Monday, January 22, 2007

Live from the Nationals Winter Caravan
I just returned from an extended lunch, spent at the downtown ESPN Zone, one of the first stops of the Nationals Winter Caravan. Manager Manny Acta, pitcher Mike O'Connor and outfielder Nook Logan were there, along with announcers Charlie Slowes and David Jageler, mascot Screech, and assorted p.r. and sales types.

I hadn't participated in previous such Caravans. My understanding was that this would be an autograph session only, so I expected to get to the ESPN Zone and stand in a line. It was much more civilized that this, though. They had a room set up for the session, and people were scattered at tables, having lunch and waiting for the festivities. I took a seat and ordered a burger.

I shared a table with a couple of other fans, both very enthusiastic about the Nats. They shared my excitement about the new stadium, along with my trepidation about formerly poodle-headed Don Sutton. I tried to start a movement to draft John Lowenstein, but that received blank gazes from my new friends. The crowd wasn't big, maybe 60 people, including some kids who were, I guess, enjoying a snow day. The kids flipped out for Screech, of course. My tablemates and I talked about how popular Screech is with kids, and they agreed with me that they don't really get the adults who indulge in Screech-bashing, particularly the guy who always participates in the Post's on-line chats, whining about the fact that Screech doesn't remove his hat, which seems to be sewn to his head, during the national anthem. Get another crusade.

About 2:00PM, the diminutive Charlie Slowes greeted the audience, and reviewed what was going to happen (one autograph only! -- which I guess was bad news to the hardcore autograph dealers planning to finance their kids' educations by selling Nook Logan's signature), and said they had time for some questions. Mike O'Connor was asked, if he had a free pass to give one hitter, who would he give it to. Like me, Mike didn't really understand the question, but he went with it, and said that he thought Miguel Cabrera would be one guy he'd rather walk than pitch to. Manny Acta was asked what the Nats rotation was shaping up to be. He responded that the Nats had petitioned the league to only play once a week, so John Patterson could pitch every game. That got a big laugh, even from projected starter Mike O'Connor, sitting next to his manager. I presume they had met before. I decided that it would be detrimental to the festive mood of the Caravan to follow-up that question by pointing out that even if they played weekly, they'd be screwed after week #3, which is when Patterson is projected to go on the DL. In any case, Manny was very entertaining, it's almost like they set out to get a new manager who was the anti-Frank Robinson.

After a woman proposed that Nook Logan should race her young son (Nook didn't look so thrilled) and, of course, right after my burger arrived, we were told to line up for autographs. As we went through the line, we were each given a red, white and blue Nats hats (with Bud Light logos on the back). Manny and the players were gracious, the kids in line in front of me posed for pictures with all three of them. Neither Logan or O'Connor are physically imposing guys, I think if he needs to keep them in line, Manny could easily put either one in a headlock. Nook Logan looks a little like Dave Chapelle.

Everything went smoothly, I was able to finish the rest of my burger and get back to the office before anyone knew I was missing. Next week at the ESPN Zone, there's some kind of cook-off involving O'Connor, Ryan Zimmerman and Screech. Screech is going to fire up some of his famous wings.

No comments: