It’s hard to believe the Washington Nationals are finishing up spring training this week en route to their tenth, yes, tenth Opening Day. We’ve now had a decade of baseball in Washington, and as the time has passed, there has undoubtedly been maturation both for the club itself, and for its fans.
From this viewpoint, it seems to be a quick journey to where we are today. When the Nationals took the field for their first inaugural game, back in 2005, I was a 16-year-old junior at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington. My biggest concerns in the world were getting playing time on the Generals baseball team, and figuring out how to get girls to notice me. Needless to say, I wasn’t terribly successful at accomplishing either.
The Nationals at the time were very much like an aspiring teenager in their own right. They were an undefined entity, they were hungry, and they were put in a position by people who cared about them to be filled with great potential. Also like a teenager, they were in store for a great deal of growing pains in the coming years. Hubris, placing trust in the wrong parties, quitting and even temper tantrums marked the early years of the adolescent franchise.
Today, the Nationals are a little older, and so am I. At 26, I am now a grown up (well…depending on who you ask). I’m set to get married this summer to an amazing woman and am currently lucky enough to be working at what I absolutely consider a dream job. As many find in their transition from their ill-advised teenage years to becoming a young adult, I have learned many lessons in the past decade. I’ve also learned a ton of lessons over the past 10 years about being a hometown fan while watching the Nats.
Below I have tried to highlight some of those lessons I have learned in the past decade as a die-hard Nationals fan. Listed here are nine articles, each one posted in the Washington Post on the final week of spring training for its corresponding season.
3/29/2013 – Adam Kilgore
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are ready to go the distance for a World Series contender…
Lesson Learned: If you believe you are the best, you probably still have a lot more work to do.
3/27/2012 - Adam Kilgore
So we have not only analysts predicting playoffs for the Nationals, but players mapping out the path to the World Series trophy. If you haven’t noticed, it is a different baseball world in Washington.
Lesson Learned: It is okay to believe in your ability to make an impact, even if you never have before.
3/28/2011 - Adam Kilgore
As a free agent, though, assuming he remains healthy and on his current progression, Zimmerman could command a contract closer to $300 million in free agency than $200 million.
Lesson Learned: When you don’t have much, you tend to exaggerate the value of what you DO have.
3/26/2010 - Adam Kilgore
The Nationals hope to come to a decision in the competition between Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman “pretty soon,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. The Nationals need to determine which player will start at shortstop with enough time remaining in spring training to allow the loser ample opportunity to play other positions in preparation for the season.
Lesson Learned:Just because you don’t see the light, doesn’t’t mean its not there.
3/22/2009 – Chico Harlan
Lastings Milledge likes the idea of batting first. He’ll face pitchers reluctant to walk him. He can get on base, steal second, and wait for a ride home from Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman or Adam Dunn. “I’m going to be an aggressive lead-off hitter,” Milledge said this morning.
Lesson Learned: People you have faith in will let you down…
3/29/2008 - Chico Harlan
Late Friday, Manny Acta met with Felipe Lopez and Dmitri Young — separately — and told them that each of them would begin the season on the bench. That means Nick Johnson is the Nationals’ starting first baseman, Ronnie Belliard the starting second baseman.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes it’s okay to hit the refresh button.
3/22/2007 - Chico Harlan
The rotation, obviously, is the biggest mess. I’m still betting on Jerome Williams, who pitches tonight in Kissimmee against the Astros, to secure one of the spots. And who knows on that last one? I’m going to leave that open until the final days.
Lesson Learned: Stick with it even when things look laughably hopeless.
3/21/2006 – Barry Svrluga
When the Washington Nationals took the field Monday evening, Alfonso Soriano’s name was the first blared over the public address system, the man due to lead off and play left field. But as the Nationals trickled out of the home dugout to warm up for the first inning of their Grapefruit League game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, only eight men emerged. Manager Frank Robinson strode to home plate, where he made the lineup change that foretold the growing controversy here: The Nationals’ highest-paid employee, and potentially their most dynamic player, is refusing to play his assigned position, and there is no resolution in sight.
Lesson Learned: You can learn to live with someone despite your differences.
March 3/2005 – Dave Shenin
The cars poured into the parking lots, the stands were packed with fans and the game was on national television. The Washington Nationals, wearing their home white uniforms, talked about how big a day it was, then celebrated the resulting win so thoroughly one expected the champagne bottles to be broken out.
Lesson Learned: Childhood dreams can come true.