The Washington Times - October 3, 2013, 09:14AM

While this space is usually reserved for news made by the Nationals, you’ll have to grant me a momentary aside for a bit of personal news. 

This past week was my final one covering the Nationals for The Washington Times. 

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It seems strange to even write those words. When Mike Harris and Marc Lancaster hired me three seasons ago to be the Times’ beat writer for the Nationals, there wasn’t anything else I could ever envision doing. But here we are, three crazy years later and it’s time for me to move on to the next adventure. 

I joined the Nationals’ beat in the spring of 2011, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that has grown in interest as much as they have since then. 

It’s been exceptionally fun to watch their rise to prominence in the major leagues and to chronicle some of the most interesting moments in sports in that time. When I arrived, the Nationals were on the fringes of relevance — talent-rich but filled with questions. I won’t run down a list here because there’s no need, but if you think about all that has actually happened in the last three seasons, it’s not hard to figure out how the Nationals have grown in leaps and bounds in that time. 

I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to have been able to provide a small glimpse into what went on with them the last three seasons. 

The debate over whether or not Washington is a baseball town, or whatever, will probably go on for a while. But there should be an important distinction between whether this is a baseball town, and the idea that the Nationals’ fanbase is not a passionate or educated one. One of the best parts about covering this team in this specific window was the ability to interact with the fanbase — growing as it is — and learn that just because baseball wasn’t in D.C. for all those years it doesn’t mean baseball fans weren’t. As the team continues to get better and remain contenders, I have no doubt that base will continue to grow. 

Most of you probably don’t care too much about the thanks I have for the many people who’ve helped me these past three seasons. So, if you don’t, skip to the end. But I can’t properly move on without thanking a few folks.

First and foremost to Harris, Lancaster and Chris Dolan, who, when The Washington Times decided to reboot their sports department in 2011, took a chance on me. It is not an exaggeration to say that they gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t know that I could ever do enough to pay them back for that, but I hope, at the very least, there have been a few moments in the past three seasons in which they’ve felt rewarded for taking that leap of faith. I am eternally thankful.  

To Nathan Fenno, Rich Campbell, Steve Whyno, Dan Daly and Brian McNally: to be lucky enough to call you my colleagues — to learn from you and work with you the past few years — has been an honor. I can think of many times in the last three years in which I have been proud to say I work (or worked) with all of you. 

To the guys on the Nationals beat, who welcomed in a young girl from out of town without hesitation or a hint of trepidation, you guys made the last three years unbelievably fun. Yes, there were some moments, some early flights or late nights, that might not qualify for the “fun” category. But I can say without doubt that competing against each of you pushed me to try to become a better reporter. The fans of this team are lucky to have such a fantastic group of writers covering this team, and I’m lucky to count you as my friends. 

To the Nationals’ PR staff, John Dever, Mike Gazda, Kyle Brostowitz and Bill Gluvna: aside from when Gazda tried to convince me that as the new person on the beat I owed everyone a gift — and that Adam Kilgore had brought Maine lobster — it’s been fantastic to get to know you all and work with each of you. 

To Mike Rizzo, Bryan Minniti, Rob McDonald, Harolyn Cardozo, Mike Wallace, FP Santangelo, a host of other Nationals’ employees, and — perhaps most importantly — the many Nationals players and coaches who graciously granted interview requests day after day, and put up with question after question, my thanks for all of your help over the past three seasons is immeasurable. 

A lot of the Nationals’ recent history is intertwined with Davey Johnson. A lot of my time covering the team was, too.  

I can’t tell you what my time on the beat would’ve been like without Davey.  

On the whole, my experience in dealing with the Nationals — players and staff — was overwhelmingly positive. But I don’t think too many people get an opportunity to spend a few minutes each day for eight months, for 2 1/2 years, talking with one of the game’s greatest characters. I did.

I was still fairly new on the beat when Davey took over, and at first I wondered how an older baseball man might react to having a female as part of the writing corps. Davey would joke with me occasionally about it — being the only girl much of the time — but he joked with everyone about something. You could ask Davey anything. The answer often proved extremely educational. And it was always, always entertaining. 

When it came down to it, Davey  treated me exactly the way I hoped: just like every other writer. 

Now that all that’s done, here’s the good news: I am not going far. While I can’t divulge too much about my next stop — my new career, really — just yet, I’ll be sure to update anyone who cares to know as soon as I can via my Twitter account (@acomak). 

It’s been a pleasure.