Unfortunately I have found myself attending many family functions in recent weeks, and at one of them, one of my sweet but undereducated sports fan relatives asked me a question “What are you looking forward to this baseball season… It does begin soon, right?” After explaining that yes, the season has just recently begun, I told her that her question was difficult for me to answer, as there are so many things I look forward to each year. After letting her question marinate in my head for a few days, I decided to share some of the many things I am looking forward to in 2012, both from a Nationals perspective and as a general baseball fan.
As a Nationals fan…
1) I look forward to watching Stephen Strasburg make 25+ starts for the Nationals this season, as his stuff is magical and each time he steps on the mound he has the potential to throw a no-hitter.
2) I look forward to watching Bryce Harper’s debut in Washington and watching his physical talents develop at the major league level. Also, I look forward to getting to the park early to watch his impressive displays of power in batting practice.
3) I am looking forward to watching a full season from Jordan Zimmermann as he steps forward as one of the best young starting pitchers in the National League.
4) I am looking forward to many random little events… Watching Rick Ankiel make one of his incredible throws from the outfield, watching Ryan Zimmerman charging a slow roller at 3B and throwing the runner out at first, watching Gio Gonzalez’s knee-buckling curveball, watching Henry Rodriguez throw a 100mph fastball, Tyler Clippard fooling opposing hitters with his devastating changeup, and finally, seeing Mike Morse demolish a home run deep into the outfield bleachers.
5) I am looking forward to a summer with the Nationals in playoff contention – I have been living and dying with each pitch so far this season, and I cannot imagine how much fun meaningful baseball in September will be in the Nation’s capital. Mark my words, this will be a baseball town in six months.
6) I look forward to visiting Hagerstown and Potomac this year to watch Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, Brian Goodwin, Alex Meyer, and Matt Skole and others develop their talents as they march toward the big leagues.
7) I am looking forward to watching Ross Detwiler flourish for the Nationals this season. As captain of Detwiler’s fan club, I have long awaited Ross’s opportunity at the big league level, and after a difficult decision from the Nationals front office, he now has his chance to shine at the back end of the rotation.
8) I am looking forward to the first home series against the Phillies this season, especially after the Nationals’ “Take Back the Park” promotion this offseason. Will Nationals fans flood the park and keep Phillies fans away, or will it be another year of Phillies caps and jerseys infesting Nationals Park?
9) As I have shared on a few occasions, I spend each Nationals home Opening Day in the stands with my Dad, and in light of some recent events, this tradition will be even more special to share with him this year. Yesterday was our 6th consecutive opener, and we were very happy to see a Nationals win.
Major League Baseball…
1) I am looking forward to the addition of a 2nd Wild Card team and how it affects the July trade deadline and the September playoff races.
2) The Wild Card “Play-In” games – The occasional “play-in” games in recent years have been some of the most nerve-wracking and excellent baseball games and now we are guaranteed two of these games each year. Count me in, I cannot be more excited for these games in the fall.
3) The MLB Rule 4 Draft – As someone with a website with “GM” in the title, the idea of building through the draft is paramount to me, and this 2-day event can set up an organization for years, or conversely, set them back as well. This draft will not be mistaken for the talent-rich 2011 draft, but this prospect group has improved their luster in recent months, and I am curious how the new rules regarding signing bonus limits put in place this winter will affect this year’s draft.
4) I am looking forward to watching the real-life soap opera that is the Miami Marlins. With the trouble Ozzie Guillen has already gotten into, along with questionable clubhouse characters in Carlos Zambrano, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramirez, I look forward to watching this powder keg to see if they have a successful season or if they implode upon themselves.
5) Visiting Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Still the best of the new generation of baseball stadiums, there are few better ways to spend a summer evening than in Baltimore taking in a ballgame.
6) I am looking forward to watching the emergence of several young players on the brink of stardom, namely Dustin Ackley, Madison Bumgarner, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Brett Lawrie, Jesus Montero, Matt Moore, Buster Posey, Mike Trout, and Matt Wieters.
7) July 31st trade deadline – With the expectation that the Nationals should be in the playoff hunt, this trade deadline should find the Nationals as buyers, not sellers as they have been in recent years. With a deep farm system and a creative general manager in Mike Rizzo, it will be very interesting to see what moves or non-moves the Nationals decide to make.
8) Bobby Valentine returning as manager of the Boston Red Sox and how the Red Sox respond this season. As one of the most colorful baseball men around, major league baseball is only better for having Bobby V return to the dugout. In addition to his return, it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox respond to their disastrous September and if they can return to the playoffs, which they have missed two years in a row.
9) Finally, I am making a trip to Chicago to visit Wrigley Field this summer, and as a baseball fan that has never been to Wrigley, I am really looking forward to that trip.
What are you looking forward to in 2012? I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below… Thanks for reading.
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