Whoever Is Stealing Stuff From Kids In Viera Deserves The Bastinardo

The NQ apprentice, Dr. W, is down in Viera this week taking in Nationals Spring Training for the first time and he is sending us constant reports and photos that we will be posting up on the NQ as soon as we get them organized.

First up comes a disturbing story of a recent string of thefts coming right out of Space Coast Stadium involving what is known as “The Pit” and bags of Nationals gear and autographs belonging to kids. In three instances someone has stolen bags belonging to kids while they wait down by the field waiting for players to come sign items. Apparently, these thefts have made officials at Space Coast and the Nationals nervous enough to consider closing down the Pit to the public and not having players sign before games.

“The Pit” is a concrete slab just to the right of the Nationals dugout at Space Coast Stadium. It is supposed to be a walkway for grounds crew, media and photographers, but one of the many perks at SCS is they open this walkway to the public before the game so fans can get right down on the field and possibly get autograph and meet-and-greet opportunities with the players.

It was here Dr. W was suddenly thrust into this story as he was somewhat accused of being the perpetrator (as I’ve written before, weirdness always seems to follow him) even though today (Tuesday) was his first time ever at Space Coast Stadium. Here is his report:

While down in the Pit for the first time today there was a Nationals or Space Coast official named “Thomas” who was talking with fans about a recent string of thefts that were happening down in the Pit and it was enough for them to consider shutting the Pit down and telling players not to sign.

Three kids have had bags of memorabilia stolen right from under their noses while down there. SCS knows of these thefts and believe the stuff is being hawked by a regular autograph seeker.

It was at this point Thomas turned and sternly pointed at me and said, “You’re an autograph regular. I think I have seen you quite a bit.”

This, of course, is nuts because this was my first time in Viera and SCS– like ever– and I informed him so.

So there is some jackass in Viera now looking to spoil a good thing for everyone. It would be a damn shame for the Pit to be closed for it offers wonderful opportunities for kids and fans to make contact with their heroes.

I guess the morale of this story is: keep your eye on your gear at all times and if you see some cowardly a**hole nabbing things from little kids, report them to the proper authorities. This poltroon needs to be stopped.

Nats And Cardinals Earn 3-3 Draw Even Though A Tie In Baseball Is Virtually WTF

The Nationals Inquisition is in Viera, FL. We left at roughly 6pm Tuesday night and arrived at Space Coast Stadium sometime in the 8am hour Wednesday. It was an insane piece of driving that I doubt will ever be matched. However it may have happened, it got us to Viera with plenty of time to spare before game time.

Usually we would have hit the minors camp as well, but today we got our barrings and will hang with the baby Nats on Thursday. We stuck around all morning for the AM workouts which saw majority of the players hitting the practice fields outside Space Coast Stadium. The only starters not accounted for was Ian Desmond (he started today so probably he was inside the stadium working out) and Jayson Werth.

Both the Nationals and defending champion St. Louis Cardinals fielded total scrub squads which was highly disappointing to those in attendance. Only one starter, Desmond, was in the line up. The game ended in a 3-3 tie after the Nationals rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. Usually a Spring Training game will go through a 10th inning before being called a tie, but the announcer over the loud speaker at the stadium said the inning was cancelled due to approaching inclement weather.

Whatever. It was almost insulting the home team using close to no starters on their home field. What? Werth doesn’t need his reps? Danny Espinosa wouldn’t benefit from a little extra fielding and batting time? Considering it took eight innings for the Nats to get three hits, the whole team might benefit from some extra playing time.

If you’ve been around this blog, you know how this works. The following are some highlights and lowlights of Wednesday’s Spring Training contest:

- Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson seemed to have acclimated really well. They were seen all morning joking around and talking with other players. The whole feeling in camp was a bit more lax than in year’s past which was full of confusion, worry and Stan Kasten.

- Michael Morse while stretching: “The pigs got us covered.” Bystanders looked at each other confused at first, but then we noticed several police vehicles parked themselves on the road near the stadium.

- Jordan Zimmermann came out strong and aggressive the first inning, but something changed the following innings and not for the good. He seemed to get a bit frustrated when he lead off the second inning by walking the batter, then having the batter steal and then hitting the next batter with a pitch. He seemed to be throwing the ball a little too much to the left of the plate.

