Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard was in town this week to check out the new uniforms for 2011 and work out with the students in the 5th grade P.E. Class at Long Branch elementary school in Arlington, Virginia.
Clippard and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann were on hand at Long Branch to teach the kids proper technique while throwing balls to a fellow student. They also answered questions about what it is like to be a major league baseball player.
"It is everything," says Clippard.
"We don't really realize a lot of the times the impact we have in the community. We are given a gift to be able to play this game. We owe it to these kids and the community to give back as much as we can. It is as good for us as it is for them. We enjoy it. Today was a lot of fun. Threw the ball around a little bit with the kids. That is what it is all about."
Clippard had a tremendous 2010 campaign with an 11-8 record, a 3.07 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 91 innings over a span of 58 games. The 11 wins were the most in any one season for Clippard and trumped the 8 other victories he earned in his first three big league seasons.
He says he feels like he can build on the consistency he demonstrated during the final stages of the season.
"Definitely", says Clippard.
"Every year I feel like as long as I have been doing this, even in my minor league career, I feel like I have made huge strides at getting better."
Clippard was pleased with his season but also is hungry to get better as a player and that is what motivates him every off season t get back out there.
"Last year was more of the same," remembers Clippard.
"I feel real confident in what I have done and what I am capable of. I think it is only going to get better. I understand what I do good. So I have a better understanding of how to get guys out. A better understanding of how to prepare. It is just going to get better for me. It is just a matter of keeping my head on straight and continue to stay the course. It will all take care of itself if I do that."
Clippard realizes the Nationals' bullpen is one of its strengths, but the goal is to get six or seven innings from the starter.
"Obviously, we want our starters to go deep in games," says Clippard.
"That is the foundation for winning ball clubs as far as winning the division and getting to the playoffs. That's is what winning a championship is all about is timely pitching. The Giants showed that this year getting to the post season."
"Myself and everyone else in the staff has to keep a level head about that. Whenever we get the ball do our job. That is the mindset I have kept and have always kept and I will continue to do that in the future."
Clippard feels the club made big improvements in 2009, even though it was just 10 games better than 2009.
"There are still some pieces of the puzzle (we need to fill in)," says Clippard.
"The strides we have taken as an organization since I come into have been night and day. We are definitely on the verge of something special. I am hoping I can be here for a long time to be a part of that because I definitely see it is going to happen. It is just a matter of when, health and timing. That is just part of the game. It is definitely going in the right direction."
Hear my interview with Clippard and another with Drew Storen, plus the Ryan Zimmerman silver slugger conference call at nationals360.com and during Saturday's show at 7:00 a.m. on Federal News Radio, 1500 AM.