Mike Henderson: Natmosphere awakens writing instincts in new breed of fan

When I was growing up as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in Wheeling, W.Va., in the 1970s, it pains me to say that I had no idea who the Washington Senators were. Or rather, I should say, had been - since after 1971 there was, of course, no baseball in Washington.

That state of affairs continued into the mid-1980s when I moved to the Washington area after college. For a decade, I lived in Frederick, Md., and while it was kind of fun to root for the Orioles as a local team, it turned out to be more fun to root for their Single-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys, who arrived in 1989 and whose fan club I helped run for its first few years of existence.

That's when I discovered I not only liked watching baseball. I liked writing it, too.

Think how your attention as a fan is captured by the gentle back-and-forth rhythms of the play on the field. That's how I feel about almost any baseball game, whether I'm at the ballpark, watching on TV or listening on the radio. Or reading about it the next morning, or even a couple of generations later, as in Arnold Hano's brilliant "A Day in the Bleachers." So it's probably not odd that exercising the craft of baseball writing is something I've also learned to enjoy.

Although I didn't write much about the Keys, save for the fan club's (extremely, in those days) occasional newsletter, that was enough to make me think that I might like to do it again some day.

When the Nationals came to Washington in 2005, I could indulge a long-held hunger for National League baseball and for the new angles of baseball writing that were emerging on the Web. But, if anything, that only made me want to write more, and the ability to comment on blogs like Nationals Journal at the Post only stoked that urge. So in 2007, after corresponding with Ian Koski, editor and publisher of what was then NationalsPride.com, I was invited to join the NP team. It was pretty easy to say yes.

It didn't occur to me at the time that our Web site would evolve into what is today Nationals Daily News or that I would one day become the steward of the site as Koski moved on into the all-consuming world of political communications. Maybe if it had, I'd have thought twice about accepting his invitation.

As it's worked out, though, I'm pretty happy with the decision I made. The Natmosphere has, it seems to me, plenty of room for considered opinion. It's been an interesting challenge to develop a distinct perspective and voice with which to discern and discuss the goings-on of the team. And it's been particularly gratifying to have been mentored by Ian, a man who can navigate both a complex sentence and a press box with consummate skill.

It's also a pleasure to write alongside my colleague Mark Hornbaker, whose essays bring the history of Washington baseball alive for fans of a ball club that's still in the early years of creating its own D.C. history.

My thanks go out to the good folks at MASNsports.com for extending the opportunity to join their team of guest bloggers. I'm looking forward to writing here each Tuesday during the second half as the Nationals continue to grow a fan base and chart a course toward contention.

Mike Henderson blogs about the Nats at Nationals Daily News and shares his views on baseball in D.C. as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative to welcome guest bloggers to out little corner of the Internet. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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