Rachel Levitin: Nats no longer the new kids in the class

When I leave to go out of town on trips, like today for example, my favorite topic of conversation along the way tends to veer toward sports, baseball in particular. Whether I’m listening in on a stats-based debate or checking game scores on one of the many televisions within the terminal, there’s always a lesson to be learned from these types of conversations.

There’s a little more to those conversations than what appears on the surface, though. It’s one thing to strike up a sports conversation. It’s a completely other thing to utilize that conversation as a case study in sports culture and an exercise in sports fan camaraderie. That’s why talking Nationals baseball at an airport, on a cross-country train or regional bus line can end up being a fascinating adventure.

The Nats’ national attention is hard to miss these days what with the meme-ization of Bryce Harper, the story of Stephen Strasburg and the fact that they’re straight-up winning ballgames. There’s no longer a lingering fear for Nats fans wishing to talk baseball on the road (at least at the moment). For once, the Nats are the team you want to be talking about.

To me, the Nats have always been the new kid. You know the one. Kind of like Scotty Smalls from “The Sandlot.”

“The Sandlot” is a children’s baseball movie made in 1993 set on the premise that a group of eight neighborhood boys stick out their summers playing at a dust lot - also known as their sandlot. Then a new kid gets welcomed to the group when he moves into the neighborhood (which then leads them to the “biggest pickle they’ve ever gotten into,” but that’s a story for a different day. I strongly recommend the film.) That’s Smalls. He’s the new kid. He stirs up the pot a little bit. Not doing much at first. But then comes into his own. It’s a familiar story.

The Nats are the new kids in school, too. Just like Smalls. Think about it. They moved from out of town to start all over with new teachers. They were picked on for a few years for going through obvious growing pains that everyone could see (if that’s not growing up, I don’t know what is). Now, they’re growing out of that awkward phase and into themselves.

Suffice it to say that Davey Johnson’s 2012 Nationals are currently 42-30 with a .583 winning percentage on June 27, sitting 3 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta for first place in the National League East. It’s entertaining to talk about.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital 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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