A Change in the Pecking Order?

Nationals LogoLocal all-news radio station WTOP runs a segment entitled Core Values with commentator Chris Core.

Today, he had a segment that was music to my ears: a change in the pecking order of local sports teams.

In one minute, Core sums up why everyone is fed up with the Washington football team.  (Oops, I almost wrote their nickname, which many see as offensive.) There are multiple reasons to be tired of this team (e.g., Fed Ex Field, the team stinks, they mortgage their future for a perpetually injured quarterback), but the primary reason is that everyone despises the owner. I’ve made the same point before!

Then Core turns to the Nationals.  The owners are great (and they stay out of the way of the professionals).  They play in a beautiful park (and he could have added that it is accessible by Metro). They have a great chance to get to the World Series and they are primed to be good for years to come.

Then Chris Core does something really great…he let’s out the Section 313 cheer:  N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!  (And yes, Kim, he does include the “woo.”)

How cool is that?

I’ve included the audio link below.  It only takes a minute to get into the Nats spirit.

Woo indeed!

More to come…

DJB

Punctuation Mark!!!

Nationals LogoCould there be a better way to end the regular season?

Let me answer that for you.

Nope.

Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals unassuming #2 starter who doesn’t do much except pour strikes into the zone pitch after pitch – and then more times than not come out with a win – throws a no-hitter in game 162 of the 2014 regular season.

For those lucky enough to be there (like a number of my friends) – what a memory.  For those of us watching on television, it was riveting baseball.

I have to admit, when the ball was hit to the left field gap with two outs in the 9th, I could only think of Souza’s dropping a fly ball on Friday evening. I thought the no-no was over.

But nope, Steven Souza, Jr. made an incredible catch, and history was made.

Thomas Boswell wrote that the game “felt like a fitting coda to the season but also a perfect prelude to the playoffs.”

I loved manager Matt Williams’ comment.  At his post-game interview, he ended with, “All in all, probably the perfect baseball day.”

Amen.  Bring on the postseason.

But before we do, let’s take just one more look at that last play..

More to come…

DJB

This September Call-Up Won’t Make the Postseason Roster

Score Book getting ready to go to the trashI gave this September call-up several chances. But I have my limits.

With tickets to three September games at Nationals Park in hand, I decided to break in my new Baseball Score Book to get it ready for the playoffs. The ring binder on my old score book had a “notebook malfunction” on our August road trip, so the timing seemed right.

The idea of the September call-up is standard in baseball.  Rosters expand on September 1st  and promising players come up to the big club from the minors.  On losing teams these rookies get to play regularly to show they should make the ball club next year. On teams going to the postseason, like the Nats, the call-ups may provide an occasional day-off for a regular, but more often than not they fill specialized roles.  (Need a pinch runner, turn to the speedy Michael Taylor.)

So I have now given my September call-up three chances.  If he was coming out of the bullpen, my score book would be 0-3 with about a 10.00 ERA.  If he was a batter, he would be well below the Mendoza line.

This kid isn’t going to make the postseason roster, and my first thought was to trade him to the Montgomery County Recycling and Trash Facility.

Why?

Soriano's Bad 9thWell, let’s begin with September 5th.

I wrote about this debacle after returning home from the game.  Beautiful night.  I am there with my colleague Paul from work. This is the first night the new Section 313 cheer sign is unveiled.

Strasburg is cruising. He leaves with a 5-1 lead.  It grows to 7-2.

Then Soriano happens.  Again.

Oh my – take a look at that ninth inning score card.  The first batter – Dominic Brown – singles.  Then Soriano gives up a 2-run home to Carlos Ruiz.  It is now 7-6.  But Soriano gets the next two batters on a ground ball to second and a strikeout.  Just one out to go.

And Ben Revere steps to the plate.  He’s had one home run in 2014.  Shouldn’t frighten anyone. So Soriano promptly gives us…

…a home run that ties the game.  8 innings of great baseball wasted.  It breaks your heart.

And my score book captured it all.

Sept 5 2014 Meltdown

If you can’t read the note at the top of the page capturing the Soriano fiasco, I wrote,

Soriano meltdown in 9th, giving up a 7-4 lead.  Paul Edmondson and I leave after 9.  Game goes 11.  Phillies win 9-8.

Okay, everybody has the occasional O-fer.  They wear the collar.  Tomorrow’s another day. You play them one day at a time. The kid could bounce back.  I threw him back out the next day.

(Yes, I know my baseball cliches.)

He did better.  It wasn’t a complete meltdown, but it was also pretty lack-luster, especially against a team as bad as the Phillies have been this year. If you want to play in the postseason, my score book would have to play like he wanted to be there. At the end of the evening, the Nats had dropped a 3-1 game.  Once again, my score book captured it all.

