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Manny Acta, Alex Ovechkin and John Wooden

The conversation in the Lost in Space Coast Stadium before Manny Acta addressed the media this morning? Yeah, Alex Ovechkin's goal. We watched the video. We shook our heads. We compared his little self-pass off the boards to the various stunts of high school indoor soccer gym games. We looked at how WPGC was linking to Ovechkin's goal, with four exclamation marks.

The reason you sit with other media members in front of a Nationals banner sponsored by Carrabba's Italian Grill in Florida and talk about hockey is because it's literally something you've never seen before in your life, in a business defined by watching the same things over and over.

But anyhow, Acta has gone from meeting the media in his small office down the hall to this press conference room by the main player entrance, and the TV cameras are multiplying: WUSA, NBC Washington and Comcast SportsyNet have all arrived. Today's morning gathering was earlier and briefer than usual, with Acta off to address the full team in a John Wooden moment.

"I just drop the name because John Wooden is my favorite coach of all times," Acta said.

And while O's manager Dave Trembley said he thought about his full-team speech all offseason, Acta was less obsessed.

"I just go into certain specifics we need to get better, and what we need to do in spring training to address that," Acta said. "Clear [up] everything that might not be clear to them, go over the team rules and just rally the troops."

Other morning highlights:

* Wry honesty about his top-of-the-line starting pitchers. "We all know what we're talking about here, we're not sending out Hudson and Smoltz back to back," he said.

* A question about Ronnie Belliard's trimmer physique and whether the Nats had encouraged him to lose weight.

"No [reporter], I don't do that kind of stuff," Acta said. "We talked to him last year about getting in better shape once you get older."

* A question about handling the distractions of camp, and comparing Acta's situation to a certain other well-known spring training distraction. Because clearly, the Nats' Player to be Named Later is a sizzling, A-Roid level controversy.

"Well I think it's a lot easier for us, because our distractions are not from our camp themselves," Acta said. "I mean, the biggest one is the [Player to be Named Later] kid that wasn't even gonna be a factor in camp. The Ryan [Zimmerman] one is not a distraction at all, we have it under control. I don't think these guys really are distracted by any of that. You can't compare this to what Joe [Girardi] or those guys are going through over there. It's very minor."

Now we just sit and wait until the Acta Express Golf Cart Service takes us from Carrabba's poster to practice field.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 19, 2009; 9:03 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Next: Rick Eckstein Talks Hitting and Memory


It's going to take awhile for Russ Parr to get over this.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | February 19, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

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