Quick Links

Robinson honored to throw out first pitch

911287.png

Robinson honored to throw out first pitch

The gait was perhaps a bit slower, the gray hair perhaps a bit thinner, the No. 20 Nationals jersey perhaps a bit more snug. But there was something both familiar and comforting when Frank Robinson walked to the mound this afternoon before a sellout crowd at Nationals Park, invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the franchise's first-ever home playoff game.

Today's game was first and foremost a celebration of the 2012 Nationals and their NL East title. But it was also a celebration of how the organization reached this point, and surely an appropriate opportunity to recognize this team's first manager.

"It was delightful, quite an honor," Robinson said later during a visit. I enjoyed doing it. And I thanked the Lerner family for asking me to do it."

Though he had made a couple of unofficial visits to Nationals Park over the last five seasons, Robinson had never formally returned or appeared on the field in front of fans, the result of lingering resentment over his firing at the end of the 2006 season by former general manager Jim Bowden and former team president Stan Kasten.

Members of the current Lerner family ownership group have maintained a cordial relationship with Robinson, though, and chose this event to invite him back.

The 77-year-old Hall of Famer broke out his old jersey number and was greeted with a rousing ovation from the crowd when he stepped to the mound and then threw a floating strike to shortstop Ian Desmond, who this spring changed his uniform number from 6 to 20 in part to honor Robinson.

"He's worn it well," Robinson said.

After relocating with the MLB-owned franchise from Montreal after the 2004 season, Robinson guided the inaugural Nationals to an 81-81 record and a mid-season playoff run that faded down the stretch. They didn't reach the .500 mark again until this season, drawing more fans than they had since that 2005 campaign at RFK Stadium.

Robinson isn't surprised in the least by the local support for a winning ballclub.

"It was an exciting time when we came here, and the two years we spent here, especially the first half of the first year, it was great," he said. "It was exciting. And it was good for the fans, because there were people that were saying that baseball wouldn't go here with the Orioles just down the way. And I told them they were wrong from the beginning. When we were in Montreal and thinking about coming here, I said these are great baseball fans here. Put a good product out there and they'll come out and root for the team. It's great. It's great to see this. It's well-deserved."

The Nationals will dip into the D.C. baseball history well again tomorrow afternoon. Former Senators slugger Frank Howard is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4.

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

Quick Links

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE