Heller: Seeking to engender some needed support
With the Nationals’ ballpark attendance and TV viewership lagging badly just like their team on the field, the club apparently has given up on male fans. Well, maybe not totally, but these days the club is planning a special drive to attract females who might have nothing better to do.
On Friday, July 17, before their second home date following the All-Star Game, the Nats will host Baseball 101 for Women - relying, no doubt, on the dubious theory that the participants will have more tolerance for losing - or maybe just stronger stomachs.
To my way of thinking, this idea ranks right down there with the deals that brought Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes here. Or even worse, with the one that landed Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez.
First of all, many folks of the female persuasion already enjoy good baseball, which doesn’t necessarily mean the kind usually performed by the home forces at Nationals Park.
Secondly, why go after girls and women who previously didn’t give a rodent’s rump, as suggested by the 101 tag? The deep thinkers in the Nats’ front office who conjured up this idea don’t exactly have an exciting product to put on display. These Washington ballplayers ain’t the 1927 Yankees. Or even the 1927 Senators, who finished third in the American League with an 85-69 record.
But I suppose the Nats have to do something besides wait to sign Stephen Strasburg for as many millions as notoriously greedy agent Scott Boras can demand.
For better or worse, a full day and night of activities loom for women who sign up. First, at 9:30 a.m., will be a tour of the Nationals’ clubhouse. No players will be there at that hour, which is fortunate. Nobody likes to see grown men cry.
After that, the guests will take the field for a skills clinic. No players will participate here either - for obvious reasons.
Clinic instructors will include Nationals coaches Rick Eckstein, Marquis Grissom, Randy Knorr and Steve McCatty. You never know - they just might find an honest-to-goodness prospect for the Nats. Just about every other profession is open to women in this enlightened age, so why not baseball?
The evening portion of the program includes dinner and a Q&A; session with club officials and broadcasters. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody tosses this loaded query at TV play-by-play man Bob Carpenter: “How do you keep your sanity watching this terrible team play every night?”
The day ends with a ticket in the left-field seats to watch the Nats play - and likely lose to - the Chicago Cubs. From that vantage point, the women will get a close look at Adam Dunn pretending to be a major league outfielder. Defense, you might say, isn’t exactly his forte.
Come to think of it, these two clubs have something in common. The Cubbies haven’t won a World Series for 101 years, and the Gnats look like they might not get into one for a century or so.
Actually, I think the club is missing a good bet by not turning its popular midgame event into the First Ladies Race. Imagine the thrill of watching Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, Mary Lincoln and Edith Roosevelt bustle, literally, toward the finish line. Maybe Michelle Obama would agree to present a gold medal.
In the interest of stocking up a few more bucks to offer Strasburg and Boras, the Nats will charge $85 for the entire day and $45 for just the evening part. I don’t really know whether that would be money well spent. A pedicure and a massage might be more beneficial and a lot more soothing.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m all in favor of baseball attracting new fans of either gender, but I’m not sure this scheme will work for the worst team in the major leagues. After all, some people think women are smarter than men.