Countdown til Opening Day: #6–Matt Purke

If there’s one thing I love more than cheering on the Nationals and the Horned Frogs, it’s when I can do both at the same time. The one thing that could’ve made me a Redskins fan was the drafting of Andy Dalton. That didn’t happen, sadly, but where the Redskins missed out on TCU talent, the Nationals gained.

Matt Purke, the TCU ace pitcher who helped get the Horned Frogs to Omaha in 2010, has traded his purple for a red Curly “W,” and this DC-based Frog couldn’t be more excited.

I’m not sure when he’ll make his big league debut, but for now Purke is scheduled to start with the Nationals’ single A affiliate the Potomac Nationals, based in Woodbridge, VA. You can bet I’ll be there in a red Nats shirt and TCU cap.

Mr. Purke, you give TCU’s Washington alumni base yet another reason to be proud of our alma mater, and for that, your presence on the Washington Nationals is my 6th on my countdown to opening day excitement list. Best of luck!

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Countdown til Opening Day: #8–Werth’s rebound

I remember everything. The birthdays of my 2nd grade class, my reaction to the birth of my brother when I was 4 years old, everything my fiance says, and the last Nats home game in 2010. 

It was a hot September evening, and the Nats were playing the Phillies. After throwing a couple of balls in between innings, Michael Morse (pre-Beast Mode), made eye contact with me and tossed me the ball. It was a once in a lifetime occurrence…until this middle-aged male Phillies fan jumped in front of me and snatched it.

But then another once in a lifetime occurrence happened. A Phillies fan was nice to me. He gave me the ball, we took pictures, Sam chatted him up and we went on our merry way.

Look, the Phillies had everything to be excited about, and we were easy targets for sympathy from anyone with a heart. The Phillies were headed to the playoffs, and the Nats community was happy to improve to a sub-100 loss season.

I also remember that Phillies star Jayson Werth didn’t play that game, until an at bat in one of the late innings, upon which he was given a hero’s welcome from the visiting Phils who had infiltrated Nats Park, per usual.

Not so many months later, Jayson Werth was signing a mega-contract, promising a very lucrative career into his late 30’s with another red team, the Washington Nationals.

Now, this blog is testament to the fact that myself and my fiance are extremely loyal Nationals fans. I’ve learned, though, that there are two types of loyal fans: those who are essentially yes men and will agree with and get enthusiastic about every decision the team makes (Sam), and then there are those of us who don’t want to be told we have to root for someone who once made our lives miserable (me).

So I was dragged into the Jayson Werth fan club kicking and screaming, and I wasn’t a very active member last season. It’s not like Werth gave us much to get excited about–other than cheap beers at Duffy’s that reflected his batting average (then $2.19.)

But there’s something about a superstar being brought down a notch that makes them more appealing, similar to when a political figure gets attacked unfairly and people rally around him or her.

Here’s the thing about Werth: in my purely spectator position from the average-priced seats, I KNOW that Jayson Werth cares. I’ve never spoken to him, in fact the closest communication I’ve had with the outfielder is merely following the tweets of his beloved beard, but I can say with about 99% certainty that he also was not satisfied with last year’s overall performance, and expects to do the Nats one better.

Werth has been “hitting the crap out of the ball” in spring training, in the words of teammate Ryan Zimmerman. Today he even jacked a homer to the parking lot, and rumor has it he hit his own car.

It’s been a year, and I’m finally ready to rally around Jayson Werth. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time listening to my fiance and his optimism is wearing off on me, but I think Werth is going to have a complete turnaround this year, and I can’t wait to see it.

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Countdown til Opening Day: #9–Pitching

Have you ever been in a situation where, either professionally or personally, you don’t really know what to do other than throw spaghetti at the wall and hope that it sticks? (figuratively or literally)

In the past, that’s how I felt more often than not when attending a Nats game. A typical thought process of mine from years past: “Livan’s pitching. Awesome. He can throw 100+ pitches and he’s just getting started. Oh wait, he can also give up 4 runs in the first inning. Hmm. Sure hope it’s the former. It’s hot today and I don’t wanna sit out here just to watch the Nats get creamed.”

I mean no harm to Livan, I will actually miss him very much. But you get the idea. Unless Strasburg was up, and that wasn’t often given his injury, every Nationals game had the potential to fall apart early due to pitching. Yes, members of our bullpen have been sent to the All-Star game 2 years in a row and ended up being the winning pitcher for the National League. Tyler Clippard can only help so much, though, if we’re down 4 in the 8th.

