Meet Your Nationals
So around 11:40 this morning, the Nats came to RFK's gates to hand out red Nats hats to fans. And I saw my chance to take a mild cheap shot at the team. Look, it's no secret that this team has a lot of unfamiliar faces, but that didn't stop me from taking my mild cheap shot. Too easy.
First stop: the portal featuring Ronnie Belliard, Josh Wilson, Ryan Wagner and Jesus Flores. I'll admit I had to Google some of those names, just to make sure. Katie Coco got her hat from Josh Wilson, who was not the former Maryland cornerback.
"He's a baseball player, but I have no idea which one," she said, when I asked.
"Billy Wagner's over there," said Tyler Murray, who's nine and a half. "And Preston Wilson."
"After I saw the back of their jerseys, I have heard of them," said Chris Powell. For example?
"Rafael Belliard, I know he's been around for a while," Powell said. Wrong Belliard.
"Wagner, don't know who he is," Powell continued. "Flores, don't know. Joey, did you know any of those players?" he asked his 10-year old son.
"Uh, no," Joey said.
But then three of the Giant Racing Presidents wandered by. "Oh, we know these guys," Chris said. "George Washington, Abraham Lincoln...."
Fair enough. Left that portal and approached the next, featuring Ray King, Ryan Church, Chris Snelling and Matt Chico.
"I know who Church is," said Chris Boswell of Arlington. "The other ones, I don't. They look familiar, but I have no idea who they are."
I asked Gary Hoffman which player gave him his hat; he said "King." I asked for a first name.
"Uh, Shawn?" he guessed.
"Ray," corrected Zach, 14. "I heard people say it."
Ray King also gave a hat to Eric Lewis. I asked Lewis if he knew King's first name? "No," Lewis said. Position? "No," Lewis said.
"I just know Church," Ian Schabacker said. "I think King and Chico, aren't they new?" he asked
"Chico they just picked up in the offseason," Glenn Schabacker said of the team's promising young pitcher. "He's a utility man, I believe."
Close enough. Anyhow, in fairness, a scattering of fans I met were familiar with more than just Ryan Church, who was widely known. Some of the fans had just gotten back from Spring Training. Some were extremely optimistic. Some had encyclopedic knowledge of the players at the portals.
"Jesus Flores is the backup catcher, he's the rule 5 pick, we're really excited about him," said season ticket holder Neal Denton, who then launched into longer biographies of all the nearby Nats. His 10-year-old daughter Alyssa also gave me some positive identifications.
"We're tested at dinner time," explained her mom, Julie Denton. "We don't get to eat; thus, we know the lineup."
And others explained that the names weren't really important, a sentiment with which I'd agree, in case Stan Kasten is reading this and seething. What matters is the hats, the peanuts, and the grilled onions, plus the amazingly exciting gimmick that will be unveiled during today's President's Race, which has me jittery with excitement.
"I know Church, the other guys not so much," said Cody Boyd.
"But they're going to eventually be well known," his dad, Chuck Boyd of Burke, pointed out. "We can say we knew 'em when they were nobodies."
Bruce Miller, though, had the best response to all of my questions.
"People don't know who the president is," he pointed out. "They're not going to know who our left-handed reliever is."
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