Happy Sunday, NatsTown - hope you're staying warm. Spring training is only three weeks away, though I suppose that doesn't help you in a practical sense.
I wanted to post something quick before 3 p.m., at which point I will turn into a foaming, stark raving mad mess for the rest of the afternoon. I drove up to Harrisburg last night for the Double-A Senators' inaugural Hot Stove Dinner at the National Civil War Museum. Several of the Nationals' minor league affiliates have been doing events like these this week, and Saturday's event featured three members of the Nationals' front office: manager Jim Riggleman, player development director Doug Harris and minor league operations director Mark Scialabba. All three have been driving through the Northeast for the last three days, first visiting short-season Single-A Auburn and Triple-A Syracuse.
"Our traveling vaudeville act," Riggleman called it.
I talked to Senators manager Tony Beasley for a longer piece, as well. But for now, here are a few observations from the night:
- Some of this could have been for effect in front of the local crowd, but if there was a theme of the night, it was the high esteem in which the Nationals hold Beasley, who was the team's big league third base coach under Frank Robinson in 2006. Beasley had worked in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for the last four seasons, spending the last three as their third base coach after a year as a minor league infield coordinator. When manager John Russell got fired, Beasley and the rest of the coaching staff were swept out with him. The Nationals, meanwhile, had decided to promote Double-A manager Randy Knorr to Syracuse, and were looking for a replacement. Beasley was the first name on Harris' list. The two had crossed paths through years in the Eastern League and developed a mutual respect for each other. It was that relationship that led to Beasley joining the organization. "The first word that comes to mind with Tony Beasley is 'class,' " Harris said.
- Beasley, as it turns out, is a many of many talents; he had sung the national anthem on several occasions before managing his teams in the past, and sang it last night to open the dinner. I'm sure he'll do it again before several Senators games this year.
- During his remarks, Riggleman looked back fondly on his time in the minors, both as a player - "They sent me right to Double-A, and they had it right, because I stayed there for eight years," he cracked - and as a manager/coach. He said the most rewarding thing about his time in the minors was being able to teach the game and watch players grow through the first stages of their career, and repeated a line to Beasley that his mentor, Whitey Herzog, told him: "If it wasn't for the money, Tony, I'd switch jobs with you."
- The Senators honored three players who had been with the team the last couple season: second baseman Stephen Lombardozzi, pitcher Erik Arnesen and third baseman Adam Fox. Lombardozzi, who went to the Arizona Fall League after last season, could start at Syracuse and get called up to Washington at some point this season. But he's still early enough in his career to take pleasure in little things; his face lit up when he was told he could take his mother through the exhibits at the National Civil War Museum after it had closed for the day.
- It's clear the effect of Stephen Strasburg is still lingering in Harrisburg, both in the excitement of fans and the bottom line of the Senators. And there was plenty of buzz last night about the right-hander possibly coming back through Harrisburg on a rehab assignment. It was one of the first questions posed to Riggleman during a question-and-answer session with fans, at which point the manager remarked, "That's the longest I've been somewhere this offseason before somebody asked me about Stephen Strasburg."
I'll be back with more from Beasley in the morning; until then, enjoy the football games today. And if you don't know why I'll be wired at 3 p.m. you haven't been reading this blog much.