- Matt Purke got hit around a bunch and gave up a solo home run, but it didn’t seem to rattle him and he didn’t seem to wallow in misery. He was pretty solid, but still needs work.

- I just can’t tell you how many people are pissed off about the line ups fielded today. It is like we are watching an away game for both teams. The Nationals aren’t hitting well at all which is concerning. They didn’t record their second hit of the game until the sixth inning.

- Solano and Flores need continued work throwing to second. Can’t get anybody out.

- Tyler Moore at first base had a nice snag after Tyler Clippard shattered a bat.

- Who the f**k is Jarrett Hoffpauir? Whoever he is, he finally got the Nats third hit of the game in the 8th.

- Drew Storen seemed a bit shaky and rusty putting on the first two hitters of the ninth inning on base with giving up a hit and a walk. However, strong defense bailed him out.

- Carlos Maldonado jacked a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. The blast was no question.

- Anthony Rendon has a helluva swing– just can’t connect. Yet.

Tomorrow is Space Day at Space Coast Stadium to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy Space Center. They even changed the foul poles to honor KCS at the stadium. What is Space Day mean? I have no idea. But the Houston Astros are in town and I would like nothing more than the Nats to go Apollo 13 on their asses.

Twenty-Plus Nationals Resume Something Called Baseball Activity

Bear with me here as I am trying to get over a 24-hour stomach bug that pretty much has paralyzed my ass crack. I went to catch some Zs and when I woke up I felt like Rip Van Winkle. When I went to sleep all that was going on was the Yanks and Bucs finally pulled that boring A.J. Burnett trigger and the Iron Sheik was talking about killing dogs with his 10-inch cock. When I awoke, twenty-plus Nationals players were doing something, something odd.

If I didn’t know any better I’d say they were doing something pertaining to baseball activities.

Indeed, many Washington Nationals players have rolled into Viera and Space Coast Stadium over the last two days to begin that greatest of primitive baseball traditions: Spring Training. According to the Nationals Journal some of these players include Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann, Brad Lidge, Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and John Lannan. Pitcher Craig Stammen is also in the house somewhere.

Bryce Harper isn’t expected to arrive until Saturday sometime, Stephen Strasburg is on the West Coast to attend his jersey retirement with the San Diego Aztecs, but will be in route not long after that and Mark Teahen is ballsy by driving across the country with two dogs and a pregnant wife in tow.

My God, it is starting all over again! Another year, another season! Absolutely surreal. It is like I am stuck in some twisted Salvador Dali painting. Or maybe it is just the sickness. Ugh, worst time to catch the bug, but at least it is before the NQ heads down to Viera in about two weeks.

I’m sorry, I gotta check again–

Yeah, they are indeed doing baseball activities. Finally the days of combing Youtube for homemade player montages and debating facial hair are coming to end.

Let the real baseball begin.

Potomac Nationals Want To Be Closer To Ozzfest

Oh Lawd…it is Monday, nothing is happening and I am absolutely sick. “Sick” as in physically ill, not “sick” as in totally awesome (which I am that too, but don’t like to brag). I’ve been chewing alka-seltzer tabs raw and trying to “sweat the cold out” by drinking brandy, putting on sweatpants and Nationals hoodie and turning up the heat in the lodge.

Being sick sucks, but then again it is good. It helps strengthen the immune system and it gets this sort of thing out of the way before 2012 Spring Training. Yes, finally confirmed it: the Nationals Inquisition will be in attendance for a fifth consecutive year. It sadly won’t be a full month blitz like in 2011, but you should expect the same sort of ST reporting about the games and times we do have. Right now we are down for these games:

  • March 7th vs. St. Louis Cardinals
  • March 8th vs. Houston Astros
  • March 10th vs. Mets (Split-Squad)

I will be bringing OddNat with me. It has been awhile since he and I went on a Nationals romp and we will also be hanging with Space Coast Legend, Rich The Mets Fan so who knows what debauchery we’ll get into and what games we might try and sneak into our schedule.

As I said, I’m sick and there is literally nothing going on today as of yet Nats News wise, but I just thought I might throw this out there: the Nationals Single-A club the Potomac Nationals held a Hot Stove Banquet at the Hyatt at Fair Lakes on Sunday and it was announced they were looking at the option of moving the team from Prince William County and I-95 to somewhere along I-66.

