July 9, 2020

NATS: Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards Collection

Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida - Spring Training Home of the Washington Nationals (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Spring Training is winding down and the Washington Nationals are on their way back to DC this afternoon.

District Sports Page did a new series for Spring Training 2012 called “Spring Training Postcards” in which fans contributed their perspectives. We received a variety of stories from eight year old Danny, Nats blogger, Florida local, spring training newbie and more diehard Nats fans, as well as photo galleries. Thank you to all of the contributors.

Here is the full collection if you missed any of the fun stories.

Impressions of a 13-year old lifetime fan

Spring season ticket holder party

A youngster’s first trip

Baseball in its primitive form

Photo Gallery of Nats v. Cardinals March 11 Game

Photo Gallery of Cardinals v. Nats March 12 Game

Photo Gallery of Washington Nationals Minor League Camp

A late bloomer’s first spring training experience

Better than New Year’s Eve

N.Y. transplant – now Florida local – loves, the Nats, too

Fundamentals start in the minor leagues

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: Fundamentals start in the minor leagues

by Tova Perlow, Special to District Sports Page

Chicks dig the long ball.  It’s true, we really do.  During the season, there is nothing better than a long homer to lift your team to a win.  But during spring training, it’s all about the small ball.  As a second-year veteran of Nats spring training, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the long ball is not the focus for a successful pre-season. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: N.Y. transplant – now Florida local – loves the Nats, too

by Wendy McDowell (@yankegator)

I have Randy Siegel, a seventh grade crush, to thank for sparking my interest in baseball. You may think love is enduring, but in my story that’s just not the case. Baseball is enduring. Randy never did notice me, and I probably would have outgrown him and his crusty milk mustache and stretched-out turtleneck by eighth grade anyway. Fast forward 35 or so years, and I am still wide eyed at the mention of baseball. Imagine my boundless joy as the month of March rolls around now that I — a transplanted Manhattanite — live in Central Florida.

My husband Brian’s claim to fame is that I gave up my Yankee season tickets to move to Florida. Yes, he was well worth it and not just because he too thought a romantic weekend should include a schlep to four spring training ballparks in three days. I learned he had a priceless skill: he could review multiple baseball schedules and fashion baseball trips like no other before him. Sold. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcard: Better than New Year’s Eve

by Dyan Smith (@dyanzsmith), Special to District Sports Page

What does baseball and the Washington Nationals mean in our house and hearts? For me, it isn’t just about the love of the game, it is about the time of year and all that it brings. Let’s start with summertime, being outside, a slower pace of life, more socializing, drinking cold beer or lemonade and kicking back to watch the “boys of summer”. In our house, it is the Nationals all the way. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: A late bloomer’s first spring training experience

by Brett Geranen (@NotOwenMeany), Special to District Sports Page

I’m still lobster-red from the Florida sun and haven’t even washed my souvenir Spring Training mug or t-shirt, but I’m already trying to convince friends to attend Spring Training next year. I’m a pretty late bloomer, as baseball fans go, but I’ve fallen in love with the game, and with the Washington Nationals.

When people ask, I tell them my three games in four days are an over-exposed blur of faces I recognize (“There’s Zimmerman!”), great seats, the buzz of hopeful fans, my own foul ball, and the haze of sunscreen in my eyes. In trying to convince them that we should go next year, I tell them all of the stuff I’d think they’d want to hear: See players warming up on the practice field and they’ll walk right by you! You can sit in the second row behind home plate for $26! Multiple starting pitchers splitting innings! I praise the access, the warm temps, the easy parking, cheap hotels, and beaches. Hey, Kennedy Space Center is right down the road for an off day!

I sat no more than 15 feet from Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, and Jayson Werth while they fiddled with their batting gloves in the on-deck circle. I got great photos of Edwin Jackson warming up, Tyler Clippard (Clippard!) throwing right at me, and Bryce Harper scoring (hope to see that soon, and often, at Nats Park!). I got to give my own personal standing ovation to Wilson Ramos in appreciation for his safe return.

Tyler Clippard delivers against the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium. (photo courtesy Brett Geranen)

For those reasons, I suggest you (and my friends, if any of you read this) go to Spring Training!

But, as great as all of that was, none of it was my favorite part of the experience. Background first before we get to my highlight. One of the Nats I have most loved to root for has been Rick Ankiel. Ankiel’s well-documented flame-out as a pitcher and successful struggle to rebuild himself as an outfielder is one of my favorite stories. I’d stay awake for a Ken Burns’ documentary on that.

One play from the 2011 season that gives me goose bumps is from last Aug. 28. The Reds and Nats were tied in the bottom of the ninth with one out. Dave Sappelt drives a ball between Werth in right and Ankiel in center. Werth’s effort is just short and the ball goes off the wall. Sappelt sees that Ankiel has overrun it as well and decides to stretch it to third. Ankiel barehands the ball and throws a laser to Brian Bixler at third. There’s an interminable second-long wait while the umpire circles around…sees that Bixler held onto the ball and calls Sappelt out! I love that play! Watch it again here.

I was glad to hear that Ankiel was invited back to Nationals camp. I was sorry to hear that he had a sore hamstring and likely wouldn’t play during our visit.

