A sunny, clear day in Viera, where the weather has been anything but spring-like for Nationals spring training. March came in like a lamb and the boys got plenty of work in, and one of them told me that some players start to think more about the season once February is over. “At least it’s now in sight,” he said.
Players from Arizona spring clubs have told me they prefer training in the desert, where the weather is the same every day and they can get their work in more regularly. Florida is much more volatile this time of year, but in some ways, more closely resembles weather “up north” in April and early May.
Once a year, we gather with the players and discuss with them what MASN is all about, how we cover the games and what our goals are for the coming season. After MASN’s Todd Webster and Jim Cuddihy gave them the season overview, I had the chance to address the team for a few minutes and it was good to say hello to the guys and let them know Rob, Debbi and I will do our best to tell their story every day.
I told them how the great shortstop Ozzie Smith watched the first game after his retirement from the TV booth and said to me, “Partner, the game sure looks easy from up here!”
I’ve tried to never forget that, and always remind myself that these guys are the best in the world at what they do, and we should be careful before we criticize.
There was nothing to criticize on one of the side fields today when I saw Drew Storen throw a session of live batting practice to hitters.
It was more like live pitching practice as his electric stuff popped into Wil Nieves’ mitt, and every pitch was near or over the plate. Obviously, just 8 walks (eight!) in his professional debut last summer was no fluke. He has velocity, stuff and command, and I don’t think it’ll be long before we see him in a Nats uniform.
After the session, I visited with Nieves and he characterized Storen’s sinker as “heavy and late.” Wil gave me one of those “wow” looks when I asked him about catching Drew. Wil also loves his breaking ball and 4-seam fastball that sometimes has a natural cut to it.
But, getting back to that sinker, Nyjer Morgan thought he was all over one of them, swung late and the bat shattered out of his hands, leaving him holding just the handle. When Storen walked by after throwing his last pitch, Pat Corrales said softly, “Nice job, kid.”
“Thank you,” answered a polite and pleased Storen.
I asked Pat, a great veteran baseball man, what he liked about Storen and he said, “Everything.” That’s all I needed to hear from Corrales, who has seen it all during 50 years in the game.
The feeling in camp is that this is a totally different atmosphere from years past, with an “Extreme Makeover, Clubhouse Edition” taking place.
“We’ll see” starting April, but it sure looks good now!