Fifth InningSo last evening was it. My friend Dolores – whose family is part of our season ticket group – and I were at the ballpark for our final regular-season game of 2014. It was a picture-perfect evening. I ran into Craig Albright and Jim Quigley from St. Albans – checking out the Albright’s new Section 313 seats and getting ready for the playoffs. The Nats were playing game 4 of back-to-back doubleheaders.  Most importantly, they had clinched National League home-field advantage up to the World Series earlier in the day.

Which meant we got to cheer for the Syracuse Chiefs last night – the September call-ups.

Jayson Werth – one of two regulars in the line-up – came within a home-run of hitting for the cycle. The Nats went up early 3-1. Pitcher Taylor Hill, making his first major league start, got his first hit.

But then Taylor Hill got hit by a fifth…inning, that is.

Just look.  Two quick outs. Cruising.  Just has to get through this inning and he has a chance to gain a win.

Then he hits Casey McGahee.  That is followed by a single, a double, an intentional walk, a triple, and another double.  (Perhaps the Marlins were trying to get their own type of cycle.)  Five runs and the floodgates were opened.  The worst was Craig Stamen, who was rocked from the first pitch he made. Soriano came on in his new role as “come in when it is safe to enter the water” reliever and actually should have had a 1-2-3 inning, except for a dropped fly by Steve Souza, Jr. (Another September call-up.)

Final score: 15-7 Marlins.

Sometimes the manager and GM have to make tough calls. It is like the lady sitting next to me (and scoring the game, I might note), said about one-time starting second baseman for the Nationals Danny Espinosa:  “I want to believe in Danny, but he makes it so hard.”  (Espinosa’s line:  HBP, 6-3, two Ks.  Not a great night and – after batting .221 – not a good year.)  I wanted to believe in my new score book. But after three looks,  I’ve made my decision.

Score book back to the shelf

This kid is going back on the shelf.  I can pull him back out and give him another chance in spring training, 2015.  But no way will this guy jinx the Nationals 2014 postseason run.  Everyone has to do their part to pull the Nats through.

N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!

Bring on the postseason!

More to come…

DJB

The Well-Appointed Cubicle

Office Bobble heads and Banner

Thanks to my colleague Tom and Section 313 seatmate Kim (she’s the one who added the Woo! to the Section 313 cheer as noted in this Washington Post article), I now have the perfect addition for any Washington-area cubicle.  2014 National League East Division Champs indeed!

N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!

Section 313 Cheer

And since we had a weather postponement tonight, here’s another recent Post story that’s about the logistics of taking care of the Nats over a 162 game season.  Recommended as a good rainy-night read.

My next tickets?  Friday night!

Go Nats!

More to come…

DJB

Taking the Waters at Balneario de Mondariz

Balneario de MondarizI am in the midst of a brief work trip to Galicia…and if you don’t know where that is, well neither did I just a few weeks ago.

Galicia – the Switzerland of Spain – is the small portion of land that blocks Portugal’s northern border from touching the Atlantic Ocean. It is hilly (hence the Swiss reference), with a fascinating landscape that is matched by its unique history.

I am here, with colleagues from around the world, for an executive committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO).  We are being hosted by one of our member Trusts – the Tesouros de Galicia – and several of my colleagues joined a contingent from Tesouros de Galicia in completing 140 kilometers of what may be Galicia’s most famous pilgrimage:  the Camino de Santiago that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

After a much too complicated trip to arrive (never fly Ryan Air – for those of  you old enough, think a bad People’s Express experience), I joined my colleagues in Santiago de Compostela for our first meetings at the Facultad de Geografia e Historia, Praza da Universidade. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have any facilities in my college that looked like this – and especially not the History and Geography departments!

Santiago University

We left later on Saturday to go to Mondariz, a beautiful little town that along with Santiago and the nearby city of Vigo, made up a trio of must-see places for the Edwardian tourists of Britain in the early 20th century. Thanks to our hosts, we were able to stay in the beautiful and historic spa known as Balneario de Mondariz. The spa put us in a bubble in the middle of the troubled Spanish economy, but it didn’t take a long walk away from the town center to see the abandoned homes and poverty.

The spa features the waters that were once enjoyed by the King of Spain and Edwardian tourists from England.  The buildings are  beautiful and nestled in the countryside.  This view of a chapel in the mist was what I saw when I opened my window shades in the morning.

Mondariz Church in mist

Entrance to the Spa at Mondariz

There are several wonderful buildings once – or still – associated with the spa, including the old hotel, and the grounds.

Hotel at Mondariz

Garden at the Mondariz Spa

The springs themselves are highlighted within a publicly accessible building, seen at the top of the post and here (where the water bubbles beneath the sign).

Spa Waters at Mondariz

After our meetings wrapped up, we toured two local Galicia landmarks: a late Medieval castle, and a wonderful set of ruins – the Castro de Trona dating back more than 2,000 years.

