August 14, 2022

Washington Nationals welcome Frank Robinson back for ceremonial first pitch

There were a lot of folks in the stands today at the Washington Nationals Game 3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series that frankly had no idea why Frank Robinson, mostly known in this area as the Triple Crown winning outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The influx of new fans that have invaded Nationals Park, caught up in the excitement of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and the first playoff appearance in team history since the relocation, has either blurred out — or are just ignorant of — the first few years of the team in D.C., when they called dilapidated RFK home after being wards of the state, treated as second class citizens under stewardship of MLB itself.

Nats former Manager Frank Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch – NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, October 10, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The man who managed those clubs — first in Montreal, then between Montreal and San Juan Puerto Rico, then finally at RFK — was the very same Frank Robinson.

Wednesday, D.C. baseball fans that did remember the many contributions Frank Robinson made to the Expos, Nationals and Major League Baseball in general, finally got their chance to salute and celebrate Robinson, the living legend.

“It was very delightful and quite an honor,” Robinson said. “I enjoyed doing it. I thank the Lerner family for asking me to do it.”

Robinson, now 77,  pulled on the familiar No. 20 jersey and strode to a red mat in front of home plate and delivered a strike to the current No. 20, Ian Desmond. Informed later Desmond changed his uniform number to 20 to honor the Nats former manager, Robinson replied, “Really? That is very nice of him to say that. He has worn it well and I wish him good luck with it for the future.”

Ian Desmond and Frank Robinson – NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, October 10, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Robinson went on to admit it felt nice to put the No. 20 back on, but confided, “Not as good as it was before.”

The Hall of Famer spoke well of his two seasons in D.C.

“People were saying that baseball wouldn’t go here with the Orioles just down the way and I told them they were wrong,” Robinson said. “.I said these are great baseball fans here. You put a good product out there, they’ll come out and root for the team. It’s good to see this, and well-deserved.”

Robinson, who now works as an executive vice president for MLB, reminisced about the 2005 and 2006 seasons when he guided the undermanned Nats against the N.L. East.

“We thought we had a good chance to [make the playoffs] in ’05, the first year,” Robinson said. “We had a terrific first half, and someone turned the switch off at the break, and a different team came back after the break. But it was fun the first half of the season.”

Asked why his time in the District was so important to him, even though it represented such a short stint in the entirety of his career, Robinson replied, “The fans have always been nice since we got back here. That is one of the reasons why it was so nice being here, playing here and managing here, because the fans are really great. They were excited today, sure. It was nice to hear them say the nice things they had to say. I wish them well. They deserve it what has happened here today.”

Looks like Frank Robinson made the umps laugh before game – NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, October 10, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP.

Washington Nationals NCDS Game 3 Review: Nats face elimination after 8-0 loss to Cardinals

NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals v. Washington Nationals, October 10, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

In the first MLB playoff game in Washington D.C. since 1933, things certainly did not go as planned for the home team. The scene was all set: a sellout crowd decked out in red, a ceremonial first pitch by the still-beloved first manager of the team after the move to the District, and a flyover by a quartet of F-16s. Unfortunately, the Washington Nationals that took the field could not complete the day, as for the second game in a row the St. Louis Cardinals dominated every facet of the game, beating the Nats 8-0, to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

As it turns out, the highlight of the day for the Nats was former manager Frank Robinson throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the game, finally getting his curtain call from the organization that he meant so much to, first in Montreal, then in the first two seasons after the move to the District in 2005.

As for the play on the field, well, there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about. The Nats managed to play a cleaner game than the mess that was Game 2 in St. Louis, but the result was quite the same. Starter Edwin Jackson gave up four runs in the second inning, Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus provided little relief, and the Nats hitters stayed dormant with runners in scoring position.

Jackson calmed down after giving up four in the second, but the Nats bats just couldn’t help him out at all. In total, the righty allowed eight hits and one walk, striking out four in five innings. The most damaging blow against Jackson was a three-run home run by No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma, who’s hit two home runs in 89 MLB at bats over two seasons.

But the Nats stranded 10 runners through the sixth inning and didn’t have another one reach after that point until Jayson Werth’s walk with two outs in the ninth.

Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter got the win, going 5 2/3 inning of shut out ball, allowing seven hits and two walks, striking out two.

We’ll have more coverage of the Nats 8-0 loss later at District Sports Page.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP.

NLDS HOME GAME 1: Information

Here are a few tidbits of information to prepare fans for the very first postseason game ever played at Nationals Park on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 1:07 p.m. when the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals.

Allow extra time to get to park, get through gates, get food and get to seats. It will be a full house and you don’t want to miss a single minute of the action! And Frank Robinson is scheduled to throw out the first pitch!

NATIONALS ARE ENCOURAGING FANS TO WEAR RED AND IGNITE THEIR NATITUDE!

WEATHER:
Weather will range approximately from 65-68 degrees during the game with only a 10% chance of rain.

GAME TIME:
First Pitch 1:07 p.m.

GATES OPENING TIMES:
ALL Ballpark gates will open at 10:30 a.m. (2.5 hours prior to the announced game time).

PARKING/METRO:
Since it is a day game, parking will more limited than night games. Cash parking lots will be limited. There is still some parking available online. Navy Yard is the Metro closest to Nats Park.

IMPORTANT TICKET INFO.:
*Make sure to bring the correct ticket!* See Nats page regarding tickets.

TICKET BOX OFFICE HOURS:
On game days, the Nationals Park Box Office is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. until the conclusion of the game, and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until the conclusion of the game. For all games with a start time of 2:00 p.m. or earlier, the box office opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at the conclusion of the game. Box office hours on non-game days are Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

STANDING ROOM ONLY TICKETS:
A limited number of Standing Room Only tickets will be made available at the Nationals Park Box Office on the day of the game on a first-come, first-served basis. Fans can purchase up to two (2) tickets per transaction. Standing Room Only tickets are non-exchangeable and non-refundable. Standing Room Only tickets allow access to Nationals Park and the ability to watch the game without providing access to a specific seat. We ask that fans in the lower bowl standing room areas stand one person deep to allow for easy mobility for other guests and guests in wheelchairs.

Standing Room Only locations within Nationals Park, available on a first-come, first-served basis include:
– Red Loft to the end of the Scoreboard (behind Section 240)
– Left Field Ramp
– Behind Sections 138 – 143
– Outside the Stars & Stripes Club, 1st Base side (on the landing at the end of the ramp)

ENJOY IT!
Bring your NATITUDE, have a great time and cheer on the Nats!

Frank Robinson to throw out first pitch on Wednesday

Former Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first ever playoff game at Nationals Park on Wednesday, October 10, 1:07 p.m.

Longtime Nats fans have been looking forward to having Robinson back since his departure so plan to arrive early.

As first reported by Bill Ladson of mlb.com and then confirmed by Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

Frank Robinson on his last day as Manager for the Washington Nationals, 10/01/2006 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Fans express their love for Frank Robinson on his last day as Manager for the Washington Nationals, 10/01/2006 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

Washington Nationals set to play at 1:00 pm in Game 3 of NLDS

Multiple sources are reporting the Washington Nationals first home playoff game, Game 3 of the National League Division Series, is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 pm at Nationals Park. The game will be aired on MLB Network with Bob Costas and Jim Kaat on the call.

 

Opinion: With playoff berth, everything has changed for the Washington Nationals

I try not to get emotional as the result of sporting events anymore. It’s partly the product of having credentials to cover the teams I grew up rooting for as a kid. It’s partly because of the years of agony those teams put me through growing up in this area. I try my best to keep an even keel, to remain critical and objective covering teams that meant so much to me during my formative years. It’s not always easy. And it hasn’t always been this way.

When I was a kid, I threw my 5 1/2 inch black and white antenna t.v. through my bedroom window when the Cowboys beat the Redskins for Dallas’ sole victory in Troy Aikman’s rookie year. My first favorite team was the Bullets championship teams in the late 70’s. I still wear No. 10 on sports teams I play on for Bobby Dandridge. I attended the second game in the history of the Washington Capitals in 1974. Hell, my family even had Washington Diplomats season tickets.

But we never had a baseball team. Sure, I rooted for the Orioles, but they were all the way up in Baltimore. I loved Eddie Murray and Cal — and Mickey Tettleton was one of my favorites — but they were so far away. They won the World Series in 1983 when I was 16. I, like Cal, thought they’d be back every year. They never did get back. They got good again in the mid-90s with Mike Mussina and all the high-priced free agents they bought. But then Peter Angelos fired Davey Johnson. I stopped rooting for the Orioles that day. A lot of people did. The rest, as they say, is history.

I know this is a weird way to start a column about the Nats clinching a playoff spot for the first time since they moved to D.C., but please, bear with me.

When we found out the Expos were moving to D.C. finally, after 33 years of no baseball, the District had another team to call their own. My wife and I were some of the very first to buy season tickets. Literally. Our season ticket holder number was in the triple digits. We just got lucky on that first night you could call to register for tickets. Those early years in RFK were rough though.

The stadium was a dump, barely adequate on the playing field with laughable concourses, concessions and customer service. To say the clubhouses, team offices  and media accommodations were substandard is a joke. They were substandard for Low-A. The Nats team offices were trailers in the RFK parking lots. Some nights, the players ran out of hot water to shower.

The team on the field was rough too. Sure, that first season there was some magic as a group of Montreal Expos holdovers, misfits, has-beens and waiver wire fodder won enough one-run games to be in contention until late in the summer until the chicken wire and chewing gun fell apart and the team imploded down the stretch. From there, things got worse. Much worse.

The organization wanted to get younger, but still try to put a presentable product on the field. They failed in both aspects. Frank Robinson deserved much better in his final year in a Major League uniform. He still hasn’t received his proper send-off for all he did for Washington Baseball. Then his replacement, Manny Acta, was saddled with a couple of the worst teams ever assembled in big league ball. Actually, to call those teams “big league” is a disgrace to the term. The team was pathetic; the butt of jokes on late night t.v.

Somewhere in there, I got the great idea that writing and publishing my opinions about this team was a good idea. I’m still not sure it was, but here we are regardless.

The Nats moved into brand new Nationals park in 2008, but it certainly didn’t help the product on the field. To the very contrary actually; the team got worse. Consecutive 100-plus loss seasons inaugurated the ballpark on South Capitol Street. Patrons stayed away. Far away. The product of all those losses, however, were two No. 1 overall picks in the Amateur Draft.

It was at that point that ownership cleared house of the existing baseball “executives”, replacing them with Mike Rizzo, and allowed Rizzo the flexibility and means to first create adequate — and eventually superlative — scouting and player development departments. Yes, they were fortunate that two slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it, consensus first-overall picks were at the top of the two drafts in which they owned the No. 1 overall picks. But sometimes forces collide for good as well as evil.

Rizzo did draft — and sign — Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and the seeds of change for D.C. baseball had been sown. Rizzo also weeded out the bad attitudes and malcontents from the clubhouse that doomed Acta and his successor, Jim Riggleman, and brought in character guys — and just plain characters.

He overpaid drastically for a bearded, aging, sometimes surly right fielder, albeit one with a championship pedigree. He traded a AAAA outfielder for a minor league shortstop who had outgrown the position, spent much of his time injured and even had a lengthy suspension for performance enhancing drugs. He signed a first baseman who once fell asleep — literally — on the field. They traded half their farm system for an American League lefty who walked too many and played in a cavern in Oakland. They signed a veteran righty at the last minute who owned a World Series ring, but who has also played on seven teams in a 10-year career.

But the real difference on the roster came from the players they drafted and/or developed. Ryan Zimmerman. Jordan Zimmermann. Ross Detwiler. Drew Storen. Ian Desmond. Danny Espinosa. Roger Bernadina. Steve Lombardozzi. John Lannan. Craig Stammen. Tyler Moore. And yes, the phenoms, Strasburg and Harper. And there are even more on the way. Perez, Rendon, Meyer, Goodwin, Giolito…

They came in to the 2012 season seen by some in the media as contenders, but no one could have predicted just how fast this team came together. All season long, dealing with the distraction of “The Shutdown,” all they did was keep winning games and winning series, under the guidance of a veteran manager that has seen all of this before. In fact, he now becomes just the second manager to take four different teams to the postseason.

Davey Johnson will only allow himself a brief smile tonight. He knows what’s been accomplished — he knows the history. But he also feels — he knows – that there’s more for this team to accomplish this season. He’ll celebrate when the division is wrapped up and he won’t have to deal with Bud Selig’s gimmicky one-game play-in. He knows the math, he was a math major in college, after all.

The Washington Nationals are going to the playoffs. It’s hard for me to imagine those words, much less type them for publishing. Yet, here we are. Everything has changed for this franchise. No longer are they “The Natinals.” That moniker is long gone, dead and buried. This is a playoff team, a playoff franchise. Nothing can or will ever take that away. If you’ve been here since 2005, take a moment to let it all sink in. You’ve more than earned it. If you’re new to the team, enticed to baseball by the excitement of Strasburg, Harper and yes, winning; welcome.

Everyone loves a winner.

So you’ll have to forgive me for feeling sentimental this morning (currently 3:07 am as I type this). I couldn’t afford that luxury earlier in the evening as I was sitting in the press box, watching the team I wished I had as a youth clinch its first post-season berth. I couldn’t be, sitting in Davey’s press conference, even knowing he was the manager of the last team I cared about before this one arrived in D.C.

But I can be sentimental now. We all can be. Damn it, we earned it too.

Washington Nationals Game 149 Review: Nats clinch playoffs with 4-1 win over Dodgers

Drew Storen and Kurt Suzuki after win and Nats clinch playoff berth – Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, September 20, 2012, (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

In his post-game press conference, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson stressed there was more work to do.

“What’s the big deal?” Johnson said, opening his post-game press conference with a giant smile across his face.

The big deal in D.C. is the first post-season playoff appearance for a Washington-based baseball team since prohibition — 1933 to be exact — as the 2012 Nats clinched their playoff spot by virtue of a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, before 30,359 at a very raucous Nationals Park.

“That was fun but that’s not what I had my eye on,” Johnson said, referring to clinching a spot for at least the play-in game in the new MLB playoff format. “It’s a nice step to get here, but every manager that’s leading the division, that’s the only thing that matters – winning your division. The [new] playoff format, with a one-game playoff, the old style with where you’re in as a wild card, that was OK, but I don’t want this.”

There was a small celebration in the clubhouse to acknowledge the franchise’s first playoff appearance since the relocation, but Johnson assured everyone that there are still more pressing matters to attend to.

“Well, we had a little champagne and I guess they wanted me to say something. I said, ‘What’s this? We ain’t done yet.’ Something like that,” Johnson said. “They all had the same feeling. That this was just a baby step to get to the playoffs. But we want to (win) the division.”

The Nats (91-58) won this game like many of the previous 90 — strong starting pitching and timely big hits.

Ross Detwiler turned in another extremely strong performance and three different Nats hitters drove in runs as they won the series over the Dodgers, who are still fighting for a playoff spot themselves. And since the Atlanta Braves were off, the Nats stretched their division lead to 5 1/2 games, lowering their magic number for the division title to eight.

Detwiler was sublime. He was perfect though three innings and not much worse after that. He allowed a solo home run to Mark Ellis to lead off the fourth inning, but went right back to dominating in the subsequent two innings. All told, Detwiler gave up three hits and one walk in six innings with five strikeouts. He used just 82 pitches, 52 of which were strikes.