Currently the P-Nats play in Pfitzner Stadium (or “The Pfitz) which is an aging, rundown beer dive of a minor league park that everyone hates, but secretly loves because, well, it has been there forever. Sort of like the Constitution: people bitch about it all the time, but it is all we know.

Personally I would hate this because the NQ’s NOVA Headquarters is only 15 minutes from the Pfitz. But that is me being selfish. I’d still gladly drive up I-66 to catch a game or two, but I don’t look forward to potential traffic.

Can you imagine rush hour, a P-Nats game and Ozzfest at Nissan Pavilion all taking place at the same time?

That would be an interesting driving experience.

Could the Nationals Throw in With the Mets During Spring Training?

This little tip off came from Rich The Mets Fan down in Florida…

The New York Mets are in a mad rush to put the finishing touches on some upgrades to their Spring Training facility, Digital Domain Park, in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Seat upgrades are being added, concrete is being poured and everything seems on schedule despite they are pulling the trigger on all this pretty close to their March 5th opening, but things are expected to be done. They’ve also recently signed on to stay at DDP until 2023, extending their lease from 2018 thanks to the $2.5 million renovations.

What does this all mean?

Nothing really, except it seems the Mets have approached two teams to see if they would be interested in moving in with the Mets at Port St. Lucie. With stadium upgrades finishing, you might as well go fishing while the waters are still warm. While it is unknown which two teams the Mets approached, it isn’t that hard to deduce that the Nationals are probably one of them since Washington is also in the process of looking for new Spring Training digs and are the lynchpin keeping Grapefruit League baseball alive on Florida’s eastern coast.

Could it work? Of course it could. Benefits are the cost would be much lower than trying to get a new ST facility built somewhere, travel time for the team to other opponents would be cut down, the Nationals would have a constant opponent for their Major League team and minor league camp and it would keep the Nationals on the East Coast, in Florida and in the Grapefruit League.

Having my ass thrown out of Digital Domain Park before, it is a nice park, but has some sketchy parking and fans lose a little bit of accessibility to the players with how the Park is built. It is a giant, concrete super structure, sort of like The Diamond in Richmond, but not as drab. It isn’t perfect and it is the Mets, but they could do worse. The Nationals need to seriously keep their Spring Training in Florida and not do something as stupid as alienate your fan base from the team by moving them out to some hole in the middle of the desert on the West Coast.

For now 2012 Nationals Spring Training will be in Viera. If the Nats and Mets do decide to go in on such a venture they would have to announce something by mid-summer at the latest in order for the logistics of such an alliance to work the following season so there is plenty of time to make something like this work.

A partnership between the Mets and the Nats. Lordy! Never thought it would ever be feasible. It is like inviting a torch to a AA-Meeting for barrels of leaking oil and gasoline.

10 Things To Make Nationals Spring Training Better For The Fan

“So I once sent in a Spring Training list.”

“What is a Spring Training list?”

“Oh, you know, a list of demands. A list of things to try and make the [Spring Training] experience better for the fans, for Viera, you know.”

“And how did that list thing work out for you?”

“They never wrote me back.”

This was part of a conversation I had with Space Coast Legend, Rich the Mets Fan last March at Space Coast Stadium. The previous season he had mailed a list of items to the Nationals Front Office, suggestions, on how they might be able to build up the Nationals Spring Training experience and help a struggling community that was, at the time fearing a major shutdown of nearby NASA in a dark recession that was choking the country and hearing whispers that the Nationals themselves were seeking to deliver another mortal blow to the community by uprooting and moving their Spring Training operations elsewhere, thereby killing Grapefruit League baseball on the Space Coast.

At the time, I took a sip a beer to hide laughing at such an innocent, yet simple and naive action such as writing a letter of opinion to a Major League baseball team. We all know the Nationals probably got the letter, but some low-level front office rep probably used a Dollar Store letter opener to open it up, skim the first few lines then toss it in the recycling bin after getting Rich the Mets Fan’s address to add him to the mailing list for Nats deals and tickets. It is the fate of many trees around the country, to come and die in MLB Front Offices. The words, the passion, the admiration, desperation and vulgarities printed on those pages all lost and forgotten, never to be fully read or understood. It would be a helluva project and book for the guy who somehow gets his hands on these letters and puts them together. But that is an idea for another day.

