Time to have conversations about things more pleasant than how many games the Nationals will lose in 2023.
So we’ve collected a few stories from some regulars to get the conversation started.
Please comment with a favorite baseball story – and we mean stories that somehow involve you personally.
Andrew L. (AKA Allstars)
For me, I probably have dozens of favorite baseball stories to choose from my childhood to adulthood.
A tradition we started was for Father’s Day, besides a barbecue, we would do a baseball game so naturally if the Nats were at home we would go. So 2006, Nats and Yankees at RFK. Chien Ming Wang for the Yankees with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez against Mike O’Connor, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman.
As most remember, Nats kept it close, but were behind and many started to leave early from a sold-out RFK. No Mariano Rivera for the save. Wang was going for the complete game win and in steps Ryan Zimmerman with a chance for a walk-off win.
Three of my sons were with me, and I tell them that Zim is going to hit a walk-off. One of my sons has a flip phone with a 1×1 screen that can snap a photo. He took a picture as Zim swung.
What a moment. At the time, magic. I later commissioned an original painting of the walkoff celebration that many of you have seen. I also collected some artifacts from the game. The Father’s Day tradition has grown over the years, but nothing has matched that day.
Mine is about taking a work colleague to his first ever baseball game. At about the same time TalkNats started I got interested in doing things with the MLB Game Day data. Simultaneously a colleague and I started to think about writing a book on an under-appreciated feature of SAS software. As we discussed the idea it occurred to me that the Game Day would provide the perfect sample data for the book. Problem was that my co-author knew absolutely nothing about baseball. After more than a few multi-hour sessions showing him the data, he decided it was a good fit.
Fast forward a few years and the SAS users group in Boston invited us to present on the topics in the book. Boston was in town and I had the chance to take my colleague/friend to his first ever baseball game – at one of the cathedrals of baseball – Fenway Park.
For anyone who is interested, the title of the book is Data Management Solutions Using SAS Hash Table Operations: A Business Intelligence Case Study. And yes, it is a niche book (ranks somewhere around #3,143,485 in books at Amazon 🤣). Baseball is only the subject of the sample data – the book is about the technology. And a few TalkNats folks helped with this effort. We could not get permission to use the Game Day data from MLB. So I had to make up a game similar to baseball and a few TalkNats folks helped with that. Most notable Section 222 who coined the term Bizarro Ball.
And yes, this outranks Opening Day in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman‘s OD Walk-Off HR in 2008, Stephen Strasburg‘s debut, the Jayson Werth WerthQuake game, Max Scherzer‘s 20 strikeout game, 2019 World Series Game 4 – all games that I attended. There was just something special about taking a friend to his first ever baseball game.
Draz’s Son Alex
There weren’t a ton of great Nats highlights this year, so I decided to write about one of my own which happens to take place at the Nats spring training facility.
This past July, my travel team and I went down to Fitteam in West Palm Beach to play in a wood bat tournament against some of the top teams in the country.
One team we played against, Team Elite, was highly ranked and we were playing them tight. In the bottom of the 7th, we were down by one, with two out, and I was at the plate with the tying run on second base. I had been slumping but I wanted to be up in that situation. After taking a few pitches, I finally got a pitch to hit and drove it opposite field over the shortstops head and tied the game.
So I was on first base with two outs. I stole second, got to the third on a wild pitch, and now was in position to score the winning run. After a guy walked, one of our best hitters was up. They had a base open and they were pitching around him. I got a big lead, saw the ball bounce off the catcher, and I went. We won.
Last year, I probably played around 100 games and had a lot of great memories. This year, I’m a freshman at Bullis and I’m hoping to play on varsity and pitch a bunch. Also looking forward to the Nats season. Always rooting for lefty pitchers like Mackenzie Gore, and I’m looking forward to watching our young guys breakout. One of my coaches also trains James Wood and Trey Lipscomb, so it will be fun to watch them do well. Go Nats!
Playing baseball as a kid was so special to me that there were Saturday mornings I woke up as soon as the sun came out and would count the hours until game time.
But nothing topped that first game in RFK as a 6 year old in 1966. We were in the upper deck in left field and the one memory I will always have is Frank Howard hitting a moonshot that everyone stood up and cheered. Of course I thought it was a home run, only to be caught on the warning track. The smell of the hot dogs 🌭 and the whole experience had me hooked.
As an adult, my bucket list was checked off by attending a D.C. World Series game. As close as I have felt to a religious out of body experience. That.
