My goal today was not conduct a walk and talk, but seek out the part of the field where Nationals third base coach Bo Porter was conducting base running drills and simply listen.
Yesterday, after listening to Porter explain what kind of a team the Nationals wanted to be this season, I could not help but want to know what he had in store for the men today.
After his speech yesterday, I wanted run the bases and would have done it through a minefield. Porter seems to have a way of getting through to his listeners. Bo Knows base running and, if the guys he is teaching are paying attention, so will the Nationals.
Today Bo informed Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston Mike Moorse and Bryce Harper that "their team" was embarrassing running the basses last season and, as he put it, "we are going to get after people's asses this season”
He informed them that the Nationals were ranked 27th in all of baseball in running from first to third last year. Porter gave the guys the stat to back it up: "Gentleman we had had 292 chances to go from first to third last season we made it just 63 times and that is embarrassing and pathetic," Porter said while looking right at Bryce Harper.
Porter never had much of a major league career, batting just .214 lifetime with two home runs and eight runs batted lifetime, but how many good coaches do?
No big deal because a lot of good and great managers watched the game unfold from the bench and not the field.
Porter was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 40th round of the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft out of the University of Iowa.
In 1999, Porter made his major league debut with the Cubs. Following the season, the Oakland Athletics in the Rule 5 draft selected him. After the 2000 season, the Texas Rangers selected him off waivers.
Besides base running, Porter implemented an outfield drill that I had never seen used: He had the outfielders catch fly balls with a football tucked under their arms. Porter believes the football allows the outfielders to better track fly balls, as they cannot move their arms allowing them to cover more ground when the ball is headed for the gaps.
Porter began using this drill when he was a coach with the Florida Marlins.
I overheard Porter explain his philosophy to the credentialed media this way, "I implemented it in Florida, and I have had great success with it," Porter said.
"The more drills we do with the football, they start to keep their form for a longer period of time, which actually allows them to start making more plays."
The team continued their four-field rotation of drills as pitchers continued to throw live batting practice. Bryce Harper was again the hit, no pun intended, as he made his way from field to field. Harper looked impressive in the batting cage and then again on the field, as he hit several line drive shots into the right center field gap.
I learned today that Bryce Harper will travel with the team to play the Mets in the Nats first exhibition game, but will not start. Veterans Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Pudge Rodriguez will not play in the Nationals first game this Monday.
Many veterans do not travel to play away games during the spring.
Those players that are expected to travel and play include Jerry Hairston Jr., Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.
Nats manager Jim Riggleman held a meeting with several of the teams leaders yesterday. Rigglemann asked the players to start holding each other accountable for mistakes made on the field. He wants more leadership and acccountability from all of his players.
Riggleman told many members of the media that his message was a simple one: "My message to the players was, 'There is a tremendous amount of talent in the room. With that talent, expectations are raised. So let's meet and exceed those expectations and play baseball,'" Riggleman said.
"We have a lot of good baseball players. We have good athletes in the room."
I cannot, for whatever reason, download this video. This is a video I took of Bo Porter giving instruction.
It provides great insight into what the Nationals are looking to do this season on the base paths. Please click on the You Tube link below.
I caution you, there is language with Porter dropping more than a few "F" bombs.