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Food & Friends Wrap-up

So Monday's chapter of the Nationals' winter tour was rather impressive. As I stood around (more on that later), Manny Acta, John Lannan, Jason Bergmann, Charlie Slowes, Screech, Bergmann's fiancee Jarah and four members of the Nats front office staff packed about 2,600 meals for the Food & Friends program, which delivers meals to people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-altering diseases.

(Sample Acta comment as he and Lannan plowed through their packing: "Hey Barry. How can you just stand there and do nothing? I wouldn't be able to show my face." I reminded him that that's because he has a conscience, an idea to which he agreed. We moved on."

Craig Shniderman, the executive director of the program, pointed out that there are two reasons that appearances by groups like the Nationals are important for their program. "We're in a corner of Northeast Washington that's not particularly visible," he said. "It's not a K St. location, not a Capitol Hill location. Bringing in a celebrity group like this helps because it creates a visibility that's particularly important for volunteer recruitment."

The group has a permanent staff, but it relies heavily on 4,500 volunteers that it uses each year. The group needs new members every year. "People can see this and say, 'Oh, this is something I can do,'" Shniderman said.

The other aspect of the publicity generated by such an appearance: People who might need the service can be exposed to it.

The Lerner family has been supportive of Food & Friends for more than 10 years, Shniderman said. (This is the group's 20th anniversary.) "The family has always been very community-involved, long before they owned the baseball team," he said.

(Sample Acta comment: "I think it was pathetic that while the players were working, Barry was standing around.")

Anyway, the whole process took about two hours, and Lannan and Acta appeared to have the most efficient two-man crew.

The Winter Tour continues on Tuesday morning with a visit to Children's National Medical Center, where the Nationals Dream Foundation has committed to building a pediatric diabetes care facility. Lannan and Acta will be on hand for that.

Other stuff: I talked with Acta for a few upcoming stories I'm working on, but we'll hold onto that info largely for the $.50-edition.

Bergmann will soon join the ranks of the married when he and Jarah wed Feb. 9. They are ahead of the game as their first child, a girl, is due in late May/early June.

Lannan is waiting to adjust to big league camp. "I don't really know what to expect," he said. I'll get into that more in the paper soon.

As for Marrero:

I wrote a note on the topic of his move from the outfield to first base, but all of the Bob Boone quotes were axed. So, in the first DMTP edition of 2008 (Didn't Make the Paper), here's some brief stuff.

"That's where we had him playing all the time in instructional league," Boone said. "That's where we're going to play him this year." I asked if it was because Marrero is, shall we say, slow.

"No, not really," Boone said. "We just think that ..." And he really couldn't put his finger on it exactly. But they liked what they saw in instructional league. "He's got good feet," Boone said.

As for where Marrero -- named the top prospect in both the low-Class A South Atlantic League and the high-Class A Carolina League -- will begin this season, Boone said "He'll determine that," but Boone's hunch is it'll be back with Potomac in Class A ball.

"It wasn't like he dominated at Potomac," Boone said. "It's real easy to get in a big hurry for him, but I don't think that's in his or our best interest."

That could change, obviously, and he could move up quickly to Class AA Harrisburg if he excels at Potomac. But the upshot is this: Nick Johnson is under contract through 2009. Dmitri Young is under contract through 2009, with a vesting option that would get him under contract through 2010. If all goes as the Nationals would like, Marrero would be their starting first baseman after that.

One last thing: The Nats added a split-squad spring training game on Sunday, March 2, against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee. They're already scheduled to play the Orioles that day in Fort Lauderdale. My guess: Manny Acta and the mainstays will stay with the Kissimmee game (right near Acta's St. Cloud home) and a lesser squad will travel to Fort Lauderdale. Both games are at 1:05 p.m.

By Barry Svrluga  |  January 14, 2008; 4:51 PM ET
 
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