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General Dempsey a 'rabid' Nationals fan

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General Dempsey a 'rabid' Nationals fan

To say Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey has a tough job would be quite the understatement. As the top military advisor to the President of the United States, his decisions and actions affect not only the U.S. and its military, but the world as a whole and in turn the course of history. Needless to say, his job is bigger than a lot of things in this world, including sports.

But for Dempsey and his colleagues at the Pentagon, sports can sometimes present a unique dynamic to the office. Most of the military officials he works with are sports fans, particularly during college basketball season where everyone has an alma mater. 

While there is always important work to be done, if a good game is coming to a close or if a must-see matchup is going on, the highest ranking officials of the U.S. military can sometimes turn into regular sports fans.

“We normally stream in whether it’s CNN or FOX or MSNBC. The big screens will be broken into squads. There will be 24/7 news,” Dempsey said. “But during March Madness, there will always be a game on. Or the Ryder Cup, or if there is baseball, so sure we can multi-task.”

Each colleague of Dempsey’s hails from a different part of the country as he works with a collection of the military’s brightest figures. They all have their own affiliations and loyalties, but working in Washington has led to them watching and attending games of local sports teams.

And of all the local D.C. teams, Dempsey says the Nationals have gained the most fans in the Pentagon. It has to do with the way they play and their dedication to supporting the military. The Nationals are active in outreach with the military and invite veterans to each of their home games. The Redskins, Capitals, and Wizards have similar programs and have veterans at their games as well.

“In the American League I’m a Yankee fan, I think I have to be careful saying that publicly here, but in the National League I have become a rabid Nationals fan,” Dempsey said.

“It started when I got to know them. First of all they are a very young team, they remember that it is a game, they play it like it’s a game. Their enthusiasm, they are humble, it’s very interesting. And in their enthusiasm and humility they have embraced the wounded warriors. There is always a group of wounded warriors here, they bring them to the early season introductions to the players, they visit them in the hospitals. So that sealed the deal as far as I’m concerned.”

Dempsey threw out the first pitch of Game 5 of the N.L. Division Series between the Nationals and Cardinals at Nats Park. When taking the mound he showed his sense of humor by removing his general uniform to unveil a number 18 Nationals jersey. Dempsey is the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

When asked if he was nervous throwing out the first pitch, before 45,000 fans at the biggest baseball game in D.C. in the better part of a century, Dempsey said it was no big deal. After all, when compared with commanding men in war no challenge is too big.

“I don’t do that for a living so I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I don’t necessarily gauge myself on success or failure on whether I throw a perfect strike,” he said. “I mean I clearly don’t want to fall of the mound or bounce it. But what I’m really out there to do is to be the face of the 1.4 million men and women in uniform that I represent and their families.”

The four star general is a baseball fan, but his first love is basketball. As a graduate of Duke University, his favorite team in sports is the Blue Devils. 

Working closely with the President, Dempsey says sports come up from time to time in their more casual encounters. He and the Commander in Chief sometimes talk about basketball or as Dempsey describes it, “we’ll joust about that on occasion.” 

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Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

Mike Rizzo details the rehabilitation process for Bryce Harper to return for Nationals

When Bryce Harper went down Saturday night during the Nationals' game against the San Francisco Giants, everyone in D.C. stopped breathing for a moment. This was true even for Nats GM Mike Rizzo.

"We've all felt it," Rizzo said. "You get that little pit in your stomach and it's the same feeling I had when [Wilson] Ramos went out."

RELATED: HOW JUDGE COULD HELP NATS KEEP HARPER IN WASHINGTON

The Nats' star right fielder was running out a ground ball to first base when his left leg hit a slippery base, causing his knee to hyperextend. Harper immediately went down and grabbed his knee in agony. He eventually had to be helped off the field.

The team has been plagued with injuries this season, from the bullpen to outfielders.

After the initial shock of seeing one of his best players go down with what could have been a season-ending injury, Rizzo told the Sports Junkies he went in 'GM mode.'

"You immediately go to GM mode. We immediately called our farm director, Doug Harris, and made arrangements to get Michael Taylor on a plane. Pull him out of the game in double A, get him on a plane and bring him here because we knew that we needed a player that next day. You know, you gotta change gears quick."

"Then I went down to see Harp in the clubhouse. When I saw him walking up the stairs from the dugout to the clubhouse, I was a little bit relieved. You never know with those injuries. Until you get the MRIs, until you see maybe a day or two later what transpired in there, you have to be cautiously optimistic, I guess that it wasn't an [Adam] Eaton type of thing where you knew immediately that he was gone for the season."

While everyone was waiting to see the severity of Harper's injury, Mike Rizzo and his team were making a game plan.

"You go into your evaluation mode. You look at the depth of your roster. What's next? You get the cabinet together, we were all in the GM box watching the game, so we were all together and kind of put our heads together to try to come up with a plan.

"If it's a light injury, if it's a year-ending injury, what do we do? What are the plans? And you know, you put plans together. If I'm not mistaken it was like the first inning or second inning or something like that. It was early in the game, so we had three hours to lament over it and think about what we're trying to do and put a game plan together kind of on the fly. We literally had Michael Taylor flying into D.C. later that evening so we kind of had to turn things around pretty quickly."

Now that the GM knows Harper's injury is a significant bone bruise, what steps does the team take to get him back on the diamond as soon as possible?

"If I had a time frame for you, I would give it to you. But there's no sense of putting on a time frame because the injury, the bone bruise, has to heal before he can do any type of rehab, stimulated rehab, baseball activities. He's not doing anything below the waist.

"He's doing his workout programs. He's doing all his weight work, all his cardio, all the things he has to do above the waist. But, we don't want him weight-bearing impacting with running and hitting and spinning, you know when you stick a swing and that type of thing, until he feels much much better and he's asymptomatic with the pain in his knee."

Rizzo said Harper will eventually progress to an AlterG treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill that speeds up the rehabilitation process by supporting as much or as little body weight as needed.

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

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Howie Kendrick hits two homeruns for Nationals against former team

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Howie Kendrick hit two solo home runs and the Washington Nationals snapped the Los Angeles Angels' winning streak at six with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Gonzalez (11-5) struck out four and issued three walks in lowering his home ERA to 1.79, now the best in baseball. The left-hander, who was three outs from a no-hitter July 31 at Miami, allowed his first hit two hits into the fifth against the Angels.

Los Angeles, which had climbed into an AL wild-card spot during its streak, lost for the first time since Aug. 7. Tyler Skaggs (1-3) allowed the two home runs to Kendrick and five other hits while striking out six in five innings.

Kendrick has homered in three of his past four at-bats after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against San Francisco.

Playing their third game since Bryce Harper went on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Nationals got an insurance run in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bud Norris and an error on Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. That provided some extra breathing room when Cliff Pennington hit a home run in the eighth, the first run Brandon Kintzler has allowed since being traded to Washington from Minnesota.

With Ryan Madson's availability in question after dealing with a blister Sunday, the Nationals went with Matt Albers in the seventh, Kintzler in the eighth and Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Doolittle picked up his 12th save of the season and his ninth with Washington.