The Nats staked Detwiler (W, 10-6, 3.10) to a lead in the third inning, Jayson Werth (2-for-3, BB) led off with a single off Dodgers starter Chris Capuano. Bryce Harper hit a high bouncer to first that Adrian Gonzalez snagged and relayed to shortstop Hanley Ramirez in hopes of a double play. But Werth barreled into Ramirez to slow the turn and Harper hustled all the way to stay out of the twin killing.

Ryan Zimmerman followed with a double to center field that scored Harper from first. Zimmerman took third on Adam LaRoche’s grounder, and hustled home on a wild pitch on a close play at the plate.

The Nats picked up a couple of insurance runs in the fourth. Ian Desmond (2-for-3, BB) walked to lead off and scored on Danny Espinosa’s double into the left field corner. Espinosa took third on the errant throw home and scored on Kurt Suzuki’s sacrifice fly to center.

After Detwiler departed, all that was left was for the bullpen to do their jobs. In succession, Christian Garcia, Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen threw scoreless innings, with Storen striking out All-Stars Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in order to earn his second save of the season.

The scoreboard flashed “NATS CLINCH”. A brief fireworks shower cascaded from the sky above the Nats Park press box. Players exchanged high-fives while P.R. folks distributed “Natitude–2012 Playoffs” t-shirts and caps. But while the celebration was reserved on the field, fans in the stands reveled at the thought of their Nationals, 90-game losers just two seasons ago, finally eligible for post-season play.

THE TAKEAWAY: Davey, and all the players in the clubhouse afterward, downplayed the significance of clinching a playoff spot. None of them want to participate in the ridiculous one-game play-in, and rightfully so. They have their sights on clinching the division, resting some position players that are nursing nagging injuries, and getting ready for a deep post-season run befitting of a team that has carried the best record in the Major Leagues for most of the season.

But it IS a big deal. This city is starving for good news sports-wise. There hasn’t been a baseball team qualify for the post-season in the Nation’s Capital since 1933. This incarnation of the Nationals lost 298 games between 2008 and 2010. They were the laughingstock of the league and the butt of jokes on late-night television. All that has now changed. This Washington Nationals team is a playoff team.

THE GOOD: Detwiler. He’s peaking at the right time.

THE BAD: Bryce Harper. 0-for-4 with a K and three LOB.

THE UGLY: Two Dodgers fans got in a fight right behind the Dodgers dugout in the ninth inning, interrupting the game for a couple of minutes. Storen had to step off the mound to compose himself before getting back up on the hill. Strange moment in an otherwise perfect evening of baseball.

THE STATS: 7 hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks. 0-for-7 with RISP, 5 LOB, 0 GIDP. E: Zimmerman (18), 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89) hosts Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91).

WASHINGTON NATIONALS CLINCH POST-SEASON BERTH

A beautiful thing – Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals, September 20, 2012, Nats Clinch Playoff Berth (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

By defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1, behind six strong innings by Ross Detwiler, the Washington Nationals secured a post-season berth in the National League playoffs, becoming the second team to qualify for the post-season, after the Cincinnati Reds clinched earlier in the day.

We’ll have much more on the game and perspective on the Nats finally reaching the post-season later this evening on DistrictSportsPage.com. Game Re-Cap.

Hagerstown Suns Eliminated from Playoffs

The Hagerstown Suns, Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, were eliminated from the Northern Division Championship Series by the Greensboro Grasshoppers in a 7-5 loss at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, NC on Friday night. The Grasshoppers won the best of three series, two-games-to-none and advance to the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

The Suns return to Hagerstown on Thursday, April 11, 2013. Next season’s schedule has been released with a printable schedule.

Washington Nationals prepared to dispatch challenge to division title

Davey Johnson readies his troops for the post-season. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

I don’t normally wax poetic about baseball. I usually take a more analytical approach to covering the game. But it’s hard to write anything analytical or critical about this team right now. [Read more…]

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