Back in the 1970’s Charley Finley ran the Oakland A’s. Anyone familiar with him knows that he was all about the promotions—whatever it took to get people into the park. Before the team really took off (three consecutive World Series 1972-1974) they were the also-rans in the AL West. By late August of 1969 and 1970, it was unlikely that the team would be in the postseason. Enter the promos. We lived in Sunnyvale California, closer to the Giants than the A’s, but the pricing was better for dad to take us (brother Stew and me) to the ballgames. One August afternoon in either 1969 or 1970, it was kid’s bat day. We all got miniature green bats (of course they were green—Finley, right?). I don’t remember the game—I remember seeing Vida Blue pitch in 1970, but that was probably in September rather than August.
Why do I know we got bats in August? Well, we, being kids of 14 and 8, of course played with the bats. Given the heat and our sweaty little hands, the green dye came off on us and spread anywhere we put our hands. Mom (who was not a baseball fan, and was at home with our 5-year-old sister) was not at all pleased with the green traces everywhere (car, clothes, house). To her credit, she didn’t throw them away, but I think she put them out of reach.
My brother bought our parents’ house about 20 years ago—and found them in the garage. Still green, but the dye seems to have stabilized.
Story 2 (Don here, both too good to pick just one).
When the pandemic shut down minor league baseball in 2020, many minor league players were stranded, sometimes without even the means to get home. A charity was established, Adopt-A-Minor-Leaguer, to connect players and fans willing to help them out a little. Being a sponsor has been really interesting as I’ve gotten insights just from chatting with them.
Since then, I’ve sponsored three: a Giants minor leaguer who made it from low-A to High-A Eugene, and then got caught in the numbers game when the 2021 draftees pushed out the leftover 2020 first-year players who missed a year of playing time. At first, he wanted nothing to do with baseball after he was cut, but within a year he was coaching youth baseball.
The second one made it to AA in the Padres system, but since he’d started the year in low-A, I think he got promoted before he was ready (if you remember, there was quite a trade from the Padres minor league system at the 2022 trade deadline, which had a cascading effect through the system). Anyway, he’s currently not with a team—he may try independent ball if no one picks him up for Spring Training.
Geraldi Diaz (2022 FredNats catcher) is the one I’m closest to. I often watched him, like all of them, on MiLB.tv (yes, I sometimes had two games on two computers with the Nats on the radio). We correspond mostly in Spanish, which is great for my Spanish practice. We did make it to a FredNats game to see him in person, and I met his girlfriend there as well—I spotted someone wearing a Diaz 7 jersey and just asked her if she knew him. They met at a FredNats game—she was sitting near their dugout and managed to catch his eye. I can see why he caught hers—look at his smile (picture at the top of the post)!
Baseball in Washington has been the most mixed of bags. Some towns lose World Series, Washington lost franchises…Twice. Once was for a cup of coffee. The second was for nearly two generations. Bringing baseball back to the city unleashed locals from rooting for the erstwhile franchise-model Orioles, some other club far away, or simply ignoring the game altogether. Basketball legend John Thompson summed it all perfectly when the news was announced of baseball’s return by asking Thomas Boswell, “Don’t tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what you’re feeling.”
Blue-chip franchises with fan bases generations-old know the lay of the land. The Nationals’ nation was assembled, not inherited. Strangers in a strange land coalesced in the full measure of randomness dictated by the situation. Message boards appeared not totally unlike dandelions in the spring. Each had its own character with many being, shall we say…contentious. The old “Nats Insider” blog and board is where many of us met “The Ghost of Steve M.” There was no shortage of passion there. The disappointments of a young organization boldly daring to challenge “Baseball Royalty” then failing were loudly painful. There was a great core there nearly lost in the choppy waters of an open channel. And, then there was Steve.
A number of us independently encouraged Steve to start what would become Talknats. From the beginning the discussions were next-level. Toxicity was never allowed to gather a foothold. Steve’s solid writing, complete with his access to sources made TN the place to check first when balloons were set to ascend. It now remains all the things that it set out to be.
Somewhere outside of the numbing numbers and Byzantine business of baseball remains a place that allows both the thinking and the feeling of the game for the home team. That place is Talknats.
Even though it didn’t involve a single play on the field, the return of the game to town and the start of Talknats are still my favorite baseball stories.
Please add comments about your favorite stories. And if you have multiples, make them separate comments please.
Remember, baseball is supposed to be fun. And as I have said many times, Any Baseball, even Bad Baseball, is way better than No Baseball.