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Monday, August 20, 2007

Nats swept by Mets 8-2 OR Homestand horrors and homeruns

On Sunday, the Nats got swept by the Mets 3 games to zero to complete a 1 and 5 homestand. Not even the early heroics of new outfielder Wily Mo Peña, who hit a 2-run homer off of the left field upper deck facing to briefly put the Nats ahead 2-1, could salvage a thorough and sound drubbing by the team from Queens.

Starter Shawn Hill wasn't quite the lethal menace to the Mets as he was to the Phillies last week, but he did yeoman work on the mound, allowing 5 hits but only 2 runs and he went 7 innings, which was good for the bullpen. He walked 2 and struck out 2, and one of his allowed hits was a 1st inning homer, but his outing was still very encouraging. It's too bad that they had him on a pitch count, he might have been able to go 8 innings. As it was, he threw 58 strikes on 88 pitches (66%).

Our bullpen of Jon Rauch and Chris Schroeder was less than stellar, with Rauch allowing 4 runs on 4 hits. This broke the 2-2 stalemate in the 8th inning and finished the Nats for the day. Chris Schroeder (happy birthday, Chris!) allowed a walk and a 2-run homer to drive the final nails in the Nats coffin. Oh, well, everyone has an off-day once in a while. They've been so good for so long, the odds were bound to catch up with them eventually.

Ryan Report: Church was back in left field, and he went 0 for 4, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I., and Austin Ryan Kearns also went 0 for 4. Congratulations to "El Duque".

The Nats only managed to get 3 hits all afternoon - Zimmerman, Peña and Robert Fick. That's never going to be enough against the Mets.

Perhaps they'll have better luck against the Astros. When they were here recently, the Nats went 2-1 on them. Hope that Oswalt has an off-day.

A weird day, weather-wise. It was supposed to be sunny and cooler, due to that high-pressure system, but the rain clouds and overcast came early. 73 degrees at 1:35 game time with a 10 m.p.h. wind - hardly a typical August day but quite welcome. I had a couple of raindrops on my car when I hit the parking lot, but I needed my sunblock by the time the game started. Naturally, I left my sunglasses in the car (ha!).

After greeting Rico at the gate, I went upstairs to see Ellie, and I wound up having one of my most interesting ballpark encounters of the entire season. Now some bloggers have interviewed the National's T.V. play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter and some have interviewed the Nationals T.V. color commentator, Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton. Well, I'm pleased to announce that I've scooped them all. Through a lot of luck and perfect timing, I got the opportunity to interview someone who knows all of the Nationals players, and probably hundreds more around the league, as well as lots of Hall-of-Famers. This person gets to see the players up close, in batting practice and often in the off-season as well. I'm talking about the one, the only, Jackie Sutton.

Now, Jackie may be young (I'd say 11 years old, but I'm pretty lousy at age guesses), but she's a seasoned baseball observer. When I met her yesterday for her interview (well, perhaps "interview" is a slight exaggeration...) she was introduced to me and I shook her hand and told her how much I admired her dad (the aforementioned Hall-of-Famer and MASN color commentator Don Sutton). Hearing that, a jaded look crept across her face that I'm sure so many celebrity children get when the umpteenth person tells them how much they admire their parent. I even said, "I'm sure that you hear that all the time, huh?", and she just nodded. Oh, how us overeager fans must tax the patience of even the most well-mannered kids. I quickly changed the subject and asked her how she liked one of my favorite restaurants in the Coachella Valley of Southern California (where the Suttons make their home). Suddenly, her face lit up with animation and she said that her family ate there all the time. I asked her who her favorite Nationals were, noticing that she was sporting a snappy Brian Schneider t-shirt, and she found that a difficult question to answer, she likes them all so much. I showed her the baseball that I'm currently using to gather as many player signatures as possible, and she looked at it with great interest, asking me who all of the signatures belonged to. Our conversation about that went something like this:

Me: "This one here is Matt Chico."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is Luis Ayala."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is John Patterson."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is Micah Bowie."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is Ryan Langerhans."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is Ryan Church."
JS: "I know him!"
Me: "This one is Nick Johnson."
JS: "I know him!"

Well, the rest of that conversation went pretty much the same way. I was so envious of her player acquaintances, and I joked to her that I needed to borrow her to help me get more signatures on my baseball. Her reply: "Nope!" (ha!)

One thing that Jackie did for me was, she acted as my messenger to get a short note to Bob Carpenter. Basically, I just wanted to ask him to address on the air what the Houston Astros and/or Major League Baseball had as contingency plans in case Hurricane Dan threatened Houston this week while the Nationals were there. Since I record the broadcasts, I'd see his answer. I even bumped into team President Stan Kasten and asked him, "Are we concerned about Hurricane Dan?" and he responded in the affirmative, mentioning that they were monitoring it closely. Fortunately for Texas, it appears today that Dan is headed towards Central Mexico. It shouldn't affect Houston at all, but who knows, they might get some rain as a result, and with all of the heavy rain that Texas has had this month, any more rain will cause flooding, so it bears paying attention to still. (I watched the broadcast later and Bob did, indeed, address the question. Basically, they have to wait and see what the track of the hurricane is going to be)

After that, a member of the MASN crew appeared and presented her with a whoopee-cushion advertising the Fox T.V. show, "Family Guy" that was being given away out in front of the Main Gate. There were costumed characters from the show doing photo ops, and Jackie was excited to see them, so she went down and got her picture taken with them, and then came racing back up to show it to her mom (who was nearby).

For a brief moment, her dad appeared, sneaking up behind her to give her a laugh, and the smile of pride on Don Sutton's face was irrepressible. He is obviously a devoted family man, and you can just tell that Jackie is the jewel of his life. I've been told that when Jackie and her mom visit the stadium, Jackie plays catch with her dad on the field. What an amazing childhood she must have. I later remarked to Bob Carpenter that Jackie must have more big brothers and uncles around the country than any other kid, and Bob indicated that she is, indeed, every players favorite "niece".

This is a perfect example of the kind of personally rewarding experiences that I've enjoyed being a Washington Nationals season ticket holder. Getting to meet the folks who bring us baseball and, more enjoyably, getting to know a little bit about their private side, the side that most fans just don't know much about. It's always a joy to see just what wonderful people they truly are, behind their more public personas, and how and why they are involved with the team. The season is relatively short, only 6 months of the "regular" season, and for a fan like me it's not long enough to get to know some of these people as well as I'd like to, but it means the world to me to be able to show them a little bit of my appreciation and affection for how much they enrich my own life.

During the game, I got my beer from Howard, and he told me that, last Sunday (when the Nats were on the road) and he was vending at Camden Yards for the Orioles, he was on T.V. for several moments of the Fox broadcast. He had just run out of beer and was responding to fan requests that they be allowed some free ice. So, Howard was tossing some ice to some fans (it was a VERY hot day) and the T.V. cameras picked it up and an announcer declared that one of the vendors had, apparently, gone berserk from the heat and was throwing ice on people (!!!!) My God, that made me laugh, Howard described it so perfectly, and I could just picture him doing exactly what he described. That's a moment that I'd pay good money to see on YouTube.

The highlight of the game play for me was watching Wily Mo Peña's homer off of the upper deck facing in left field. My gosh, that guy really can hit, and he will be a fun player to watch. I'm prepared for him to strike out a lot, Manager Manny Acta said that "power guys do that", so I'm not expecting him to be the next coming of Mickey Mantle, but perhaps the next coming of Frank Howard? I'd settle for that.

At the end of the game, the club handed out 35,000 Post Points Softee baseballs, courtesy of the Washington Post. Those were kind of fun. Since there were only 29,062 tickets sold, that meant that there were several thousand extra of these things available to enterprising fans.

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No fun to get swept by the Mets, or any other team for that matter, but at least it was a fun day and the weather cooperated. Hopefully, the next time these teams meet, the results will be in the Nats favor.


Anonymous said...

Chasing down an announcer's child for a story? Are you serious? How can you write about someone's child without their parent's permission. Then use them as a conduit to send a personal message for your own self gratification.

What fine journalistic reporting.

Joe Riley said...

I didn't "chase her down", I was standing there minding my own business talking to someone else, and suddenly, there she was, and I was introduced to her.

I was going to ask someone else who knows me to give the note to Bob Carpenter, but I thought she would get a kick out of doing it herself. I was trying to help entertain her, under the supervision of a woman who Don Sutton knows and trusts. There was nothing untoward or sinister about the moment.

I'm merely writing about my interesting encounters at the ballpark. I'm no journalist, but I try to exercise good judgment and treat people fairly.

I didn't have to publish your comment, but out of fairness I did. It's a legitimate point of view. I'm sorry that we don't see eye-to-eye but that comes with the territory.

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