This year, the conversation is quite different. Who’s going to pitch opening day? Who’s going to pitch the home opener? Who’s even going to be the starting 5? There are just so many options! Since adding Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to the rotation, other pitchers like John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler were left to duke it out for the 5th spot. Lannan has gotten the call for now, but once the season starts, it’s fair to guess we’ll see some alternating in that slot. Combine that with the young arms of Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and you’ve got yourself a shot at the playoffs (too soon? nah.)

I often go to games right after I get off work at 7pm, which usually puts me there around the middle of the 2nd inning. On too many occasions I’ve walked into the park to find that the Nationals already down a few runs. That, added to the frustrating metro experience I likely endured to get there, makes me a less than satisfied fan.

This year, I’m excited for our starting pitching to hold down the fort until I can get there at 7:20. #9days

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Countdown til Opening Day: #10–Owner’s Box

Here we are, at long last, 10 days out from opening day. I think it’s pretty fair to say I’ve had a life-altering off-season. I got engaged (at Nats Park, in case you forgot), which is a pretty big deal. But just a week before that happened, my then-boyfriend competed in and won the George Washington University Law School moot court competition. This was also a big deal, given that one of his judges was Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

What does this have to do with the Nationals, or baseball at all? Simple answer: the possibility to sit in the owner’s box.

The Backstory: while Sam was busy partaking in SCOTUS-style photo ops with his fellow smart people, I was standing around with Sam’s plaque in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, chatting up the Dean of the law school. I joked that the nice, adult-looking plaque would look great up on the wall next to our Nats gear. (Since the bio Sam provided the competition was very un-law school-like in that he listed his sports team alliances rather than every award he’s ever won and his future job prospects, I assumed the guy would get the joke.) The Dean then asked if I had heard of the Lerners (duh, they own the team), who are major contributors to the University, and have a building or 2 named after them. I got excited, thinking he might say that he’d put in a good word about Sam and maybe one day Sam could be the Nationals’ general counsel. But he did me one better.

“Let’s see if I can’t get you guys into the Owner’s Box for a game. Think Sam would like that? It’s really nice.”

I hope to this day that I handled myself like I get asked that question every day, and that my jaw didn’t drop and didn’t stammer “yessssssir. I think Sssssam would like that very much.” Sadly, though, my reaction was probably closer to the latter.

With graduation less than 2 months away, I hope Sam can work his magic and remind the dean to remind the Lerners that one of their prized students is also an extremely devoted Nats fan. 

Spending a game in Nationals’ owners box would undoubtedly rank high on my list of ballpark memories, and for that reason its possibility is 10th on my countdown to opening day excitement list.

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March Madness

If I had to pick one time of year that I’m hugely grateful to work in the tv industry, it’s now. During March Madness, I truly feel for the poor desk-dwellers who are stuck refreshing scores on ESPN all day. Meanwhile, the majority of the men in my office (along with the handful of awesome women who follow sports, for whom this entire blog is based), have 1 of our tv’s set to our programming, and the other toggling between games.

March Madness is like a wonderful power nap. It gives me the energy I need to get through the doldrums that is the 2 months between the Super Bowl and the beginning of baseball season. The fact that this year it is 80 and gorgeous in DC makes the Madness much more sweet.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m not one of those women who picks my team based on the cuteness of their mascot. Sure, there are a few emotionally charged decisions in my bracket, but don’t lie to me and say you didn’t do that, either.

Here’s my Final Four; feel free to judge. Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas and Ohio St. Kentucky & Kansas in the last dance, Kentucky wins all.

Enjoy the Madness! I’ll be at my absolute favorite place to watch the first round (and most Friday nights of my life), Tortoise and Hare Bar & Grille. Hop in, Crawl out!

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Baseball DIAMOND

In my years as a Nationals fan, I’ve witnessed many of the players’ achievements. I saw Stephen Strasburg’s first game, where he struck out 14 and electrified the park as had never been done before. Then, a little over a year later, I watched his triumphant return after he underwent Tommy John surgery and therapy. I’ve seen Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run against the Phillies, Drew Storen rack up countless saves and Pudge remind opposing base runners that “you can’t run on me.”

I feel a sense of pride and excitement every time one of the Nationals does something good, like they were my own children (or maybe an older brother), and I have no intention of that changing.

But Saturday, February 11, 2012 it was my turn.

No, I didn’t hit a home run, make a game-saving catch or steal third. I didn’t even make the Nats Pack, so my apologies if you were counting on me to toss you an out-dated, oversized t-shirt. 

Instead, I woke up that morning to my roommate knocking on my door, telling me I needed to check on Zimm, mine and Sam’s beagle. When I asked why, he simply said “I don’t know.”