On our last day of spring training (Sunday, March 18), my girlfriend dropped me at the park extra early. There were players on the outside practice field, tossing balls and taking short rounds of batting practice. Part of a small crowd pressed up against the fence while the other part made a polite, orderly line where the players would pass from the practice field to the stadium.

In addition to being an Ankiel fan, I’m also a melancholy guy by nature. There’s only so much optimism and sunshine I can take in four days. I was having fun, but wasn’t in the mood to stand in line for autographs.

The players worked their way off of the field and the crowd melted away. I was standing in the (rare) shade near the practice field bench by myself. A few players or coaches were all that were left on the field. I noticed someone jog down the first base line. It was Rick Ankiel.

He walked back to the batter’s box, mimed a swing and jogged down to first. He did this again. And again, a little faster. Testing that hamstring. The other two players/coaches/trainers studiously pretended not to watch too closely. About the fourth or fifth time down the line, he turned for second. He walked back to home, mimed another swing, and again rounded the bag to second. He did this a few more times, until he, or the observers, had seen enough and they all ambled off the field.

My favorite part of Spring Training was watching a 32 year old, “non-roster invitee” test his hamstring in hopes of being well enough to play until a 19 year-old phenom comes up and takes his roster spot. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Rick Ankiel testing hammy on a back field at Nats training complex. (photo courtesy Brett Geranen)

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: Photos of Minor League Camp

Since the big leaguers had a night game on Tuesday, March 13, we decided to head over to the practice fields to watch the two minor league games during the early afternoon.

Several of the players had just joined minor league camp after the first round of cuts on Monday, including Anthony Rendon who was playing third base in one of the games today. In fact, at one point, the first three Nationals picks from the 2011 draft were all on the field together. Rendon was at third base, Alex Meyer was pitching and Brian Goodwin was batting. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: Photos from March 12 Game

The Washington Nationals hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium on Monday, March 12. The game time temperature was 79 degrees and increased during the game, although the light breeze made it a perfect day to watch baseball. Well, every day is really a perfect day to watch baseball, but you know what I mean.

Jordan Zimmermann took the mound for the Nationals and with the exception of Corey Brown, the Nats had a complete big league lineup. Ryan Zimmerman and Jesus Flores each homered. The Nats beat the Cards 8-4. You can read the re-cap here. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: Photos from March 11 Game

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Jupiter, Florida for the spring training game between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, the dark clouds rolled in and the skies opened during the top of the fifth inning. The Nats were leading 1-0 over the reigning World Series Champs when the game was finally called after a long rain delay.

Washington Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez was on the mound and had another strong outing. Veteran Jake Westbrook started for the Cardinals and Matt Holliday was back in the line up.

[Read more…]

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: Baseball in its primitive form

by Drew Kinback, Author of Nationals Inquisition, Special to District Sports Page

It was a scorcher at Space Coast Stadium — both in the stadium and on the scoreboard. The sun in Viera roasted my skin to a ruby-red and the Nationals offense completely burned the pitching staff of the Houston Astros on the way to an 8-0 shutout. That fat zero on the scoreboard (much in part to four brilliant innings from starter Edwin Jackson) was better than any ointment I could put on my skin. Still, I admit, the sun entered every pore of my skin and it hurt like hell. No matter, I knew the medicine.

My comrades and I quickly got to our car and burned rubber back to our lodgings in Indialantic. We kicked in the door of the house of the Mets fan we were staying with, triumphant, and quickly gorged ourselves on hamburgers and rum until nightfall. Drunk in revelry, we crossed the A-1-A and made our way to the beach where we disrobed and howled at the moon and sung rounds of “Show Me The Way To Go Home.”

If this sounds childish, barbarous and downright primitive — it is. But ultimately, that is what Spring Training is: baseball at its most primitive. It is a chance for players and fans to reconnect with the game without the hassles of extreme competition or high-priced luxury suites. There is a childish innocence to it that gives you license to just be a kid again. It tells you to put the baseball cards in the spokes of your bicycle and ride to the freedom many of us have forgotten.

You want to raise hell on a beach under a full moon? Do it. You simply want to go back to your hotel room, sip some Harvey’s OJ and watch SportsCenter? Yeah, you can do that too. Some people want to harvest and prune banana trees in the early dawn before heading out to Space Coast Stadium to watch workouts. Okay, not many may want to do that, but I did anyway.

Spring Training is the game in its purest form and how it should be played all the time. I love Spring Training. If there is a heaven, it must be Spring Training all the time.

The author. In his most primitive form. (photo courtesy of D. Kinback)

Washington Nationals Spring Training Postcards: A youngster’s first trip

Danny Albisu attended his first spring training game and met Bryce Harper after. (photo courtesy Luis Albisu)

Danny Albisu is an eight-year old kid, in love with the game of baseball. He came to see the Washington Nationals play spring training games with his dad, Danny, uncle Luis and Luis’ son and Danny’s Godfather, Alex.  The others have been to spring training before, but this was Danny’s first trip.

Not only did the Albisu’s see a ballgame, but afterward at the Spring Training season ticket holders party Danny got to meet and get his picture taken with one of his favorite players, none other than Nats phenom Bryce Harper. By the way, Danny thought it was cool that Bryce is only 11 years older than him.

Maybe someday, when Harper is a veteran ballplayer, young Danny might be trying to break into the big leagues. That’s what spring training is for, after all — dreaming big. Anyway, it’s a memory Danny will carry with him for his lifetime.

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