Last night's Livan Hernandez re-signing immediately made me scroll through some stories from April of 2005. Not that long ago, really--the stories are still on the Web, which really ruins the image of a dusty trip to the archives--but golly, does the tone conjure up a different era. Everything was soft and gushy and optimistic, bathed in that sweet RFK sunshine and the mild aroma of glorious stadium decay.
No "Lerners Are Cheap!1!1!" cynicism. No NatsFail! carping. No quick mental calculations on the 105-loss pace. No Rob Dibble rants. It felt more like flashing back to the dead-ball era than to 2005.
Me personally, I was wandering RFK as Livo's most memorable moment approached, but I stopped wandering as the first pitch grew near. I was standing near a bunch of D.C. officials somewhere behind home plate, and I remember consciously telling myself, "Ok, remember this moment." One of the only times I've ever used that line on my brain. It's worked so far.
And so, pretty obviously, if seeing Livo back in red white and blue brings back a little bit of that feeling, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. The old-timers are happy this morning. He has to immediately become one of the five or so most popular current Nats, and his first ovation at Nats Park ought to be pretty memorable. A few Livo highlights from April of '05.
(UPDATE: Slight buzz kill: Livo getting sued by a man who says he's his former personal driver, landing them both on TMZ.)
From Svrluga's Gamer:
[Hernandez] had trouble getting to the ballpark, battling traffic, arriving at 5:55 p.m. rather than between 5 and 5:30, as he prefers on the days he starts. But he shook it off quickly. Flashbulbs lit up the stadium when he fired the first pitch to Arizona second baseman Craig Counsell, a called strike at 7:06 p.m.
"I thought about throwing a ball," Hernandez said. "I didn't want him to swing at it."
Catcher Brian Schneider -- already part of history after he caught for the president -- tossed the ball back to Hernandez, who called time and threw it to the dugout, a piece of history that needed to be preserved.
From there, Hernandez settled in. His first win of the season was secured in the fashion he has made his own, walking slowly to the mound in baggy jersey and pants down to his shoe tops, then unfurling his body in a smooth, seemingly effortless motion. He can throw any of four or five pitches at any point in the count, and he did against Arizona....
"Livan was unbelievable," Arizona Manager Bob Melvin said. "If ever there was a right pitcher for a night like this, it was Livan. He loves the big crowds. He loves the big games."
From Mike Wise's column:
Hernandez shrugged his shoulders. He was wearing a black leather jacket over a pink dress shirt, talking about how happy he is to be in Washington. "I want to bring my dog up here, walk around, go shopping," he said. "I love to shop."
Livan loves to spend, too. He owns seven vehicles, including his favorite, a tricked-out Range Rover, and an Aston Martin sports car. "How fast I go in the Aston Martin? I'm not going to tell you. I would get in trouble."...
The right-hander who will throw out Washington's first pitch in 34 years is not from Cuba as much as he is central casting. He has a little Chico Escuela in him -- the character portrayed by Garrett Morris in the old "Saturday Night Live" reruns. You don't even have to mention Chico's signature line. The face of the Nationals does it for you.
"People say, 'Baseball been very, very good to me,' " Livan Hernandez said. "I like this saying."
From Boz's column:
Baseball arrived in Washington at precisely 8:14 last night at RFK Stadium when Vinny Castilla sliced a triple into the right field corner in the fourth inning of a scoreless game. Two swift Nationals, Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen, raced around the bases to score the first runs in a major league game in this town in 34 years. As Castilla slid into third, the crowd behind the home dugout jumped up and down in unison, just as it had risen as one at the end of the first half-inning in a spontaneous ovation for two strikeouts by starter Livan Hernandez.
However, it wasn't just the box seats that bounced. The entire upper deck, including the press box, began the same unmistakable swaying up and down that marked so many touchdowns in the Redskins' glory days. Then you could see the whole upper deck sway. The Washington crowd hasn't quite got the knack of it yet, not after one game. But the fans are learning fast. All that was required was one Washington run after 33 vacant seasons and the place rocked on its old hinges.
"Holy [expletive]," said team president Tony Tavares, who watched the game in the presidential box with President Bush and Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig.
"It does scare you when you first feel it," said Tony Siegle, the Nationals' assistant general manager. "Does that happen often?"
If the Nationals keep winning games like this 5-3 victory over Arizona, with Hernandez allowing only one scratch infield single over the first eight innings, then this old park will shake frequently. And if the Nats stay in first place in the National League East for a while, it'll shimmy a lot more.
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