verlander and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. It was awesome seeing these people who acted with such bravery and valor get rewarded.
Dave Ross, the Fox 5 DC sports reporter who just left DC for Chicago, invited me to do a few TV appearances this year. I did a couple of post-game shows with him after the Nationals played Saturday home games. But the first one I did was a live interview at about 9:00 in the morning during Nationals Spring Training. The TV experience was my most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life! LIVE TV!!!!!!!!!!!! It was absolutely awesome that freezing cold February morning that I remember always.
The first “Matt’s Bats Chat” I did was an interview with Ryan Zimmerman’s wife, Heather, about what it is like to be married to a professional baseball player. Even though it was my first Matt’s Bats Chat interview, it is still my most popular post ever. It has thousands of views and new people reader it a few times a day. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet, because she gave some really interesting answers. I also did Matt’s Bats Chat interviews this year with Dave Jageler, Drew Storen, Amanda Comak, Zach Hample, and others. I already have one with ESPN Baseball Tonight host Tim Kurkjian ready to publish in January 2014.
I AND MY FAVORITE POST OF 2013 IS……..
I loved the 2013 NatsFest! It was awesome because I got to do a lot of activities and see cool things and I met so many players. I also got to meet many of my Twitter followers in real life at the unofficial after-party. I am really looking forward to 2014 NatsFest. I’ll see you there!
Thank you so much for supporting me and I hope you have a safe and peaceful new year. May the Nationals be the World Series champions next year!
I asked my Twitter followers to tweet me pics of their baseball-related Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. It looks like a lot of people got sweatshirts and slippers, but Jayson Werth’s Beard got the gift of getting unblocked by Zach Walters! Did you know they make a Nats-ula? (See picture below). I got some cool gifts this year, too, including an Ian Desmond shirsey, a Nationals Archive Run Until They Tag You sweatshirt, and some Nationals sweatshirts and gear! (By the way, this is the most expensive Nationals thing I could find on Amazon).
— Rally Poncho (@RallyPoncho) December 26, 2013
— Merry Natsmas To All (@NatsBandwagon) December 26, 2013
— Jeff Kabacinski (@swampudlian) December 26, 2013
— Lisa (@In2Nats) December 26, 2013
— MicheleS (@AshburnNatsFan) December 26, 2013
Best office Secret Santa gifts ever. Bar none. Bringing Natitude up to Massachusetts. pic.twitter.com/ApO1W8t8iZ
— Allan (@ambp77) December 19, 2013
— NavyNatsFan (@NavyNatsFan) December 26, 2013
— Jack O’Beam (@JackoBeam) December 26, 2013
— Julie Allard Morris (@JulieMorris2010) December 26, 2013
— Nina & Andrew (@NatsFamily) December 26, 2013
I love to read, especially books about sports. Today, I want to recommend to you Man Versus Ball, a book written by Jon Hart about his extraordinary sports adventures. This is a book for people of all ages who would be entertained by Jon’s crazy stunts and other adventures in sports.
Jon is an amateur athlete and author. He has written for the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. The more interesting fact about him is that he has spent a lot of time going on once-in-a-lifetime journeys in the world of sports. In this book, he writes about his experiences as a ballboy at the U.S. Open, as a a caddy for a professional PGA golfer, and some of the other even crazier things he has done.
Jon has done some pretty ridiculous things. Did you know he graduated first in his class from mascot school? Did you even know there was such thing as mascot school? After he graduated, he worked as neon gorilla mascot for the Grand Rapids Griffins minor league hockey team. He takes you behind the scenes on how you get that job and what it’s actually like to be a mascot.
What other weird accomplishments has Jon had? Well, he is also the world champion in roller basketball (basketball on roller skates). He also played roller soccer (how do you kick a soccer ball wearing roller skates?!?!) and raced up the Empire State Building. He got majorly hurt as an amateur “pro” wrestler. These are a few of the types of adventures he tells you about.
One of the chapters I liked best in Man Versus Ball was about Jon’s crazy adventures as a vendor for the Yankees and Mets. Jon was at Yankee Stadium in September 1996. The Yanks were playing for a spot in the playoffs. Eventually, the Yankees made it to the World Series, and Jon got to be there for the whole post-season, for free. But he had to walk the the aisles, selling wienies to drunk and rowdy Bleacher Creatures in the Yankee Stadium outfield. Man Versus Ball spends a few pages explaining the tricks of hot dog vending at a major league ballpark. There are lots of them. Even more interesting, he explains how vendors cheat the system to earn more money by doing things like picking used beer cups off the ground, filling them up again, and selling them.
