Pudge leading the way...
The Nats are enjoying their first season with future Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. The 38-year-old catcher not only brings a wealth of experience to the ballclub but he is a true leader. If you look at his track record he is a proven winner, too.
He won a World Series Championship in 2003 leading the Marlins with a .297 batting average and 85 RBI. In 2004, he earned his 11th Gold Glove as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He helped turn around a ballclub that was dismal and a perennial loser in Detroit.
Pudge may be past his prime but look for him to pick up where he left off in terms of being a leader on the ballclub. He has a swagger about him that exudes confidence, in a very good way. This is the type of player you want to lead a young ballclub. He's used to working with young pitchers and helping to define a winning team.
On Opening Day Pudge had two doubles and a single. He told me after the game he has always enjoyed hitting at Nationals Park. He is a great piece to the puzzle that Nats GM Mike Rizzo is putting together. It's not going to be easy turning the Nats into a winning team, but the club is definitely on the right track.
Lost in the chaos of Opening Day was the outstanding performance of southpaw Jesse English in his big league debut. He tossed 1.1 scoreless innings and was able to help John Lannan get out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth inning by getting Ryan Howard to ground out. Talk about getting thrown into the fire. The key for English? He told me it's simple: throw strikes.
Opening Day Tidbits...
A few nice moments before the game on Monday.... Jim Riggleman was in his office when his cell phone rang. It was his son John calling to wish him well on his first Opening Day as the Nats skipper.
Later, on the field, the Lerner family was gathering by the dugout. Principal owners Ted and Annette, along with the rest of their family, were spending some time with the team. Ted and Jim Riggleman were able to share a few minutes together to talk about Opening Day. It was touching to listen to Annette wish Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn well on the first day of the season. The players appreciate their support. It truly is an extended family on South Capital Street.