But later I was interested in knowing what was on that list. The Nationals Spring Training experience is one of the unsung jewels of the Grapefruit League. The access and closeness you get to the team is unmatched in Viera, but even still it is far from the perfect fan experience. In fact, sometimes it seems down right primitive or childish. The Nationals could vastly improve the experience for the fans and attract newcomers to not only their Spring Training games but to the surrounding area and its businesses.

I thought it would be appropriate to hear from a fan of another team who lives year round close to Space Coast Stadium and the area. I thought they might have a finger on the pulse of what a Spring Training fan in the area wants rather than some Washington beat writer who only spends a month in the area and bitches endlessly about there being “nothing in Viera.”

Rich the Mets Fan is a huge baseball fan on all fronts even though he chooses to cheer on a beer league team (we are working on his conversion) and you can find him more times than not at Space Coast Stadium just enjoying the sport. What was once lost is now found: below is Rich The Mets Fan’s “10 Things The Washington Nationals Can Do To Make Spring Training Better For the Fan.” Some of these are actually great ideas. The italics are our own comments:

  1. Have Screech and/or The Racing Presidents welcome children and fans to the stadium before the games and have them participate in on-field entertainment. [This didn’t happen once last Spring Training, not even when MLB Network was there doing their 30-in-30 tour. Have them come out for at least some of the games, maybe not the full month. Come on, how hard is it to throw those heads in the back of the truck?]
  2. Stock the newspapers boxes outside the stadium with local Washington newspapers like the Washington Post to give a taste of home and to see what the writers are writing about previous games. [Or any newspaper for that matter, we’ve never seen them have a newspaper in those boxes.]
  3. Open the berm to the public for a few games or when it is not reserved for private parties.
  4. Switch the bullpens so the fans on the berm can see the hometown team. [This would be awesome, but we understand the berm bullpen is not attached to the home locker room and is constantly in the sun. Man up and put a palm tree in the bullpen or some other source of shade, then we might be in business.]
  5. Bring in food items that are popular at Nationals Park.
  6. Have a “Washington Nationals Signature Drink” out at the Tiki Bar. [Washington Red, FTW!]
  7. Carve, post, or stamp a Curly W on the berm or put one in the grass in center field for the ST season.
  8. Have Washington D.C. weather/news posted next to line-ups.
  9. Hold a raffle or giveaway for a trip for two to Washington D.C. to see a Nationals game at Nationals Park.
  10. Hold a “Meet The Nationals’ or Fanfest Day sometime before the start of Spring Training for the local community. [This would be awesome too, but the Nationals don’t even hold a true Fanfest for Washington residents which is ka-ka.]

By no means do I think the team will read this post and suddenly make changes. I in fact, don’t expect any changes to happen period, but at least these suggestions are out there and known now. So when the Nationals ask why fans never told them what they could have done to improve the Spring experience you can put them to this post right here and say, “You obviously don’t read the Nationals Inquisition–

And that is stupid.

[Editor’s Note: If you have any Spring Training suggestions for the Nats yourself, either post them in the comments, hit us up on Twitter or e-mail us at natsnq@gmail.com. We fear not posting what you might send us.]

Someone Has To Pay For Mike Cameron, Nats Raise ST Ticket Prices

This tip was sent in by reader Rich The Mets Fan who has been holding down the fort on the Space Coast of Florida for us–

The Washington Nationals will be raising their 2012 Spring Training ticket prices, generally by two dollars. There will also be an increase in pricing for “premium” games like when the Yanks come to Viera for some booze and to visit Kennedy Space Center. Here is the brief rundown from Florida Today:

Prices were increased by $2 per ticket from last season. Fans will pay $10 extra for tickets to the March 15 game against the New York Yankees, $5 extra for bleacher seats, the same as 2010. Ticket prices for batter’s box seats range from $24 to $36 per game; box seats from $21 to $32; reserved seats from $18 to $29 and reserved bleachers from $12 to $17.

The Nationals begin their home schedule against the Houston Astros at 1:05 p.m. March 4 at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

When you have a roster full of Mike Cameron and  Ryan Perry and are looking to splurge on Mark DeRosa, hey, someone has to pay for it.

2012 Nationals Spring Training Schedule Looks Ripe

It is the day before Thanksgiving and that means only one thing: planning for Washington Nationals Spring Training because, you know, it is so close. Right around the corner from Christmas.