I asked Jon a few questions about his experiences writing this book.
Matt’s Bats: What inspired you to be an author?
Check out the Man Versus Ball website. You can see that this isn’t really a kid’s book. It has some bad words in it, and it’s not the type of book you would find in a school library. Maybe in a high school library. That doesn’t mean kids won’t like it, because I thought it was very good and very funny. I think older kids and adults would like this book better than younger kids. It only took me about 3 days to read it. The book is 169 pages.
So, if Man Versus Ball sounds interesting to you, click here to buy your own copy.
SPECIAL ALERT! Jon has agreed to giveaway 2 FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of his book to readers of Matt’s Bats who let him know THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS. (An example would be like if you streaked on the field during a game or if you saw somebody catch a foul ball in a bucket of popcorn). Jon will send a book to one person who:
- Sends a tweet to both @MattsBats and @ManVersusBall about THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS.
- Leaves a comment on the Man Versus Ball Facebook Page about THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS.
You can write your post in both places. Jon will read the Facebook comments and Twitter messages and pick one winner from each place and send them a book. But, remember, even if you don’t have a good story, or you don’t win, you can still buy the book from Amazon.com. I think you will like it if you want to buy it and read on vacation or something.
If you look at MLB Blogs Central, you know that there are 3 MLB Pro bloggers writing about the Nationals. In addition to Matt’s Bats, there is, of course, the official blog of the Nationals, Curly W Live, which Amanda Comak and her team writes. (By the way, for November, Matt’s Bats ranked #30 and Curly W Live was #6). There is also the blog written by the Nationals’ official MLB.com beat writer called All Nats All The Time. The author is Bill Ladson. Earlier this month, I got a chance to talk to Bill over the phone, and here is our Matt’s Bats Chat.
Bill Ladson: I started working for MLB.com in 2001. I came from FoxSports.com. I started working on the desk at first. In 2002, I found out that someone was leaving and I wrote to my boss and told him that I wanted the job because at the time Frank Robinson and Omar Minaya were running the team and they acquired Bartolo Colon, Cliff Floyd, and I said to myself, “man, I want to be a part of the action.” So started November 1, 2002, and it’s been really fun ever since.
MB: When did you get started in sports-writing?
BL: I wanted to be a sportswriter, dating back to 1986. I went to Baruch College. I worked for the school paper. I wrote about baseball, mostly.
I was also a music writer. At first, I thought I wanted to be a music critic. The reason I stopped was because – I didn’t like the music at that time and I thought I would be a cruel critic and I didn’t want to write about bad music and write bad reviews every time. My heart still liked the 70s and 60s. That’s my favorite music and I didn’t want to rip music of the 80s. I thought I didn’t want to do that all the time. That’s why I went into sportswriting.
I started writing for Sport magazine. After that I was with The Sporting News for two years. Then I went to Fox Sports and then MLB.com.
MB: What are your favorite ballparks to visit?
BL: Yankee Stadium, no question about it. That will always be Number One. I grew up a die-hard Yankees fan. I’m not saying I root for them now, but growing up, without a doubt, Yankee Stadium is number one. I would say Nationals Park is number two. Number three, I would have to say, believe it or not, I loved Indians Stadium, which became Jacobs Field and is now called Progressive Field.
MB: Are you allowed to root for the Nats now that you’re covering them as a journalist?
BL: I’m not a Nats fan per se. As a journalist covering the team, you’re not supposed to root for the Nats. I guess going by my predictions it seems like I’m a Nats fan. I really thought they were going to go to the World Series this year (2013). I thought they had a better team, but it didn’t happen, and I kind of looked silly. But I really believed they were going to be a good team in 2013. Maybe next year – we’ll see what happens during the Winter Meetings . I think Mike Rizzo is going to make a splash again during the off-season. We’ll have to see what happens.
MB: Who do you think the Nats will trade this offseason? Are there any free agents or trades you think are a good fit?
