Young heroes, veteran leadership and Morgan’s parting shot

There is no better time to post my first blog of the new season than after back-to-back wins over Florida and the New York Mets. But before discussing baseball, I did want to bring everyone up to date on the progress of my hero, one of my grandsons, 12-year-old Jack Rolle, the pride and joy of Mater Dei school in Bethesda, Md.

Jack and his family just received more good news this week. His latest MRI showed no cancer cells, which means he has been cancer-free now almost one full year! Two years ago next month, Jack was diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable brain tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation eliminated the tumor and his condition has improved every day. I can not express my thanks to each and every one of you who took time to send Jack a card or say a prayer in his behalf. I honestly believe those thoughts and prayers played a major reole in his recovery.

On April 14, Heroes Against Childhood Cancer wil host its second annual night at Nationals Park when the Phillies come to town. Jack will be among the brave boys and girls to take the field as part of the starting nine as we continue the fight against children with cancer benefiting the Children’s National Medical Center. I hope you be at the game that night to recognize the young patients, their families and doctors.

As for the Nationals, I still firmly believe this is a ballclub that’s capable of winning a minimum 10 more games than last season. Ask any of the players and that number is a bit too low from their perspective. All I can base my projection on is the mix of young players and veterans that general manager Mike Rizzo has assembled for manager Jim Riggleman. Toss in what could be - and should be - the best bullpen the club has put together since coming to Washington, and I’m looking at a much-improved Nats team, up and down the lineup.

Adam LaRoche, Jason Werth, Ivan Rodriguez, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Rick Ankiel have brought solid credentials, not to mention veteran leadership, to the team. And boy, do I like what Sean Burnett, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and company have done coming out of the bullpen. Those guys have to make the starters feel a whole lot better knowing if they can pitch into the sixth or seventh, the ‘pen can close it out.

Nyjer Morgan has been quoted recently about his stay in D.C. and his treatment by the ballclub. The speedy outfielder, now with Milwaukee, apparantly still wants to stir things up. I never had a problem with Morgan. He was always polite and accomodating anytime I wanted an interview. I guess I’ll find out just how close we really were when the Brew Crew comes town next weekend. I hope Morgan finds happiness in Milwaukee and closes the book on his time with the Nationals.

It’s great to have “The Silver Fox,” Ray Knight, back at the “Nats Xtra” desk with me before and after every game. You’ve got to love the viewpoints of the Most Valuable Player of the 1986 World Series.

We both look forward to visiting with you at Nationals Park.