The Nationals haven’t officially released their official schedule online, but some fans are receiving Spring Training ticket renewal forms and above this schedule is being included. So this very well could be IT.

That schedule looks ripe. Games everyday except for the 19th and finally, FINALLY, it looks like the Nationals will be playing a St. Patricks Day game at home which means: green hats. Maybe. I don’t think they’ve learned Irish is a valuable contribution to the vegetable part of the food pyramid yet.

Yes, I know. That made no sense.

(Photo from Luis A.)

The Last Day Of Spring

Last night was particularly hard. It was spent in Room 209 of the Cocoa Econo Lodge drinking Moosehead and staring out the window at the falling rain, passing cars and the occasional train on the tracks. It was a night where the Cartoon Network couldn’t really cheer me up and trashing the hotel room added little flavor. Nationals news was busting out hard by the bunches, bunches and bunches, but the blog remained silent. I just couldn’t find the words.

Ladies and gentlemen– I might just be a bit depressed.

Today is the last game of Nationals Spring Training and the last day the NQ will be in Florida. After today’s game against the New York Mets we are immediately heading back North in the covered wagon. Laying here in bed with a warm computer on my lap, my skin browned by the sun and Spongebob on the tube and just thinking about the 13 hour drive back into the cold, arctic North, land of responsibilities and the Unknown and I have to say– it kind of sucks. It will be strange acclimating back into a daily routine.

But man, what a wild ride it has been. It definitely has been a life experience. I will be leaving Florida with a clarity not only about this team I never had before, but a clarity about Spring baseball and the culture and people surrounding it. I’ve got three notebooks of notes, stories, thoughts and general weirdness that only Spring Training baseball in Florida can bring. It would take a whole blog to post it all and I know by Thursday few will care for more Spring Training posts so I will limit what I write for the next few days and figure out to do with the rest. But I want to thank everyone who made this trip possible. The blog has thrived, the times have been amazing and I hope you all enjoyed the coverage. Will we be back next March? Not sure yet. But chances are pretty good.

Today’s game is at 12:05pm and afterwards the Nats and the NQ will be hitting the road so today’s postings might be put up a bit late. We are going to try to reach South Carolina before we pull over for the night and hopefully an Internet connection.

Thanks again, Natstown and see you this Thursday at we trade palm trees for dogwoods. Opening Day is upon us.


The Nationals Hold A Grapefruit Shaped Bomb In Their Hands

A couple days ago, on a day the Nationals traveled, I found myself in Cocoa Beach and decided to stop by Cheaters, one of my favorite haunts, for a couple of drinks, inquire about the wildlife and to get out of the blasted sun that has been turning my skin into leather. Every employee in the place is a basically a local and I thought I might ask around what is the latest gossip and if maybe a Nats player or two had been in.

I sat down and scoped out the place, enjoying the sights and music when my eyes fell onto a young woman. She worked there and seemed to be moving from table to table, chatting up the customers and making sure they were comfortable. I liked how she carried herself; confident, playful, but you could tell behind that exterior was a viper ready to strike if need be. Indeed, if a customer gave her some s**t she gave it right back. On top of it all, she was very beautiful and college age, probably went to school at USF. So it was with some surprise she actually came to my little table and sat down. I had been following a baseball team the past few days, dealing with rambunctious rednecks and capturing squirrels in my spare time so I looked a little rough.

After a little talk, I learned she was a USF student, working to pay tuition, originally from the Bronx and a diehard Yankees fan. I told her my story—Nobel Peace prize winning sports journalist who saves kittens from burning orphanages—and mentioned my love of the Nationals. She admitted that she caught a game or two up in Viera when she had the time because she was an all around baseball fan. Taking a sip from my bottle and giving a sigh, I told her that she should enjoy it while she could because the Nationals were thinking about leaving.

She looked at me flabbergasted.

“No s**t? Are you kidding me? My God, that would be terrible.”

I asked why.

“Because it would be a f**king disaster if they left. Businesses around here have been suffering a bit because f**king NASA has already starting laying people off. There was a point where we thought this placed might be closing down too. So if NASA quits and baseball leaves I’m going to be s**t out of luck!”

I ordered another beer, enjoyed her company a bit more and tipped her well. It is these sorts of thoughts that are entering the minds of residents and businesses on the Atlantic Coast of Florida: what will happen to us without baseball?

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