BL: I think it really depends. I could see them trade for someone like a David Price or a Max Scherzer of the Tigers – I think that could happen. There’s talk of those two guys getting traded and I could see the Nationals try to trade for one of those guys. The Nationals need pitching right now for the back end. I think they have enough ammunition to make that trade.
[We did this interview before the Doug Fister trade]
In terms of free agency, I think it’s not going to be a major player there because I think they need a couple of bench guys, they need a backup catcher – I don’t think they’ll make a splash there.
I think they will get a quality player for the bench, backup catcher, and a left handed specialist for the bullpen, for sure. Who that is, I don’t know now. You would think they might go after Michael Gonzalez again; they let him go and that proved to be a huge mistake. They obviously can’t trade for Gorzelanny because he has another year to go in his contract. That’s what they need the most. It’s hard to say at this early stage who they could go after.
MB: Do you have a certain favorite Nats moment, not just from 2013?
BL: I have several moments. Ironically, my best moment covering this team occurred while they were in Montreal, in August 2003. They swept the Phillies in 4 games to go into a 4 way tie for the Wild Card lead with the Marlins and the Phillies. That was fun to watch. It really was. That’s number one in my book. They actually had a chance to go to the playoffs that year, but after that 4 game sweep they went downhill. They weren’t really in Wild Card contention again until 2005. I have to say 2003 with the Expos, that has to be number one. Hearing the crowd sing “Valerie, Valera” – that was really fun to hear. The crowd really showed up at Olympic Stadium during that series. It was really great to see.
MB: What is the craziest thing you’ve seen a fan or player do while you’ve been covering the team?
BL: The craziest thing I saw was probably watching Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia go at it in 2005. They were arguing over, I forget who the pitcher was, whether the ball was tainted. It was funny to see Mike Scioscia and Frank Robinson almost fight.
MB: What do you like to do when you are not writing about the Nationals?
BL: Ever since I was a little kid, music has been my thing. I’m a big fan of music in the 1960s and 1970s. When I get a chance, I play Otis Redding all the time. I’m a big Beach Boys fan. I’m into music big time. That’s what I do when I’m not covering a team or writing. That’s my favorite hobby.
MB: Who else on the Nats beat do you like to hang out with?
BL: My closest friend is Craig Heist, a radio personality in DC. He’s funny, we talk politics all the time. I’m a Democrat, he’s a diehard Republican. I like the way we go at it all the time. I get a kick on him getting angry when we talk about politics, I do get a kick out of that.
MB: Can you tell me something about yourself that people may not know?
BL: First of all, the one thing I’m glad about, I have my health. This is the first year I’ve been healthy for the first time since 2010. Dialysis has a lot to do with that, by the way. I hope one day to get a kidney transplant. I would say it was a great year because I didn’t have to miss work because of illness. It was the first time since 2010.
I really appreciate Bill taking time on his offseason to talk to me. You should read his blog All Nats All the Time, which is at http://therocket.mlblogs.com/ You can also follow him on Twitter @washingnats to get all the Nats hot stove news this winter from the official MLB.com beat reporter. Check back in on MattsBats.com soon, because I have a couple more really great Matt’s Bats Chats coming up, including my interviews with ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian and another kid blogger.
Last month, I had the chance to talk to Nationals reliever Drew Storen at the Bethesda Big Train Holiday Auction. I have actually met him before, but this was the first chance I got to interview him. Drew was very friendly and answered a lot of my questions. He also signed autographs and talked with other fans. We talked about his expectations for the 2014 season, a little bit about Batman, and then I showed him something he had never seen before—an error in his 2013 Topps baseball card. Enjoy this Matt’s Bats Chat with Drew Storen!
Drew Storen: We have high expectations. It’s a matter of building and getting better every year. We learned a lot in the last two years and we will build off of that and hopefully get ourselves another Division title.
MB: Are you looking forward to Matt Williams as the manager?
DS: Yeah, no doubt. I’ve heard great things about him, great baseball guy. You know, I think our coaching staff sticking around too is also going to be a big help.
MB: How do you feel about the addition of Instant Replay next year?
DS: I think it’s going to be interesting to see because it’s something that baseball hasn’t done a whole lot of. As long as they can keep the pace of the game up and still get the calls right I think everyone will be happy.
MB: What are you doing during the winter months and how are you getting ready for 2014?
DS: I’m kind of relaxing there at first for a couple of weeks and golfing a lot. Then I’m going to work in some workouts and start getting prepped up until February rolls around.