Fearing the worst, I jumped out of bed, opened the door, and quickly realized that nothing was wrong with Zimm. On the floor was an 8×10 photo of Sam and I from a Nationals game, with a rose on it. Down the hall and into the living room there were more of the same. I didn’t realize that the person sitting in our living room chair filming me was our roommate and not Sam until I saw the final photo, sitting on our kitchen table. It read:

“Please head down to the lobby at 9:30 AM. a car will be waiting. Zimm and I will be waiting at your destination! See you soon.”

Given that Sam and I had been dating for over 4 years, and we had already begun planning a future together, I had a pretty good idea that this was it. He was finally going to pop the question!!! As I hurried to get ready (I had only been given 30 minutes to prepare for this momentous occasion), it occurred to me that I was probably headed to NatsPark. After all, that was the scene of the pictures on the floor, and I knew there weren’t many places he would take Zimm!

It’s a good thing I figured it out, because my driver apparently didn’t spend much time on that side of town, and ended up needing my help. When we finally pulled up, I saw Sam, Zimm and a friend of Sam’s (he had thought to bring a photographer!) waiting for me.

Sam lead me to right in the middle of the front gate, where he said a lot of sweet things about me that neither of us remember very well at this point (it was cold and a little rainy). He then informed me that Zimm wanted to offer his advice before Sam asked me the question that I knew was coming. On Zimm’s collar was note that said “Mom, please say yes!” As if I needed any persuading.

Sam then dropped down on one knee, and in front of the place where we’ve spent so many wonderful rainy, sunny, humid, windy or cold hours together rooting for the one team we both support, he asked me to marry him.

I probably won’t make in my lifetime what Jayson Werth makes per strike out, but if you ask me, my life is plenty rich. Rich with love, contentment, an exciting future and of course, lots of baseball with my future husband.

So, as you can imagine, the term “baseball diamond” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. 🙂

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Of Bowls and Re-Building, the Year that was for TCU Football

I may not have written frequently about TCU’s football season, but I assure you I’ve been watching. Here are a few of my thoughts on last night and the season as a whole:

The Media still <3’s BSU: Winning the Rose Bowl and beating Boise State within a year is not enough to keep commentators from talking about Kellen Moore throughout our bowl game. If I could’ve taken Gary Patterson’s visor from him through the tv, I would’ve used it to smack Lou Holtz and company.  I know there’s a lot of air time to fill and this wasn’t a game that generated a ton of excitement, but maybe use that time to talk about how TCU beat Kellen Moore and the Broncos 2 out of 3 times, once with Andy Dalton at QB and once with newbie Casey Pachall. Speaking of Andy, you could always fill time talking about our former leading man, who may not have broken the NCAA records that Moore has, but is surpassing expectations at the pro level to the point that Cincinnati could potentially make the play-offs. Is this too much to ask?

Only winning, a lot, buys happiness. I don’t think Gary Patterson will ever be satisfied with a season that results in anything less than a BCS Bowl win, and I love that. It was pointed out last night that the guys didn’t Gatorade Coach after the win. No sh*t. Do you think he was happy with that performance? I wasn’t, and I’m not even a university donor. They squeaked by and managed to take home the Poinsettia trophy, but somehow I don’t imagine G-Pat said, “aww, great job, guys. Gave me a little scare, but I’m proud of you.” No. I would guess, and hope that he made sure the players returning next year understand if they can’t keep La Tech out of the end zone, they won’t earn a Bowl of anything in the Big 12.

Going to the Big D and don’t mean Dallas. I think I speak for most Horned Frogs when I say I really didn’t know what to expect from this season after losing so many key players. Though I certainly did NOT expect the defense to be a problem. I mean, D is G-Pat’s calling card, right? Consider tougher defense to be on my Christmas wish-list for next season.

That being said…in our 2 losses this year, our offense put up 48 and 33 points, respectively. This was without a Jeremy Kerley kick-off return for td or Andy Dalton’s steady leadership in the pocket. Casey Pachall had big shoes to fill, and in my opinion, he’s doing just fine. We may have traded our sweet, clean-cut ginger for a tatted-up, hair-designed tough guy, but football is a game for the tough, and I think Pachall’s fierce attitude will contribute to big wins for TCU in the next 2 years.

Learning to Change the World? Okay, maybe not the world. But in the last several years, TCU has changed how many think about college football, and in particular, the BCS system. It’s now been proven possible for a team in a non-qualifying conference to go to back to back BCS bowls, beat a very strong Wisconsin team, and be considered for a third despite 2 losses. While I’m glad that won’t be the boat we’re in going forward, I’m very proud to support the team that rocked it.

Congrats to this year’s seniors–you’ve provided your alumni a lot of pride and bragging rights. Best of luck in the NFL or whatever path you pursue. And to the returning Frogs, I can’t wait for next year’s Purple Fridays.

Go Frogs.

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