The “Draft Room” at Nationals Park has been active since 9:00 a.m. Monday morning.
Nationals scouts from across the country have been meeting at the ballpark now for two weeks to prepare for Tuesday’s historic day.
At times, the conversations were lively and heated, and it was good when these good-sized men left the conference room on the third floor where they were all crammed together last week.
Dana Brown, the team’s Director of Scouting, told me he’s flown more than 100,000 miles this year looking at players. The Nats have crisscrossed the country, not once or twice, but multiple times to make sure they’ve done their homework on what is arguably one of the most important decisions in team history.
Chris Kline, the team’s National Cross Checker and Assistant Scouting Director, joins Brown in being the first to get to work and the last to leave. The earliest these two men have left the ballpark has been midnight. Working tirelessly with them is Jimmy Gonzalez the team’s Western Cross Checker.
Not to be forgotten is Acting GM Mike Rizzo. He’s done a great job of juggling his day-to-day administrative duties as general manager with going out and personally scouting all of the potential top picks. He definitely has to own the busiest Blackberry in baseball!
Nats team President Stan Kasten has also been actively involved every step of the way. He’s the one who will play devil’s advocate with the scouts, forcing them to reassess, reevaluate and reexamine their choices.
Not very often do you get team owners to travel across the country to watch potential draft picks, but Mark and Ted Lerner have done just that. This team left no stone unturned in the search for baseball’s best.
Also working alongside the front office brass and scouts this week is Harolyn Cardozo, the executive assistant to the General Manager. She is the one who makes her famous chicken salad for Dana Brown and who will bring homemade mac and cheese to the fellas on Wednesday. Of course, the gang had a good lunch on Tuesday after being served soft shell crab from Jerry’s Seafood.
Nats Manager Manny Acta said he believes the team’s top pick Stephen Strasburg has the right make-up to deal with all the hype and expectations that are being put on him. He also described him as a once in a lifetime player who will help the Nats’ rebuilding process.
Tony Gwynn, Strasburg’s college coach at San Diego State, described the Nats’ top pick as humble, hardworking and a kid who just gets it and wants to play major league baseball.
As for the team’s other top ten pick, premier college closer Drew Storen out of Stanford, he said he was excited to be drafted by the Nationals and he added he’s ready to pitch and prove he can help at the big league level. He also added his best friend and roommate, Jack McGeary who pitches for Hagerstown, is a familiar face for him with the Nationals. The two got to know each other at Stanford.
As far as being major league ready, Mike Rizzo said no player is ready to jump from college to the big leagues. Tony Gwynn also said there is a lot to learn once you become a professional. So perhaps both players will start in the minors and then join the major league club later in the summer like Ryan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero and Ross Detwiler did.
So, let’s hope Mike Rizzo, who has a proven track record of drafting and signing Scott Boras clients, can work his magic and let the show begin!