Yesterday, Thursday morning, we started our second annual Spring training visit to see the Nationals.
We were up at 5:15am to get ready to drive to the airport to fly to Florida. Starting with a temperature in the 20’s in Rockville MD, we landed to a temperature in the 70’s in West Palm Beach. We flew there since the first game we were going to see was an away game against St. Louis at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
After getting the car, and returning the unwanted but almost charged for GPS; “No we have two smart phones and two tablets and a laptop, somewhere in there must be Google Maps”, we were off for the game.
One of the great things about going to Spring training, since we are now experts having gone once before, is how close to the field you get and how informal the whole setting is; though I suspect with attendance going up each year for these games like everything it has pretty gotten a bit more formal. Heck, there were even scalpers outside the stadium selling tickets.
We were two rows from the field behind home plate toward the Nationals dugout and literally had the players within an arm’s reach of us. Whenever Pudge Rodriguez came out to hit, one father kept bringing his two year old to the netting and yelled at Pudge to turnaround so the father could take a picture of the two together. One fan yelled that the father should give the camera to Pudge and let HIM take the picture of the father with the son. Neither happened since actually during the game the players tend to focus on the game.
Mike Rizzo, the Nationals General Manager, sat in the row in front of us, so Ellen and I were able to ponder what secret comments were being made between him and the guy sitting to his left about his plans for the team.
The guy who was selling pretzels, who held a large plastic pretzel in his hand, spent his time walking around the stands and shouting things like “If you want the Cardinals to win, you have to buy a pretzel. If you want the Nationals to win, you have to … pray.” Or when Albert Pujols would come up, “Get your Pujols pretzels, only available for a short period of time.”, an inside joke for those who know that Pujols is an unrestricted agent after this year and may move to another team in return for some extradinary contract.
Nyjer Morgan, the Nationals projected center fielder for this year and who had what one might call a mixed year last year with altercations on the field and with fans off the field during games, was yelled at by one of the Cardinals fans in the crowd. Morgan, unlike almost all of the players, actually turned around to look at the guy. “Have your people call my people”, said the fan; to be honest I have no idea what that was supposed to mean, but it evidently annoyed Morgan who seems to flunked any charm school classes the Nationals sent him to in the off-season by then articulating a suggestion which was physically impossible to the fan and unprintable in this blog.
We were able to see the Nationals new “greatest player of all time”, confirmed when a fan yelled out “You are the greatest player of all time” as Bryce Harper came up to hit late in the game. Harper grounded out to second, though he ran very hard to first base after hitting the ball.
We saw why Albert Pujols might be the best player in baseball for now, until Harper gets into the majors, both by how well he did at the plate but also by how carefully he was pitched to.
And we saw some very strange fielding and running plays which hopefully will not be duplicated by the Nationals in the regular season.
Oh yes, the Nationals lost 7-5 but it was GREAT being here. As I mentioned to Mike Rizzo when he sat down, I could see why baseball was such a difficult sport to be part of. Participants have to spend a month each year in Florida starting in February playing a game out in the sun.