Ted Youngling: Nationals still searching for an identity

I grew up in a mid-sized town in southwest Connecticut where it was only natural to pledge your allegiance to the New York Yankees, New York Mets or Boston Red Sox. My earliest memories of the game were the dominant Yankees teams of the late 1990s and attending their ticker tape parade in 1998, but it was my first game at Shea Stadium earlier that season which changed my life forever.

Sitting out in the Pepsi Picnic area for my first professional baseball game was an exhilarating experience. Todd Hundley had recently converted from catcher to left field due to a nagging injury and the arrival of Mike Piazza, so naturally he became my target for my first ball. I guess I wasn't a cute enough 9-year old to merit having a ball thrown to me because all I got was a wave, but nonetheless, from that moment on I was in love with the game of baseball.

I spent most of my high school years heading out to Shea to watch Mets when I could. It was a place for me and my friends to get away from it all. We wouldn't just talk about baseball, but normal things that would be on any adolescent high schooler's mind. The growing pains we went through at those games were some of the best times of my childhood.

Having played the game from Little League throughout high school, I didn't realize what baseball meant to me until the season rolled around in my freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan. Normally at this time, I would be dusting off my glove getting ready for the upcoming spring season, but this year my glove never found its way from under my dorm room bed. It was at this time I realized I wanted to give back to the game that had been such a big part of my life.

It was during this year in Ohio where I met Willy Yoder, another former ballplayer who shared my passion. Willy, a native of Arlington, Va., didn't have a professional baseball team to root for until the Nationals arrived in 2005. A few short years later, his love for the game inspired him to start The Nats Blog, a go-to site for Nationals fans to get the latest news and opinion from the fan perspective. Despite my move from Ohio to Arizona, Willy asked me help contribute to his upstart blog. It didn't take long for me to make a decision. This was finally my chance to get involved with the game, to express my opinion and get involved with the ever-growing social media industry.

Last summer, I was lucky enough to be living in the Washington, D.C., area where I had the opportunity to experience the Nationals culture head on. I quickly embraced the culture and got an idea of the type of fan I was targeting in my blogs. While a majority of Nationals fans were still grateful to have a team back in our nation's capital, just as many fans were ready for winning games and become relevant.

Its no secret the Nationals are still trying to find their identity. The franchise is better known for their minor league talent than the guys they have out on the major league field. With arguably one of the brightest futures in all of baseball, it's an honor for me to be a part of The Nats Blog and MASNsports.com as we are about to embark on something special.

Ted Youngling blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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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