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Spring Training Means Venison Jerky

This portrait of Acta hangs outside the 'Coast press box. It's available for $5,300.

I sat through Manny Acta's media availability this morning, just to hear exactly where Saul Rivera fit into the bullpen mix. (Answer: ideally in the sixth and seventh innings.) Then I sat through an extended tape-recorders-off discussion of media ethics, filled with repeated questions from the man in the big chair about why so many baseball stories are filled with quotes from "one American League executive."

Throughout the whole thing, Acta was munching on what I thought were sun-dried tomatoes, or possibly dried figs, contained in a large zip-lock bag on his desk. I'd say he ate 10 pieces, minimum, during the session.

Well, they weren't sun-dried tomatoes. They were slices of pitching coach Randy St. Claire's special homemade venison jerky.

"He kills Bambi's daddy," noted Pat Corrales, one of many jerky proponents down here.

So I hitched a ride with Acta over to the training field to ask some crucial jerky questions from the back of his golf cart.

St. Claire has been bringing jerky down here for years, and apparently sends the manager a photo of his first kill of the season, to whet his appetite.

"I start salivating during the winter almost," Acta told me. "It's dry meat with a real good kick to it. He marinates it well, and puts enough peppers in it. It's not your typical beef jerky."

With the rate it went into Acta's mouth, I figured he was a pretty big fan, but he explained that it was largely the tradition of the thing.

"He kind of made it my routine now in Spring Training," Acta told me. "It's not like every day I eat beef jerky. It's just his, and this is where I do it. I just got used to it. It's not like as soon as I'm out of here, I'm searching for beef jerky at the first 7-11....Randy's jerky is unique."

Anyhow, the feeding won't last forever. St. Claire' brought two of those large pouches, and Acta is already into the second one before position players have even reported.

"And once it's over," he said, "that's it."

We got to the field and hopped out of the cart. It's sunny and in the low 70s today, with a mild breeze, as beautiful as they come. And I swear, the first random fan who approached Acta began talking about Maine lobsters. If I overheard correctly, Acta was attempting to buy some seafood from the fan, who was wearing a Maine jacket and an Expos hat. "Bring me the bill, I'll pay for it," Acta said.

Then he approached a little kid and slipped some bubble gum.

"Take it from a stranger with a bad Hispanic accent," Acta told the kid.

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 17, 2009; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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"Randy's jerky is unique."

This just may be t-shirt material.

Maybe Manny looks so cranky in the portrait because he just ran out of jerky?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 17, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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