Opening Day just around the corner


To celebrate the eve of the Vernal Equinox, I went to Viera, Florida, which is the Spring training home of the Washington Nationals, to watch the game between the Nats and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For those who may have come in late, last year I was a credentialed reporter covering the Nationals from RFK Stadium writing for The Alexandria Times. It was great fun watching a completely different group of professionals – sports writers – do their stuff.

For all of my working life I have dealt with political reporters. Something happened before the game in Florida which will illustrate the difference:

The General Manager of the Nationals is named Jim Bowden. Prior to the game three reporters were chatting with him in the dugout about the battle for the left field starting spot between two players, Ryan Church and Chris Snelling.

At one point, after talking about their comparative batting skills (Snelling is having a hot Spring; Church is not), a reporter asked Bowden whether he had any doubts about their defensive abilities. He said, Theyll catch what they can get to.

I waited patiently for one of the writers to ask the next question which, to a political reporter, would have been obvious:

When you used the phrase catch what they can get to were you saying you think they both are too slow and there will be balls hit to center field which they would have caught and should have caught had they been fast enough?

Had this been a political interview, it would have descended into a shouting match between NBCs David Gregory and Tony Snow about whether the White House had lost confidence in them because they were too slow – not in their ability to catch up to a tailing line drive – but too slow in dealing with the firing some US Attorneys.

Dear Mr. Mullings:

Enough, already. We got the metaphor.

Signed, The Baseball Writers Association

Another difference between political and sports reporters is that political reporters dont interview their subject while the interviewee is naked. Well, maybe not ever, but certainly not with a dozen other reporters and technicians leaning in with digital voice recorders and TV cameras.

When I played Little League baseball I played right field (because I had the athletic ability of a Slurpee) and pitcher (because I was the teams only left-handed player and my coach thought you needed to have at least one left-handed pitcher).

I worked and worked on my wicked curve ball by throwing a Spaulding (called, on Long Island, a spawl-DEEN) rubber ball against the brick wall of Hillside Grade School.

The pitchers mound on a Little League field is something like 46 feet from home plate. My wicked curve went approximately 42 feet.

My coach said maybe I should forget about throwing a 42 foot curve ball and concentrate on throwing a 46 foot straight ball. I did not tell him that my straight ball also went 42 feet.

I remember telling him that I had heard Yankees announcer Mel Allen say on the radio that a left-handers curve ball breaks down, not side-to-side, and is, in fact an un-hittable sinker pitch.

My coach bought it, which marked the exact moment that knew I was headed for a career in politics.

In the game the Nats beat the Dodgers 9-1; Snelling reached base all four times (a single and three walks); Church went oh-for-three. There was a sign on a whiteboard in the press box announcing that there were 14 days until Opening Day. Well see who starts in left.

All in all, not a bad way to celebrate the last day of Winter.