MB: Coming in to a game in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning is stressful. Who do you hate pitching to?
DS: I don’t like any hitters. I would say everybody, how about that?
MB: I know you are a Batman fan, right?
DS: Oh, yeah!
MB: How did you feel about the day Batkid had around San Francisco?
DS: I am very jealous of the BatKid. I would definitely enjoy doing that one day.
MB: Tell me about your “Batmobile.”
DS: My Batmobile is my everyday effort to try and do that. It’s a lot of fun. I’m driving it a little bit more in the offseason.
[Click below to hear audio]
MB: Ok, I have something to show you. I don’t know if you’ve seen it before, but I have your baseball card from 2013 Nationals but there’s a little error on the card.
MS: It says the sentence “He tuned up with a save in Game 1 of the NLDS and a win in Game 3.” But the Nationals lost Game 3 8-0.
DS: Oh, I got the win in Game 4. Man, I did not know that! See you’re teaching me things. I’ve never seen that before. Did they mess up anything else?
[Remember, Game 4 was the epic game that Jayson Werth walked off in the bottom of the 9th on the 13th pitch of the at-bat versus Lance Lynn. Game 3 was the day game– the first post-season home game in Washington in 79 years. The Nats were shut out 8-0, but were closest to a run on an Ian Desmond double.]
MB: No, that’s the only thing they messed up.
DS: I think you need to call them, right?
I spoke a little more with Drew, but that’s all of the interview I recorded for you. I also got to sit with him for a while and talk informally. Near the end of the event, I asked if he would follow me on Twitter, and…
I really enjoyed getting to meet Drew Storen, one of the Nationals’ most valuable bullpen arms and maybe one of the best back-end of the bullpen guys in all of Major League Baseball.
Thanks for reading. Even though I have been so lucky to meet a bunch of Nationals players and talk with them a few questions, this is the first long interview I’ve done with a Nationals player. (I have also interviewed other sports stars like players from the Redskins and even Justin Verlander). I’d love to do more interviews. My wish list from the Nats is Ian Desmond, Denard Span (both of who, I know, read this blog!) Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Stephen Strasburg. If you know of any baseball players, journalists, authors or other people who have interesting stories I could talk to, contact me through this link. Thanks!
Are you wondering what to get your baseball-mad son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, brother, sister, cousin, nephew, or niece (is that everyone?) for the holidays? Well, here are a few suggestions. I’m sharing some of my favorite baseball-related toys, books and other things. You’ll get a taste of what kids my age are into!
TOYS & GAMES
This is a very simple imagination game, but my brother and I spend hours playing it. All Baseball Guys is is a set of plastic baseball player action figures, a cloth field, and a scoreboard. You can imagine any game scenario you want and move the players around the field. The set comes with blue and red teams and I like to pretend the red team is the Nats. This game is good for kids aged 6 and older because the action figures might be too little for younger kids. But little kids might like it because there are no rules. It’s like those little green Army men, but they’re baseball players.
Strat-O-Matic is a game that’s been around forever! It is a board game where you simulate baseball games by rolling dice and referring to cards with players’ actual stats. It is as close to real-life accurate simulation as anything. You use player cards that represent actual player stats from different teams – you can even play teams from past years (I’m waiting to get the team pack from the 1953 Dodgers!). This game is good for older kids (ages 8 and up) – it has very small pieces and you also have to know and understand baseball strategy. Adults who play Fantasy Sports would really like this game too! You can play Basic, Advanced, or Super Advanced, where you can factor in weather conditions, home field advantage, etc. It is a classic!
This is my favorite baseball game app for iPhone and iPad! You pick a team (I always play as the Nats) and you get to manage the team like real GM. You also get to play games where you hit, pitch, and change your players. You get rewarded with virtual player cards along the way. The best news: it’s FREE!
I really like to read, especially sports fiction. Here is a list of my favorite kids’ book authors.
Matt Christopher is a sports writer who writes realistic fiction on all sports, including baseball. He also does player biographies. My favorite Matt Christopher book is Stealing Home, which is about a kid who plays baseball who’s family hosts a foreign exchange student from Nicaragua. It’s a really funny book.