Galician castle

Galacian ruins

Mount of Holy Name of Jesus Parish

Galician hills

And yes, when the meetings and tours were over, I was able to “take the waters” as they say, at Balneario de Mondariz. What a relaxing way to end the day and prepare for dinner with good friends and colleagues from St. Lucia, India, England, Scotland, and more.

The dome over the pool at Mondariza

Yes, I was floating around somewhere under that dome.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

Galicia Meal with INTO Ex Comm

Perhaps I’m now ready for three flights and all-day travel to get home tomorrow evening.

More to come…

DJB

Kansas City Stars

KC ChoraleKansas City is one of America’s hidden gems.

I had the good fortune to work last weekend in this heartland city that is thriving in the midst of an amazing renaissance. Over the course of three days, we saw the rich arts district, built on the foundation of a beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts  surrounded by artists living and working in older and historic buildings. Incredible historic homes – like the one at the top of the post – were opened to us so we could visit the treasures along the city’s famous boulevards. In this particular home, the retractable roof over the courtyard was opened for songs (by the Kansas City Chorale) and dinner.

There is a great deal to highlight, but because my time is limited I’m going to post a few pictures to give you a flavor of the weekend.  Do yourself a favor – find a long weekend to visit this thriving, alive city.

We began our visit focusing on J.C. Nichols’ landmark Country Club Plaza, the nation’s first shopping center designed to accommodate the automobile.  Our  overview included this panoramic view.

Country Club Plaza in KC

The relatively new home of the Kansas City Ballet – located in the re-purposed historic power house of Union Station – was a marvel to behold. The light that came into the studios highlighted the beautiful space and the wonderful architectural details.  We were able to sit for a bit and watch a rehearsal in the main studio.

Kansas City Ballet

Later that day we stopped in to hear a rehearsal of the Kansas City Symphony in the wonderful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This Moshe Safdie-designed complex is stunning – inside and out.  The acoustics are amazing (the same acoustician who did Disney Hall in LA). And the views of the city cry out for a panorama.  My shots were all taken with my iPhone on a rather gray day.  Do yourself a favor and Google the Center and click through the images.  You’ll be as amazed as I was.  (And for those near KC, I noticed that Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer are playing on Thursday, September 25th!  How often do you get to hear two MacArthur Genius Grant winners play together on stage?)

Kauffman Center Panorama

Kauffman Center Window Detail

Kauffman Center Theaters

Kauffman Center exterior

This city is filled to the brim with arts and cultural center, one of the best known being the Nelson Atkins Museum, with its famous shuttlecocks.

Shuttlecocks

Rodin's The Thinker

The Thinker always makes me think of Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs!

We saw so much more during the weekend, but I hope this whets the appetite. I hadn’t been to KC in about five years, and I was astonished at the vibrancy one sees throughout downtown. Well worth the visit.

More to come…

DJB

Doesn’t Syracuse Need a Closer?

Nats vs Phillies Sept 5 2014No more discussions (or articles) about the Nats being a World Series team. Not after tonight.

And it all started with such promise.

I showed up to our regular seats in Section 313 with my work colleague Paul to find the new sign the Lerners had posted over the recent road trip.

N-A-T-S Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!

Our section’s cheer!  Emblazoned on the ballpark!  How cool is that?!  Thank you, Kim (a 313 regular who suggested it to a Nats marketing staffer).

With two runs in the first (thanks to Adam LaRoche’s home run), we had the chance to use it early and often.

Woo indeed!

Section 313 Cheer

Stephen Strasburg is cruising.  My new score book is getting a work out due to the great offense. Strasburg leaves after six terrific innings with a 5-1 lead. One inning later, it is 7-2.  Atlanta gets battered tonight, cutting our magic number by one more.  We had a chance to gain a game in the standings. What could go wrong?

Rafael Soriano could go wrong, even though he wasn’t alone.  Three errors weren’t helpful.  Bryce Harper and Denard Span decide to run into each other on a fly ball that either one could have caught.  But two of those errors occurred after the game should have been over.

Soriano should be the closer for the AAA Syracuse Chiefs after this evening.  (Oh, the Chiefs’ season ended when they lost a 4-0 lead in the playoffs?  Well, there goes that plan.) The Nats struggling (to put it mildly) closer gave up two home runs (to two players who never hit home runs) and three runs in a meltdown of a ninth inning. It was so damn painful, because you could see it coming.

So, I’m sitting here wondering what jinxed it.  Boswell’s World Series article this morning? Our new Section 313 sign? My new score book?  Something must have caused this meltdown. As I wrote earlier this week, we’re into a whole new level of anxiety this month.

It is a good thing the Nats play again in less than 24 hours.  This would really hurt if we had to wait a week like they do in football. Perhaps it is also appropriate that Saturday’s game is billed as “Faith Night.”  We’re going to need some prayers after this loss.

More to come…

DJB