- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

VIERA, Fla. — The District’s No. 1 baseball fan stopped by to see the digs.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his entourage visited the Washington Nationals’ spring training facility at Space Coast Stadium yesterday, comparing it favorably to the Baltimore Orioles’ complex in Fort Lauderdale.

“This is much nicer,” Williams said. “This is an especially beautiful stadium, like the nicest I’ve seen during spring training.”

The mayor was accompanied by D.C. City Council member Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission. Given a choice of sitting in a comfortable, shaded suite, Williams’ entourage opted to sit in the first row adjacent to the Nationals dugout.

After yesterday’s 9-4 split-squad win over the Houston Astros, the Nationals are 2-0 with Williams in attendance. He also watched Friday’s 9-6 victory over the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.

“Baseball is a great legacy and is just a symbol of where the city has come,” Williams said.

The mayor has been perhaps the biggest advocate of bringing baseball back to the nation’s capital, and his arrival at spring training reassured the players the District will welcome the team.

“To have somebody show support like that, the mayor of the city, it shows a lot of respect,” left fielder Brad Wilkerson said. “It brings a lot of energy to the ballclub. Everybody is excited about this. It shows a lot for him to be down here because he really doesn’t have to be down here.”

Frank remembers Chuck

Nationals manager Frank Robinson reflected on what Chuck Thompson, the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Orioles who died yesterday of a stroke at 83, meant to the game. Thompson called the game in which Robinson hit his 500th home run.

“He saw a lot of my home runs, quite a few before I got to 500,” Robinson said. “He was a very good announcer. He was the type of individual that he was one of a kind. He didn’t copy anybody’s style or anything like that, and people sitting at home really enjoyed listening to him because he made them feel like they were at the ballpark, and that’s not easy to do.

“I enjoyed the times when I was there with him and him calling the games because I know he wasn’t going to be biased for the home team. He’s going to call it like he saw it. If you messed up out there, he’s going to tell the audience that you messed up. If you did well, he was going to praise you. That’s the way it should be, and that’s the way he was.”

Zach’s Day

Right-hander Zach Day made his turn in the rotation to a mixed review against the Astros. Day hadn’t pitched in a game since he broke the middle finger of his pitching hand Aug. 1.

Day served up solo home runs in the second inning to Jason Lane and Luke Scott but was pleased with his outing. He allowed those two runs on three hits, hit a batter and struck out one in three innings.

“If I give up 50 on solo home runs this year, I’m fine with that,” Day said. “It’s the walks that come with that. I’ve told myself this year not to worry, I’ve been pretty good about not giving up home runs. If I give up a home run, it’s going to be a solo one, not with guys that I walked on base or give a base to.”

Day, 26, is projected to be the rotation’s No. 5 starter this year. Robinson is also considering using Day out of the bullpen. Day said the two Astros outfielders belted a hanging breaking ball and a straight fastball out of Space Coast Stadium.

“Zach Day was fine, just fine,” Robinson said. “Everybody has been fine the first time through. I’m satisfied with the way they’ve gone through the rotation the first time around.”

Extra bases

Utility infielder Henry Mateo was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right shoulder and will rest the next five days before resuming his rehabilitation. … Backup catcher Gary Bennett sat out with a strained muscle in his back.

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