Dan Gutman writes lots of different kids books. He writes the Baseball Card Adventures series, where a a 13-year old boy is able to travel through time by touching baseball cards from different eras. My favorite Dan Gutman book is Babe and Me. In that book, the main character travels through time to Chicago 1932 to see if Babe Ruth really called that famous shot.
David A. Kelly is a baseball fiction writer who writes the Ballpark Mysteries series, a series about 2 kids about my age who try to stop thieves from taking items at baseball stadiums. My favorite David A Kelly book is the most recent one, The San Francisco Splash .
Washington Post writer Fred Bowen writes books about all sports, but his baseball books are really good. I like them because after he tells his story, there’s a chapter about something in real life that inspired the book. For example, in Perfect Game , there’s a chapter on Special Olympics Unified Sports (SOUS), a program for kids who want to do sports, but have intellectual disabilities. In the fiction part, the main character goes to a SOUS team and ends up helping a guy named Kevin.
Former Orioles Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, All-Star and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. is now an author, writing awesome books for kids. They are cool because the plot of every book is about life, but it has a twist because it is baseball related. My favorite Cal Ripken book is Wild Pitch. It is an inspiring story about a boy who meets another boy with only one arm and they become best friends.
Jon Hart writes about his crazy sports-related adventures in Man Versus Ball. I’m not going to say too much about this book now because I will have a lot more to say about it later. But if you like to read about crazy stunts and just plain weird sports things that this guy has done, you will like this book.
Fatheads are awesome wall decals of sports stars. They’re cool because you can decorate your room with pictures of your favorite players. I love them and have a whole bunch of Nats players in my room. They are also removable. Check out this one of Bryce Harper, but they come in all your favorite Nationals players (or other teams too).
The Nationals Archive Shirt Shop: If you are a Nats fan and have ever been on the internet, you know that the Archivists at the Nationals Archive make the best jokes. They also have a t-shirt shop online with cool Nats-related logos. Even some of the players have been spotted wearing them. Some of my favorites are Run Until They Tag You (#RUTTY) (Bryce Harper), #SPANNING (Denard Span), and Steak, Taters, America (Ian Desmond).
You can get almost anything major league baseball related at MLB.com Shop. I recommend jerseys, hats, sweatshirts, t-shirts and other things for kids.
I hope you enjoy the items I recommend to you. If you buy any of them, let me know how they like it! I put in links to where you can buy these items on Amazon.com or other websites– some things like Nats Archive you have to buy from them, but the toys and books you can buy lots of places. I hope you have a happy holiday and new year. May 2014 be a World Series winning year!
The Nationals announce they have acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister from Detroit in exchange for utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, pitcher Ian Krol, and minor league pitching prospect Robbie Ray. Some may think the 3-for-1 trade is lopsided in Detroit’s favor, but I don’t think that is true. Yes, Lombo can virtually play anywhere, Krol was pretty good last year as a call-up, and Ray was phenomenal in Single-A Potomac. But Fister is better than all 3 put together and fills a hole with the 4th pitcher in the rotation. The Nationals now have the best pitching rotation in the major leagues.
The Nats were looking to fill out their starting rotation. Dan Haren’s contract expired after the 2013 season, and due to his struggles nobody really thought he would come back. Haren just signed with the Dodgers, and it looked like some combo of Detwiler, Jordan and Roark would be the back end of the Nats starting 5. Now, we have Stras, Gio, J-Zimm, Fister, and a fifth (probably Detwiler or Roark).
Fister went 14-9 in 2013 with the Tigers. Doug has years of experience; he signed with Detroit from the Mariners in 2011. He’s also played in the postseason. He gets a lot of ground ball outs.
I have to say, the only way the Tigers could have made the deal better for the Nat would’ve been to throw in a Ramon Santiago (as a utility infielder) or Hernan Perez (back-up catcher) to fill the Nats’ other holes.
I may be most sad to see Lombo go. The good news for him is that he is moving from one contending team to another. He was from the DC area and probably loved playing for his home team.
Also, most people may not have heard of Robbie Ray. He’s now the third best prospect for the Tigers. I actually voted for Robbie Ray in third place as the Minor League top performer of 2013 in the DC-IBWA ballot.
I was expecting the Nats to try to get David Price or a Max Scherzer this offseason, but Fister will bring quality innings to the staff. Doug, good luck to your stint with the Nats. I hope to see you pitch, and I think you’ll help us get THAT TROPHY HERE TO DC!!!!!